The Antipodes Festival was born in 1987 as the idea of two people, Sam Papasavvas, the then President of The GOCMV; and Don Dunstan, the former South Australian Premier, and the first President of Antipodes.
In their wisdom, with a group of community leaders, they started something that gave Melbourne a world-class event, the Greek Antipodes Festival.
The Antipodes Festival, was meant to reflect the cultural lives and connections of Hellenes in the ‘land down-under’; celebrating the arts, culture, heritage, sport, social and commercial aspects of Greek-Australians’ for the experience of all Melbournians.
Sadly the dream of having a major international Greek festival in Melbourne has waned over the last few years.
So much so, that if one was to compare the inaugural festival with the Festival content of today – the recent ones come out as second rate, indeed.
What gives me the right to write this?
Experience. I have had many years of delivering major festivals and productions and produced successful events.
I was the longest serving Executive Administrator ever contracted by the Antipodes Festival serving 10 years.
I came into the picture in 1989 fresh from producing the award winning Doug Anthony All-Stars at the Adelaide Festival and being very involved in producing the inaugural Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Antipodes in 1993 received a special commendation at the Victorian Tourism Awards.
Triennial funding from State Government followed and three years later it was on the verge of making Melbourne’s elite major events stable.
So what happened?
As it is with some Greeks when something is popular they all want control.
Elements of the board failed to realise consolidating the Festival’s position in the mainstream was paramount and allowed the Greek culture idealists to control programming, while other politically motivated groupings merely wanted power.
Everyone forgot about the big picture and it seems worse now than ever before.
There have been some excellent Festival Chairpeople and board members over the last 20 years, but not as many as to move and sustain the Festival’s direction to become a Melbourne hallmark event.
Even today, Antipodes is still presenting in essence a production directed only at Greeks and not programming or promoting in mainstream media to attract serious Government assistance, corporate sponsorships or the support from all of the public.
In 1995 I submitted an Antipodes structure and sustainability plan to the Victorian Government’s arts and cultural funding department, Arts Victoria.
This blueprint on how the Festival can become a significant arts organisation, and how to achieve it is, in my opinion, still valid today.
Antipodes requires a board that is knowledgeable on how to run a major event, sets an apolitical agenda, sticks to it and believe in the motto; “Give, Get, or Get off.”
Allocate a budget to cover the essential costs to secure the Festival to its rightful place next to other Melbourne major events within five years and the board must entrust the Festival’s CEO and staff to deliver the event on time and on budget.
The Festival requires the following core administration staff:
- A CEO with festival and major event experience.
- An Artistic Director with a sense of Greek flair and knowledge of the arts as well as Greek culture and traditions.
- A Research person with a thorough understanding in writing submissions and a media and communications officer with good ties to the mainstream media.
- A Sponsorship and Business Development Manager with experience in cultural issues, arts and community fundraising.
- The Project Manager/Coordinator with excellent production and technical knowledge.
The remainder of staff can be contracted on an as-required basis in order to complete productions, or perform other duties as directed.
Costly? Yes, a healthy operating budget for the five core administration staff at around $450,000 per annum will be necessary.
This will ensure they are of high quality and are prepared to stay on for the long haul to develop popular contemporary and traditional productions that are able to generate audiences and revenue alike.
The very first Antipodes Festival in 1987 had a budget close to $700,000.
Successful Festivals these days are $2 million to $3 million dollar operations: if the GOCMV Board needs to get involved, then lobby all those Greek State and Federal politicians, and others, for the necessary funds.
Is there anyone in the Greek community with the intestinal fortitude to be daring enough to take this task on?
Fiv Antoniou was the Antipodes Director between 1988 and 1998, then sponsorship director for 3MBS and is currenty working as an events and development director for Pan Events in Melbourne.