Antipodes Festival: Two days showcasing Greek culture at its best in Melbourne

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80 stalls, 10 hours of performances and over 100,000 visitors. The numbers that the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM), Bill Papastergiadis, mentioned on the main stage during his speech highlight the value Melbourne’s Antipodes Festival, which took place this past weekend on Lonsdale Street.

But as he also said: “The festival is much more than about figures.”

And indeed, over two days on February 25 – 26, people could feel a constant sense of unity. On Saturday morning, people queued in front of BBQ stands to not miss out on the Greek food. Its smell was everywhere – from souvlaki to kalamari and loukoumades. Elsewhere, kids had their faces painted and attended the ‘karagiozis’ shadow theater. Greek flags, traditional costumes and dancing performance, as well as ancient warriors and Greek football teams were also on the agenda during the non-stop two-day festivity.

A ‘Zorba till you drop’ kickstarted events on the Antipodes main stage, with a 1.5 hour dancing marathon. Young people of different ages kept dancing to the sound of the famous “Zorba” music, with the winner ultimately getting a ticket to Greece thanks to Scoot.

What followed on Saturday and Sundays’ main stage acts was a traditional dancing extravaganza from different Greek associations across Australia. This included the GCM School Dance Group, the Greek Orthodox Community of SA Dance Academy, The Central Pontian Association Of Melbourne and Victoria ‘Pontiaki Estia,’ the Canberra Hellenic Dancers and the Cretan Brotherhood & Pancretan Association Dance Group Collaboration. Live music of the rebetika, as well as cooking demonstrations and a Greek coffee brewing presentation also took place on other stages.

While many bands performed various traditional and modern music throughout the festival, the main event on Saturday night was Greek singer, Alkistis Protopsalti.

Of course, there wouldn’t be a festival without official speeches by a number of VIP guests in attendance on Saturday night.

The Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Emmanuel Kakavelakis, spoke first and referred to the Antipodes festival as an event that has become an institutional celebration of Victoria’s Greek community, as well as a unique occasion for sharing Hellenic heritage and culture.

In his speech, Victoria’s Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Colin Brooks MP, stressed how the Greek community always felt like “a big family” to him. He reiterated the Victorian Government’s election commitment to fund the Antipodes festival with $200,000 a year over the next four years.

Federal Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles MP, also spoke and said: “This event is vitally important as a celebration of something that makes our city so special – the contribution of Greek Australians – but it’s also a symbol of sharing.”

Leader of the Victorian Opposition, John Pesutto, discussed his migrant background and said: “As I look in your faces, I see my parents and I know what many of you had to do and what you had to give up to come to Australia. You created beautiful families, you created a fantastic community – Melbourne is you.”

Melbourne’s Deputy Mayor Nicholas Reece also addressed the crowd and said the Antipodes festival “is the biggest Greek celebration in the world outside Greece.”

Bishop Kyriakos of Sozopolis continued the speeches and stressed that the festival “is a testament to the fact that Greece is a destination where tradition holds firm and where every person is valued and respected.”

The Greek Minister of Tourism Vasilis Kikilias also had a video message for the Greeks of Melbourne.

“You support our values, our traditions, our ideals, our faith our language and everything that composes the greatness of the Greek soul,” Kikilias said.

The official proceedings concluded with Mr Papastergiadis on the stage.

“There is no better way to celebrate multiculturalism than with this festival. There is no better way to enjoy our beautiful cosmopolitan city than through this festival and there is no better showcase of Hellenism globally than our festival,” Mr Papastergiadis said.

No truer words have been spoken.

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos / Giorgos Psomiadis.

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