Skyros, Greece

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

A gripping and entertaining book

By Ari Badaines, Ph.D.

Review of History, Politics and Dreams by Yannis Andricopoulos. Publisher: Grosvenor House, 2015.

When I was a kid (in the USA) I loved watching 'You are There', the TV program that brought to life major U.S. historical events such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Actors in full costume would represent the major people involved, and none other than Walter Cronkite (who would in later years become America's most trusted newscaster) was the 'reporter/commentator'.

Reading Yannis Andricopoulos' book, 'History, Politics, and Dreams' reminded me so much of that program. His engaging story makes you feel as if you are there, re-living the 20th century turbulent Greek history and recapturing the intense feelings behind the events.

The blow the 1967 dictatorship had administered’, the author says at one point, ‘was devastating, the omnipotence of silence deafening, and the prospect of a quick return to what would approximate normal conditions looked as unlikely as God's chance to make a four-sided triangle. ''God''. Paracelcus said, ''can make an ass with three tails, but not a triangle with four sides.'''

Narrated by a reporter detached from petty party politics, the book’s pages are rich in fascinating stories that shaped the author’s own personal journey and in comments peppered by his distinct and highly entertaining sense of humour.

The book deals extensively with the corruption in the author’s own country – an issue, he says, which he had raised often with his countrymen but to no avail. Once, when he spoke out against this on Skyros island, a local took him aside, put his arm around him ‘as if he needed sympathy after a near-death experience following an Al-Qaeda terrorist attack' and calmly re-assured him not to worry. 'It's all ok…'  In another instance, he quotes the niece of a former prime minister who held the political and financial elite responsible for the ensuing Greek collapse. ‘That is’, Andricopoulos says, ‘as if all the others had been innocent bystanders familiar only with sports, food, sitcoms and children’.

The author's deep and far ranging historical and philosophical knowledge of Greece's Golden Age allows him to bring references from its culture, mythology and philosophy that illuminate the current political and cultural crisis in Greece and in the West. These literary references and the author’s ability to bring the wisdom of ancient Greece into current Greek/UK/EU relations and events is one of the strengths of the book. Of even greater strength is the author's own honest voice.

Highly critical of both our contemporary society in which selfishness and superficiality prevail and of politics, which is based on the most immaculate conception of self-interest, Andricopoulos quotes Darius, the Persian king, who according to Herodotus, said that ‘men lie when they want to profit from deception and tell the truth for the same reason’.

But he then adds that politics is only the mirror in which society sees its reflection. Structures, he says, are the creation of individual perceptions as much as the latter are the creation of the former. He quotes in this respect Aristotle who said that politics begins with the family. To have a well-run and just world, the individual has to be good, because the polis depends on it. But the goodness of all is necessary for the goodness of each, which means that the polis has to ensure that a man becomes and remains a good man.

'It is because of this', Andricopoulos says, ‘that we need to look both inwards, into our own selves that keep pulling us apart from community and nature, and outwards into the culture and the socio-political institutions that express but also fortify our disengagement from the world of values. ‘Inner and outer are not two sovereign republics. They are part of the One, in constant dialogue with each other, affecting each other even when the dialogue seems to be conducted between the deaf.'

In these ideas can be traced the philosophical underpinnings of the well-known and highly-regarded Skyros Holidays, which was established back in 1979. Born out of the author’s own struggle to overcome a cynical and uncaring world, the venture placed the emphasis on character rather than personality, substance rather than image, doing rather than having, creating rather than consuming and becoming rather than being.

The question posed by our need to live in a world that makes sense does not, however, according to the author seem to have an answer. It is, indeed, bound to remain unanswerable for ever. Residing within our own selves, the forces mitigating against the Right and the Good are beyond the limits of our power.

The world turns and the world changes’, T.S. Eliot said, ‘but one thing does not change: the perpetual struggle of Good and Evil’.

The battle for the Right and the Good is, therefore, bound to continue until apocalypse changes the script. Hence Heraclitus’ understanding of Justice had nothing to do with ‘love’. ‘Justice’, he said, ‘is strife’, ‘war’, so that all things end in tune ‘with what they must be’. Wars and battles may have been terrible ever since Claucus of Chios discovered the art of welding, but, as Porphyry, the Neoplatonist philosopher, explaining Heraclitus’ views said, ‘they all contribute to the harmony of the universe’.

I expected this book to be a difficult read in the sense that I would have to concentrate heavily and move slowly, a bit at a time. Instead, it reads smoothly, is gripping and entertaining and I did not want to put it down – something about the personal with the historical, and the integration of ideas from Greece's Golden Age that makes its reading compelling.

