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Walking with Spirits Festival

Described as an event unlike any other, Walking With Spirits celebrates traditional Indigenous culture in one of the Territory’s most beautiful locations. 

By Tierney White

Join the Wugularr (Beswick) community as they share their songs, stories, dance and music at this year’s much-anticipated Walking with Spirits celebration. This unique event is held at Malkgulumbu, Beswick Falls – a hidden treasure described by the local community as an ‘ancient playground’. Malkgulumbu only opens to the public one weekend a year, and Walking with Spirits is your chance to experience it.

Presented by Djilpin Arts in partnership with the Australian Shakespeare Company (ASC), Walking With Spirits was initiated by the community in 2002. Since that time, people have traveled from far-and-wide to take part in this unique and intimate festival, and camp for the weekend in this magnificent lakeside setting.

ASC Artistic Director, Glenn Elston, fell in love with the beauty of this Northern Territory location after meeting with Walking with Spirits Artistic Director, Tom E. Lewis, many years ago. “I met Tom in the Cinema Café in Katherine while I was searching for outdoor locations in the Katherine area for a tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2003. He proclaimed he had the best place but it was out in the bush. We went straight to Beswick and then on to Malkgulumbu. There were only three of us there, including a hawk – Tom spent some time with the hawk. I walked the beach back to my earliest memories of living in the bush as a child, and was overwhelmed with the peaceful sensation of feeling at home (...) I knew that, from the start, we would keep coming back.”

Beswick Community is located 107kms southeast of Katherine with a population of 512, and the road is accessible during the Dry Season without the need for a four-wheel-drive. Beswick is a closed community normally requiring a permit from the Northern Land Council for access, but during Walking with Spirits celebrations, all permits are waived, treating visitors to unique insight whilst being absorbed into a sacred land of culture and tradition.

And the 2015 Walking With Spirits program is certainly one to sink into. It features at least three traditional corroborees from around Arnhem Land, with songs and stories shared in dance, music, puppetry, fire and film. Not to mention the local Billabong Boys – a Hip Hop outfit who have just returned from implementing an Indigenous Hip Hop workshop program throughout Australia. In a festival first, the Timor Furak traditional dancers and singers will visit the community all the way from Dili, Timor Leste. This will be the first time an international act has appeared at Walking with Spirits. There’s a big BBQ feast for dinner and, according to the locals, the ‘best coffee in the Northern Territory’ available from the Cultural Centre – make sure you stop in for a caffeine hit and check out the impressive permanent collection when collecting your tickets.

Since its inception, Walking With Spirits consistently celebrates the connection the Indigenous community of Beswick has to the land. Artistic Director, Tom E. Lewis explains, “The land is our church and everything in it is one – the dancers not only represent, but enter into the spirits of the animals, plants and seasons.”

This only happens once a year – you don’t want to miss it!


WHEN: Sat 25 Jul

AT: Malkgulumbu, Beswick Falls

COST: $145 | $110 Conc | $60 Child aged 5-15 | $7.70 BF

INFO: | 1300 122 344

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