Culture, Top End style

Reimagined Darwin Festival ready to tantalise Top End

Domestic travel
TOP ART: Kaylene Whiskey with her award-winning painting Seven Sistas 2018 at last year's Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Photo: Fiona Mo

TOP ART: Kaylene Whiskey with her award-winning painting Seven Sistas 2018 at last year's Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Photo: Fiona Mo

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Champagne flutes replace beer glasses as Darwin heats up for a festival celebrating life, arts and culture.

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THE annual Darwin Festival is 10 days in August when locals put down their beer glasses and pick up a champagne flute. It's culture Top-End style as the city's lovable larrikinism is served up with a twist of lime. SUE PRESTON reports on what to expect this year.

DARWIN Festival organisers were never going to let COVID-19 stop them in their tracks. One way or the other the show would go on.

After months of planning, the re-imagined festival, with its mix of live and online events, will be a celebration of the best of Territory life, arts and culture.

Darwin Festival 20 Homegrown concentrates its spotlight on the amazing talent of some of the people who call the Top End home with a vibrant new program of music, dance, theatre, comedy and visual art.

From August 6-16 the tropical city's new Sunset Stage at Festival Park will be the place to catch the Northern Territory's hottest homegrown acts.

However some well-loved events, such as the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and the National Indigenous Music Awards, have moved online so they can garner new audiences across Australia and the world.

"It's been a rollercoaster ride planning this year's event," said artistic director Felix Preval.

"Back in March when we're usually signing off our program, we were staring down the barrel of cancelling the whole thing, like many live events have had to.

"Since then we've gone from planning an online-only lockdown version of the program, to a super socially-distanced festival for just a few people, to our final version - an eclectic mix of online and live performances."

Joining the online events are the award ceremonies for the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards.

Mr Preval believes the changes caused by COVID-19 have made this year's festival special. "This year has really provided an exciting opportunity to get back to our roots and program a local line-up," he said.

NEW: Sex and Death (and the Internet) is the chance to ask someone older and wiser the big questions. Photo: Ponch Hawkes

NEW: Sex and Death (and the Internet) is the chance to ask someone older and wiser the big questions. Photo: Ponch Hawkes

The big questions

One of the most interesting new events is Sex Death (and the Internet), which gives people the opportunity to ask an older artist in a one-on-one situation the big questions of life, death, and everything in between. Described as "part date, part game, part public artwork", it's the chance to ask someone older and wiser the big questions, and to consider how you, yourself, might be changing over time.

From a terminal at the festival, participants will be logged into a website connecting them to someone aged over 70.

What will follow is a personalised card game conversation piece, focusing on taboo subjects including sex and death. The intention is to create space for intimate, long distant, intergenerational conversations at a time when ageing and isolation are becoming more acute than ever before.

Those who can't make it to Darwin in person won't miss out.

A wide array of digital events include the vibrant program of cultural performances, artist workshops and demonstrations, Indigenous food experiences and panel discussions which make up the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair.

If you see an artwork you like, you can buy it online.

Though the annual fashion runway show, From Country to Couture, has been postponed, the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards step in to showcase the very best of Australian Indigenous fashion and design. You will be able to see that online as well.

The biggest celebration of Australian First Nations music, the National Indigenous Music Awards, will be held on August 8, with both virtual and physical offerings.

Australia's most prestigious and longest-running art awards, the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, return to celebrate artists from diverse regions as they reflect on issues of identity, resilience and survival.

The works can be seen in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory or online.

With these new creative offerings the Darwin Festival is in no danger of losing its mantle as Australia's hottest winter arts festival.

The last word goes to Felix Preval. "It's set to be one fabulous party celebrating everything that's great about life in the Territory. Where else would you want to be than at the Darwin Festival?"

If you go...

The festival program spans 48 events across 10 venues.

All patrons are being asked to exercise COVID-safe principles - wash your hands, practice physical distancing and download the COVID-safe app.

Tickets HERE

Information about travel to the Northern Territory HERE

Sue Preston was a guest of Tourism NT at the 2019 Darwin Festival

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