So does, of course, its humour. The shortest book ever published, Andricopoulos wonders before informing us: one hundred years of German humour! Enjoy!

For more information check

Monday, 10 August 2015

Lottie's reflection on her Atsitsa Bay holiday.

In June we welcomed the wonderful Lottie to our office who has quickly developed into an irreplaceable member of staff, a Skyros encyclopaedia and a chirpy cheerful customer service administrator to chat to on the phone. If you're lucky, you would have had the opportunity to book your holiday through Lottie. To understand Skyros' ethos and key focus, you really have to experience our holidays first hand, and so we sent Lottie to the sunny and colourful Atsitsa Bay so she could truly understand what Atsitsa life is all about! Here is her reflection on her holiday:

'After two days of travelling via planes, trains, automobiles and ferries I had arrived on Skyros. Met by the blue “Atsitsa Bay” sign we were guided through the smallest airport I had ever seen (one room) and into the only taxis on the island (seven in total).

My first night was stuttered and fidgety as I became used to sleeping in the huts, despite the mosquito net I was certain an insect-on-steroids would kill me in my sleep. As it turns out, it was my hair falling across my face and the (best ever) site tour by Mark in the morning assured me that Skyros is one of the safest places in the world. Sleeping in the huts didn’t take long to acclimatise to, even on my stormy last night I was dry and cosy and I slept well enough to wake at 7am for morning yoga with the wonderful Marina. Speaking of which, her morning yoga works wonders on a hangover as a result of a fantastic evening on Cookanara beach with the work scholars. I’d highly recommend their puttanesca pasta if you fancy the 22-minute stroll to the sandy beach; it also has free WiFi (hello Instagram, I’ve missed you!).

While I’m on the subject of food glorious food, Takis and his team did such a fantastic job of feeding the hungry crowds. Highlights include a fantastic buttery fish, cracking Greek salads and a ‘jaffa cake in a glass’ as dance facilitator, Saskia, so succinctly described it. Apologies for the lack of food photos, I was always far too ravenous after yoga, windsurfing and writing to take pictures, but take it from me it looked as good as it tasted. I miss the food so much I’ve taken to eating feta at any given opportunity.

Mark Gunston was a patient and helpful instructor of windsurfing, under his guidance I picked up the basics in a few short sessions and plan to continue windsurfing on the, much chiller, Isle of Wight. Despite Steve Attridge being an acclaimed author and screenwriter his project that excited me the most was that he was the writer of The Queens Nose, a fantastic kids tv show from the 90s. Alfie (barman extraordinaire) and I shared excitable glances as Steve told stories of the show’s super high ratings and what happened to the cast. Steve inspired me to write, as a “I’d love to write a book one day” sort of person I now believe I can, his exercises on inspiring ideas, character development and plot structure were amazingly helpful and I intend to start with a series of short stories based around a memory box. 

My time in Atsitsa was enchanting and exciting, I had never travelled alone before and I felt empowered by the supportive words of both staff and participants. Skyros is beautiful in a way that pictures cannot convey, the people are friendly, the town picturesque, the sea bluer and clearer than a metaphor can describe. The talent in such a small group was overwhelming and I was moved by some of the incredible songwriters who performed at the open mike night. The work scholars were helpful and hardworking and made my time there so much fun. 

So ‘thank you’ to Yannis and Christine for sending me, what a wonderful place.'

Skyros offers unique holidays in beautiful locations with a wide variety of courses and activities including yoga, art, writing, dance, comedy, music and much more, described as 'One of the world's best holidays' by The Sunday Times. See or call for a brochure on +44 (0)1983 865 566.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

In the Land of Hope - Yannis Andricopoulos

This is a chapter from Yannis Andricopoulos’ book History, Politics and Dreams published in the UK in June 2015. The chapter focuses on the early years of The Skyros Centre in Skyros island, Greece.

As Marcel Proust, the French novelist, suggested, the real voyage of discovery consists in seeing with new eyes. I did so in Skyros, the island favoured by a partial nature and a discriminating sky.

The island’s magic is everywhere, in the sunlight which penetrates ‘directly to the soul (and) opens the doors and windows of the heart’, the odour of the freshly baked bread, the fleshy figs soaking in the early morning’s dew, the moist brown eyes of the Greeks. It is in the youthful energy of the unfaltering eternity, the sculptured countryside caressed by the Graces, the olive trees with the wrinkles of generations and the rocks with the wisdom of all times.

I could even see there the sea-nymphs dancing naked in the diaphanous shroud of the golden sunset, and I could not help myself squeezing their beautiful breasts with my eyes.

