Pop-up poetry cafe: a birthplace for flourishing poets

Ms Millie’s Pop Up Poetry Cafe, held at North Carlton’s Afro Hub, is a beautiful space that transforms undecided and inexperienced voices into standout performers.

The pop-up poetry cafe, happening on the second Saturday of every month, is simultaneously a performance space, social space and patisserie.

Creator and poet Jehnet Kaya (Jay for short), also known as Ms Millie, could not attend Melbourne’s poetry events because of her five-year-old son. Taking matters into her own hands she created a safe and inclusive space for community members to share their poetry and indulge in home-cooked sweets.

“I figured I could just get the poets to come to me,” Jay said.

The performers and audience experience a range of emotions. Photo: Brendan Bonsack.

The strength of Melbourne’s poetry scene lies in its close-knit and caring community.

“The poetry community is paramount. It’s so important on so many levels for poets. The poetry community gives – it gives comfort, support, assurance and assistance,” Jay said.

At the event, cheers and encouragement can constantly be heard in support of the performers.

“I get to listen to people perform for the first time and see them gain their voice and see their confidence climb,” Jay said.

Jay hosting Ms Millie’s at Afrohub. Photo: Brendan Bonsack.

Ms Millie’s Pop Up Cafe has been a stepping stone for many, but also for Jay herself. Encouraged by those around her, she began performing her personal poems for the first time.

Even as a child, she remembered having a penchant for food. Merging her Turkish and African American ancestry to influence her bite-sized culinary delights, Jay’s sweets are a standout to be anticipated at each pop-up poetry event.

“I’ve always had a love for sweets and poetry so I figured I could combine two of my favourite things together and make it a thing, and people responded really positively,” Jay said.

“The influence of sugar either in the form of cake or syrup drenched baklava has carried over into my adult life,” Jay said.

Ms Millies Pop Up Cafe Facebook page is punctuated by delicious and evocative descriptions of food. Consider options “varying from honey pistachio cheesecake to sweet potato pie, orange marmalade cake to cherry pie”. They fire up the imagination and materialise as a picture perfect reality.

Jay’s personal favourites are her banana cream pie and sticky date cake. She calls them her “favourite dishes” and cites the influence of her father’s African American family.

Jay has big plans for the future, hoping to expand the pop-up event into Melbourne’s first “poetisserie” – a hybrid of a patisserie and a poetry space.

Ms Millie’s next event is on the 11th of November from 7.00 pm. Click here for all the information.

Written by Devana Senanayake

Who Loves: The new kids on the block set to change the Melbourne party scene

When a group of 20 something music enthusiasts get together to throw parties, changing the sound of Melbourne usually isn’t their main aim.

However, Who Loves event organisers Denis, Dajana, Andre and James have finally pursued their dreams of creating their idea of a perfect party, and are doing things differently when it comes to throwing good events.

The idea for Who Loves formed when the foursome met one night at a party and discovered that they had the same intentions to run their own events and change the party scene in Melbourne.

Denis Khassapov, one of the Who Loves founders, has already made a name for himself running parties at Prahran’s unique nightclub and pawn shop, Pawn & Co.

“I always wanted to run my own parties, but the right people with the same ideas never came around,” he said.

“One day I was at my friend Alex’s house party, DJing, and Andre came over to me and he really liked my music, and when he was playing I really liked his music.”

“After that, we randomly bumped into each other at a DJ competition called Your Shot. We just got chatting and somehow got thinking that we should start our own parties. We both mentioned that we wanted to run our own events and that’s how it came about.”

Who Loves currently run one party per month, getting their inspiration from the events they had been to and replicating a similar vibe.

“We got a lot of our ideas from the house parties we went to and all the doofs we used to go to, we just wanted to throw parties with a similar vibe to that,” said James.

“We want to create a different, deep house sound and be recognised for it. No one really plays that kind of music, and we just wanted to play the music we’re into, so we thought let’s try to bring that kind of doof environment to a monthly event.”

In order for the parties to be accessible to everyone, the group decided to run their events during the day from 3pm to midnight.

“Our aim is to throw good parties, attract good people and create good vibes, a place where everyone can just hang out and have a good time,” said Denis.

“We want to attract all different types of people and make it accessible to those who may just want to listen to a few tunes during the day, or for those who want to come to a pre party somewhere before they go out,” said Dajana.

