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The Greek Centre becomes the modern day agora of Melbourne

The establishment is turning out to be the cosmopolitan venue anticipated, becoming a pin on the map that is attracting thousands

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The Greek Centre of Contemporary Culture. Photo: Urban Melbourne

11 April 2017

Since its unveiling in 2014, the Greek Community of Melbourne has set its sights on establishing the 13-storey Greek Centre of Contemporary Culture as a destination, not unlike the agora of an ancient town, where people of similar interests gather to explore ideas, formulate new ones, and work on projects.

Four levels are already dedicated to Greek education, culture and events, while its other spaces have proven popular with Greek organisations, brotherhoods and associations, and are also gaining interest outside the community, which the Centre's director Jorge Menidis says brings many exciting prospects.

Among those currently using the Centre are the Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association and the Hellenic Medical Society of Australia who run regular seminars out of the venue. Pronia is permanently located there one day a week, and once again this year the Melbourne International Comedy Festival will be running 17 shows at the Centre with close to 4,000 people expected to come through the doors.

"Now they're all people in the main who wouldn't normally come in and be in the Centre or be exposed to any other activities, and we get an opportunity to promote to them and really engage with other people – they all know where we are; they visit the other venues in the building," Mr Menidis explains.

He cites an example from last year's comedy festival, when two patrons waiting in a queue noticed ads for beginner's Greek classes and have been students of Modern Greek ever since.

Including the school programs, classes run during the day by the University of Third Age, and poetry and theatre groups that use the space, close to 1450 people access the Centre each week; a number that is expected to grow significantly once the gallery space is completed and open to the public seven days a week.

According to the director a particularly exciting project to have come through the premises recently is the script by comedian Ronny Chieng for the new ABC television series International Students, which was developed and written on the premises by Chieng and his writing partner.

"That's the sort of engagement we love and we encourage. It's really about becoming a hothouse of activity and ideas," Mr Menidis says.

"Buildings are concrete and glass; it's the activities that are born and spawned within them that are really important and it's just awesome coming in here and having everything from a film night to our lecture series on Thursday, which is ridiculously successful. So there's just a long list of activities and it's about to grow." Plans also include short-term workshops, album launches and music classes.

The director attributes a big part of the appeal to not only the functionality of the space, but its central location on Lonsdale Street in Melbourne's CBD.

"It's perfectly located for a lot of people. I know people initially were worried about parking, but quite frankly there's a number of parking options, public transport's fantastic and this end of town is actually buzzing.
"The Centre itself has become a little vertical precinct between the cafe and the rooftop and the restaurant downstairs and the activities in between – there's always something going on."

To find out more about activities at the Greek Centre of Contemporary Culture (168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC), visit greekcentre.com.au/

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