The Skyros Centre was in the village under the orgulous and indomitable castle of King Lykomedes. Rebuilt by the Byzantine Greeks and reinforced by the Venetians, the castle graces the village and embodies the proud spirit of the locals.

It was in this castle that young Achilles had been hidden by his mother, Thetis, to escape his fate which had decreed that he would either gain glory in the war against Troy and die young or live long but unsung.

Not hot on heroics, Thetis had despatched the boy to Lykomedes, in whose palace he lived disguised as a girl. This did not prevent him, however, from fathering a boy, Neoptolemos, with the propitious cooperation of Lykomedes’ daughter Deidameia.

But then Odysseus arrived on the island looking for him.

‘Where’s this young man’, he was heard asking feverishly the king,. ‘He has an appointment with fate.’

The king chose to remain as silent as the Apollo statue next to him, and Odysseus, losing patience, offered him some advice of an intimate nature. He then brought loudly to his attention the warning Menelaus, the king of Sparta, had given to all the Greeks.

‘The Trojans’, he said, ‘have to be punished for their audacity. If not, nobody could henceforth be sure of his wife’s safety’.

But neither the king nor the chambermaids, who, as expected,  pretended to be busy, would come forward with the answer he was looking forward to.

Achilles himself, apparently, just like President Clinton, not eager to register for a military expedition in foreign and far-away parts, kept silent, too. This did not surprise Odysseus as he himself, in order to avoid going to war, had, when Agamemnon tried to enlist him, pretended he was mad.

When summoned to serve his country, he was flinging salt rather than barley over his shoulder, Homer tells us.

Eventually, Odysseus trapped Achilles into revealing himself. He laid a pile of gifts for the girls on the floor – Guerlain, Chanel and other perfumes, various Bulgari, Van Cleef and Tiffany jewellery, Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana steamer trunks and handbags plus a shield and a spear, and then, when he signalled,  his men outside trumpet-blasted and ran to position.

‘We’re being attacked’, they yelled, as if they were freaking out. ‘Trojan special forces in sight.’

They then pretended they were engaged in battle against the intruders.

Achilles could not resist the call of fate. He stripped himself to the waist, seized the shield and spear and ran to battle.

Another early resident of Skyros was Theseus, the hero who killed the dreaded Minotaur and legendary king of Athens.  Theseus had decided to retire to Skyros, where he had inherited an estate. King Lykomedes welcomed him with all the splendor due to his fame and lineage, but in the time-honoured tradition surviving to our day, he questioned the titles of the estate Theseus laid claim on. He regarded it as his own.

Yet, he did not say a word about it, and, kindly, took the aged hero out to show him its boundaries except that when they reached the top of a precipitous cliff, he helped him over to his death.

Later, he claimed this most unfortunate event was due to a tragic accident.

‘Theseus’, the king tweeted, ‘had a glass too many.’

Full of ancient memories, the island is also very beautiful. I was taken by its primordial nature, wild and yet curvaceous and flowing, the pastel of its landscape, the scents of its mellow summer nights, the mellifluous breathing of the Aegean Sea in whose ‘lustral waters Zeus himself once delighted’.

I loved the old village, too. Curved centuries back up on the hill for fear of pirates, it has narrow cobblestone streets paved with unhurried intimacy and wholesome humanness.

Its white cubic-style houses, testament of indestructible innocence of caught time, are shaded by grapevines playing voluptuously with the nuances of the glittering sunlight. In the
square, the villagers, weathered by the lingering memories of the millenniums, still watch with amusement the visitors from their future and wonder in amazement what is in store for them.

I felt I had arrived at an integrated, unflappable world, at peace with itself, serene in its wisdom, ethereal as a Turner painting and yet as solid and nurturing as Mother Earth.

On a stone, a surviving vestige of what was once a Homerian wall, I had let my imagination glide back in time and acquaint itself with the shadows of posts long lost.

There, in front of me, were children of the prehistoric era playing games, Achilles, Odysseus, Nestor and Ajax, glorious Theseus telling King Lykomedes all about the dreadful Minotaur of Crete, and Athenian Kimon arguing ferociously with the surly and fierce Skyrians.

There, too, were Byzantine priests urging their flock to repent before God lost patience with their sinful lot, Venetian sailors and Algerian pirates carrying on their back flanks of wine and young women, Ottoman officials, obese, debauched and drowsy, and
coltish kids Mussolini had sent to conquer the world.

