Australian Latvians to celebrate their culture in Melbourne in December

The 56th Latvian Cultural Festival, to be held in Melbourne from 26th Dec 2016 to 1st Jan 2017 is just around the corner. Latvians Online spoke to one of the organisers, Lara Brenners, to find out what’s in store for Australian Latvians – and anyone else interested in Latvian culture – at the end of the year.

1. The first question on everyone’s lips is – who will this year’s guests from Latvia be? And will there be any other groups from overseas?
This year we have a number of guests from Latvia. Firstly we have folk dance group from Latvia – “Līgo” – with their leader, Jānis Purviņš, (organiser of countless Latvian Dance festivals, recipient of the Order of the Three Stars, choreographer of many folk dances) as well as mixed choir “Anima” from Saulkrasti, led by Laura Leontjeva un Kārlis Rūtentāls. “Anima” un “Līgo” will have separate guest concerts at the Cultural Festival. Ivars Cinkuss an Uģis Prauliņš will also be here to help produce the project “Pagānu Gadagrāmata” as well as weaver Māris Maniņš.

2. Are any official representatives from the Latvian government planning to attend the Festival?
Several invitations have been extended and we are still waiting for replies. We are hopeful on this front.

3. What is planned in terms of Latvian events in Federation Square [for those unfamiliar with Melbourne – an events/performance space in the centre of town, opposite Flinders St Station]? 
This event is planned as an exhibition of traditional song & dance where we can showcase a small excerpt of our culture to the broader Australian Public.  On the centre stage, our short performance will be broadcast onto the big screen, a free event for passersby to stop and enjoy!

4. Will all the usual KDs events be part of the programme? Choral concert, folk dancing concert, a theatre performance, etc?
Yes, the standard KDs events will all be part of the program.  These events are part of the rich history of the Cultural Festival and are important to the continuing traditions of the festival as a whole.

5. Any other events planned that haven’t been part of the programme previously?
This year we have a new event – “Pagānu Gadagrāmata”. This is a musical piece written by Uģis Praulins, directed by Ivars Cinkuss which has not been performed outside of Latvia before. Melbourne’s own koris “Daina” and male choir ” Veseris” were personally selected to perform this. We also have an Arts and Crafts exhibition planned which has not featured as part of the festival for many years.

6. Where can people get more information about the Festival?
The website is almost up and running. Here information will be readily available and constantly updated.

7. The World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum is also scheduled in Melbourne during these dates. Can you tell me a bit about this event? Will events of both the Festival and Forum overlap?
This event was first hosted in Rīga in 2013, the second in 2015 and it was decided in 2015 that the next event should be held outside Latvia, with Australia selected as the next venue.  The forum will be held on the 29th and 30th December in conjunction with KDs.

8. Which Festival events will those who don’t speak Latvian be able to enjoy?
With two art exhibitions, sports, a youth musical performance, folk dancing, a combined choir concert, a musical (with subtitles), a comedy show, film night etc., there are many events that can be enjoyed by those who don’t speak Latvian.

9. What is the overall feeling within the Melbourne Latvian community, gearing up for the Festival (bearing in mind that it only takes place in Melbourne every six years)?
Melbourne is starting to get the KDs buzz, with many warm-up fundraising events occuring throughout the year.  The Melbourne community is exceptionally supportive of the upcoming KDs festival & looks forward to welcoming interstate visitors & overseas guests alike to its home.

10. What would you like to say to those who live interstate and are thinking of attending the Festival?
This year’s KDs is gearing up to be a big event with a lot to see and do for all people.  We have aimed to keep most of the festival events around the Latvian House hub so that a central location is maintained adding for ease of travel access for guests.

11. Why do you think the Australian Latvian Cultural Festival is still going strong – already into its 56th year?
The festival, although now held every second year, is still going strong because of an ongoing drive within the community for people to identify with their past and their culture. Many of my friends now have children of their own and are back actively in the community exposing their children to the Latvian lifestyle in all its glory.

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a member of the Education Board of the World Federation of Free Latvians and the translator into English of various books on industrial history in Latvia.

3 thoughts on “Australian Latvians to celebrate their culture in Melbourne in December”_en

  1. I have just finished setting up a display of my own jewellery at the gallery in Nth Melb and I must say that I was very impressed with the standard of work that was being installed by the artists and assistants. What particularly struck me was the way the different media artists had incorporated the Latvian geometric symbology into universally desire’able objects of our modern times. It made me re look at my own work made 20 years ago to realise that I too carry this eternal unconscious Folk Soul …..

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