The 35th Antipodes Festival came to a triumphant close on Sunday night following a two-day marathon of all things Greek that saw tens of thousands of people dance, eat and celebrate their way into the heart of the city.
The Festival, which is presented and organised by the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM), was one of the biggest yet and followed only 5 months after the 34th Antipodes which was held in October following the pandemic.
84 pop-up market stalls featuring Greek food, retail, and community groups, filled the historic Greek heart of Melbourne complemented by over 70 hours of entertainment on 3 stages carnival rides, ‘Karagiozi’ shadow theatre, the famed Hoplites, stilt walkers and street bands, cooking demonstrations and fun-filled competitions that saw people win prizes including a trip to Greece for dancing, eating yoghurt and baklava!.
A highlight of the weekend was the memorable headline performance of Greek singer Alkistis Protopsalti, whose stunning performance on the Bendigo Main Stage had the 10,000-strong crowd dancing into the night.
The festival was again well supported by officials representing all levels of government who were keen to express their support for the festival and the GCM at the official opening on Saturday night.
Mr Emmanuel Kakavelakis - Consul-General of Greece to Victoria led the speakers and said “It is with immense pleasure and a sense of pride, to be here in the official opening of Antipodes Festival 2023. An event that has become an institution of celebration of Victoria’s Greek Community but at the same time a unique occasion for sharing our heritage. Our warmest congratulations to Bill Papastergiadis and his whole team are certainly in order.”
The Hon Colin Brooks, Minister of Multicultural Affairs in the Victorian Government shared his enthusiasm for the festival saying:
“It is fantastic to be here tonight, on behalf of Premier Daniel Andrews. This is a wonderful representation tonight of our multicultural community. The Greek Community feels like a family to me and it is so good to be at these events.
I want to thank the GCM for sharing their wonderful culture with the rest of us. In recognition of that, we support this event. We are committing to the GCM that we are funding the festival for the next 4 years with $200,000 every year in recognition of the magnificent work this festival does for our community”.
The Federal Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, the Hon Andrew Giles representing the Prime Minister said “Today is about celebrating Greek Culture and the extraordinary contribution of Greek Australians to this city and our country. I bring to the festival the best wishes of the Prime Minister and I want to acknowledge the magnificent work of Bill Papastergiadis and everyone at the GCM, it is an important thing to bring Antipodes Festival back and it showed how important this event is. So, I want to thank the Greek Community of Melbourne who is sharing their culture with us and enjoying Antipodes!”
Leader of the State Opposition Hon John Pesutto delved into his own migrant roots in his speech saying “What a tremendous gathering today. My parents were migrant Italians who came here in the 60s.
Whilst I have an Italian background, I want to promise you that I have done my bit for Greek relations. My wife Panayiota is here today, we send our kids to a Greek school and my “koubaro” is Greek, my senior staff is Greek. What more can I do for you to prove that I love you? The influence of your ancestors on everything we do, and Greek migrants created a path for everyone who followed. You have created a fantastic community and Melbourne is you! Enjoy the Antipodes Festival.”
The Federal Shadow Minister of Community, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Jason Wood said “I want to thank the GCM… because these kinds of events are not easy to put on. It is great in Australia we have such a multicultural community and with Melbourne we have the largest city when it comes to Greek-speaking people outside Greece.”
Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne Nicholas Reece was welcomed to the stand “It is my pleasure to be here on the best day of the year with the Antipodes Festival in full flight… celebrating everything that is so wonderful about Greek Melbourne. It is so wonderful to see so many people turning up! This festival and this place have so many remarkable stories and so many memories for so many of us. It is the biggest celebration of the world outside of Greece and it is a great tribute to the Greek diaspora of Melbourne.” A big thank you to everyone behind the Antipodes Festival.”
