Protesters occupy Albanian National Theatre in attempt to save historic building

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By Jack Parrock
Protesters occupy Albanian National Theatre in attempt to save historic building

The fate of The National Theatre of Albania remains in the balance as protesters continue their occupation.

They’re fighting a battle with the government who’ve awarded a bid to knock the 1939 building down and construct a new one, along with residential towers blocks to be owned by private investors.

The dispute over the rebuild project has become highly politicised.

Theatre Director Kastriot Çipi is very unhappy with the process:

“There were no public consultations, nobody wants to know about what artists and citizens feel. And so this has become a struggle to protect and preserve democracy in this country and to say stop to the alliance of businesses and the corrupt politicians.“

The protesters started their theatre sit-in last month and the authorities then came to start removing the interiors - resulting in minor scuffles.

Volunteer actors have been putting on around three shows a week here to raise funds for the campaign.

The protesters say it’s not only about protecting the physical building, but also about protecting its history. This was the first place that the communist trials took place, after Albania was liberated from the Nazi regime in 1945.

The protesters also say that additional public land which will be given to the private construction company to build residential towers is forfeiting the rights of the people of Tirana.

Taulanda Jupi, a Lecturer at the University of Tirana is convinced they are doing the right thing:

“We are responding to their violence with our art and this is the most important message that the theatre can give to the politics.“

Authorities say the theatre is too hot in summer and too cold in winter - and much of the artistic community in Albania who receive government funding are behind the need for a new theatre.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama told Euronews the protesting is merely hysteria and that the whole process has been done properly via agreements with the EU:

Heels are dug in on both sides but eventually the curtain will fall and the fate of Albania’s national theatre will be decided.