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Darwin Festival: A Cultural Conversation

The premier showcase of cultural and artistic diversity in our region plans to bring you an even more enriching, challenging and entertaining festival experience in 2015.

Supporting local artists has always been part of the ethos, but a new team and strategic direction is set to take it to a whole other level with locally produced works being developed for both this year’s and future festivals.

The newest release for the 2015 program is an example of what’s possible – a staged concert version of material from the hugely popular Prison Songs musical documentary, which aired on SBS earlier this year. Stories from Berrimah Correctional Centre inmates transformed into songs by Indigenous singer songwriter Shellie Morris and musician Casey Bennetto will be brought to life on the stage, with work being done to incorporate a chorus of prisoners into the show. It’s safe to say it’s unique and very Darwin.

A strong music program all round is firmly on the menu. Artistic Director Andrew Ross says it will be an eclectic program with classical, jazz and country mixed with the usual indie and pop fare, with a strong local presence. “We want to create intimate spaces for our audiences in new and familiar venues, where local and visiting artists will make music together.”

And cooking up this festival storm is a stronger core team than ever before. Local employment and engaging with the community, artists, partners and patrons on a long-term basis and at a deeper level is the aim of the game. With key positions and sponsorship now in place, developing conversations, ideas and performances between artists from cultures across the region is more possible than ever.

WHEN: Thu 6 – Sun 23 Aug | Prison Songs and early release tickets on sale Fri 1 May


Q & A with Artistic Director Andrew Ross

What attracted you to the job?

Well, it’s a job I’ve been interested in for a while. A lot of my work has been with Indigenous writers and artists like Jack Davis and Jimmy Chi and, since the 1970s, I’ve had an interest in South East Asia, so I have the perspective that northern Australia’s international cultural conversation is different from the one people are having in Melbourne and Sydney.

What is a festival?

It’s a place where artists come together and make art. It needs to have an element of unpredictability and surprise. It needs to be somewhere you have experiences you couldn’t have elsewhere and be challenging as well as enjoyable.

Where to for Darwin Festival?

We’re looking to contribute more to creating the infrastructure and opportunity for artists to develop their work – within and without the festival period. We see it as a year round resource for the development of art in the Northern Territory.

If Darwin Festival was a mix tape, what would you name it?

  • Harriet Robinson, Program Administrator - ''The Dry Season Jive'
  • Mark Crees, General Manager - Bringing us Together/Making it Happen'
  • Georgie Sedgwick, Senior Producer  - 'Mega Ultra Party Mix ‘15'
  • Melissa White, Marketing Manager - 'Tropical Nights, Luminous Life'
  • Jasmin Penny, Systems & Ticketing Manager - 'When the Pandas Come Out to Play'
  • Catherine Young, Administrator - A title involving the words 'fruity' and 'nutty'


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