Every part of Australia is,
always was and always will be,
Aboriginal land.

As a community gathering-place, a festival of arts, cultural exchange and celebration and as a site for the sharing of ideas and stories, Ten Days on the Island pays respect to the Palawa/Tasmanian Aborigines – The original owners and cultural custodians - of all the lands and waters across Lutruwita/Tasmania upon which our Festival takes place.

With thanks to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for place names and other words in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines.

…and that’s a wrap

With mapali Sunset Gathering as our Festival Finale in Devonport, the sun literally set on Ten Days on the Island 2023. Before we look ahead, let’s enjoy some of the amazing memories of this festival just gone, starting with the perfect night we had for mapali! As the wind died away, the crowd’s anticipation was palpable for this now-iconic event, led by David mangenner Gough. What a beautiful way for our NW community to enjoy the sunset, the river like glass, fires being lit, dancers in kangaroo skins, dozens of local Taiko drummers providing a heartbeat for the story of mulika mukalina (hunting stingray), leading up to the unforgettable image of the light-filled mukalinas (stingrays) crossing the river.

I knew this 2023 would be a special one, but testing positive for Covid midway through my final festival was not what I had in mind! It was all going so swimmingly. One minute I’m enjoying the genius of Kronos Quartet, the raw emotion of Women of Troy, the physical brilliance of RED; and next minute I’m staring at two red lines on a RAT test and missing so many of the moments I had looked forward for months to experiencing. On the upside, I’ll treasure those moments squeezed in before the virus felled me for a week.

In Launceston it was thrilling to be at one of two public work-in-progress showings for Dance With the Diemen, a new immersive theatre work/installation that took us around, under and on the stage at the Princess Theatre. Co-created by Paige Rattray, Nathan Maynard and a cohort of local creatives. Watch out for more development on this important new Tasmanian work. On the same stage, Katie Noonan’s retro-vibe Joni Mitchell tribute show Blue was a showcase for Noonan’s vocal virtuosity. And a special shout out to our partners QVMAG, who opened up all kinds of possibilities for performances and talks in those beautiful gallery spaces at Royal Park. I heard that Hamed Sadeghi’s solo show Tar, and Van Diemen’s Band’s Heroines were both magnificent there. And I was lucky to have an early sneak-peek at QVMAG’s installation of Lisa Reihana’s spectacular Trans-Tasman video triptych Nomads of the Sea. Just…wow. It’s running until May, so make sure you see this extraordinary artist’s work while you can!

Artists across the festival vividly animated the festival themes of Radical Optimism, epic mythologies and the voices of women and girls. I was proud of our vibrant free and outdoor program. All were delighted who caught the unforgettable sight of our glorious guest octopus Te Wheke A Muturangi (another Lisa Reihana creation) relaxing under Kunanyi Mount Wellington in Kangaroo Bay. So were audiences for We Will Slam You With Our Wings. And everyone who experienced the mysterious Welsh dance trio Qwerin was enchanted – Qwerin’s travels spanned the island, from Salamanca to Stanley, finishing up in Devonport before mapali.

A highlight of the Hobart program for many was our Festival Hub at the Hedberg in collaboration with UTAS and the Theatre Royal. Finally, our state’s capital city has an arts centre! We used all of its fabulous performance spaces and (SO important at festival time) several floors of generous, welcoming, stylish and comfortable foyers for people to gather, socialise and relax before and after shows. What a joy to be able to invite audiences to attend a talk, grab a coffee, see two shows in one night and meet friends for a cocktail afterwards, all in the same magnificent building! And all the shows in the building were, if I say so myself, fabulous. With Women of Troy, RED, How to Live (After You Die), Heroines and Hide the Dog, contemporary theatre, dance, live music, film and family audiences were well nourished. And I’m delighted to report that the UTAS Hedberg Talks program was a roaring success, with people hungry for ideas and conversations with artists.

Music is the lifeblood of any festival, and Tasmanian music-lovers had many treats to enjoy: the genius and virtuosity of Kronos Quartet on their final Australian tour, TSO’s magnificent Faure Requiem, a new mini-opera by Don Kay, the brilliance of Van Diemen’s Band’s Heroines and Hamed Sadeghi’s haunting Persian Tar music.

If the North-West program had a gentler pace than the Hobart weekend that preceded it, it was no less rewarding for our audiences enchanted by Qwerin and Van Diemen’s Band in the spectacular landscapes of Stanley, or dazzled by Tasmania’s new circus company Rooke in Interloper, or roused by the voices of local Burnie women, loud and proud, declaring ‘I’m With Her’, sharing their experiences of resilience and unity in the face of sexism and sexual assault. What a fabulously uplifting experience for local participants and audiences alike to see those women rise so magnificently to the challenge of this verbatim theatre work.

But the final word in this 2023 festival goes to… young people and families! At our program in the North West, audiences of the future were invited to be curious and to participate in performances and experiences. What a delight to hear the responses of young people at HIVE + in Ulverstone, mesmerised by Patch Theatre’s immersive Sea of Light, and Lynette Wallworth’s underwater planetarium experience Coral: Rekindling Venus. And after two Covid cancellations, we finally opened Hide the Dog by pakana writer Nathan Maynard and Maori writer Jamie McCaskill in Hobart and Burnie on its return home to Lutruwita Tasmania. The most important thing a festival can do is to create new work, and we are so proud to have been part of this special Tasmanian-made, nationally significant family show!

Now the planning begins for 2025, and the hand-over to Ten Days on the Island’s fabulous new Artistic Director. There’ll be an announcement on that soon, meanwhile look out for one last blog before I sign off!

Love and thanks for sharing the journey with us in 2023.



IMAGE: Brad Harris