Athens welcomes international delegates to INSP Global Street Paper Summit

Against the odds, INSP was thrilled to launch the Global Street Paper Summit 2016 in Athens today alongside Greece’s street paper, Shedia.

Just two weeks before the event, INSP’s annual summit was hit by the ongoing financial crisis, with one of the delegate hotels closing its doors due to financial difficulty.

“We have had our own small experience of what the Greek economic crisis must mean for people living in the country,” said INSP Chief Executive Maree Aldam. “Thankfully, we have been able to secure alternative accommodation, but we are thinking of the staff of the Ledra hotel, who are now without jobs.”

As they arrived, delegates expressed their relief and gratitude towards INSP and Shedia for rallying together to ensure the event would still go ahead.

I am really grateful for all the work that you at INSP and Shedia have put into this to make it happen despite all the bumps along the way,” said Jessica Hannon, Operations Manager at Megaphone.

Emily Taylor from One Step Away collects her welcome pack before the start of the summit.

“It’s a great opportunity for us all the come together. I’m really happy to be here.”

Tomomi Tsuchida, from The Big Issue Japan, agreed, adding: “I want to thank you for organising the summit. I can imagine how hard it was to rearrange the hotel. I really want to thank all of you.”

This is the third time Tomomi has attended the summit. He added: “I can imagine there are many current issues that relate to refugees from Syria, and the crisis in Greece. I’m really looking forward to discussing these issues and I hope to have some tips to take back to Japan.”

This evening, the city of Athens welcomed street paper delegates from around the world to toast the start of this year’s action-packed summit.

Speaking inside the grand surrounding of Athen’s City Hall, the Deputy Mayor of Civil Society Amalia Zepou expressed her admiration for the work of street papers around the world.

“We are honored that your network, your international network is here today. It has been a source of inspiration for us, as has Shedia. It is really important for us. So thank you very much for what you have brought to Athens.”

Christos Alefantis, Founder and Editor of our co-hosts Shedia, added, “We are so deliriously happy to welcome you all to our beautiful city of Athens. We have been working very hard over the last year and months with the INSP staff and my colleagues at Shedia to make sure that we deliver a great event.”

Fay Selvan, INSP Chair, said, “A big thank you to City Hall for hosting us here tonight. It says something about Shedia, the fact that City Hall is willing to welcome us here, so well done.

“I am looking forward to a fantastic week. Enjoy Athens and everything it has to offer, welcome.”

INSP’s first summit in Greece welcomes delegates from more street papers than ever before.

The global gathering sees 120 street paper staff and vendors from 59 street papers in 30 different countries come together in Greece for a passionate exchange of ideas and innovation.

Henrik Søndergaard Pedersen, vendor and board member of INSP’s Danish member Hus Forbi, said he was happy to return to the INSP Summit and connect with his international colleagues.

“I’m really looking forward to getting new inspiration and ideas for our paper and feeling a sense of connection with the rest of the world, and feeling that we are all fighting to make it a better place.”

He also praised INSP for its work to ensure the event went ahead, adding “I’m really glad you were able to make it happen and I hope you’ll be able to recover. Having that hotel closing, it makes the financial crisis seem more real, not just something happening far off in a different country.”

During last year’s event in Seattle, Henrik had the opportunity to speak to a local Real Change vendor Sharon and is looking forward to speaking with Shedia vendors. You can read their conversation here.

Earlier today, delegates had a brief opportunity to explore Athens. They shared their first impressions of the city and it’s people.

“I have been here for 24hours so far and it has been extremely welcoming and inviting,” said Matt Shaw, editor in chief of Speak Up Magazine, a street paper published in Charlotte, USA.

“I appreciated catching a glimpse of the challenge of doing business in Greece. It gave me more context coming into the country.”

Delegate inside Athens City Halls.

Milica Martinovic, coordinator of sales, distribution and support at Serbian paper Liceulice, said being in the city helped put the financial crisis in clearer context.

“I hear on TV about Greece, the crisis and the strikes and everything. I hear about everything but its pretty much normal here. Everyone thinks Greece is in chaos but when I got here it is ok,” she said.

“I understand it was very hard for Shedia and INSP to organise this at such short notice. Even though we don’t see it on the street these things are happening. It is not normal to experience this for people coming here for the first time.”

Patricia Merkin, from Hecho en Buenos Aires, has travelled from Argentina to meet with her international colleagues for the opportunity to brainstorm fresh ways to use street papers’ unique position to support vendors and create change from the ground up.

A self-described veteran of the street paper movement, she said: “The world is crisis, we are experiencing a very deep crisis of capitalism. The system is exhausted. When this happens, our role as social entrepreneurs is to take this as our flag.

“We are the ones that are going to get into action. We are not going to wait for government to do things. We are going to look at how we can do things to help disadvantaged people.”