“We end our parties early because we don’t want people to leave when they’re completely drained. We want people to leave at an early time still buzzing from the good vibes and leave thinking, ‘Wow that was incredible’ rather than ‘I’m really tired’ and then forgetting about how good the party was,” said Andre.

While Who Loves currently throw one party a month, the group have high ambitions to grow their name.

“Maybe in the future there will be a Who Loves record label or even a Who Loves music festival,” said Andre.

“Our aim is to create a unique sound that people recognise as Who Loves. We want to create parties that people gravitate towards,” said Denis.

The following photos were taken at Who Loves‘ third event at Less Than Zero on the 5th of August 2017.

The Who Loves crew (from left to right) Denis, James, Dajana and Andre.




 


Keep up to date with Who Loves’ upcoming events on their Facebook page. The next one is happening this Saturday at 3 pm, head here for all the details.

Photographs and words by Deniz Karaman

A Celebration of Diversity at the Cocoa Butter Club

The Cocoa Butter Club’s second event celebrated, entertained and educated the audience about the talent of Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour (QTIPOC) with a night of music, dance, acrobatics and performance art.

Held at the Melba Spiegeltent on the 26th of July, the themes of Aboriginal sovereignty, structural discrimination and racial dynamics were seamlessly stitched into the night.

Originally from London, the Cocoa Butter Club’s website describes it as a “roster of queer performers of colour” with a mission to “moisturise a thirsty club scene [through] representations of the other in everything from neo-burlesque to poetry, live music and voguing”.

Organiser Dani Weber praised the diverse talent presented during the night.

“The strength of the Cocoa Butter Club lies in diversity – the diversity of genres and the multiplicity of talents that people of colour have. Our existence is real. We are loud and talented,” she said.

“Attendees don’t have to be people of colour, but they need to be willing to enter a space where they will be supportive to the mission of the night, to centre Indigenous [people] and people of colour,” Dani said.

Roseanne Chalker performed a series of stunning acrobatics, using only a cloth hung from a hook and her body. Her gravity defying display of strength, artistry and ingenuity transgressed physical boundaries. Photo: Alexis D. Lea

The Melba Spiegeltent had undergone an interesting transformation for the event. Rather than rows of seats, circular tables decorated the space.

The night’s main singers Mama Alto and Kandere were a standout.

Mama Alto circled around like a shimmering diva, stepping onto the stage as if making a mistaken stop from the 1940s.

Mama Alto soared, particularly as she hit the piercing high notes of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

Moreover, she educated the audience about the achievements of people of colour in theatre. She applauded last year’s Tony Awards, which had awarded all four major acting awards to people of colour for the first time in its history.

Kandere was composed of two pacific islanders: Lakyn Tarai and Wahe Kavara. Their set included a mishmash of breathtaking beats, distorted vocals and some heated dance moves.

Caption: Drag king, Justin Teliqure, stole the hearts of the audience. His suave dance moves projected his irresistible charm. Photo: Alexis D. Lea

Next, a performer embodying  Mother Nature made an appearance. Surrounded by a cacophony of nature, she flipped the coin on conceptions of normalcy and encouraged the audience to unpack their thoughts about gender and sexuality.

Her performance reinforced that members who identified as non-binary, transgender or gender diverse had every right to belong.

Throughout the night MC’s, Nayuka Gorrie and Davey Thompson, educated the audience about the controversies and racial discrimination faced by Aboriginals.

The MCs also reminded the audience about the recent deaths of Elijah, Dr Yunipingu and Lynette Daily. A sense of loss resonated through the night.

The Cocoa Butter Club gave a voice to the QTIPOC community on their terms. With the voices of this community often hidden or ignored, the event portrayed their beauty, agency and authority.

The next Cocoa Butter Club event is to be held at a yet to be announced date in October. Stay tuned to get the exact dates.

Written by Devana Senanayake

Campfire storytelling brings the community closer

Sitting around a flickering bush campfire telling yarns can bridge culture and generations.

Many first Australians recount their history to the next generation while using the soothing and entrancing beacon that campfires emit.

The recent multi-arts program Emerge capalitalised on the ability of a campfire to draw out stories from participants.

Emerge focused on the growing refugee population and multiculturalism which is thriving in the Yarra community.

The event, which finished earlier this month, was organised by Multicultural Arts Victoria, Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) and Welcome to Australia.

