By Deborah Ong
While celebrating diversity should not end with food, it very often does start with sharing it.
It is the tail end of February, and the anticipation for Maidstone Community Centre’s 11th annual Harmony Feast is electric in the air. Held as part of Cultural Diversity Week, the event is a wonderful opportunity for locals to celebrate community and culture through the sharing of food, stories and music. Over the years, support for the event has grown exponentially, drawing between 1500 and 2000 people through the doors in 2019.
Good to be back
This is the Harmony Feast’s first year back after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff and volunteers are happy and excited that the event is finally back on.
As planning and preparations ramp up in March, multiple groups will be utilising and sharing the commercial kitchen facilities at the Centre to prepare food ahead of the Sunday event. There is always a constant buzz as everyone busies themselves with chopping and slicing, whizzing and kneading and saute-ing. The building pulsates with the sound of banging pots and chatter.
Maidstone Community Centre
Monique is a proud local resident and has been a program co-ordinator for the Maidstone Community Centre for 5 years. Her love for food and affinity for the inner-west fuel her belief that breaking bread together can bring joy while piquing curiosity and conversation. This belief is held and echoed by the staff, as well as the countless volunteers and local residents that bring life to the Centre.
Food and community lie at the heart of everyday activities here. With a program ranging from a plethora of foodie workshops, kids cooking classes, community meals and cultural celebrations, there is always the smell of something delectable in the air.
Embracing diversity is about more than just access to a smorgasbord of food. It is in the lively exchange of stories and ideas. It is in the individual connections we make with people through conversation.
What to expect
Expect amazing food from over twelve different cultural backgrounds cooked by local residents and volunteers. Dishes include vegetarian and halal options. Between 300 and 500 serves of each dish will be prepared, so there is lots to go around.
Serving stations are set up throughout the kitchen, dining hall, classrooms and community garden, giving people the chance to mingle and connect with other locals. Other highlights include face-painting, henna, French hair-braiding, Bollywood dancing and live music performances by Australia’s Got Talent finalist Breanna Lee, musicians Oscar Jimenez and Yvonne Morton, as well as local community choir, the WeFo Singers.
Ping Pong tables will be brought out into the park, and the Footscray Trugo Club will be coming to set up and teach anyone interested in learning how to play this truly local lovechild of croquet and lawn bowls.
Visual artist Ana Rita Pires will also be conducting a special collaborative art project on site – Memory Archive of Food. Participants are invited to sketch, draw, scribble or paint a food memory that is close to their heart. This could be anything from a recipe or a memory, to a particular smell, or taste, or type of ingredient. Anyone and everyone is invited to participate and add to this beautiful archive of local food stories.
There is something for everyone at this free community event. So mark your calendars, rally the family, make a date with your friends and come celebrate – as a community – the strength that is our diversity.
Date: Sunday 19th March
Venue: Maidstone Community Centre
21 Yardley St, Maidstone
All photographs: Vicky Palmieri