31 August 2023

Save the date: Culture Mix is locking down a kaleidoscope of multicultural delights in Wollongong

| Dione David
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African woman standing in profile in front of a yellow backdrop.

Culture Mix is set to ignite Wollongong on Saturday 21 October. Photos: Wollongong City Council.

Wollongong City Council has issued a save the date for the Gong’s new festival, Culture Mix, along with the promise of a jam-packed program set to inspire the sharing of the region’s cultural diversity.

The free one-day outdoor event will bring vibrant music, dance, workshops, installations and food from around the world to the Wollongong CBD at lower Crown Street and Crown Street Mall, The Arts Precinct, Wollongong Library, Wollongong Art Gallery and Wollongong Town Hall on Saturday 21 October from noon to 8 pm.

Though full program finalisation isn’t expected until mid-September, the council has released exciting details of some of the highlights.

These include the “Global Kitchen” where visitors will learn new recipes and “taste their way around the world”, according to council event specialist Belinda Morris.

“All the food offerings are very authentic and very much based within our local culturally diverse communities.

“Five different community-based groups will present a signature dish, for example a rice paper roll or asado (Uruguayan barbecue), and you might be able to walk up to a particular group and learn how to make their dish, or some might be demonstrations – but you’ll always get a taster.”

Profile shot of men lined up to play traditional south island drums

Visitors can expect to witness dynamic performances from drumming to dancing.

Global Kitchen is paired with a project by local storyteller Lillian Rodrigues-Pang, who has been researching the cultural stories behind these foods and will present recipe cards and stories that go with the dishes and the people behind them.

The festival will present three stages with different vibes.

The Celebration Stage is a participatory stage, where audiences will witness dynamic performances from drumming to dancing, and are not only invited to cheer them along but will have the opportunity to get up and take part.

READ ALSO ‘We’re in for something special’ – Wollongong’s new festival Culture Mix announced

The Food Fair Stage is more community-focused, showcasing community dance groups, choirs, children’s groups and so on from the Illawarra’s different nations.

Finally, the Crown Street Stage will be a more intimate venue to showcase smaller ensemble groups and emerging artists.

This stage will be set up near the “Cultural Bazaar” arts markets, where different cultural groups will set up shop to showcase a variety of skills and wares, with a strong focus on local Indigenous groups.

“There will be a lot of local Aboriginal arts and crafts – there might be weaving, earrings, woodwork groups all drawn from local Indigenous communities but also African, Iranian and many more,” Belinda says.

“Much of it will be participatory, so it might be having your hair braided or henna applied or an Indigenous weaving workshop. Others will likely be demonstrative.”

A market stall vendor hands a plate of food to a customer

A diverse and authentic food offering will come from local multicultural communities.

A section between Kembla and Corrimal Streets will be closed off to traffic and transformed into a large outdoor precinct where existing CBD businesses will activate special offerings to complement authentic, grassroots stalls.

“It might be the local Persian community presenting kebabs or Sri Lankan rice and curry. We have 10 diverse cultural food stalls already confirmed and we haven’t nailed down any details yet but whatever is on offer, we believe this will be a very popular part of the festival,” Belinda says.

At Wollongong Town Hall’s music lounge, council will stage “Creative Sessions” featuring cross-cultural workshops in drumming, dance and more.

While there will be creative workshops and sessions in numerous venues across the city, those held in Lower Town Hall are all about cultural crossover.

“You might go into a drumming, dance or poetry workshop and have four different cultures sharing their traditional techniques in those disciplines. It’s a cultural mash-up,” Belinda says.

“There will be some really fun highlights including a global dance battle and world karaoke championships.”

READ ALSO Novotel Wollongong’s Palisade Kitchen & Bar has had a luxurious menu shake up

Culture Mix is an inclusive event for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, offering a number of accessible features including a quiet space, viewing area and AUSLAN and bilingual volunteers at nominated sessions.

The event will marry the traditional with the contemporary over eight hours of programming across many different venues, culminating in a Latin American-themed finale on the Celebration Stage.

“I can’t say anything for sure yet except that our diverse cultural communities are getting right behind this and it’s shaping up to be a fantastic event, and a huge program,” Belinda says.

Residents can expect to see more marketing emerge towards the end of this month for the inclusive event for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities, with a full program around mid-September. For more information visit the Culture Mix webpage or Facebook.

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