The Piers Festival

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By Daniel Wilson

Over Australia Day weekend, Port Phillip hosted Piers Festival. It’s an annual event that attracted over 10,000 people this year, and in 2015 alongside the main stage program, it presented two major new components: ‘The Landing’ featuring a selection of cultural communities and their craft and cultural activities; and ‘What Happened at the Pier’ featuring a curated program of artistic outputs by people whose families or they themselves arrived through Princes Pier.

Organised by Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV) the festival was held at the Port Melbourne piers precinct, featuring a diverse range of music, dance, food, forums and historical exhibitions that celebrate and reflect on the collective migration stories at this significant entry point where almost half of the 180,000 post World War II refugees to Australia arrived. The Piers Festival brings to life the Port Melbourne piers precinct, celebrating the pivotal role it played from 1915 to 1969 in Victoria’s growth and as a gateway to the diversity of cultures that enrich our community.

Alongside this festival, MAV has also organised an exhibition titled, ‘What Happened at the Pier”. It will be at the Emerald Hill Library & Heritage Centre, 195 Bank St, South Melbourne, until 13 February. The exhibition features significant personal artefacts, artworks and text works, marking the first phase and preview for What Happened at the Pier, a feature curated by Lella Cariddi for Piers Festival 2015; reflecting many previously untold migration stories from Melbourne’s diverse cultural population who came to Australia by ship through Princes Pier.

At the Piers Festival in Port Melbourne there will be an extraordinarily talented selection of artists performing from diverse cultural backgrounds including Timorese, Maltese, Sudanese, Burundian, and Irish. This presents a sensational new collaboration forging fresh ties between musical styles and cultural backgrounds!

2015 also brought a new space to the festival – The Landing, a diverse meeting place. The Landing is a space for a selection of community groups to represent themselves, their communities and culture. Each group will work with MAV to share their culture and history via installations, participatory activities, workshops and performances. The Landing promises to be an exciting space to explore and participate.

MAV is also thrilled to announce a new curated program of stories that will activate various parts of the pier entitled What Happened at the Pier. Visitors will be able to enjoy discussions, poetry readings, spoken word, visual art installations and musical responses to the long history of arrival and departure at the Pier.

As well as these headline programs, visitors will be able to enjoy a wide array of activities; historic tours of the area and enjoy many tasty treats from local providers.

With 10,000 visitors from diverse cultural backgrounds coming along to join the celebrations held at the Port Melbourne piers precinct, the Piers Festival has become an annual highlight and a significant occasion for reflecting on our collective migration stories.

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