Greek-Australian Writers’ Festival announces program for 2024

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The 42nd Greek Festival of Sydney is hosting the Greek-Australian Writers’ Festival to showcase books and authors telling Greek Stories.

The Greek Festival of Sydney is presenting the Festival alongside UTS Journalism and Writing, and it is being directed by Dr Helen Vatsikopoulos, Professional Fellow UTS.

This year the Greek-Australian Writers’ Festival will launch new anthologies, explore genealogy, Greeks and Australians in war, mythology, Greek Australian identity in the global village, showcase visual storytelling, and will honour the late Antigone Kafala, one of the most important contemporary Greek Australian writers.

The Festival will unfold in eight 45-minute sessions and will include questions from the audience. Books will be on sale and authors available for signings. The detailed program of the day is as follows:

10:00am – 10:45am| NAME THAT SONG – EXPLORING BALKAN CULTURES AND NATIONALISM

A song is played in an Istanbul restaurant. Suddenly a Turk, a Serb, a Bulgarian and a Greek each claim ownership of it on behalf of their nation. So begins the documentary Whose Is This Song? by Adela Peeva, which inspired Eleni Elefterias-Kostakidis to invite a number of writers to discuss this documentary and related topics. The resulting book, also titled Whose Is This Song, can be an introduction to issues in Balkan history, nationalism and the region’s rich and complex cultures. The book’s topics will be discussed by some of its contributors, co-ordinated by the writer Phil Kafcaloudes

11:00am – 11:45am | WAR STORIES: GREEKS AND DIGGERS

Australians and Greeks have been bound by war. In Greece in 1941 ANZACs fought a bloody campaign to hold back the invading Nazi juggernaut.

In Where the Flaming Hell Are We? Craig Collie weaves together stories of Australian and New Zealand soldiers fighting for their lives in the villages and mountains of mainland Greece and Crete.  

In Bound By Two Homelands – A Kytherian Odyssey, Con Aroney takes up the story of his grandfather and other Greek Australians, in a fictionalised account of those turbulent years of migration and war, based on official historical records, memoirs and personal diaries to tell the stories of Greek Australian soldiers, like Constantine Aroney, who returned to defend their ancestral homeland. Facilitated by Tony Maniaty.

12:00pm – 12:45pm | VISUAL STORYTELLING: THE GREEKS OF TASHKENT

The Greek Civil War (1946-9) touched the lives of most Greeks and devastated the country. When it ended, 12,000 defeated Communist combatants found sanctuary in Tashkent, now the capital of post-Soviet Uzbekistan. They settled in 14 local ‘Greek towns’ and by the 1970s, this exiled community had grown to 35,000 men, women and children. 

The president of the Greek Cultural Centre in Tashkent, Costas Politis will showcase rare photographs from the archives and recount the stories of the political refuges of Central Asia, a largely forgotten chapter of Greece’s turbulent 20th century history. Facilitated by Dr Helen Vatsikopoulos.

1:00pm – 2:00pm | LUNCH BREAK

A light lunch will be provided. Take the opportunity to browse books on sale and speak with authors.

2:00pm – 2:45pm | HELLENIC DREAMING – Book Launch

The Greek community of Australia is now multi-generational. It’s a community in transition. In recent years as the older generation has faded away, a very distinct Greek Australian identity has emerged.  A hybrid culture, further leavened by time and inter-marriage.

In the 21st century what does it now mean to be Greek Australian? What stories, memories and cultural observations matter? Edited by Dr Helen Vatsikopoulos, the anthology Hellenic Dreaming, was created for the Greek Festival of Sydney and published by the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW. It draws on the experiences of 37 first to third generation Greek Australians from NSW, Victoria, ACT and SA. They are writers, poets, artists, lawyers, photographers, architects, chefs and academics. All have articulated what really matters to them, as they delve into our collective past, present and future.

3:00pm – 3:45pm | WHO ARE YOU? GREEK ACTUALLY

Who do you think you really are and how do you find out? Penny Zagarelou-Mackieson was adopted as a baby. Years later, as an adult, she was reunited with her birth mother. But after taking a DNA test she found she was Greek, actually.

Penny revealed her journey in Greek Actually: Disentangling Adoption Deceptions and on the SBS Artemis Media TV program Every Family has a Secret. Penny and producer Claire Forster reveal the steps they took to get to the truth and offer advice on the secrets and pitfalls of finding out who you really are. Facilitated by Helen Tzarimas.

4:00pm – 4:45pm | MYTHOLOGY AND THE WISDOM OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS

Retellings of Greek mythology have become a best-selling genre around the world. Stephen Fry, Madeline Miller, Natalie Haynes, Pat Barker and many other writers have retold the myths of Ancient Greece for modern times. So why does the ancient world resonate so strongly with the present? This question has dominated the research of Julia Kindt, Professor at the Department of Classics and Ancient history at Sydney University. Her latest book is The Trojan Horse and Other Stories: Ten Ancient Creatures that Make us Human. Kate Forsyth is an award-winning author, poet, and storyteller who incorporates myths and fairy tales in her books. Her latest book Psykhe is a retelling of the myth of Eros and Psykhe. Facilitated by Phil Kafcaloudes.

5:00pm – 5:45pm | ANTIGONE KEFALA

Antigone Kefala, a leading writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, was awarded the Patrick White Prize Literary Award in 2022 for her outstanding contribution to Australian literature. She died one month later. Her achievements will be explored alongside readings of her work by a panel of writers, some who knew her: 

Effie Carr is a lawyer, author of the book Stamatia X, an editor of the literary journal Kalliope X, and is working on her second book. She will lead a discussion and readings of Antigone’s work alongside: Anna Couani, author of seven books and a visual artist who runs the The Shop Gallery in Glebe; Efi Hatzimanolis, a poet, writer and independent scholar, George Alexander who was also personal friend of Antigone’s and Ivor Indyk, Antigone’s publisher from Giramondo Press.

6:00pm – 6:45pm | VISUAL STORYTELLING: EPISTROFI

We are closing the festival with visual storytelling, as we explore the publication Epistrofi. Epistrofi means return. Produced by The Australian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the publication features text and photographs by 16 contributors who had returned to their ancestral homelands in Greece for the first time since the Covid lockdowns. We will showcase edited visual extracts from their journeys in testimonies and photography. 

Event Details:

  • WHAT: Greek – Australian Writers’ Festival
  • WHEN: Sunday 19 May 2024 | 10:00am – 7:00pm
  • VENUE: UTS Business School, Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, University of Technology (14-28 Ultimo Road, Sydney, Entry via Mary Ann Street)
  • TICKET: $15+bf via link https://www.trybooking.com/COTUI

For more information on the programme and to book tickets to selected events, please visit www.greekfestivalofsydney.com.au

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