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Festive Fell

Can you feel the buzz in the air? The time to lock in those dates with mates and to set that likely-to-blow-out ticket budget is here, as you’re invited to embark on 18 magical days and nights of the biggest arts and culture event on the Territory calendar.

By Tierney Seccull

Darwin Festival returns this month to entertain and delight, presenting a diverse program with all the usual suspects including comedy, music, visual arts, theatre, dance, family events, and more. It’s also got some not-so-usual suspects.

The Japanese-inspired Maho Magic Bar takes up residence on Festival Lawns in front of Parliament House, a neon-lit, pop-up home to magicians and swoon-worthy concoctions. Beside it sits The Spiegeltent – returning much to your delight! – brought to life each night by hit cabaret show, Blanc de Blanc Encore.

For almost three weeks, the creative vision of Kate Fell materialises in her first program as Artistic Director – a vision that has been curated with care. And a healthy dose of pressure.

“People in this community are so invested in this festival, and there is a pressure to that, but in a really good way,” she says.

“There’s a quote I love by tennis legend Billie-Jean King that says, ‘pressure is a privilege, it only comes to those who earn it’. I love that this festival, that is so loved with such a long history, has put this kind of pressure on me. You really pour your heart and soul into it.”

Being completely new to a community and taking the reins of an established beast of a festival machine is no easy task. But when the program launched in May, the reception was, well, lovely.

“When the Festival program came out ... it was amazing. Members of the community would come up to me and share what they were planning to see. Seeing them respond to it and what they are booking tickets to, it’s just amazing.”

So, what Festival frivolity can you get up to this year? A legacy that remains firmly in place is local representation, as Territorians make up 65 percent of the program.

NT Dance Company’s The Other Side of Me is the true story of a young NT Aboriginal man, adopted by a white English family and raised in the United Kingdom. Multi-award-winning playwright, Mary Anne Butler, greatly contributes to the theatre program with her powerful work CUSP, and MarketMarket sees an entourage of some of our most formidable creatives come together in honour of the Rapid Creek Markets.

We’re well repped in music, too, with performances from Ripple Effect Band, David Spry and family, Darwin Symphony Orchestra and Arafura Music Collective, plus local legends are featured heavily on the line-up at The Rails. Then there’s the incredible visual arts program, with exhibitions and events held across our tropical city.

On the flipside, the cultural experience of Terrirorians is enriched by the opportunity to observe creativity from lands beyond our borders. Enjoy performances from Opera Australia, Regurgitator, The Whitlams Black Stump Band, DJ Groove Terminator & Soweto Gospel Choir, and Katie Noonan.

Australian circus company Gravity & Other Myths presents A Simple Space, featuring seven acrobats in a gravity-defying hour of physical power. The elite performance company connects with local arts organisation Corrugated Iron Youth Arts for workshops while they’re in town – you can only imagine the impact of meeting professional creatives will have on young, inspired minds.

The festive atmosphere is spread across 28 venues, including the undisputed heart of the action Festival Park, with a third of the program free to attend. It’s a huge operation to deliver an event of this size and calibre, all put together by a highly dedicated and hardworking team. According to Fell, it’s all for very good reason.

“I hope that, when people come to the Festival, they experience an overwhelming sense of joy. I’m a very optimistic person, and I know there’s a lot going on in the world … but there are these 18 nights in August where we invite you to come together, to feel a sense of connection and belonging, and to come away with a sense of joy.”

Darwin Festival

Thumbnail & header: Photo: Connor Askham
Inset: Kate Fell

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