GIVEN the gloomy year 2020 has turned out to be, it seems appropriate that South Fremantle’s bright emergence from Covid-19 will be highlighted by a celebration dedicated to the “victory of light over darkness”.
Next Sunday November 1, South Terrace will be closed to traffic for the inaugural South Fremantle Festival of Lights from 11am to 10pm.
An annual Festival of Lights, or Diwali, is an Indian tradition which celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil.
South Freo’s version came about as local councillor Marija Vujcic got to chatting with Saroor Indian restaurateur Satnam (Sid) Sidhu about business during Covid-19.
Cr Vujcic said after premier Mark McGowan ordered the state’s ‘soft lockdown’ in late March, businesses in her ward were doing it tough, but as restrictions eased she saw an opportunity.
“One night I was walking by Saroor in July or early August and things were looking up and I said ‘are we doing Diwali’ and suggested we should shut down the street and have a party,” Cr Vujcic said.
Other businesses along the strip were eager to get involved, so the pair set up the South Fremantle Community Association as a non-profit organisation to run the festival.
Cr Vujcic said 15 local businesses put money into the kitty, but it was the response from local community organisations which was truly overwhelming.
“We’ve got Bollywood performers, Portuguese, Aboriginal performers from the Clontarf Foundation, South American tango and salsa, the Free Spirit bellydancers, Croatian singers, we’ve got the CBC jazz band, the Fremantle Sailing Club’s pipes and drummers – and no one is getting paid,” she said.
She’s just spent three days putting together a Covid-safe plan to meet WA Health Department guidelines but says being able to close off four street blocks made it feasible.
“It might not have a crowded festival feel, but it will still have its own festival feel,” Cr Vujcic said.
Mr Satnam said Saroor survived Covid by ramping up its takeaways, and in the last few months trade in South Fremantle had really picked up. Cafes and restaurants are packed, while the Herald can report having to circle once or twice for a parking spot just to pick up a takeaway.
Cr Vujcic said there would be street stalls and food vans running during the day, and she plans for the community association to run two festivals a year.
By Steve Grant