Antipodes Festival Director Jorge Menidis says Australia’s live entertainment left ‘suffering’

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The live entertainment industry is the heart of Australian culture. While it’s not the largest sector, all other industries depend on its success to survive.

Yet, the government has put live entertainment recovery during COVID-19 “well down the back of the train”, being one of the last industry’s to be considered.

Jorge Menidis is the acting Director of the Antipodes Festival in Melbourne, along with the Sydney and Perth Comedy Festival’s. With over 15 years of experience in the live entertainment industry, he’s grown tired of the government’s lack of appreciation of the sector.

“I think Australia doesn’t view its cultural industries as what they are; Which plays a significant impact on people’s lives,” Menidis says to The Greek Herald.

“I think all too often we look at arts and entertainment as ‘the others’, as a fun thing that happens on the weekend. Yet, off the back of a festival, associated industries thrive.”

The live entertainment industry makes up Australia’s theatre performances, concerts, ballet recitals, along with every major Greek festival and public event.

Following the cancellation of the Sydney and Perth Comedy Festival’s in April, Jorge says him and other organisers were given no “financial life jackets” to support performers or staff members, claiming JobKeeper was not available due to the nature of the industry.

Sydney Comedy Festival boss Jorge Menidis with comedians Becky Lucas and Matt Okine. CREDIT:JUSTIN MCMANUS

“We’re quintessentially suffering,” Jorge says.

“There’s obviously financial pain everywhere, but more importantly there’s a lack of clarity as to where we will all go, trying to re-imagine our events.”

“Even the COVID-19 response the government came up with, the actual re-engagement grants have only just opened for application last month. So since March people have just been sitting there waiting for things to be announced.”

Victoria’s live music scene was offered a $9 million fishing line by the government to feed 106 live music venues both in Melbourne and regional Victoria. A further $3 million in grant funding was made available to help other workers in the industry adapt to COVIDSafe ways of working.

Despite this funding by the Victorian government, Jorge says that the live entertainment industry needs a simple “game plan”. A COVID-19 state-based infection rate limit that can allow organisers to coordinate future events and ensure the live entertainment industry will recover, and ultimately thrive again.

“We all know it’s a numbers game. If we had that sort of understanding we would be able to plan accordingly,” Jorge says.

Antipodes Festival. Photo: The Greek Herald

“We have Antipodes Festival that I run at the end of February, and nobody knows if we’re allowed to run it and if we’re going to be able to run it.

“There isn’t any government official anywhere telling us ‘go ahead and plan it’ or ‘Plan it but if the infection rate is X you won’t be able to run it’.

“We’re all chasing it, we’re not ahead of the game.”

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