The heart of Townsville will be given a hit of adrenaline this April: over the course of 12 days, more than 660 artists – from musicians and actors to street artists and cabaret dancers – will inject the city with colour, innovation, and fun. Festival 2018 is almost here.
Festival 2018 is the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games’ arts and cultural program, activating venues in Townsville, Cairns, Brisbane and the Gold Coast over the course of the Games in what is already being touted as the largest arts and cultural event Queensland has ever seen.
For many passionate local artists, the Festival presents a rare chance to prove that an Arts Festival deserves a permanent place on Townsville’s events calendar.
President of Full Throttle Theatre Company and member of the Townsville City Council Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee, Madonna Davies, said an annual arts festival in Townsville had long been on the wishlist.
“I’ve been working as an artist in Townsville for more than 20 years, so to see Festival 2018 here is a dream come true. I’m hoping this will be the first of many arts festivals for the city – when people see how popular it is and how vital it is to local creatives, they’ll realise how important it will be to host a similar event on an annual basis,” Madonna said.
“In a lot of regional communities, everyone works separately. Festivals are an opportunity for different people and groups to come together, showcase what they do, and bring all the best local and national acts to one place so the community can experience all of this talent in a single period of time.”
There is a clear thirst for similar events locally from artists and audience members alike: in the space of two weeks last year, the Strand Ephemera attracted more than 150,000 visitors to Townsville’s waterfront for the biennial sculpture festival; Umbrella Studio’s inaugural Pop Up North Queensland (PUNQ) Festival activated unused spaces in the CBD with the work of more than 50 artists; and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) booked in an estimated 28,000 visitor nights.
While each event has proven successful on its own, and should by no means be replaced, adding a festival that serves as a showcase of North Queensland creatives across all fields has its merit.
“It really is about a culmination of creativity – events like the Ephemera and AFCM are brilliant specific events, but an arts festival where you can go from a theatre performance to a music concert or an art installation is a chance for all aspects of the local arts community to be out there and celebrated,” Madonna said.
The idea of a new annual event is on Townsville City Council’s radar: Chair of the Commonwealth Games Working Group, Cr Kurt Rehbein, said it was a promise that the Council is keeping in its sights.
“The mayor made an election commitment to have an annual arts and culture festival in Townsville and that’s something we’re certainly working towards,” Cr Rehbein said.
“At the moment we’re focused on putting on a fantastic event for Festival 2018, which is the biggest arts and culture event our city has ever hosted. We’re going to learn a lot from this experience so once it’s over we can start working with the arts community towards delivering on our commitment for an annual festival.
“We have an active and vibrant arts community in Townsville which you can see from the huge diversity of local acts on the Festival 2018 program. Arts and culture play an important part in every community, so we’re keen to do whatever we can to encourage events of this kind.”
An arts festival may be a new concept for Townsville, but definitely not North Queensland: the Cairns Festival has evolved since 1961 to span visual and performing arts, culture and entertainment; while in 2018 Mackay’s Festival of the Arts will celebrate 31 years of recognising local artists alongside nationally-renowned performers in some of the city’s most picturesque locations.
Mackay Festival and Events Officer Jemma Carey said the Festival of the Arts provided an opportunity not just for showcasing artists, but the region as well.
“We can confidently say that the Festival provides a platform for local visual and performing arts amateurs and professionals to develop their skills. In regional areas, arts and cultural platforms of this magnitude are rare, so the Festival and Mackay Regional Council aim to continue to provide these opportunities for both performer and audience,” Jemma said.
“The Festival makes performing and visual arts genres more accessible by providing both traditional and non-traditional experiences. For example, a patron may not feel confident walking into an art gallery for the first time, but would happily walk into a visual arts installation at an outdoor concert or event. Sometimes, to reach out to new audiences, we need to meet them halfway and a festival covering many art forms provides these opportunities.”
Benefits aren’t limited to creatives, either:
“The Festival works in close consultation with local businesses in the supply of vehicle hire, accommodation, equipment hire and venue hire to name a few. The delivery and selection of events offered by the Festival boosts local pride and improves the overall liveability of Mackay, which in turn stimulates population growth.
“The arts celebrate and reflect on communities, their people, their places and their stories. They’re a celebration of humanity, and delivered in the right way at the right time can also provide a significant and quantifiable boost to the economy and liveability of a region.”
It’s this sense of community that events like the Commonwealth Games always build upon, and which will be amplified with the addition of Festival 2018 across Queensland this year.
Within 24 hours of Townsville’s Festival 2018 events going live, over 1,000 tickets were booked. The 12-day program is sure to entertain locals and visitors alike, while instilling a sense of purpose in local artists and a hope that there will be more demand locally for their craft. Maybe it’s time to create that demand, and celebrate everything our city’s creatives are capable of.
Festival 2018 events will run from 4-15 April with sites at Strand Park, Jezzine Barracks and Queens Gardens. For the full program of events and to book tickets, click here.