Inner East Review
Tuesday, 5 December 2023

This year's Moon Lantern Festival at North Richmond housing estate is a three-day music, art, theatre and food event

Updated April 8 2022 - 9:21pm, first published April 5 2022 - 5:00am
Acclaimed Ethiopian hip hop and funk fusion band the Black Jesus Experience. Photo: Francesco Vicenzi
Acclaimed Ethiopian hip hop and funk fusion band the Black Jesus Experience. Photo: Francesco Vicenzi

A community first will take place when the grounds of the North Richmond Housing estate play host to the three-day Moon Lantern Festival from this Friday.

The estate's large open lawn at the corner of Highett and Lennox streets will provide a main stage, together with a scattering of Rajasthani wedding tents serving as small venues.

In all, more than 80 acts and activities will be staged as part of the event, including big name bands and musicians Black Jesus Experience, Ausecuma Beats, Kee'ahn, Pookie and Gordon Koang.

Among the many attractions will be giant puppets, stilt-walkers, physical comedians, dance classes, a fashion show and an "inflatable gallery".

"What we've got is a three-day music, art, theatre and food festival, and half the program comes from community members themselves," creative producer Tim Sneddon says.

"The neighbourhood house and community members want to showcase their culturally rich, talented, amazing community.

"At the same time there is this really incredible range of world standard and diverse professional artists coming in."

Held normally in October, the Moon Lantern Festival is a long-running Richmond event that traditionally involves cultural performances and a parade of paper lanterns made by local residents and schoolchildren.

In 2021 organisers Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House (BANH) and North Richmond Community Health hatched a plan to expand the celebration by collaborating with arts outfit The Village.

A circus-like group that works with local communities to create festivals, The Village is well known for the annual Edinburgh Gardens event it staged in Nth Fitzroy over more than a decade.

However, in October last year Covid lockdowns saw the festival postponed, with a virtual lantern-making project happening in its place.

Now, six months later, the live celebration is finally going ahead and organisers are inviting members of the broader community to be part of it.

Among the many local acts taking part are the Jow Ga Kuen Martial Arts Association, All Abilities Choir, Yarra Ethnic Arts Exchange Association, with Shao Xing opera, SisterWorks crew presenting fashion workshops and a range of community cooks whipping up their favourite recipes to share while discussing the food's cultural origins and significance.

"The whole idea of this festival is to make everyone feel welcome," Sneddon says.

"It's about truly being connected and diverse and celebrating being together again, after two hard years of lockdowns."


Jenny Denton


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