“Life has been unpredictable” - Cromer legend Andreas Yiasimi recalls his life so far
After his family had the chance to successfully open a Greek restaurant in Norfolk, Andreas Yiasimi was propelled into things he had never imagined possible. Speaking to Hayley Johnston, he recalls all the incredible and sometimes crazy times from the last 36 years
In a career spanning nearly 40 years, Andreas Yiasimi has been a restaurateur, performed for the BBC and taken photographs all over Norfolk.
It all started when his uncle told the family of a business opportunity in East Runton, just outside of Cromer.
And in 1980 the family, enticed by the famous Cromer crabs, moved up from East London to start their journey with the Constantia Cottage restaurant that would change Andreas's life forever.
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The long-standing and successful restaurant was a place where the children – Andreas and his four siblings – would perform their music to the guests.
It was a normal evening when a visit from Bob Barratt, a record producer for EMI, propelled the group, known as the Constantia Brothers, into stardom.
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Andreas, 54, said: 'We met Bob Barratt over 28 years ago in the restaurant, who came up to do something with the pier. We used to play to people in the restaurant and he thought it was pretty good. We gave him a record that we produced, he took it back and later we had a letter from him absolutely stripping us down. We then invited him for dinner at our house so he could tell us what we should do... The rest is history, as they say.'
During the peak of their success in the 90s, they featured on the Barrymore Show, performed on BBC Radio 2 and at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
Andreas, whose parents are Greek, said: 'The restaurant has offered us so much, everything has happened via it. We owe it, and the people of Norfolk, a lot. It was a completely bizarre 10-year period of gigging.'
The Constantia Brothers released various CDs, performed in three shows on Cromer Pier and even ended up being disqualified from the Cyprus Eurovision heats for having British passports.
After 10 years of performing, the group decided to call it quits to focus on starting families, while still doing occasional singing at the restaurant.
Andreas, who has been married to wife Angela, 49, for more than 25 years and with two children, is the PR manager for the restaurant and promotes all their events.
He said: 'My most memorable events are when we do something for charity and help other people, you get tremendous satisfaction from that. When we do something that helps the community it's very rewarding.'
His work with the restaurant is combined with his love for photography, something he studied while in London.
He recalled: 'My first experience with photography was in junior school, we went on an outing to Cutty Sark and I laid on the ground to take a picture of it and it came out really nice. I was shooting into the sun and the rays hit the boat and it dispersed and created this, by total fluke, amazing picture and I thought 'I'm good at this and want to get into it'.'
His early photographs in London were so good that they made their way into Whitechapel Art Gallery.
Since then he has been a prominent figure around north Norfolk taking photos at many events across the region, along with his own service at weddings and other occasions.
He has also been a commissioned photographer for the EDP's sister paper, the North Norfolk News.
His work features on his website, Norfolk Gem Magazine, which also contains positive news stories from within the community.
He said: 'It's a glorified blog – it's for my love of the town and I wanted to take it a step further and make it look like a magazine. It's a platform for me to express myself, it's a happy thing. It's just me and if I've got a story I'll put it out there.'
Twenty years after performing with his siblings, Andreas took to the stage on his own to be a part of productions on the pier. He was in the chorus line-up for Oliver in 2014 and this year is taking part in Calamity Jane.
In a world away from the glitz of performing and promoting his family's restaurant, Andreas also has a role on North Norfolk District Council.
He was elected in 2013 as a Liberal Democratic councillor for the Cromer ward.
'It's just being yourself, trying your best for your community – it's just me but with a councillor title.
'We're very lucky here that we have great volunteers, Tony Shipp for example. We have many people that do things for the community, I'm really just an additional speck in the ocean to what these people do already. If I can use my title for the good then we've done something good.
'I'm passionate about our heritage and keeping our history. I'm passionate about seeing things keep going, like our carnival. The essence of our town is tourism – if we look after it and keep things like the Crab and Lobster festival, it's a very good thing. Let's keep things going.'
While some would boast about their achievements, Andreas remains a humble man who looks back on his memories with great fondness.
He said: 'The most memorable time for me was when my children were born, I think it changed my life, it enhanced and added colour to it.'
He added: 'Life has been unpredictable, unrehearsed, but it has been brilliant, and it's what you make of it.'