And, then, Nicos Pavlis, our Skyros Centre neighbour, passes in front of me, on his donkey, with his goats and a friendly smile on his sun-hardened, lined face. ‘Good morning’, he says and offers me a bunch of red grapes as delectable as Aphrodite’s nipples. I recall Democritus, the father of the theory of atomism:

‘Enough’, he said, ‘is as good as a feast... True riches are found only in contentment.’

And, Oh God, I had more than enough. The odoriferous grapes, the convivial smile, the sensual delights of nature’s breathtaking pastiche, the simplicity of life and the ancient breath of every stone had all engulfed me in a cloud of spiritual bliss.  They had penetrated my soul and tuned me into the eternal rhythms of life.

Without even knowing it, I was on a spiritual journey. I listened to the whispering of the sea and I became that whispering, I absorbed the fragrance of the jasmine and I became the
fragrance itself, I watched the eagles flying over the mountains and I became a proud high-flying bird circling the sky together with them.

I had extended myself spatially and diachronically, being what my eyes could embrace and what my psyche could trace in the fragmented memories of the mythical and more recent past. I felt part of it all, humbled in reverence, ennobled by the experience,  mesmerised by, and grateful for, the beauty revealing itself in all its simplicity.

In this world, all I had to do was re-build my thinking and re-position myself vis-a-vis the unresolved issues of our time.

Obviously, I still had not learnt how to control my aspirations, particularly as Skyros at the very beginning was for me neither an arrival nor a departure point. For the Skyros Centre did not exactly reflect my own interests.

It flourished as a psychotherapy centre just as much of Vienna which in Freud’s time had been taken over by the power of the unconscious.

But that had nothing to do with me. Myself, I had no interest whatsoever in inner invisibilities
or intimate therapeutic communities in the sun or in the shade. Psychotherapy was as alien to me as the wedding rites of the Shamans before the industrial revolution. 

Personal growth at that time meant the unleashing of primal screams, something I was anything but familiar with. Unacquainted with such therapeutic techniques, the neighbours, too, alarmed, wasted no time in reaching the conclusion that what had been established on their island was either a torture chamber, a mental home or a sadomasochistic clinic. And in their kindness, they often rushed in bravely to save the ‘victims’.

‘No! Don’t worry – it’s all play. A kind of theatre.’

‘Oh good. When are you going to perform?’

At the end, there had to be an impromptu, if somewhat incongruous performance, in Brooke Square, high above the village, in front of three hundred breathless villagers and Costis
Ftoulis, their befuddled and mystified mayor. Surprisingly, it turned out, however, to be something of an occasion made possible thanks to my grotesque optimism and the creativity of the group.

We did not become honorary citizens of Skyros, but the locals needed some time to recover.

That was the first ever Skyros cabaret, the predecessor to those which have rounded off virtually every session ever since.

The Centre had been named by the locals ‘The English Villa’,  a term which had an automatically sinister connotation. In an English villa mysterious forces are at work and egregious things happen as a matter of course. By implication, some Australians
ventured to suggest the place had thereby acquired a distinct touch of class. The French, evidently failing to appreciate this,  shrugged their shoulders.

The place was also euphemistically called The Centre, ‘Of what’,  an obviously untrustworthy member was once overheard asking.

Yet Skyros under the direction of Dina Glouberman, who had studied in the US under Herbert Marcuse and Abraham Maslow,  turned into a resounding success story from day one. The venture – powerful human bonds, fantasy parties, romantic meals by the sea, extraordinary coincidences, apocalyptic dreams – captured the imagination and gave people an emotional home.

The people the Centre attracted were people who wanted to rethink their lives, discover their own truth and determine their future. As Joan Scales put it in The Irish Times:

‘Our lives are “always on”, but sometimes you want to just stop, get off the super-highway and breathe. You need to say  “stop, I’m getting off’ and have some “me time”.

Skyros, the retreat that ‘promotes the ethos of personal growth, creativity and self-discovery’ was the place for her to do just that and burst the framework of her day to day reality.

And so it was for numerous other people who joined Skyros, individuals who, as John Torode described in The Guardian, were – ‘...successfully holding down “good” jobs, lots of creative folk and characters from the caring professions alongside academics and the occasional business person. They had all achieved and now shared a fashionable unease about whether the game was worth the candle.’

Among the ‘achievers’ were at times bishops, members of parliament or top police officers, all looking for the key to a happy life lost in the corridors of their daily routines.

Writing in Time Out, Olivia Maxwell was more specific.

