L-R: Leonidas Vlahakis and Tammy Iliou, co-chairs Antipodes Festival; Nicholas Kotsiras, minister for multiculturalism; with Bill Papastergiadis, president GOCMV. Photo: Kostas Deves.
Under the watchful eye of the historic building of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV), now covered up to be demolished, the annual Antipodes Lonsdale Street Festival was launched.
The Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Mr Nicholas Kotsiras, GOCMV president Bill Papastergiadis and co-chairs of the Antipodes Festival Tammy Iliou and Leonidas Vlahakis were all on hand Wednesday morning to give a taste of what is to come this weekend.
Present at the launch were several business personalities of the Greek community of Melbourne such as Craig Kayas and Leonidas Argyropoulos, who have provided handsomely and continue to support the longest running Greek community organisation in Melbourne.
With a cup of Greek coffee in hand, the 50 or so guests took part in a small event which heralds the world’s largest outdoor Greek festival outside Greece. The launch took place at the traditional home of the glendi, Melbourne’s Lonsdale Street.
The Festival Director George Menidis welcomed Mr Papastergiadis and Mr Kotsiras, noting that more than 250 people will showcase their talents and perform at this year’s glendi.
In his speech Mr Papastergiadis thanked Delphi Bank, the main festival sponsors, as well as all those present, for their continuous support. He then touched on the construction of the cultural centre and the importance of this centre for the wider Greek community. He stressed that this project would not have been possible if the community had not believed in it and, as a result of that strong commitment, contributed generously.
Mr Kotsiras congratulated the work of GOCMV with particular emphasis on the new Cultural Centre saying “everyone was telling me it will happen one day… now that I see it I feel very proud.”
The Victorian Government contributed $70,000 to the festival through the Victorian Multicultural Commission.
Mr Kotsiras also took the time to promote cross cultural relations that come from the glendi and the Antipodes Festival in general.
“Through the glendi and the Antipodes Festival, the wider community gets a better understanding of Greek culture,” said the Minister.
The focus of this year’s glendi falls into a particularly “Dionysian” aspect of Greek culture – the act of dancing. So it was unthinkable for dancing to be missing from the launch.
Syrtaki came to the fore and Mr Kotsiras, without knowing he had been promoted by the new Premier moments before, took to the dance floor and celebrated it the Greek way.
Together with a team of GOCMV volunteers, Mr Papastergiadis, the co-chairs of the Festival and other guests, passersby received a glimpse of what is to come this weekend in the heart of Melbourne.