“I get a little tingle when I see the information screens go up a few days prior [to the Lonsdale Street Glendi] informing Melburnians of the impending road closures,” says Leonidas Vlahakis, co-chair of the Antipodes Festival.
“Come midnight Friday, it is quite a sight to see a busy city intersection cordoned off as the various contractors some in.
“As others are laying their heads down to sleep after a busy week’s work, we see our stage go up; and the grandstand; and the stalls. As the sun comes up, the traders file in and you always get the feeling as you move amongst them that you are a part of something pretty special. As the volunteers come in, it is fascinating to see the “old hands” that have seen it all before, and then there are the first-timers who are always so very eager to help-but at the same time they’re not quite sure what to expect.
“As the first people walk around and take their seats – there are regulars – and the bands come on to do their sound checks, you can feel excitement growing. We all take our posts and wait for the magic to happen,” says the co-chair of the Lonsdale Street Glendi, just one highlight even of the Antipodes Festival.
For 25 years, Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria have opened their heart and soul to showcase Melbourne, and the wider community the cultural and artistic side to the Greek community.
Co-chair Leonidas Vlahakis has been with the Antipodes Festival for four years, but has been on the board of the festival since late 2000.
“We have spent countless hours over countless nights to bring together the program that we are so very proud of,” says Vlahakis of getting the program ready for all and sundry to enjoy which he says can take a whole year to put together.
This year’s Antipodes Festival features some stand-out new events as well as some familiar cultural activities. It’s as though each year, the festival gets bigger, better and brighter and nothing could be as bright as closing the Lonsdale Street Glendi with a free performance by Pantelis Thalassinos – in his first Australia performance ever. Even the co-chair says that having an iconic artist such as Thalassinos perform at the Glendi is a major win.
But the Antipodes Festival is more than just the Lonsdale Street Festival. It comprises of activities throughout the year that celebrate and showcase the artistic and cultural activities of Greeks in Australia. Some highlights and newcomers to the Festival include, the Antipodes Writer’s Festival in June.
“This is the first time we’ve tried anything like this and I feel it’s long overdue. It really is exciting and embracing and I’m looking forward to it immensely,” says the co-chair. The Flavours of Greece program will be returning for its third year highlighting Melbourne’s rich history of Greek cuisine. A retrospective of Theo Angelopoulos’ work will be a bittersweet celebration of the life of one of Greece’s cultural icons.
Staying with film, the Greek Film Festival will be back again in October.
“Record numbers again last year are evidence that we are providing Melburnians with something that they’re thirsting for,” says Vlahakis of the Greek Film Festival. Due to the success of last year’s Greek History and Culture Seminars, they will be featured again as part of the festival from 8 March to 14 June.
“If you’re prepared to listen, I believe everyone – and in particular every Greek – has a story to tell,” says Vlahakis of the ways in which events in the program reflect on the strong Greek community of Melbourne and Victoria. Mr Vlahakis says the GOCMV are constantly and continuously looking for ways to improve the delivery of their events, to ensure everyone’s story is told, and with an evolving arts scene, to move with the times too.
“There will of course come a time when all of us will take our leave from this wonderful institution: and there is no doubt in my mind that we will leave the GOCMV – and The Antipodes Festival – in better shape than we inherited it; and that its future is bright indeed.”