Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 14 February 2015
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Keeping things fr Organisers this year have returned the festival back to what makes it unique: food, music and dance HELEN VELISSARIS Lonsdale Street is sort of a sleepy Greek precinct most nights, but one weekend in the year, it truly comes alive. On Friday night, the street began to take on a new persona, as the city traffic was redirected and a troop of night workers turned the strip into a place fit for a paniyiri. For two days straight, Melbourne will smell, taste and sound Greek, all under the shade of the newly-opened cultural centre. Co-chair of the festival’s organising committee, Tammy Iliou says this year’s festival is all about returning to what makes the street festival so unique and loved. “What we’ve tried to do this year is bring the festival back to its core values and promote what a street festival is all about,” she tells Neos Kosmos. “This year it’s two days of pure Greek entertainment, food, music and kids entertainment.” The program is much more robust and cohesive this year, a concerted effort by organisers to make sure there’s something for everyone. While many will be coming to see Greek singer and festival headliner Dimitris Basis hit the stage on Saturday night, others will be overwhelmed with the food choices. Hellenic hot dog anyone? Loukoumades covered in Merenda hazelnut spread? It’s all about the Greek street food this year and most stalls and food trucks will be churning out amazing Greek and Australian concoctions to satisfy the taste buds. The new food truck and street food presence has been something the committee has been working on for years, and is thanks in part to the improving image of the Mediterranean diet. “There’s been an interest in good eating, and the importance of the Mediterranean diet,” Ms Iliou says. “Chefs like George Calombaris, Phil Vakos and John Rerakis have been instrumental in pushing Greek cuisine, and on the back of that Melbourne has been cementing its place as the foodie capital; we’ve noticed that it’s a very big drawcard for our non-Greek speaking festivalgoers.” All weekend a number of Greek Australian chefs will be on hand to show amateur cooks how they can spruce up their own traditional recipes at the Flavours of Greece stage. Fans of reality show My Kitchen Rules will be spoilt for choice, as contestants Matt and Rob (Victoria) and Sheri and Emilie (Queensland) cook their favourite Greek dishes. Former contestants, Greek twins Helena and Vicki, will return to the stage to showcase what they’ve been up to over the past 12 months. Those looking for a caffeine fix can head over to the Kaimaki King challenge and watch some of Melbourne’s best Greek cafés battle it out for the golden apron. With the warm weather predicted, the frappe machine will be working overtime to keep festivalgoers hydrated. After 27 consecutive festivals, it’s been a gradual learning curve for organisers. Moving away from the tired and overdone aspects of the festival and entering the 21st century is a testament to the newly invigorated Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV). “We’ve become open to suggestions,” Ms Iliou says about changing tack. “For example, we’ve had young people saying to us that they are really interested in pursuing the bar area of the festival and the ouzo/meze scene, and we’ve been open to them to just run the project.” We’ve become more transparent, open and really happy to have people on board.” Opening the new Greek Centre of Contemporary Culture late last year has brought with it a brand new focus for the community. GOCMV president Bill Papastergiadis sees the new building as the extension of an everchanging Greek Australian community. “Having Australia’s largest ethnic festival alongside the largest Greek Cultural Centre in the global diaspora is evidence of the success of multiculturalism in Australia,” he says. The festival also brings with it bipartisan support. For years, it has welcomed prime ministers and opposition leaders, local Greek Australian members of parliament and councillors. Talks are still underway to secure Prime Minster Tony Abbott, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has been confirmed, as has Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, Victorian leader of the opposition Matthew Guy, Greens MP Adam Bandt, state minister Jenny Mikakos, MP Nicholas Staikos, federal MP Maria Vamvakinou, shadow minister for Multicultural Affairs Inga Peulich and Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Ms Iliou says the fact that both sides of politics put their differences aside and attend every year is one of the best side-effects of the festival. “I don’t know any other festival in Australia that is run by a community organisation to have that level of support,” she says. Culturally, the festival has also matured. While a big part of the music and dance program is still traditional, the committee is also bringing back the chilled summer Greek vibe at the bar sections. The Barbaresso ouzo bar will be open to cater to younger Greeks wanting to hear some summer euro beats while sipping on Greek imported drinks. Falling on Valentines Day, the festival is also prepped to welcome lovers on the special day. “There will be some surprises on the weekend with some flowers, the kids will be doing (Eros) love-themed things with the gods of love and beauty, and of course we’ve got Dimitris Basis, who is coming out from Greece,” Ms Iliou says. Alongside Basis will be a cavalcade of local Greek Australian artists, including Stelios Antoniou, Anthea Sidiropoulos, Meraklides band, the Apocalypse Boys, Nea Vradia, Mojo Sisters and Santa Taranta band. Away from the music, Greek Australian football fans will also be able to get their fix and say a boisterous thank you to Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, who is tipped to attend the festival as a guest of honour. Now in its 28th consecutive year, the festival has managed to keep itself looking fresh and revitalised. A big co-ordinated dance program has been organised. PHOTO: KOSTAS DEVES.
7 February 2015
21 February 2015