…and that’s a wrap
With mapali Sunset Gathering as our Festival Finale in Devonport, the sun literally set on Ten Days on the...
Our 2023 theme of Radical Optimism is reflected in a festival program that’s more expansive, more adventurous with a sense of our community’s re-emergence back to itself, that’s rebellious and daring and vital, reconnecting Tasmanian audiences to local, national and global artists in stunning spaces across Lutruwita.
After the buzz of our Hobart launch last Thursday, we launched for a second time on Sunday at COMMUNION, Burnie’s welcoming and stylish new brewery, operated by Andrew Turner, a great supporter of Ten Days on the Island in the North West. Andrew also runs The Chapel, my favourite café here in Burnie. Hanging out in The Chapel and COMMUNION got me thinking about the emotional and spiritual importance of these nourishing social spaces in our communities. I wove some of this musing into my launch speech for Burnie, which I’m mixing here with some observations on festivals more broadly:
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, COMMUNION (with somebody/something) is the state of sharing or exchanging thoughts and feelings; the feeling of being part of something. So, we’re here today in COMMUNION, because we’re all part of the great Tasmanian enterprise that is Ten Days on the Island. And on some level, we all believe that art is a force for good in our society, as a powerful connector of people, and art, music, images, words, movement and cultural expression can be transformational for us as individuals and communities.
Curating my final Ten Days on the Island program, I’ve been reflecting on my experience over 20 years as the director of a dozen Australian festivals, and in the audience for dozens more around the world. I’ve stayed in the game this long because I love bringing artists and audiences together. The anthropology, complexity and curation of festivals fascinates me. I must have asked myself a million times – ‘what makes a great festival’? The rash of new festivals that are really no more than a random list of cool artists and touring acts, purely a commercial or economic proposition, underwhelm me. A great festival is so much more.
Like art itself, festivals can be transformative, subversive, a powerful force for good in our society. Festivals have super-powers: they bring people together for conversations and experiences that inspire our collective imagination. They can refresh and renew our perspective on the world.
Ten Days on the Island has done all those things for over 20 years, in a unique, heartfelt and authentically Tasmanian way. Across the state, we bring communities together in rural and industrial landscapes to inspire the social imagination, we invite communities to refresh their perspective on the world and on themselves. Just as we did in 2021, when Covid left its mark on every arts organisation in the country. Our response to closed borders was a hyper-local, island-wide celebration of Tasmanian creativity and innovation. Local artists rose magnificently to the challenge, seizing the moment with a program bursting with boldness, brilliance and empathy for our isolated community.
But it’s time now for festivals to offer more than comfort and cheer in dark times to our communities. It’s time to lift our gaze to new horizons, and to bring our communities with us. Our 2023 theme of Radical Optimism is reflected in a festival program that’s more expansive, more adventurous with a sense of our community’s re-emergence back to itself, that’s rebellious and daring and vital, reconnecting Tasmanian audiences to local, national and global artists in stunning spaces across Lutruwita.
I return to my question “what makes a great festival?”. One answer is that a great festival is always evolving, always looking to the future, not just this moment, this year, or just being fashionable. Ten Days on the Island been around for over 20 years, but like Tasmania itself, we’ve radically evolved over that time, certainly over my three festivals. This time in two years my very fortunate successor will be standing here, sharing a new vision for the next evolution.
This is an exciting time for Ten Days on the Island, one of Tasmania’s cultural gems and, I truly believe, one of Australia’s great festivals. See you in March!
Image: Andrew Walton