‘Let me introduce the members of my group’, she said. ‘Elsa was a committed socialist living within a politically motivated community in Denmark, Thomas an engineer from Sweden,  Martine a biology teacher from France. Sid was a doctor practicing both orthodox and homeopathic medicine in London, Christe a medical assistant in Innsbruck, Hannes a psychiatrist from Zurich and Rosemary a language teacher in Basel.

‘We all shared a common need – the need to grow, to confront ourselves deeply and honestly, find our inner selves and resources, uncover the games we play with ourselves and others,  the different roles, unidentified fears, anger.

‘But it wasn’t all painful encounters with long-buried feelings. In the Disco on the Rocks we grappled with Greek dancing, ordered Marguaritas, were served Tequila Sunrises, and consumed copious quantities of ouzo. Later we’d pile back to the cave on the beach, light candles, banter, laugh, and drink more wine. That’s the other side of the Skyros experience – the sheer,  crazy, overwhelming joy of letting go and feeling alive. It’s a time of change and a time for growth. A twilight time of selfrecognition,  of saying goodbye to tired games one has played our for the last time. It’s not a reformation, but a transformation.’

What people were experiencing was nothing less than a minor miracle I could hardly believe I had witnessed myself and impossible to describe to friends and acquaintances back home
in London.

A group of people who had never met before were able in a day or two to create a real, not contrived, atmosphere that exuded warmth, friendship, camaraderie and a feeling of unbridled joy and hilarity before moving together beyond all well-established social boundaries. Amazingly, most of them were going round the Middle Age Cape.

Still the people were greatly reassuring, the atmosphere enormously supportive, and the actual holiday aspect of it most rewarding.

Ann Shearer highlighted the benefits in a feature in The Guardian.

‘For me’, she said, ‘there was not just the delight of the island but the chance to learn from the mirror others offered me and to try out bits of myself I’d forgotten were there.’

Fergus Lalor went further in an article in The Irish Times.

‘I have to say’, he wrote, ‘that there is no other way to describe it than to admit that it changed my life.’

Excited to hear about Skyros from someone she knew, Maeve Binchy, the Irish novelist and playwright, advised likewise people again in The Irish Times to have a go fearlessly. I am sorry that,  despite all my efforts, I never managed to bring her to Skyros. Ill-health had made it impossible.

Similar sentiments were expressed in January 1985 in the respected Dutch daily de Volkskrant.

The concept behind the Skyros Centre venture was to be traced to the ideas of people such as Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow and Erich Fromm, leaders of the humanistic psychology
movement that has its roots back in the 1960s.

Looking for the good life outside the parameters of the market economy, its technocratic culture and the various social and professional functions, they all anchored their approach on the full development of each one’s potential. The problem, as they saw it, is the fragmentation of personal identity, the alienation of the individuals from their own nature and their transformation into abstract and functional units.

Self-actualisation, incomprehensible within the retail price index, requires, however, guts to be ‘you’, the ‘real you’ as opposed to a self conditioned by the requirements of socially
determined patterns of behaviour. But who the ‘real you’ is?  

To ‘know thyself’, as the Delphic maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the temple of Apollo at Delphi urge us, requires the disarming of the inner defensive mechanisms which block
unconscious contact with one’s ‘real’ self, even if that self is fragmented, and one’s ‘real’ needs.

Hence the conflict with the self-preservation impulse and the inhibitions activated by tiresome routines.

It also requires an understanding of our world as a network of human relations rather than structures and systems, and a sense of oneness with an environment in which people find everything of value in and through each other.

The Skyros innovation was to take this concept for the first time into a community context, and this in the serene environment of Skyros island where people could, like Odysseus, when he woke up on the Phaiacian shore, rise up, look around and see who they are. They could unwind, take a good, deep and honest look at their lives, explore pain, fears, inhibitions and habits that are getting in the way of a more fulfilling life, understand, accept and respect themselves for what they are and relate to other people more openly, deeply and effectively.

All this was for me a novel and vertiginous experience which nevertheless won gradually my full respect.

Some of the courses offered for the purpose focused on particular life themes or skills while others were open-ended and deep explorations of a variety of themes. They were all experiential and not formally taught.

The course facilitators used a variety of personal growth approaches, including psychodrama, gestalt, massage and bodywork,  encounter, bioenergetics, art therapy and visualisation. The labels attached to these techniques were relatively unimportant as what mattered was the effectiveness of the help people received to get in touch with their deepest selves, project their genuine feelings instead of their imitations, and bring their subliminal energy into harmony with their conscious awareness and choices.

The dominant feeling in the groups, Bernard Burgone wrote in Self and Society, was

‘Trust, hard work without silly, false reassurances or cosy agreements, and a steady, firm commitment to reach the parts of the self that have for far too long been shut away.’

