Greek Festivals take over Australia’s cultural landscape in February and March

Antipodes, Hellenika, and the Greek Festival of Sydney will showcase a spectrum of Greek culture, food, and arts from traditional to contemporary in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney

February and March in Australia are now Greek cultural months, as Festival Hellenika in Adelaide, Greek Festival of Sydney and Antipodes in Melbourne take over.

These festivals present a panoply of Greek culture and arts, expressing the diversity in modern Greek Australian identity.

They are intergenerational, as their audiences range from our elders to families and younger people. So big are these events that Australian political leaders – premiers, prime ministers, and mayors – lock these festivals in their diaries. While different, it is their history that spans decades.

The festivals represent a spectrum of culture and arts ranging from traditional to contemporary.

Around 90 stalls will provide food and refreshments at Antipodes Festival. Photo: Supplied

Melbourne’s Antipodes, now in its 36th year has won many awards as the largest celebration of Greek culture outside of Greece. The festival is held in the historical Greek Quarter of Melbourne in the shadows of the Greek Centre on the corner of Lonsdale and Russel Streets.

Over the weekend of February 24 and 25, over 100,000 people will amass on Lonsdale for entertainment across three stages: cooking demonstrations, dance, music, street theatre, children’s performances, competitions, and community activities.

Up to 90 pop-up stalls, many Greek food vendors, competitions, rides, and over 700 performers make this a significant street festival. Jorge Menidis, the director of the Antipodes Festival told Neos Kosmos that the festival is “defined as much by place as it is by its content and speaks of a historical connection to this city that so many Greeks have and continue to call home.”

A range of community dance groups will perform at the Antipodes Festival in Melbourne. Photo: GCM/Supplied

“The two-day festival has developed from an opportunity for a generation of Greek immigrants to celebrate their ethnicity to a vehicle for a second and third generation to explore and express the cultural inheritance in the most creative ways,” said Menidis.

Antipodes, Menidis said, is produced by an “enthusiastic and regenerating young cohort of workers and performers”.

“Forty young staff produce a festival that features 500 performers – almost all under 30 and most of Greek heritage.”

Antipodes significant cultural and financial impact, a $7.7 million economic impact to Melbourne, making it an major event for the city.

Hellenika in Adelaide presents Greek and non Greek artists fused by Hellenism. Photo: Festival Hellenika/Supplied

This year’s headline act from Greece is Melina Aslanidou, renowned for her commanding vocals.

The Xylourides, Nick, Antonis and Apollonia Xylouris, the offspring of famous Cretan musician Nikos Xylouris, will perform current adaptations of Cretan music. Other events include staples such as Zorba Till You Drop and various community dance groups, street performers and workshops.

For Menidis, the highlights for 2024 include the Melina Aslanidou performance, Xylourides, “a showcase of frenetic Cretan music,” and the “UNESCO-protected Momogeroi celebrating the onset of Lent.”

Melina Aslanidou from Greece will be the main act at the Antipodes Festival. Photo: Supplied

The Antipodes includes cooking demonstrations from Australia’s leading Greek Australian chefs and 88 pop-up market stalls. The Greek Festival of Sydney, established in 1980 by the Greek Community Council, seeks to express and maintain cultural and artistic practices. The festival presents artistic and cultural events, including a two-day outdoor festival, theatrical performances, exhibitions, concerts, lectures, folkloric, music and cross-cultural activities.

Festival Hellenika in Adelaide fosters Hellenic links to the arts and celebrates Hellenic culture. It has a unique focus on looking at the breadth and complexity of Hellenism beyond Greek ethnicity and borders.

Adoni Fotopoulos the president of Hellenika told Neos Kosmos that the festival has grown in the last 30 years “into the biggest purveyor of Hellenic cultural events in Adelaide spanning small intimate presentations to sold-out, annual concerts in the Dunstan playhouse for local and international artists.”

Antigone in the Amazon a co-presentation between Hellenika and the Adelaide Arts Festival. Photo: Adelaide Festival

“The program includes local poetry readings to co-promoted theatre productions from interstate and international theatre in the Adelaide Arts Festival programmes.”

Hellenika has partnered with Australia’s primary arts event, the Adelaide Arts Festival, to co-promote Antigone in the Amazon, a contemporary take on the classic by acclaimed Swiss director Milo Rau and Goodbye, Lindita is a nonverbal work from Albanian theatre-maker Mario Banushi to be presented in Adelaide after its critically acclaimed debut in the National Theatre of Greece.

The Greek Festival of Sydney. Photo: Sydney Greek Festival Facebook Page

“The headline events this year are Zeibekiko, a concert dedicated to this personal and shared expression of song and dance; Oinos, a winery tour of the Barossa vineyards of a talented Greek viticulturist followed by a long lunch in the barrel room with a talk from professor Rachel Ankeny, a food historian, who talks about the role of wine in Greek life through time and, Nikoteini an Anatolian modal music duo touring Australia from Istanbul,” Fotopoulos said.

From February through May, Hellenic and Greek-inspired arts, culture, and food will play a key role in Australia’s cultural landscape. These festivals have become vital events and platforms for creatives of any background to showcase Hellenic connections to the arts and their contemporary displays.

The Greek Festival of Sydney. Photo: Sydney Greek Festival Facebook Page

Below are links to the festivals