Emerge’s Campfire Stories: Arise was an immersive experience featuring four storytellers who have experienced the hardships of being a refugee or migrant.

An objective of Campfire Stories was to use the power of storytelling to provide community education to those less aware of refugees and people seeking asylum and to create empathy and understanding towards Australia’s multicultural community.

The event was held in Fitzroy Town Hall where the building’s reading room was transformed into a cosy campfire circle. There was a marshmallow on every seat and the night was accompanied by chai.

Chairs were gathered around a projected campfire with crackling sound effects in the background as speakers told their stories, creating an immersive and welcoming ambiance.

Participants were encouraged to move in close as the storytelling began.

Abdi Aden, refugee and author of Shining: The Story of a Lucky Man, spoke about the lack of understanding the wider community has about the struggles of refugees and migrants.

He cited the community’s often negative assumptions about refugees as being based on fear.

An event organiser, Elizabeth Young, the Victorian manager of Welcome to Australia, agreed with the importance of community education on refugees and migrants.

The Fitzroy town hall proudly welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. Photo: April Shepherd

“Everything we (Welcome to Australia) do is through an educative lense … we are always role modelling good behavior.

“So, for example, we say ‘seeking asylum’ instead of ‘asylum seekers’ to show that people come first.

“We really try to show that we’re all people and that everyone is welcome. ‘We’re all people and we’re all equal’ that’s one of our slogans,” Ms Young said.

Ms Young believes that programs, such as Campfire Stories: Arise, help educate the community. “They’re part of what Welcome to Australia does.

“Nationally we try to cultivate a culture of welcome in our communities.”

The event was inclusive with organisers providing a safe place for stories to be told.

Stories left the audience in tears and others smiling at the lived experience of migrating, surviving and the journey many have made to the present.

The night concluded with audience members sharing their own stories of struggling to fit into a new environment.

Written by April Shepherd

Fussy consumers and the food waste fight

Anthony James, leader of The Rescope Project, believes, to reduce the surplus of wasted food the community must change its ideals of how produce should look. Fitzroy is set to receive an education on food wastage when The Rescope Project comes to town tomorrow, July 19to encourage sustainability for a brighter future.

There’s no denying the Yarra community is an eco-friendly bunch, already having done much to combat food waste through council initiatives such as Food Know How.

“We work with residents and households to avoid creating food waste in the first place,” explains Food Know How project manager Matthew Nelson.

Are we being too shallow in our food choices? Photo: Michael Moloserdoff

While community initiatives encouraged by Food Know How such as food swaps and community gardens, along with measures taken by residents within the home have gone a long way to reduce the surplus of wasted food, are our attitudes about how our food should look holding us back from winning the food waste fight for good?

It has long been a trend of supermarkets to toss fruits and vegetables deemed visually unappealing in order to meet consumers’ aesthetic expectations.

The Rescope Project leader Mr James said: “It’s interesting that we seek that idea of perfection in the first place … we get lost in the details of perfection as opposed to what counts in life; good healthy food from a healthy ecosystem. Whether an apple’s got a little lump on it is by-the-by; in fact it becomes a quality test of the real kind because you’ve got it closer to [its] source.”

Fitzroy is a popular location for dumpster divers Photo: Alice WIlson

Mr James isn’t the only one holding this opinion. Skip-dipping, dumpster diving, whatever you may call it; the growing trend of ‘freegan’ living is becoming a popular choice for those fed up with the amount of food wasted due to the community’s search for picture-perfect fruit and veg.

“A large portion of society has grown up with ridiculous regulations on how our food should look. Banana too straight? Throw it out. Apple has a spot on it? Throw it out.”

Ricardo Potoroo, began dumpster diving after becoming aware of food waste caused by food sellers. He wants more pressure placed on supermarkets to dispose of excess food more responsibly.

“Councils have an ethical duty to put more pressure on supermarkets and wholesalers to donate their excess produce back to the community,” he said.

Fellow ‘diver’ Gabrielle Paz-Liebman agrees. “Councils need to work harder to create some very strong laws around food waste, but not in ways that keep the power within supermarkets.”

While it’s true that supermarkets fuel our high standards, and should be doing more to ensure what is discarded is done so in a more responsible manner, is it down to only them and councils to shoulder the blame?

