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Aussies love a party, so much so that they have dozens spread throughout the year. Writer Erin Walton guides us through the options, season by season.
Text by: Erin Walton
Country: Australia

hether in the north or south, a metropolis or a small town, at some point in the year a festival is being prepared. Around the world, we love them. Festivals give us the chance to come together en masse and celebrate a region, religious event, typical food, or culture. Through festivals, for a brief amount of time we step out of the daily grind of everyday routine, connect with others, and remember what makes our community, city, and culture special.

Australia’s festival scene is over 100 years old, and today welcomes new and ever-varied events to its cultural bag. From film and gourmet foods to beach culture and comedy, Australian festivals truly come in all shapes and sizes. Here’s a selection of great Aussie events throughout the seasons.

Festival picks for Summer

Fresh fruit, sunshine, the beach, floppy hats, and the smell of sunscreen: Australia’s soaring summer mercury immediately conjures up a cocktail of memories. What better way to combat the heat than to head down to a festival or three? After all, who’d ever think of spending summer indoors and alone?

Billed “the world’s largest short film festival,” Tropfest is a much-loved highlight on filmmakers’ calendars. This festival of humble beginnings welcomes creatives –regardless of experience– to submit their work and compete for prize money. Now over 20 years old and held throughout the world, the Australian contingent is hosted in Sydney’s Centennial Park and broadcast interstate to fans gathered in other outdoor locations throughout the country.

Attracting a true mix of participants including hippie families, couples, young professionals, and the simply curious, the annual Woodford Folk Festival creates a post-Christmas world away from home in Queensland’s hinterland region. With a true village feel–cafes, restaurants, and stalls line the streets–the six-day festival assaults the senses with a buffet of concerts, performances, jam sessions, talks, cabarets, and parades alongside its own children’s festival. For an even more intense festival experience, buy a week’s pass and camp out.

Throughout January, the well-established Sydney Festival brings some of the world’s most innovative, beautiful, or downright odd performance works to Australian shores. Each year, 700 world-standard performers punch life into over 30 venues and make Sydney pulse to the beat of their energetic, contemporary works.

The three-week long Midsumma Festival is a celebration of queer culture. Music, art, theatre, cabaret, sport, film, and parties make up the festival’s colourful program, which has attracted over 150,000 people annually since its inaugural event in 1988. Its success has led to a partner event, Midwinta, held–you guessed it!–in the cooler winter months.

Inspired by similar movements in Paris and beyond, for one night only, White Night Melbourne fills the city’s streets with dining, performance, film, music, and installation experiences for visitors to delve into from dusk to dawn. The no-rules-apply attitude to this event encourages the public to visit when their energy levels allow: after a leisurely dinner, at midnight, or as the sun starts to creep over the horizon.

Festival picks for Autumn

As the temperature starts to head downhill and a few sneaky leaves take flight from the trees, Australia’s festival calendar remains healthy across the country.

Beach culture in all its forms and shapes is held in high esteem at the Gold Coast’s Bleach Festival. With the ocean as its backdrop, beachgoers, families, and sportsmen and women are invited to join in three weekends of theatre, pop-up art, and surfing events.

The world- renowned Melbourne International Comedy Festival brings comedians of all shapes and sizes, ready to delight audiences (and offend some). The festival is one of the world’s three largest comedy events and is attended by hundreds of thousands of belly -laughing locals in its Melbourne home, as well as many more interstate, when the annual Roadshow takes festival highlights to other Aussie hubs.

As if visitors needed another reason to swing by adored beach town Byron Bay, the annual Bluesfest gives it to you, combining soul-stirring blues and roots with incredible food and a relaxed atmosphere. Seven stages and 200 performances later, you can be sure to find a perfect moment grooving to the tunes of some of the planet’s best folk, roots, blues, and world artists.

Festival picks for Winter

As the temperatures drop, punters are encouraged to punctuate their late night movies and comfort meals with cultural experiences. Here are a few on winter’s menu:

For over a decade Tasmania’s Festival of Voices has filled the island’s picturesque historic buildings, churches, pubs, streets, and concert halls with song. Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart, bursts at the seams with music during this ten day celebration of the voice and its musical capacities; featuring choirs, cabaret, gospel, a cappella, and music theatre.

In a state where winter doesn’t come with woolly sweaters, the Darwin Festival aims to bring its community together through 18 days of cultural events in Australia’s northernmost capital. Festival organisers impose nothing on the community, but rather, engage them through surveys and research to deepen engagement in the festival.

