As a cultural icon of Hvar retires, an interesting farewell interview with Slobodna Dalmacija.
There is almost no one on the island of Hvar who does not know Milan Lakoš, “a stubborn man of culture”, who is also known by many others at home and abroad. This peculiar, witty and socially engaged inhabitant of Hvar has given a lot to his hometown mostly through culture, education and politics. Slobodna Dalmacija interviewed him before his retirement on January 8, 2016.
When did you enter the world of culture and what were your interests?
I entered the world of culture in high school in 1965. Until then, I had dreamt of marine studies, construction. In the summer of 1966, I was already involved with the Hvar Summer – first as a pupil, and later as a student. After graduation (Croatian language and philosophy), I returned and soon I was in charge of culture at the local community. In the fall of 1978, I became a professor and principal at the high school, then the mayor and finally again “the man in charge of culture”. I organized cultural summers in the city even while I was working at the school and while I was the mayor. Forty years have passed like a moment.
You are well-known for your involvement with the Hvar Public Theatre. With “St. Lawrence”, you toured the world and had great success?
The theatre is a completely different story! We started acting during the 1960s under the leadership of late Marin Carić, but my first involvement with the real, old theatre was under the direction of Tin Kolumbić starting from 1958. During my first year (1969) in Zagreb, we established the Hvar Public Theatre, where I was the chairman (until it was closed in 1972). We had a lot of performances in the city of Hvar. The theatre was reopened in 1991, and continues to this day. On and off, for 45 years! In “St. Lawrence”, I have always had the same role – wicked Valerian – and I took part in all 246 performances! We have travelled a lot with that play – from South America to the Croatian diaspora, throughout Europe and ex-Yugoslav republics. “St. Lawrence”, in addition to famous “Exercises in Style”, is the oldest Croatian theatre performance!
You have been organizing the Hvar Summer Festival for years – concerts and poetry performances on a weekly basis.
I took over the Hvar Summer Festival in 1975. We had concerts during the winter as well – in the refectory of the monastery, in the old theatre. We have collected many awards at different festivals. We always had the audience; however, we did not have enough money. I have built great friendships with artists, they would always return to Hvar.
What about cultural cooperation with other towns on the island?
Let us skip this question. Cooperation, unfortunately, almost does not exist. The audience is the one which is the main victim of this lack of cooperation.
What is it like to be an organizer of cultural events on the island and how important are they for tourism in these relatively isolated communities?
It is not easy, but we should not give up. The artists recognize the efforts of organizers. We try to widen the circle of those who love this town and this island. The Hvar Summer Festival is trying to extend the season, start with the preseason as soon as possible, connect it with Easter holidays, enrich the main season, and extend it at the end, until mid-October, sometimes even later.
Are those locations which are under the protection of UNESCO sufficiently used for the benefit of the island?
All of our UNESCO locations can be better presented to the world and to potential guests. It requires a lot of effort and coordination. But, I am sure that the young people of the island will manage do to it.
Is there a winter void on the island, and what can be done during this part of the year to have certain cultural events?
There is no void. We only have more time to deal with ourselves and to read. And we once even had winter tourism on Hvar. I remember January 1970 – the first performance of the Hvar Public Theatre, a well-filled auditorium, and Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić in the audience! It was sometimes cold in the theatre, but our hearts were warm! I believe we will again have theatre in the winter.
Is the potential of the town of Hvar used well for cultural events?
The whole city is an open stage, but it is congested with noise! Many of the previously used areas are now devastated and unusable for a more demanding program. Veneranda used to host philharmonic orchestras, smaller operas, operettas, touring festivals, and many other events. Those times will return. The town of Hvar deserves it.
For years, Hvar has a dilemma to choose between party tourism and cultural tourism. What you are advocating?
I have always advocated cultural tourism and worked for it. I have been organizing and offering programs of cultural tourism. After all, in addition to various awards given by the state, county and municipality, in 2006 I received an award by the Croatian National Tourist Board for outstanding contribution to cultural tourism in Croatia. We should have young people during peak tourist season and their party tourism, but it should be moderate and dislocated – away from the piazza, waterfront, monasteries, Veneranda. And those well-established events during preseason should be preserved.
You are now going into retirement. Will you continue to work in culture, or perhaps return to the politics?
I am sixty-six years old, I am going to retire, but there is still some strength in me. I have a lot of plans for retirement. I have not had any political ambitions since 2001, when I left the post of the mayor. I have always worked honestly, within my capabilities, best as I knew. I am closing now my working life cycle, filled with many relationships, friendships… I would always repeat this same life – filled with what I love, a cultured, unobtrusive, quiet life… And now, at the end, I will not allow anyone to say they love our town Hvar more than I.