2 June 2023

'We're in for something special' - Wollongong's new festival Culture Mix announced

| Dione David
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Belly dancers on stage at Viva La Gong 2019

Viva La Gong last ran in November 2019. Now a new festival has been announced in its stead. Photos: Wollongong City Council.

Wollongong’s newest festival Culture Mix is set to be an “eight-hour extravaganza of music, dance, workshops, installations and food from around the world”.

Wollongong City Council has announced Culture Mix will take place on Saturday 21 October.

The one-day outdoor festival will be held in venues all across the CBD including Wollongong Town Hall, the Arts Precinct, Wollongong Library and Wollongong Art Gallery.

The council is working closely with an advisory committee comprising representatives from the region’s diverse multicultural community organisations including the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI), Illawarra Multicultural Services, Women Illawarra, the Spanish and Latin America Cultural Organisation (SALCO) and Jam n Bread.

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Expressions of interest are currently live for an artist and performance facilitator to lead an intercultural performance project for the festival and for an artist to work with children and young people to create three original large sculptural pieces, as well as general callouts for Aboriginal and culturally diverse creatives wanting to be involved, potential stallholders, displays or food trucks and volunteers.

Wollongong City Council city culture and activation manager Sofia Gibson said no specifics had been confirmed yet as council was keen to see what “shakes out” from callouts to the region’s multicultural communities first.

“We’re blessed with such diverse members of our community, and already some of the discussions from the advisory committee have demonstrated we’re in for something special that will really highlight that,” she said.

“We also know the Illawarra is a highly artistic region, full of creatives and they have a lot of great ideas.

“We’ve put the call out for expressions of interest in a range of areas and we’re excited to see what shakes out from that process. It will help shape the festival and program, and ensure we’re creating an event that our diverse communities want to see and be a part of.”

The council has received funding from the NSW Government to deliver the festival both this year and next. This year, the council is building the festival model, including a bilingual volunteer base who will work with local organisations and community groups to grow the event.

Ms Gibson said she was confident there would be an enthusiastic response.

“There’s a strong desire from our linguistically and culturally diverse community members to share some of their culture with the broader community,” she said.

“Culture Mix is about the whole community … it’s about visibility and sharing of culture, and showcasing the diversity and the wonderful shape of our Illawarra community.”

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Culture Mix will fill the gap left by Viva la Gong, which was last held in 2019 due to the pandemic.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said the festival would “build on the Viva tradition of being a community-focussed event and will be a celebration of the cultural diversity of our residents that we are so proud of”.

“It’s really important to council that this event is a true expression of our city’s cultural diversity and that’s why we’re looking for as many different people, groups, community organisations and businesses to be involved,” Cr Bradbery said.

“In Wollongong, we consider our cultural diversity a badge of honour. We’re a proud community who appreciate that people from all over the world have been drawn to our beautiful place between the mountains and the sea.”

NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Steven Kamper said the festival was an opportunity for the region’s diverse groups to showcase their cultures.

“By bringing together all the multicultural community, Wollongong is set to enjoy the rich benefits of living in one of the world’s most successful multicultural states,” he said.

“I encourage the local community to get involved in this fantastic event and celebrate all the beautiful cultures that make this region special.

“Festivals such as Culture Mix help us to build a stronger, more cohesive society in which everyone feels welcome.”

For event updates, follow the City of Wollongong on Facebook, Creative Wollongong on Facebook or wollongongcity on Instagram.

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