Festival picks for Spring

Once spring has sprung, a sense of happiness fills the air. The rising temperatures tempt holed-up hibernators out of their homes and into the streets once again. And what of spring’s festivals?

Delight your senses with Floriade, a Canberra festival dedicated to that most important spring element: flowers. For 30 days, a million flowers create a kaleidoscopic carpet of colour and remind locals and visitors that spring has arrived. By night, comedians, musicians, and DJs come out to play during Floriade’s NightFest program, tempting visitors to cheer for spring’s awakening.

Performance fans delight in Melbourne’s iconic Fringe Festival: a chance for around 4,000 independent and emerging artists to develop and showcase their work. Melbourne ignites during the festival with a host of ticketed and free events for punters, all in the name of promoting quality independent performance.

The luscious Margaret River area–known for surfing, wine, rock climbing, restaurants, and whale-watching opportunities–becomes even more delectable during the Margaret River Gourmet Escape festivities. Fans of good food and wine sample the region’s produce while exhibitors, professional chefs, and food critics mingle.

Just like in their home countries, visitors to Australia will find a festival to suit their tastes. From coast to coast, a wealth of cultural events celebrating food, comedy, the arts, music, wine, minority cultures, and more await the curious throughout the calendar year. The hardest part is deciding where to start!

All Season Festivals Summer festivals:

· Falls Festival (Various locations) – A crowd favourite and notable highlight on the Australian music festival calendar. Punters enjoy a packed schedule of music, cabaret, theatre, dance, and circus acts. Camping out is a popular option.

· The Dreaming (Woodford, Queensland) – An indigenous culture festival held at the grounds owned by the organisers of the Woodford Folk Festival. Celebrates indigenous culture from dozens of Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.

· Adelaide Festival (Adelaide, South Australia) – One of the world’s best-known arts festivals. Held alongside the annual Adelaide Fringe Festival and Writers Week.

· Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (Melbourne, Victoria) – A premier culinary event held in various locations throughout Melbourne’s food districts, as well as regionally.

Winter Festivals

· Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (Cairns, Queensland) – Australia’s premier art fair focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait artwork and culture. Visitors can view or buy art.

· Sydney Film Festival (Sydney, New South Wales) – International film festival held in Australia’s brightest capital city.

Spring festivals:

· Brisbane Festival (Brisbane, Queensland) – Queensland’s capital city hosts an international arts festival spilling from theatres into bars and other public areas. Art installations, talks, debates, and workshops also form part of the program.

· Melbourne Festival (Melbourne, Victoria) – A highlight on the international arts calendar. Melbourne ignites as critically acclaimed performers and companies bring their works to Australian audiences. Held close to the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

· OzAsia Festival (South Australia) – Australians with Asian backgrounds and Asian artists collaborate to create art and performance works for this two week cultural event.

Autumn festivals:

· Moomba (Melbourne, Victoria) – Held during Victoria’s Labour Day long weekend, brings life to Melbourne’s parks, streets, and river with free arts and sporting events, fireworks, parades, and entertainment.

· Aussie Wine Month (National) – A celebration of wine with tastings, celebrations, and showcases of Australian wines from more than 60 wine-producing regions.

· Noosa International Food and Wine Festival (Noosa, Queensland) – Cooking demonstrations, tastings, culinary exhibitions, and more take over the famous beachfront at this Queensland resort town.



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Australia and its festivals

Festivals give us the chance to come together and celebrate a region, religious event, typical food, or culture. Through festivals we can forget our daily life for a moment and connect with others to remember what makes our community special.

Australians love festivals so much that they have many of them throughout the year and throughout the country. Australia’s festival scene is over 100 years old and encompasses everything from film and gourmet foods to beach culture and comedy.

In the summer you can enjoy the world’s largest short film festival: Tropfest. Or head to Queensland for the Woodford Folk Festival to enjoy a post-Christmas world that combines concerts, performances, jam sessions, talks, cabarets, and parades with a children’s festival.

In autumn you can enjoy the Gold Coast’s Bleach* Festival, which includes theatre, pop-up art, and surfing events. If you prefer some comedy you can check out the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Or if music is more your style, swing by the town of Byron Bay for its annual Bluesfest.

When the temperatures drop in winter you can head to Tasmania’s Festival of Voices for some great music or the Darwin Festival for 18 days of cultural events.

And when the weather once again starts to get warm and spring is finally here, you can visit the Floriade festival in Canberra, a festival entirely dedicated to flowers.

These are just a smallsample of the many festivals Australia has to offer. When you visit Australia you will certainly find a festival to suit your tastes!

 

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