Is the ‘new’ cultural festival really new?

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Minister Ramsay at the launch of RISE Canberra on Tuesday.

TWO and a half months after the announcement of a new winter festival to be called “Elsewhere”, ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay has announced yet another festival to be called “Where You Are” – but it’s probably the same one.

The “Where You Are Festival”, it was announced, would be a $240,000 investment in the arts and events sector designed to promote jobs as it works through the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s scheduled to run from July 10 to September 11.

The program of podcasts, live-streams, forums, workshops, performances and community events would highlight Canberra experiences across art and culture, music, ideas and forums, sport, community and food and will become “a platform to promote our city as a vibrant, innovative and creative centre to the rest of Australia and internationally”.

But while this event will fall under the aegis of Events ACT, it has a familiar ring.

“Elsewhere” had been planned for July as a new election-year arts festival, and was prefigured in an ACT Budget where the government had allocated $225,000 to produce it and would, Minister Gordon Ramsay said in March, “highlight the world-class work of Canberra’s creatives who have forged careers ‘Elsewhere’ after their humble beginnings in the ACT”.

It was later paused by ArtsACT in the face of the coronavirus disruptions.

But the Minister’s announcement had been pre-empted by an interview at in which Yolande Norris, the ArtsACT officer, then charged with producing the festival, had used the word “biennale”, which is normally associated with the visual arts, causing consternation and confusion in the arts community, where no consultation had taken place.

The announcement of “Where You Are” (the title echoes that of an earlier Canberra arts festival, “You Are Here”) on Tuesday was hidden inside the no-fanfare launch of “RISE Canberra” by Minister Ramsay at a virtual launch in on Tuesday (May 26).

“RISE Canberra” is intended as an online events calendar, a one-stop-shop for all Canberra events during COVID-19 restrictions and features events like Reconciliation Day, Floriade: Reimagined, and the Great Australian Craft Show, a wine tasting party online, French movies with Alliance Française de Canberra, and “Kids Creating Art for Aged Care Canberra”.

It would, Minister Ramsay said, highlight “events in our city that are going ahead, using non-traditional methods to avoid mass gatherings while fostering the jobs and economic stimulus our arts and events sector so desperately needs.”

Expressions of interest in “Where You Are” are now open at


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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