Getting Cultural in Canberra

19 Feb

* This post was by T2, a co-author of In The Taratory from 2011-2013. *

I gotta say, I really enjoy Canberra in February. It’s the last month of summer, but the craziness of the festive season is over, as is the dead month of January where every Canberran seems to desert the city for the coast or greener pastures abroad (myself included!). February, on the other hand, is the month when things in Canberra really kick into gear – leading on from the debauchery that is Australia Day, there’s TropFest (a popular short film festival), the Food and Wine Expo, the Summerside festival (as opposed to the winter Fireside festival), Flix in the Stix, and, of course, all the pub crawls and welcome events for those new little government grad-lings! Who needs smooshy Valentine’s Day when there’s so much else on to keep you busy?!

But there’s one key event that I’ve omitted from that list: Canberra’s 16th annual multicultural festival. It’s my absolute favourite summer event in the ACT, and I’ve been every year since living here without fail. In fact, this year, I went along on both the Friday and the Sunday arvo. I would have also headed over on Saturday night with the BMW girls, if it hadn’t been for the small fact that I was moving house over the weekend. Quite a mission, that was!

As expected, the festival did not disappoint. I took a guy mate with me on the Friday night, and I think he was a little apprehensive to begin with (‘Cultural things? Boring!’), but his eyes quickly lit up after he noticed the German beer stall. We had no problems with parking over by the Uni Pub – five minutes walk and we were there, arriving just in time for ol’ mate Anthony Callea to take the stage. Callea did a couple of his own songs (including ‘The Prayer’ – the song that shot him to fame after Aussie Idol) as well as some old cover faves (I was pretty stoked to hear some Crowded House classics in the mix!). There were a total of six stages across the festival and, while I didn’t make it to all the acts, I hear that there were also performances by country heartthrob Troy Cassar-Daley (is he still considered a heartthrob these days? Or is it all about the Biebs? I have no bloody idea!), West African drummers, Chinese performers, as well as some local dancers from well-known Canberra dance studio Kokoloco. Shimmy, shimmy!

The weather was relatively kind to my companions and I both times, although we did get caught in a brief shower on the Sunday (which was so unexpected, because the sun was shining and the sky was as blue as could be only ten minutes prior). I reckon that the success of the festival really does rely heavily on dry, summery weather. I remember huddling with a friend under an umbrella watching the Jessica Mauboy concert at last year’s event, while trying to balance sangria in one hand and a kebab in the other. Not fun! I noted that some clever kids had worn ponchos this year, just in case – smart thinking, I say. Luckily for all, the weather held out, and the rain disappeared as quickly as it had come.

Now, onto the most important factor: f.o.o.d!! On the Friday, my guy mate and I indulged in some deep-fried banana fritters from the Thai stall, a Mexican burrito, nachos (which were quite a let-down unfortunately – the cheese wasn’t melted, the chips were stone-cold and the ‘dollop’ of promised guacamole was more like a teaspoon’s worth *frowny face*), and some deep-fried spiralled potato chips. Those chips really were the ‘it-food’ of the festival – everyone was walking around with one in hand. You could get them seasoned with spices, sauces and herbs of various descriptions. Yummo. Also popular was the Swedish cider, Rekorderlig (for those who haven’t heard of it, it’s very girly and light in alcohol, but oh-so-delicious and summery. Try the strawberry and lime, if you’re looking for a tasty warm-weather drink). And on the Sunday, my mates and I had Turkish Gozleme (which is always a favourite, so that was at the top of our ‘to-munch-on’ list. No disappointments there), a Thai omelette with mussel meat and oyster sauce (a little odd tasting, I must say – but it’s all about trying new things, right?!) and some little Dutch Poffertjes for dessert. Yes, I realise that I am starting to sound like a big greedy-guts now, but it’s fine when you share a couple of dishes between friends. In fact, I reckon it’s actually better – then you can get a taste of a variety of food without shelling out the big bucks. The only let down was the fact that my friend and I couldn’t find the Spanish sangria tent on Sunday! We heard that it had been there the previous day, and were uber keen to find it – but to no avail. Organisers, bring back the sangria stall next year puh-lease!

Apart from stuffing our faces, we also perused some of the other 335 stalls that had been erected especially for the festival. There were a wide range of stalls – from country embassies, language groups and cultural associations, to the Red Cross, political associations, government departments (yay, free ABS merchandise, anyone?), and commercial businesses like ActewAGL and Medibank.  So it’s not ALL about getting cultural – it’s also a good opportunity to check out what groups and services are available in the ACT region. Perfect for Canberra newbies! Unfortunately, many of the stalls weren’t open on the Friday night or Sunday arvo when we went. I think that Saturday really is the main day for all the action so, if you’re willing to brave the crowds, then it’s probably the better day to attend.

Anyway, if you didn’t go this year, then seriously – get your bum there next year! With 255,000 visitors to the festival in 2012 (how do they even count that?!), it seems that it’s just getting bigger and bigger every year. Go grab yourself an exotic dish (or even a snag sanga, if that’s more your thing), and enjoy the plethora of sights, sounds, and smells.

Sangria at the multicultural festival

Date: Friday, 10 February – Sunday, 12 February 2012
Attendees: T2 + friends
Cost: free entry
Location: Garema Place, Canberra city
Worthwhile factor: Really worthwhile
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2 Responses to “Getting Cultural in Canberra”


  1. Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival « In The Taratory - April 17, 2012

    […] Getting Cultural in Canberra ( Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. Dear Canberra (a love letter, of sorts) « In The Taratory - January 17, 2013

    […] of Me and Mrs Jones; heard the stories about Sails Pandora’s South Pac; counted down to the Multicultural Festival; trekked to Goodberry’s for their headache-ending solutions; confirmed Mee’s Sushi is […]

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