Anthony James says no: “Local councils are responsible for mediating and encouraging the community to get more informed on these issues… Where does responsibility lie in general? It’s across the board,” he said.

This view is also held by Bree Fomenko of Food Without Borders, an upcoming food rescue program orchestrated by Lentil as Anything, the pay-as-you-feel vegan haunt operating out of several locations across Melbourne, including the Yarra’s own Abbotsford.

“Broadly speaking, food retailers can implement actions to reduce the amount of food wasted. However, responsibility must also be shared by consumers in the choices made when purchasing and disposing of food items.

“As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to aesthetically perfect products and beautifully-designed packaging.

“For example, perfectly smooth, red tomatoes are often favoured over ones with a few blemishes, but the nutritional content and taste-factor may be the same.”

Once up and running, Food Without Borders hopes to work with food retailers to repurpose unwanted food, minimising waste and helping those in need, along with raising awareness of the implications of food waste and encouraging positive actions to reduce waste among the community.

Ventures such as Lentil’s Food Without Borders is a step in the right direction to further reduce waste in the Yarra community, and if locals can lower their standards while shopping, a sustainable future becomes much more obtainable.

The Rescope Project is on at the Bargoonga Nganjin North Fitzroy Library, 182/186 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North, Wednesday, July 19 from 6pm-7pm.

To register for The Rescope Project’s free event, visit the Yarra City Council’s What’s On for further details.

Written by Alice Wilson

Arts recognise local Aboriginal history

This month a collection of indigenous performers and artists are coming together for Smith Street Dreaming as part of the annual Leaps and Bound Music festival.

Smith Street Dreaming 2017 is the biggest street celebration of the iconic thoroughfare’s Koorie history. The festival brings diverse groups of people to the suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy to recognise indigenous culture, the local Wurundjeri people, and its aboriginal community.

The free event will host some of the country’s best indigenous talent featuring live performances from Frank Yamma, Emma Donovan, Yung Warriors, Indigenous Hip Hop Projects, traditional dancers  Jindi Worabak and MC Shelley Ware.

The project is part of the Smith Street Working Group that, according to organisers, aims to build and celebrate better relationships between Yarra Council residents, workers and visitors to Smith Street by fostering understanding, respect and peace between all.

Members of the Smith Street Working Group include Aboriginal elders, indigenous community members, Victoria’s Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC), Yarra City Council, Victoria Police, the Salvation Army, Co-Health, Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee, Smith Street Business Association, Eastern Health, Melbourne Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation Co-Operative (MAYSAR) and restaurant Charcoal Lane.

The event was initiated when The Neighbourhood Justice Centre collaborated with Aboriginal elders, police and traders to discuss the complex issues of social inclusion, cultural respect, safety and diversity, which eventually lead to the formation of the Smith Street working group. Members of the working group realised they all wanted the same thing, and the indigenous music festival was born.

On the Smith Street Dreaming report NJC project officer, Maree Foelz, describes Smith Street Dreaming as “a fantastic event which helped build better relationships between the various communities that visit, live, work and gather on and around Smith Street,” which also encouraged her, personally, to “embrace the opportunity to learn from being part of the Smith Street Working Group.”

Rebecca Langley, lead activist in the community’s  Everything Advisory Group, this year is working with MAYSAR on a project for Smith Street Dreaming. With the focus of the event being reconciliation, respect and fairness, she believes that this will help show the broader community the importance of indigenous history to the area and the ability to connect with it.

To Amnesty International, she said: “I believe that Reconciliation Action Plans are a great opportunity to decolonise our work spaces by acknowledging and acting to change the part we play in the ongoing oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Smith Street Dreaming aims to bring together indigenous and non-indigenous community members to reconcile.

Image of Archie Roach at Smith Street Dreaming 2015, Photo: Antony Ket

In an interview for the Yarra Council’s history project, Archie Roach, indigenous Australian singer explained the importance of Fitzroy as a meeting place for Aboriginals.

“There was more to it than drinking. If people just saw it on the outside, you know, they’d just think, oh, a couple of old or young Koori people drinking in a pack, or whatever, vacant lot, vacant area – but it was more than that. That’s where I learned my history brother, from those areas, because all the old fellas, they knew more about me than I did, mate.”

