The campaign to protect the Fairfield Amphitheater is gaining momentum. It is Victoria’s only ancient Greek-inspired theater and its only professional open-air (i.e. public) theater.
Many members of Melbourne’s Greek community have joined in the call to protect, preserve and enhance this professional and phenomenal outdoor theater, unique to Victoria and Australia.
We saw local MP Ms. Kat Theophanous and Upper House MP Mr. Lee Tarlamis OAM – both of Hellenic descent – joining the Greek community, Greek-speaking students and NUGAS in declaring their support for the campaign.
Recently, Mr. Bill Papastergiadis OAM – President of the Melbourne Greek Community – wrote in favor of the amphitheater to key decision makers who will soon determine its future. These include the Victorian Government’s Planning, Creative Industries and Multicultural Affairs ministers, as well as local MPs, the Mayor of Yarra Council and relevant councilors.
Mr Papastergiadis’ intervention asks Victoria’s Minister of Planning to ‘summon’ the proposal which is currently before the Heritage Board. He rejects the proposal to dismantle the Integrated Amphitheater Complex and says the Fairfield Amphitheater complex deserves state heritage protection. He also calls on the Victorian government to recognize the cultural, multicultural and architectural significance of the amphitheater.
Mr. Papastergiadis was happy to lend the support of the Greek community to this important campaign. As he pointed out, the wider Greek community has been actively involved in the push to establish the amphitheater. In 1983 he joined the local Stork Theater to support its bilingual productions of Greek theater productions and festivals in the site’s original pop-up amphitheater. Many Greco-Australian actors performed in these early performances. Most recently, in March 2021, the amphitheater hosted the Stork Theater’s 8-hour reading of Homer’s Iliad. The sold-out audience included our local Greek Consul, Mr. Emmanuel Kakavelakis.
“Even the blue stones it is built of were taken from the local streets, where many members of Melbourne’s Greek community have settled and built their new homes,” Mr Papastergiadis said.
“This complex is of immense importance to the Greek community in Melbourne and at large, as a celebration of our common cultural heritage, as a symbol of Melbourne’s multiculturalism and the coming together of our community,” he said. he adds.
“I know I am speaking on behalf of Melbourne’s wider Greek community when I say that the entire complex should be preserved, cherished and improved by the Victorian government – rather than facing an uncertain future. The Melbourne Greek community is proud to support this community campaign, ”he concluded.
Recently, Mr Papastergiadis met with Ms Helen Madden of the Stork Theater at the Amphitheater to discuss the campaign and plans for its preservation and improvement. During the meeting, Ms. Madden praised the support of the Greek community.
“The magnificent Fairfield Amphitheater was created through the joining of forces of Melbourne’s cultural community. We hope that this community will join forces again to demand that the Amphitheater complex be protected for future generations. The timely intervention of Mr. Papastergiadis symbolizes this effort. We hope the powers that be will listen and decide to protect the integrity of this incredible cultural icon, ”Madden said.
If the Victorian-era Planning Minister does not step in and call for him, the Heritage Council’s decision is expected by mid-January 2022.
Anyone interested in supporting the campaign should contact Helen Madden by email at [email protected] – or on her mobile phone 0417 589 987.
Jim Claven is a trained historian, freelance writer and published author. He studied classics at Monash University in Melbourne, reviewed some of the recent classical performances at the Stork Theater, most notably at the Fairfield Amphitheater, and supports the campaign to save the amphitheater.