The result was truly miraculous.

‘It worked on every level’, Gail Tresidder, the Fitness magazine publisher, wrote long after the experience had left a scent that was still lingering on the fingertips of her memory.

The people who would dismiss such claims as shenanigans or give me odd, subvocalized looks were anything but missing.

But when ‘I went there’, Deborah Hutton, one of them, wrote in Vogue magazine, ‘surrounded by people I came to know better in seven days than many I had known for seven years, I was forced to swallow my cynicism. It worked. Very well. I felt great.  Alive and inspired.’

To do that, several had to come face to face with their pain caused by problems that shadowed their lives: career or relationship problems, issues of health and sexuality, difficulties within the family, financial pressures or a range of bewildering choices that in today’s world go far beyond those of the previous generations.

Or with problems, as Saki, the witty and mischievous Scottish writer, might say, related to men who probably knew exactly what to do if they found a rogue elephant on a lady’s croquet-lawn but were just hopeless with women.

I discovered the pain behind the mask and touched its textured face in the very early stages of the Skyros Centre’s life. It was when a guest, an established journalist whom I see often on television, had joined Dina’s course in order to file later a story for his London daily newspaper.

‘I am here only to observe’, he said with the hapless expression of a spokesman for the emotionally deserted street of his middle age, ‘as I have no problems whatsoever’.

His uncertainty seemed, however, only the cover of a deeper uncertainty which became evident two hours later. It was then when he burst into tears, which he was mopping with a
handkerchief the size of a small tablecloth, and started walking around with a pair of dark glasses to hide his anguish. Dina took him off the course as, she said, he was not ready to deal with the issues that came up.

He accepted it without protest and then surrendered himself to the pleasant lassitude of the afternoon idleness.

The issues that in this context do come up are sometimes quite dramatic. A German doctor, for example, could not practice his trade because he did not want in the process to inflict pain to his patients.

‘We, Germans’, he said, ‘have caused so much pain in the world that I don’t want to add to it, even if it’s for healing purposes’.

Other people had to deal with broken marriages, family splits,  low self-esteem and feelings of social inadequacy, excessive burdens of family responsibility, loneliness combined with an inability to sustain new relationships, emotional vacuums, failed plans and expectations, sexual abuse during childhood or feelings of being stuck in a world in which they did not feel they belonged.

A woman even complained, while drying her hair in the sunlight, that she felt neglected because her husband never hit her back. Another one started to talk about her sexually wretched married life though, as parsimonious with clarifications as she was with cash the day before, she failed to elaborate – in public.

Others would frequently raise issues relating to a work-life balance, questioning their commitment to a career that deprived them of all else life can offer. What they all wanted was the opportunity to stand back, review their lives, seek new ideas and insights and get all the support they needed to change course.

The funny side to it all, often hilarious, was anything but missing. It highlighted the absurdity of the human condition or the peculiarity of the means used by the Skyros Centre in dealing
with life’s puzzles. Absurdity often is part of our reality.

The Skyros Centre was taking itself seriously, but not too seriously.

But, as importantly, people were able there to amuse themselves rather than go places to be amused. That in itself was an achievement as in our days people have lost the ability to entertain themselves without help often offered from the cyberspace.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Atsitsa Bay 2015 highlights so far ...

Atsitsa Bay has been in full swing for 7 fantastic weeks so far. There has been an abundance of singing, dancing, games, laughter, sharing and memories. We would like to send a massive thanks to all of the participants who have kept Atsitsa alive and bringing a new holiday experience to every session. We have gathered together just a snippet of the 2015 Atsitsa Bay highlights to share from the past 7 weeks.
If this gives you itchy feet then there is still time to book onto our holidays by calling the office on 01983 86 55 66 or email

With best wishes
The Skyros Team
Isle of Wight

Amazing Feedback from Inspired Participants

It felt like Christmas every morning, you never knew what form the class was going to take, but it was always a treat. I absolutely loved it.G.S - Kent

‘Wonderful! Living in Hutland was like living in Edens Paradise!C.A - Sweden

Am so very pleased that I decided to come here, one of the most memorable holidays I've ever had.A.M - Ireland

This has been a fantastic experience that I would highly recommend to others. Thank you all. I will definitely be backH.T - Gloucestershire

Olympic Games: Greeks VS Trojans

In true Greek style, Marina and Steve battled to the end in the Olympic games, Greeks VS Trojans. Frightful games of apple bobbing, 'over-and-under' with Lemonos Biggus, sacred ritual dancing and rock, paper, scissors were held until the final dual between Marina-the-Greek and Steve-the-Trojan was held in intense suspense. Steve's black Trojan pants could not distract the mighty Marina and the Greeks cheered in victory. All followed by a friendly glass of wine at the bar.