Those who gather in Smith Street are referred to as “Parkies”, being mostly Aboriginal people who have long gathered on Smith Street. The ‘community of the Parkies’ has been fundamental for the passing on of Aboriginal stories and history according to the Smith Street Dreaming report.

Indigenous Hip Hop Project performer at Smith Street Dreaming 2016. Photo: Tony Proudfoot

The Indigenous Hip Hop Project team has experience in performing in events focusing on inclusiveness and recognition especially surrounding this particular event.

“The indigenous Hip hop Project team has [had] interactive performances running for 10 years … most performing in remote Aboriginal communities as well as everywhere around Australia,” said managing director, Michael Farah.

Having been involved in the Leaps and Bound music festival, the group realised the importance of hosting events like this giving them the platform to express themselves and perform.

“Dance performances for the event showcase more art going to hip hop [and therefore is] trying to get everyone [at the event] involved,” he said.

“Everyone is attached to music, most performances come with music and culturally it is about music and dance. Stories are told through traditional instrument[s] and also done through movement which is the best way to showcase because culturally, nothing is written down.”

He then went on to explain the ‘dreaming’ aspect of the festival and the importance of it.

“Everything is a story and [is] about dreaming … dreaming is sitting down listening to elders. This festival is bringing all that to the table. It is crucial to modern-day society when talking about bridging the gap and reconciliation.”

Smith Street Dreaming 2017 is taking place on the corner of Smith Street and Stanley Street, Collingwood, from 1pm-5pm, on Saturday, July 22.

For details go to Leaps and Bound Music festival website leapsandboundsmusicfestival.com.

Written by Zathia Bazeer

Emerging Melbourne artists are coming together for a 10 day cultural festival in the Yarra

This month a collection of refugee and culturally diverse artists and performers are coming together for the annual Emerge in Yarra festival.

Thanks to Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV), as part of the Community Cultural Development (CCD) program for “culturally and linguistically diverse emerging and refugee artists and communities in Victoria” a plethora of cultural talents will be showcased in the City of Yarra.

This year’s Emerge in Yarra festival will present 10 events over 10 days and will include a delicious array of cultural food, amazing performances, and enriching cultural experiences; expect language lessons along with innovative musical experiences. There really is something for everyone.

Event organiser Frejya MacFarlane has experienced the enriching culture surrounding Emerge. Having been involved in several MAV events over the past couple of years, she expresses the importance of hosting events like Emerge in Yarra festival.

“It’s all about developing relationships with emerging refugee communities and giving them a platform to be more involved in the arts and developing programs,” she said.

Emerge artists and performers hail from all walks of life, each with a story to share with their Yarra community. Neda Rahmani is a seasoned professional performer and has been involved with MAV since around 1999.

This year Neda is heading up her favourite festival session: Cookin’ up Community, held at the Collingwood Community Kitchen on Tuesday, July 4, at 7.30 pm. Cookin’ up Community unites a cultural cooking experience with music, songs, and stories from distant homelands.

In a collaboration like no other, the Cookin’ up Community session will blend the Iran/Persian culinary roots of  Neda Rahmani with Saba Alemayoh’s East African cuisine, to represent the unique meals passed down from their mothers.

“My cuisine is a great mélange of different flavours and I can’t wait to see what happens when we put each other’s dishes side by side,” Neda said.

“We all have to eat. We all share that human need to nourish and I think people are interested in learning something new and witnessing something new,” she said.

This year’s Emerge in Yarra festival is bringing about the importance of welcoming and learning about new cultures that live right around us.

Art by I-Yen (Molly). Photo: Emerge.

Molly Chen, a new visual artist on the Emerge scene is particularly excited to showcase her collaboration with Yumemi Hiraki at The Ownership Project in Fitzroy. Their exhibit will showcase spatial installations in a “home setting” and elevate the discussion of history surrounding their blend of Taiwanese (Molly) and Japanese (Yumemi) backgrounds.

“It’s a very storytelling exhibition and I expect everyone to come and find it very playful, funny and delightful, but at the same time have a strong feeling surrounding discussion about the trauma and the history in our show,” Miss Chen said.

With a medium cultivated by the artists and their cultural values, Emerge in Yarra will be the ultimate cultural experience for 2017. The 10-day festival will bring forth stories of courage, and events that serve a strong purpose in bringing the community together.

For a full list of programs occurring in Emerge in Yarra 2017, click here.

Written by Grace Evans