The pandemic has reset the industry. COVID-19 affected the way people think and live, but also the event industry as whole. To rejuvenate festivals such as Antipodes while we are still in a pandemic, new evaluation and strategy plans may be required. Event evaluation can start from the initial conceptualisation and research should be undertaken to highlight the impact to the community while also address stakeholder goals. Stakeholders include all businesses and organisations who have a vested interest in an event.

Melbourne’s largest Greek cultural festival has over 90 stall holders with a number of internal and external stakeholders such as: the Greek community, the City of Melbourne, Attendees, Entertainers from Greece, Sponsors and Media. Antipodes, held annually in the Lonsdale street and surrounding precinct, attracts over 100,000 people that attend the annual event which includes street food, live entertainment, and numerous service offerings to the Greek and general festival community.

To rejuvenate an authentic experience Antipodes festival organisers may want to consider the social benefits to the host community such as civic pride, economic benefits and positive collaboration with complimentary businesses within the precinct. From an attendee perspective, events create a sense of belonging and social connectivity in communities. Rebuilding the festival experiences means re-shaping with stories which can act as identity trigger points and build an authentic festival community.

The Antipodes festival has a rich history based on Greek culture, traditions and customs as well as contemporary expressions of Diaspora Hellenism. Rejuvenating the festival involves the consideration of diversity and identities. To achieve that festival organisers may need to include elements that relate to attendees’ identities. Some of that has occurred and is evident in the cross cultural expressions of Indian and Greek music that were there in the last, pre-COVID Antipodes. Genuine stories will be crucial in achieving the differentiation and trust by consumers.

Photo: Antipodes Festival Facebook

The festival can play a strategic role in destination marketing and management. Generations of Greek migrants from various states may combine a visit to Melbourne with the Antipodes festival in mind. Antipodes is becoming a cultural and iconic brand that needs to be treated differently to traditional branding strategies. The mobility of city residents also suggests that the profile demographic is changing, and this cannot be ignored. Organisers of the festival must consider the host population and the benefits they will receive by integrating and having a voice during festival planning.

It is important to gather feedback on how processes can be improved, how goals can be more effectively attained, and how businesses can learn and adapt to the required transformation. This significance of festival evaluation cannot be underestimated and needs to begin from the initial planning phase to post event phase. For example, in pre planning phase organisers need to evaluate marketing material, social media strategies and communication engagement. During the event, operators can evaluate the experience engagement, activities and the experiences on offer. Survey instruments are readily available to evaluate attendee engagement, and these can be adapted accordingly.

Antipodes festival organisers may want to consider new evaluation methods and focus on the impact to the community with fresh eyes. Businesses must complement each other, and event stakeholders must distribute the load of organising, executing and justify the quality of all events. Event managers could address each stakeholder goal and motives because they contribute to the event success.

Dr Effie Steriopoulos is a lecturer and course leader at William Angliss Institute and Dr Paul Strickland is a lecturer Tourism Hospitality and Events at La Trobe University.