The Antipodes Glendi festival on Lonsdale Street took place two weekends ago and most pundits in the Greek community consider it to be a ‘success.’
The Victorian Premier John Brumby and the Opposition Leader, Ted Baillieu announced their undying support to all things Greek – from democracy to national independence – and they committed to advocating for the Greek language to be included in the national curriculum.
So was the Glendi a success? Did the festival create a spirit of celebration? Did it evoke a sense of the glendi which Greeks are renowned for?
Overall, yes. There the crowd was convivial and the event layout looked good.
Did it have that elusive kefi, or a Zorba moment? No, but then again few festivals, Greek or otherwise, have that sense of magic anymore.
The cult of the ‘event’ added to the high cost of street closures, security, staging, cleaning and so on, has gutted most festivals’ of the sense of spirit and exuberance which we Greek describe with the word kefi.
The people at the Glendi seemed happy enough to be there and there was a good inter-generational spread. The ‘oldies,’ or first gen and the youngies, or second gen, (not so young themselves), and third gen were all there.
The loukoumathes, souvlaki, pites, kalamarakia were there. The brotherhoods, auxiliaries and sporting, educational and media organisations were all there.
Handsome youth, leventes and leventises, and kids in folk-costume, members of community folk troupes were there. There were some great musicians George Xylouris and Apodomi Compania. (We’ll talk about the act from Greece later)
Importantly, so were the non Greek-Australians. Chinese Australians and Indian Australians, our diasporic cousins, were also enjoying themselves.
The corporate tent was on a human scale, humble and dignified; reflective of the sense of purpose evident amongst the ranks of the new GOCMV and Festival leadership.
So the festival scores a B for feel. But, it scores a C- for its lack of art, culture and vision.
The ingredients bonded together mainly through the shared conviviality of the Festival attendees.
The commitment from the Antipodes board added to savvy and competent coordination did not cover for the absence of a central theme or focus to provide the Glendi with heartfelt cultural and creative meaning.
For example, there was no commitment to the representation of what is best and most interesting in our Greek Australian community.
The politicking that usurped the Greek Community’s energies leading up to the general election did impact, but surely not enough to account for the limited cultural and creative curatorial schema at the event.
The act from Greece, Aggelos Dionysou is so far beyond his prime and appeared disinterest in being there. It is better to have no international act, than to have something that is so underwhelming.
The Festival committee did much work to get the festival up, but it should not be programming festivals. The Antipodes Board now, not later, not by the end of the year, but NOW, needs to engage a creative producer to work closely with the coordinator, and to take on the responsibility for developing the conceptual and creative concepts and components of the Festival program.
The Antipodes board is not, and should not be programming the festival. The Antipodes Board should assist, open doors, provide ideas, focus on budgets, generate income, help set the direction for the Festival so that it can enjoy a healthy and sustainable future.
But let me reiterate, it needs to engage a creative producer who is visionary. Surely, there must be arts practitioners and arts producers out there who can lead Australia’s largest Greek festival in a new direction.
The time for action is now!
Fotis Kapetopoulos is the English Editor of Neos Kosmos and a professional arts manager.