Fethiye’s Third Culture and Art Festival has brought authors, artists and academics to the Mediterranean town and for a week, along with dance, music and exhibitions, the centre of the town and local schools have buzzed with activities.

Mustafa Şıkman, the brains behind the festival, headed the team organising activities. “We are keen to bring new ideas to Fethiye and in particular introduce our town’s school students to different art forms and ways of looking at the world.”

“There is something for adults too, of course. We have a core group of artists, academics and authors who give their time and energy to encourage Fethiye’s children to broaden their horizons and learn that for them there are big opportunities out there for them to grasp.”

An opening party was held on Monday evening, first at the culture centre where children from Yunus Nadi First School performed a dramatic piece about the man after which their school was named and others danced in the traditional style of the area.

Later the party drifted to the pedestrianised shopping area of Fethiye where the local photography club’s pictures were displayed. A piano recital given by Gülhan Karkin and British visitor Robert Shrubsall, added to the cordial atmosphere. For him it was a time to see Fethiye at its best. “The energy and enthusiasm in the town this evening is almost tangible,” he said.

The heart of the proceedings was the Cultural Centre. All week the exhibition gallery thronged with people fascinated by the photos of Ali Öz, an Istanbul based photojournalist with a 30-year track record. His retrospective show revealed scenes from modern Turkish politics and history, which were both fascinating and thought provoking for all those who visited.

The local Mayor of Ölüdeniz, Keramettin Yılmaz and the regional governor’s representative, M. Ali Karatekeli spent time enjoying the show and chatting with Öz. Both he and his wife Sayra were happy to explain the background to the scenes captured by Öz’s lens in this unique pictorial record.

Öz also visited several schools in the town to discuss his career and the role of the photojournalist generally, with local students many of whom became captivated by the gentle, quietly spoken man. One student said that for her Öz’s visit had confirmed that for her, a career in photojournalism was definitely on the cards. Öz saw his visit as a very positive opportunity: seeing this opportunity as both a responsibility and a privilege.

Other guests including, Raziye Kubat and Bayram Candan shared their artistic skills and creativity with local school children from Fethiye, Günlükbaşı and Çatalarık schools, producing some inspiring murals and three dimensional concepts, which will be a permanent reminder of the week for both the children and their families.

Probably the most vividly remembered day for many and most attractive to foreigners, was a folk dance display from the prize winning Gazi First School’s troupe and at the other end of the age range the Ölüdeniz folk group – an all singing all dancing British group – who have performed all over Turkey since their formation.

They were joined by a group of boys from Sierra Leone, who had come to Fethiye for the town’s International Children’s Festival, held at the same time. The rhythm they produced was hard to resist and everyone’s feet began tapping.

Two local, talented rock bands, from Berna Alpagut Şenel Arts Academy, raised the tempo (and the volume) displaying their musical abilities for all to enjoy. Other highlights included a new film about Fethiye by Faruk Akbaş.

The Yunus Nadi journalism Competition was won by Mehmet Erdoğan Anadolu High School students, who were presented with laptop computers donated by Uğur Dershane (Private College). Two short films, made by students from this school and Fethiye Anadolu High School, conceived with technical assistance from Başak Demir were premiered. The First prize was given to the Fethiye school’s students.

Dramatists Nihal Kuyumcu and Tijen Savaşkan worked with children from Fethiye’s school to create and produce some fascinating and amusing theatre.

An unusual way of thanking the guests took place on Saturday in a local park, when all those involved in the festival planted Sığla trees (Liquidambar orientalis) as a way of ensuring the week and those who worked so hard to make it a success will always be remembered.

Sponsored by local business members of the Rotary Club, FETAV and the Municipality, this week of theatre, creativity, stimulating art, photos and debate is something that raises the profile of Fethiye to a higher level and will hopefully go from strength to strength.

Plans are already being discussed for next year’s festival when it will be made more accessible to foreigners, both in terms of international guests and translation facilities.

Jane Tuna Akatay