There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as volunteers and organisers bumped in for Wollongong City Council’s long-anticipated new multicultural festival, Culture Mix, today.
The main stages are up and parts of Wollongong have already been transformed ahead of the festival kick off at 12 pm tomorrow (Saturday, 21 October).
Multicultural Community Advisory Group member Sylvina Beleniski said the scene was set for things to go off without a hitch, and the crowds to be more than just spectators.
“It’s going to be perfect. Everything is ready, the universe has provided the best weather possible,” she said.
“People want to dance and people want to take part in the activities … You’re not going to be only watching something happening somewhere else, you will be part of it.”
Culture Mix is a free and inclusive festival celebrating the cultural patchwork of our community, and open to people from all backgrounds, ages and abilities.
Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the festival would be an opportunity for celebration and enjoyment at a time when the world was “confronting some interesting challenges”.
“Wollongong is turning it around and saying there are positives in coming together to celebrate,” he said.
“We look at the world situation at present – what’s happening in the Middle East, what’s happening in Ukraine and other parts of the world – and here we are in Wollongong living in relative peace, with a great lifestyle in a well-resourced community.
“We’re able to celebrate what’s been achieved … and respect the diversity of our community, which enriches us.”
More than 30 cultures will be represented in tomorrow’s mix including the Cook Islands, courtesy of dance group Inangaro Paradise.
Isaia (MC Isa) Akava, who moved to Australia just under a decade ago from the Cook Islands, said the troupe was excited to showcase their traditional dance to Culture Mix audiences.
“For us, Cook Island dancing is a form of identification – wherever we go, it’s a way for us to showcase where we come from, through dancing, music and singing,” he said.
“Being here in Wollongong for the first time Culture Mix has been put together – we’re very excited to be part of it all.”
Illawarra Multicultural Services’ Amro Zoabe said the festival boiled down to one thing – inclusivity.
“In Wollongong, if you look around, we all come from many different countries, from many different backgrounds and we all have different stories coming here,” he said.
“This is to show how Wollongong … in one small city captures all of Australia.”
Visitors are advised there will be a soft road closure between Kembla and Corrimal Streets from 7 am tomorrow and a hard road closure from 11 am. This section will be transformed into a large outdoor precinct where existing CBD businesses will activate special offerings to complement a smorgasbord of diverse cultural activities and stalls.
There will be distinct hubs on Lower Crown Street and Mall, The Arts Precinct, Wollongong Library, Wollongong Art Gallery and Wollongong Town Hall, however many activities will fan out from those locations.
Visitors are encouraged to check out the jam-packed program ahead of time but take a “choose your own adventure” approach, allowing some time to get swept up in the vibe.