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Cultural festivals flourish in Melbourne

3 February 20150 comments
Courtyard Cantina, North South Feast West  Photo: Immigration Museum

Courtyard Cantina, North South Feast West
Photo: Immigration Museum

A six-month program of festivals, workshops and events to celebrate immigrant culture and food was launched recently at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum.

The first of the ‘North South Feast West’ program was the Chocolate Festival, which filled the museum with a bustling crowd enjoying tastings, workshops – and even chocolate-flavoured beer.

Inside the beautiful old building, display stalls provided delicious tasters and chocolate available for purchase from an array of local and global suppliers.

For those wanting to learn a little more there were Chocolate Tours, Belgian Beer and Chocolate Workshops and information on the journey of cacao.

Though chocolate certainly wasn’t the only thing pleasing the large crowds. The huge courtyard came to life with Central American food and music. Performances such as the Maracatu Estrela do Mar, an Afro-Brazilian percussion group, had the entire audience cheering.

From January to June the museum will host a range of events that focus on the exploration of culture through food, after all it is the easiest way to our hearts. Pop-up bars, street food stalls and DJs will make up the Courtyard Cantina held every Friday night in February. For the spice lovers there’s a Chilli Fest in March, and almost any Melbournite will froth over the coffee fest in June.

The huge crowd at the festival showed the popularity of the Immigration Museum’s events, however festivals that celebrate Australia’s unique cultural diversity are spread throughout Melbourne.

On March 21st the Multicultural Hub’s Cultural Community Fair enters it fourth year of exploring Melbourne’s cultural landscape. The fair has an array of traditional activities, performances and food stalls from around the globe.

Amrit Kaur, Community Engagement Officer at AMES, has been involved in organising the fair since it started in 2012. Held during Cultural Diversity Week, the fair was created as a way to engage local residents, community groups and stallholders.

The Multicultural Hub was set up by AMES to support Melbourne’s huge array of cultures. The Hub offers a range of facilities including low-cost rooms for hire and free AMES run workshops that teach skills to migrants and refugees. Being just across the road from the Queen Victoria Markets makes The Hub an ideal setting for the Cultural Fair.

“The fair aims to show case and celebrate the regular users of The Hub and local CALD community groups,” Kaur says.

Through waving any stallholder fee the Community Fair Committee aims to encourage any and all members of Melbourne’s wider community to showcase their unique skills.

“Any not-for-profit organisation, ethnic community groups, individuals or Fair Trade organisations can have a stall,” says Kaur.

A number of performances and stalls have already signed up that will ensure new experiences from around the world and a unique family day out. Learn exotic skills through a Turban Tying activity from the Sikh community, admire the intricacy of Henna painting, or take part in an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony while the kids are consumed with arts and crafts.

The day encourages participants to gain an understanding of other cultures through strengthening community relations and socialising.

“The fair has been successful to promote harmony and celebrate the cultural diversity of Australia,” Kaur says.

Markets stalls, live music and dances will be held from 11-2.30 at the Drill Hall, behind the Multicultural Hub.

Like the Community Fair, the Dandenong World Fare will celebrate its fourth year in March. The pop-up outdoor food bazaar is quickly growing in popularity amongst city slickers and regional residents alike.

The delectable treats, both sweet and savoury, are what brings crowds from all over. Stallholders are carefully selected to ensure the food is what you would find at traditional street stalls in the country of origin. Through the authenticity of flavours attendants’ taste buds are transported from Thailand to Hungary in an instant.

Live cooking demonstrations and free Dandenong Market Food Discovery Tours mean you can learn to cook a delicious meal from the day and know exactly where to find all the ingredients.

The one-day event doesn’t just celebrate cultural diversity through food – music and entertainment from across the globe will play throughout the day, ranging from Bollywood dance to Flamenco.

The Fare is part of The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and will be held on March 1st at the Dandenong Market.

As these events establish themselves as reputable experiences of global traditions, more continue to pop up each year. The growing popularity of cultural festivals in Melbourne shows an abundance of interest and praise for the cities richly diverse cultures.

Ruby Brown
AMES Staff Writer