A personal diary about life in a country town, Bungendore NSW Australia

Saturday 7 February 2004
If you're a working mum, there could be worse distractions.
2004 Multicultural Festival Food and Dance Spectacular

The annual National Multicultural Festival (or as one of the singers introducing their songs on the opening concert on Friday night called it, 'the multifunctional festival' before correcting himself), does a lot to hold the diverse nationalities in this city together.

We're pretty broadminded about eating food from different cultures in Canberra (how many Ethiopian restaurants are there in your city of just 300,000 residents?) But while food forms an important part of sharing cultural experiences with us, the predominantly white Anglo-Saxons population in the ACT, there's a real need for the newer Australians to display their culture and have it appreciated. Small 'ghetto' communities can offer each other support but being able to proudly display their uniqueness and have someone applaud it is really important. There have been lots of stories about residents approaching the Festival committee with tearful thanks for making them feel wanted, even if it is just for these few weeks a year.

We're also a (artificially?) politically correct city. I think because of our government support focus, we are above average in sensitivities and tolerance to different nationalities, gays and the disabled. At the opening night concert the local groups all gave recognition to the Ngunnawal aborigines who lived in this region in their introductions. That's politically correct. One of the New Zealand based Kalpa Dalmatina Choir while introducing their performers, wished us good evening in Serbian and Maori, then dropped into his native Newcastle-on-Tyne accent to say they believed that singing songs from each other's cultures was an important part of reducing the isolation of nationalities/communities and reducing the tensions between us that lead to war. There was spontaneous applause from the audience.

One day of the festival has been growing in popularity every year and that's the Saturday devoted to food and performance dance. This year, sponsored by and branded as the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets Food and Dance Spectacular it was bigger than ever (30,000 visitors for that one day we're told). The aisle between over ninety different food tents was packed, mums with prams having a tough time getting through but everyone was very good natured. By the time we arrived just on dusk, some of the tents that were organised by the smaller ethnic communities had long sold out of food and were just a meeting place for an ongoing party.

At each end of Gareema Place was a temporary stage and the crowd packed around these made it hard to get close. You had to wait until a group would wander off for food and drink. We sampled Thai rice paper rolls, Greek kondosouvli (which I had never had before and can't find in my reference books or a recipe online in spite of lots of mentions of it), and washed it down with large plastic cups of cold Austrian beer on tap. Watching the food preparation was more interesting to me (as the photo's will show) and we wandered up and down until we were tired and went home happy.

It's events like these that make me bemoan the satellite town arrangement of Canberra. It diffuses the population and stops the centre of the city ever feeling like a busy metropolis. It was more intimate than 'Spectacular', but I'll allow the marketing hyperbole. For those few hours on Saturday, the throng in Gareema Place made me feel like Canberra was an exciting place to be.

I'm offering these images of the day so that maybe you can feel a bit of that too.

Multicultural Festival Food & Dance Images 1
Multicultural Festival Food & Dance Images 2
Multicultural Festival Food & Dance Images 3

(They open a new window. Each page 10 images approx 600k total)

For the Food and Dance Spectacular day, Gareema Place is lined with food seller's tents and has stages at both ends. 

Fill the space with lots of people of all nationalities and it almost feels like a 'real' city.

Jan was singing in John Shortis and Moya Simpson's Worldy Goods choir at the opening night concert of the festival. Of course I was there, but for the first time I can remember, without a camera. So all I could do was enjoy the performances and be critical of the sound system.

There were two long queues that attested to how popular their food was. The first was the Greek tent selling kondosouvli a shredded chicken (apparently you can also make it with pork and lamb) mixed with herbs and wrapped in a pita flatbread, souvlaki style. The other was these small traditional Dutch pancakes called poffertjes (above). The queue for the poffertjes was so long we didn't have the patience to wait. There's a food franchise for these that I've seen advertised, so the stall could have been run by any nationality. They looked good though.

  Fred Harden 2003-2004 <thinktag> After a few days, these entries are added to the Archive Menu

Bungendore Country Diary by Fred Harden