Bishop for the Melbourne District, His Grace Bishop Kyriakos of Sozopolis representing the Greek Orthodox Archbishop said “I greet you all tonight on behalf of his Eminence Archbishop Makarios to congratulate you on the official opening of the Antipodes Festival for 2023. An initiative of the GCM attracting many people of all walks of life including our own of Greek-Australian heritage. The Antipodes Festival highlights our rich culinary delights, it highlights our traditional music and dancing, and it alludes to and refers to our rich Greek history and our Orthodox faith. May our Lord, Jesus Christ always looks kindly upon you and your families and best wishes and blessings from his Eminence Archbishop Makarios for a blessed and holy Lent. God Bless you!”
Following the recent announcement by the Greek Government that it would be opening an office of its Greek Tourism organisation at the Greek Centre, Greek Minister for Tourism Vassilis Kikilias sent a video message that was played on the big screen: “Fellow Greeks in Melbourne, with immense pride I greet you today from the Motherland. You are a gem for this country, highlighting the values, traditions, our history, our faith, and our language in the best way. You are an example not only for Greece but for the entire world and I must say you have set the bar high! You are an inspiration for everyone, and we are enormously proud of you. I would like to thank the GCM and its charismatic leaders who through their work, initiatives and rich cultural programs highlight in an incredibly unique way the greatness of Greece.
I am grateful to you and the President of the GCM Bill Papastergiadis, for everything they have offered to the Greek community with his tireless efforts to display in the best feasible way our Greek heritage. The opening of the Greek Tourism office at the Greek Centre in Melbourne it is another great achievement to bring the Hellenism of Melbourne closer to their Motherland. Thank you sincerely for the exceptional collaboration we have had with the GCM! I wish you enormous success to the Antipodes Festival”!
Finally, the President of the GCM Bill Papastergiadis OAM took to the microphone and concluded the official opening by saying.
“There is no better way to celebrate multiculturalism than with this festival. There is no better way to enjoy our beautiful cosmopolitan city than through this festival. There is no better showcase of Hellenism globally than the Antipodes Festival. There are a few figures and numbers that support all of this. We have 3 stages, we have 70 hours of programming across those stages, theatrical productions, dance groups, and bands. Wonderful food, 85 stalls 500 performers, and over this weekend over 100,000 people will visit this festival especially when we have Alkistis Protopsalti on stage there will be tens of thousands here.
The festival is more than numbers and figures, at the heart of this festival is the coming together of our Hellenic family celebrating its values, customs, and traditions with our broader Australian society. A true melting pot, here in Lonsdale Street, the historic heart of the Greek Community opposite our 15-storey building that proudly displays on its façade the discus thrower and now the replicas of the Parthenon marbles provided to us by virtue of the Tsalikidis family and the Daniel Andrews government. So, these striking Hellenic symbols, such as our building, such as the replicas of the Parthenon marbles are brought to life through this festival. Melbourne is bathed in blue and white, creating memories and moments that I believe will last lifetimes. Let us all enjoy the festival.”
The official opening was followed by the feature performance of Alkistis Protopsaltis to a packed Antipodes Festival crowd. Her performance was mesmerizing and unforgettable. Her exceptional vocal range, energy and intensity on the stage captivated the audience as they all came together and asked her to stay longer on the stage and she did not disappoint, as she stayed to perform one more song for the crowd to enjoy!
The Antipodes Festival was a true celebration of diversity, culture, and community, and it will continue to be a highlight of the city of Melbourne calendar for many years to come.
A special thank you to our Major sponsors: Victorian Multicultural Commission , Victoria State Government , City of Melbourne , Bendigo Bank , AA Holdings, The Greek Quarter , Procal , OASIS , Pronia, Joannides Funerals, Scoot
Festival Partners: Hellenic wines & Spirits, Fix, Skinos,Ouzo Plomari , Carroten , THE LOTE AGENCY , MALTHOUSE THEATRE , NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE , EPSA , SKY EXPRESS , Cloud Strike
Media Partners: Antenna Pacific , NEOS KOSMOS , The Greek Herald , TA NEA I 3XY , Rythmos ,3ZZZ, Greek Community Television, SBS Greek , Greek City Times