Generous donations to the Skyros Fund Support

We have had some wild things up for auction this year to raise money for the Skyros Support Fund. Steve Attridge's black Trojan pants, motorcycle rides around the island with Takis the chef, surprise serenades from the work scholars and many wonderful retreats, massages, hugs, acting lessons, positive emails, influential quotes and more from our participants. Massive thanks to all the donations, we will soon be announcing the final amount raised.

Traditional Greek concert in an open-air amphitheatre

Participants and staff stumbled upon an amphitheatre full of local musicians preparing for an intimate open air concert of traditional Greek music. The music performed was in the Smyrneiko and Peireotiko-rebetiko style. The instruments included bouzouki, guitar and baglama. They were soon joined by around 300 locals and together they enjoyed the emotive almost operatic performance that took place.

Puppies to be re-homed

'On the 10th June, walking from Atsitsa to Skyros Town, a group of us found three abandoned pups, only days old, eyes still closed.' So far an amazing £1,100 has been raised to vaccinate these puppies and get their EU puppy passports so they can be re-homed safely in the UK. A huge thank you to Rachael Lockey for taking these puppies into her care and thank you to all those who have donated to the cause. 

What will we be up to in the Public Speaking sessions at Atsitsa in Skyros in August?

We’ll begin by removing the word ‘public’ from public speaking. We can replace it later if we’d like to, but as it’s the ‘public’ part of speaking that creates anxiety for most people – statistically, public speaking is the 2nd biggest fear in the US after being in a plane crash – let’s remove what is, we will discover, an unnecessary pressure.  The beautiful Atsitsa is one of the most relaxing places on the planet, so let’s go with that flow and relax and have fun.

Relaxing is actually fundamental to the workshop because when we relax we can deepen our breathing and increase our resonance – the 2 things that are going to give our voice natural power and a sense of ease.  It’s not about forcing yourself to be louder or clearer or ‘projecting’ your voice, but finding and harnessing your own vocal resilience and nuance.

Playing is one of the main ways we achieve this – not only does ‘play’ help us release tension and gauge what works for us vocally, it also helps engage our imagination, so that we discover what the words we speak really mean to us as individuals.  When we allow ourselves to let our imagination run free and visualise the multiple meanings that a word or sentence can contain, we begin to speak with the authenticity and colour that we associate with powerful communicators.

And what tools and exercises will we be using during the workshops?  We’ll be moving our bodies, and relaxing and ‘listening’ to them; working collectively and singly; whispering and possibly shouting and singing; exploring poems and jokes and prose and making the words they contain our own.  All the time we’ll be taking inspiration from the nature surrounding us at Atsitsa and from the energy that springs from taking the time to focus on ourselves and on our unique powers of communication.

Whether you would like to improve your performance of presentations, be more confident reading/speaking to a group or even hanker to act, these sessions will enable you to experience that the ability to be a confident communicator is an inherent skill that can be nourished and enjoyed, adding confidence to a multitude of situations that will enhance many areas of your life.

In summary: 

Tiana Harper is a director, producer, performer and tutor and trained in actor training at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Public Speaking sessions at Atsitsa Bay, Skyros will be held during the holidays running from 23rd-30th August and 30th August-5th September 2015.

'Although I didn't know it at the time, the workshop with Tiana at Skyros learning how to speak better publicly would prove invaluable later at work when having to write and deliver training videos for the IT I was developing. Normally quite a dry subject, Tiana's ways of working with a script and rehearsing the way of delivering it injected interest and was voted the best amongst those created. 

Coupled with the simple but effective warm-up routines Tiana taught us, I can guarantee that anybody who goes to one of her practical and well-thought out workshops will come out a better and more confident speaker.'
Richard Leach - Skryos Public Speaking participant, 2015

Friday, 17 July 2015

The Skyros Centre opens this weekend : Writers' Lab, Life Choices and the Art Studio!

The Skyros Centre is opening this weekend with three fabulous facilitators to kickstart the season! We have the amazing Deborah Levy, Ilene Sawka and Juliette Smith running courses for this first week and then other inspiring facilitators joining us for two week holidays thereafter. Take a look below to find out more about what's on offer on our next 2 week holiday beginning 26 July. Work with experienced authors, life coaches and artists and explore your creativity and expand your potentials. 

