Discover Desert Delights
Another unforgettable year of Desert Festival awaits, with award-winning Fringe acts, ground-breaking local arts and a brand-new location.
By Betty Sweetlove
A delight for lovers of all things art, culture, food and festivities, this award-winning Mparntwe festival is a diverse display of desert culture and hand-picked interstate acts. Having taken various forms over the years, it’s long been a showcase for homegrown talent and spectacular visiting artists.
Curated by the dedicated team at Red Hot Arts, including Festival Producer Rosie Denton, this year’s program is hotter than ever. With a record-breaking number of applicants, the 2023 festival is bursting with cream-of-the-crop performers.
“As a multi-art form festival, there’s nothing else like it that celebrates all different aspects of performance. We have an installation art piece, theatre pieces, two award-winning Fringe acts, and three NT Music Award winners coming this year,” says Denton.
Headlining the festival this year is ROUGE. Winner of the Best Circus Award at Adelaide Fringe, this adults-only show sparkles with breathtaking burlesque and mind-bending stunts, on display for one-night only at Araluen Arts Centre.
“I worked at the Fringe this year and it was my favourite show, and I saw heaps of shows. It’s incredible circus. It’s a little bit naughty, and it has that Alice Springs vibe that anything goes,” Denton says.
Taking the night to the next level is the ROUGE After Party, curated by Mparntwe’s filthiest new performance collective, The Gutter, with their signature mix of ritual, kink and queer eroticism. Other local arts offerings include Victoria Alondra’s innovative, multi-art form Future Echoes – a moving and unapologetic exposé of resource extraction and colonialism by a powerful local lineup of poets, hip hop artists and dancers.
“There’s so much range. There’s going to be a Bush Dance, a family friendly Sunday evening event that’s part of Gleny Rae’s Project Seed development piece – there’s truly a whole scope of works and every day is different,” Denton says.
Running annually, Project Seed nurtures the development of fresh local ideas, with funding and support to get new work onto the stage. This year, five Project Seed acts have poured their hearts into their pieces and are ready to wow their first audiences.
Music That Moves features a string quartet in profound collaboration with three dancers, exploring movement and migration stories, and Dem Arrernte Mob is an epic showcase of emerging hip hop artists. Denton says Project Seed support is vital for local arts.
“There’s a big platform for music in this town but not so much for dance, theatre, or those experimental pieces that are multidisciplinary, so we give that platform.”
Desert Festival also plants new roots at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens. An oasis of greenery and wildlife, it’s the perfect backdrop for 11 days of magical performance.
“It’s prime time in Central Australia, the most beautiful days and balmy evenings, and Olive Pink is the most stunning location,” Denton says.
With the gardens transformed by stages, a dome and a bar, Festival-goers can treat themselves to a different style of tickets this year.
“We have a new Luna Park style option, so you can buy a ticket to a whole evening of events. It takes the stress from choosing one event, and Red Hot Arts members can grab discounts.”
What better invitation to explore the brilliant burst of events, workshops, children’s shows and installations at this year’s Desert Festival.
thumbnail & header: Photos: Lisa Hatz Photography
inset: WeSing perform at the 2022 Desert Festival