British Ambassador to Athens Kate Smith has announced the British Embassy’s programs and initiatives to commemorate the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution, highlighting Britain’s contribution to the Greek struggle.
“Britain’s role in Greece’s struggle for independence is for me and my colleagues in the British Embassy a source of endless fascination but also great pride,” Ambassador Smith said in an official announcement from the Embassy.
“Of course it was Greece’s revolution, and a triumph for the Greek people and its leaders. But we Brits too want to commemorate the thrilling events of 200 years ago, and the supporting role that Britain played – through the inspirational contribution of Byron and the London Greek Committee, the diplomatic dexterity of Lord Canning, the Royal Navy’s role in the struggle at sea that culminated in Navarino.”
The embassy is planning a series of programs and events that commemorate the shared history between the two countries, but also looks to the future. Smith announced that the British Navy’s flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth will pass through Greek waters as a show of solidarity with Greek armed forces and the two-century alliance between the two countries.
“We will champion our historic military alliance this year when our Fleet flagship, the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth passes through Greek waters. But we will also use the ship’s cutting-edge technical capability as a platform to showcase Britain as a centre of excellence for science, innovation, research and study,” the ambassador said.
Byron returning to Greece
The ambassador also announced that the world’s most famous Philhellene, Lord Byron, will be— figuratively speaking— returning to Greece.
“We will celebrate our rich relationship in arts and culture in two very different ways. We will lend the stunning Thomas Phillips portrait of Byron to the Benaki Museum for their ‘1821 Before and After’ exhibition at the Pireos annex,” Smith said.
As a result of this cultural exchange, thousands more Greeks will have the opportunity to see this magnificent depiction of the arguably best known Philhellene of them all when the show opens later this year in Athens.
The embassy also plans to unveil a large-scale banner on Vasilissis Sofias building in the spring that will be chosen through a competition from Greek fine arts schools. The winning design will be that which best expresses both the historic and our contemporary relationship between Britain and Greece.
Youth at the heart of programming
The ambassador also emphasized in her announcement that young people comprised the core of the bicentennial programming and special youth projects were part of the plan.
“Indeed youth is at the heart of our program— alongside the guiding spirit of the Philhellenes: volunteerism. The soldiers, sailors, writers, administrators, doctors and journalists, adventurers of all types, who came to Greece in the 1820s and 1830s including from Britain were extraordinary individuals for many reasons. But especially because they were all volunteers,” the ambassador noted.
“We want to channel that spirit of activism and personal responsibility into direct action to tackle today’s shared challenges. We will be working to develop capacity and capability in today’s UK and Greek not-for-profit and voluntary sectors, training future leaders, and bringing young Greeks and Britons together on Greek soil, to work for a more inclusive and sustainable future. The spirit of 1821 calls us to cooperate again on the major crises we must tackle together today, climate change and recovery from the pandemic.”
“Our year’s program starts by exploring the events and ideas that shaped Britain’s involvement in the Greek revolution, and our alliance with Greece thereafter. We will host throughout the year a new series of lectures – titled ‘The 2021 Lectures – Britain, Britons and the Greek Revolution’ via an online partnership with the newspaper To Vima. The talks and texts will be freely accessible to all. And we hope to host some of them again live at the Residence later in the year, when restrictions ease.”
“It’s an exciting program, and the British Embassy shares the excitement the whole country feels as Greece celebrates 200 years from the start of the revolution – a celebration of courage, determination, sacrifice and of course, liberty. Values which the British philhellenes shared with the Greek revolutionaries then, and our countries still do today. Since 1821, our partnership has gone from strength to strength, and 2021 will be just the next chapter.”
Anyone interested can find out more about the British Embassy Athens program in celebration of the bicentenary of the Greek Revolution via our social media accounts: UK in Greece on Facebook, @ukingreece on Twitter and on the Twitter account of HM Ambassador Kate Smith CMG @KateSmithFCDO.
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