Don't miss your opportunity to holiday on the picturesque island of Skyros and enjoy its traditional Greek culture along with good wine, delicious food and sunshine. Book online here or call the office on 01983 86 55 66 or email for more information.

With best wishes, 
The Skyros Team
Isle of Wight

Writers' Lab: Mez Packer
Mez is author of Among Thieves and The Game is Altered and an Associate Senior Lecturer at Coventry University. In her course she will focus on structure, character, plot and voice looking at how to keep the reader wanting more. Mez has varied writing interests from scripts for apps and transmedia projects to short stories, which have appeared in various literary magazines.

Life Choices programme: Ari Badaines
Ari is an American clinical psychologist and has been a Skyros facilitator since 1982. Ari uses a variety of approaches including psychodrama and gestalt therapy to help people gain new awareness and experience more satisfying ways of being. He received a post-doctoral Fellowship with the National Inst. of Mental Health in Washington, DC where he trained in group psychotherapy. He also spent two years training as a Couple and Family Therapist.

The Art Studio: Amanda Davidson
Amanda was inspired by her tutor Raymond Briggs, best known for his story The Snowman, to become a children's book author and illustrator. As a successful mural artist, Amanda has worked for school projects, conservation groups and architects. Amanda adores teaching; it comes naturally along with her artistic flair. Fine tune your powers of observation by working with paint, pastel and pen. Still-life, landscape and figure drawing will be covered.

Flights and Multiple Holiday Discounts
Ryanair is offering up to 30% off flights in order to 'Keep Greece Flying' and it's worth reading this article here. Ryanair flights are from £29.99 leaving London Stansted and arriving in to Athens throughout the summer. Their offer ends today!

If you take more than one holiday in Greece with Skyros this summer and you will receive a multiple holiday discount. This is a double Friend of Skyros discount equating to £100 off a one week and £150 off a two week holiday. Book your second, third, fourth holiday at our Atsitsa or Skyros Centre and you will receive the multiple holiday discount for every additional Greek holiday booked.

Contact us
If you would like more information about any of our holidays we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

phone: +44 (0)1983 86 55 66   


Online chat: 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Book your place now at the Skyros Centre

Holidays at the Skyros Centre in the beautiful, unspoilt village of Skyros in Greece are just about to begin. Atsitsa, our other holiday centre on Skyros island, has been running since the beginning of June and we have had amazing reports from holiday participants about their positive experiences. Despite the wider political and economic situation, life on Skyros island is as relaxing and inspiring as ever. 

A holiday at the Skyros Centre includes the opportunity to specialise by choosing either the Writers' Lab, the Art Studio or the Life Choices programme. These courses are run by facilitators at the very forefront of their professions and are getting booked up very quickly. Make this the year where you take that adventurous leap; embrace that Skyros holiday you have been curious about, start writing that novel you dream of getting published, create your artistic masterpiece and make that life changing turnaround you don't want to delay any longer. 

We have a limited number of spaces on some of our courses so here is your heads-up to start booking today to secure your place!  The Writers' Lab, Life Choices and the Art Studio all run simultaneously so book your course in advance. You can choose to change courses mid-week if you are on a two-week holiday, provided there is availability.

We would also like to welcome Richard and Clare Maddicott back to the Skyros Centre. They are returning to be your hosts and ensure you have all you need to relax and enjoy yourselves.

Courses this summer at the Skyros Centre

Life Writing with Deborah Levy - 2 places remaining

Sun 19 - Sat 25 July 2015 - £545

Aspects of Novel Writing with Mez Packer
Sun 26 July - Sat 8 August 2015 - £1245

Successful Fiction with Leigh Russell - 5 places remaining

Sun 9 - Sat 22 August 2015 - £1245
Life Writing with Monique Roffey

Sun 23 August - Sat 5 September 2015 - £1195

Successful Relationships with Juliette Smith

Sun 19 - Sat 25 July 2015 - £545
Choose Life at Any Risk with Ari Badaines 
Sun 26 July - Sat 8 August 2015 - £1245

Living Creatively with Kate Daniels

Sun 9 - Sat 22 August 2015 - £1245
New Beginnings with Dina Glouberman - 3 places remaining

Sun 23 August - Sat 5 September 2015 - £1195

Presence through Art with Ilene Sawka

Sun 19 - Sat 25 July 2015 - £545

Mixed Media with Amanda Davidson
Sun 26 July - Sat 8 August 2015 - £1245
Watercolour Painting with Michael Gahagan

Sun 9 - Sat 22 August 2015 - £1245
Watercolour Painting with Michael Gahagan

Sun 23 August - Sat 5 September 2015 - £1195