New arts festival’s got vigour but could get confusing

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The Australian Dance Party with musician Mr Michael, lakeside.

CANBERRA will spring into life with everything from Shakespeare to food and circus in a two-month cultural festival launched this morning, July 10, at the Canberra Theatre.

Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay, kicked off the “Where You Are” festival saying it will provide “new opportunities to connect, explore and discover both online and in other COVID-safe ways”.

The festival will be offering 60 different Canberra-specific experiences, many of them distinctly quirky, across art and culture, all of which will illustrate exactly “where we are” in the ACT.

Incontrovertible proof of Canberra’s presence here will be provided in the form of one of the world’s biggest selfies, where in a “Satellite Selfie”, a big picture of Canberra and its people will be snapped at Mt Stromlo Observatory from space.

“Rockspeare Richard III”.

Twenty Canberra creators and organisations were allocated as much as $20,000 each to create new works.

The results will have the town jumping to the sounds and sights of a Chinese dragon dance near Civic Merry-Go-Round, Lakespeare & Co’s “Rockspeare Richard III”, The Australian Dance Party’s terpsichorean romp along the pathways of Lakes Tuggeranong, Ginninderra and Burley Griffin, and The Griffyn Ensemble’s performance of music by five indigenous Australian composers, “Songs from a Stolen Senate”.

Among the varying ventures will be an online debate from the National Dinosaur Museum, Belco Arts and Warehouse Circus’s “Enterprise a Risque”, which will see professionals and young Canberra circus artists and the Canberra Theatre’s commission for performance collective Boho Interactive create an interactive work about the future of Canberra.

Belco Arts and Warehouse Circus, “Entreprise a Risque”.

Hands-on events will be to the fore, with Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres hiring four professional artists to create a shared work with members of the public, PhotoAccess running a community photography program to explore Canberra’s neighbourhood waterways and Art For Aged Care running a hands-on workshop where recyclable household materials become new artworks.

A $240,000 investment in the ACT’s arts and events, “Where You Are” has a focus on supporting the sector through the COVID-19 pandemic, but it started life on the drawing board as an election-year winter arts festival called “Elsewhere”, to which the government allocated $225,000 and which, under the aegis of ArtsACT, would have highlighted the work of Canberra’s creatives who have forged careers “elsewhere”.

“Roar for Canberra”, Canberra Dragon Dance.

But that was dropped by ArtsACT in the face of the coronavirus disruptions and “Where You Are” is the result, now managed by EventsACT and part of the new “RISE Canberra” initiative announced by Minister Ramsay on May 26.

While the program announced today seems full of bounce and vigour, in contrast to the clear and self-explanatory “Enlighten” and “Floriade”, the enigmatic title is reminiscent of some other Canberra festivals, “You Are Here”, “I am Me” and “Art Not Apart”, with the potential to confuse rather than enlighten the public. Better to keep it simple.

 “Where You Are”, around Canberra, July 10 to September 11. All program details at


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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