Tasmania may be a small island but it knows how to have a good time, and has an overflowing calendar of music, arts and cultural festivals.
By Andrew Bain
Tasmanian festivals embrace the island's surrounds and seasons. Throughout summer, outdoor spaces host a tantalising list of food and music festivals, while in winter the state's focus turns to bonfires and a celebration of all things dark. Guaranteed at almost any festival are local themes and flavours, providing a glimpse into Tasmania as well as its appetite for the best of art and culture.
The best of the fests
The new year comes in loud and strong at the Falls Festival, on the shores of Marion Bay, about an hour's drive east of Hobart. Held over the final three days of the year, Falls invariably has a stellar list of acts. The 2016 line-up included the likes of London Grammar, the Avalanches and Bernard Fanning. Pitch a tent for the duration of the festival, stroll out to the beach for a swim, and head to the Village for morning yoga sessions and circus workshops.
Cygnet Folk Festival
The volume comes down a notch a week later at the Cygnet Folk Festival, held in the laid-back town of Cygnet, an hour's drive south of Hobart. This is one of Australia's premier folk festivals, attracting local and international acts. A festival campground is set up, and there are folk and world music performances over three days at venues throughout this small town of 1600 people. Workshops have in past years included skills such as old-time banjo, stand-up comedy and West African dance.
Mofo is a summer music and arts festival run by Hobart's famed Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) art gallery. The event is held over five days in January, including three days of concerts throughout almost every space (including driveways) at Mona. The festival is curated by former Violent Femmes bass guitarist Brian Ritchie, guaranteeing an eclectic line-up of world-class artists. Get the best of the experience with a three day Mona pass, which gives you access to every performance at the gallery.
Held across the second weekend in February under the elm trees in City Park in Launceston, Festivale brings together Tasmanian food, wine, arts and performance. More than 70 stalls serve up local produce, wine, beer, whisky and cider, with an outdoor theatre and roving buskers providing music, dance and other performances. Launceston sits on the fringe of Tasmania's major wine region in the Tamar Valley and wine masterclasses with some of the region's premier vignerons are a key feature of Festivale.
10 Days on the Island
The biennial 10 Days on the Island is Australia's only statewide multi-arts festival, briefly turning Tasmania into one big stage. Each festival has more than 200 international and local events and performances at more than 50 locations across the state, from major cities to the smallest of towns. There's music, theatre, visual arts and comedy, with performers including Martha Wainwright, Wil Anderson and Charlie Pickering lined up for 2017. It's held during March in odd-numbered years.
Dark Mofo is a dark and delicious winter arts festival that transforms Hobart into a wonderfully subversive experience. Running for two weeks in June, it's a celebration of all things darkness, with industrial public art, light and sound shows, music, a winter feast, and a nude winter solstice swim in the ice cold Derwent River. Creative takes on the dark theme have included gala costume balls at a funeral home and the public burning of 10,000 fears written on paper by festival goers.
Festival of Voices
More winter warmth comes at Hobart's Bonfire and Big Sing, an enormous community fire and singalong in Salamanca Place that forms part of Australia's largest festival devoted to vocalists and song. Festival of Voices events harmonise Hobart for two weeks each July, with an intriguing program of workshops, big name international acts, and celebrations of song and voice. It's a very inclusive festival – if you've ever fancied taking part in a vocal workshop that culminates in a sold out concert hall performance with a symphony orchestra, this is the event for you.
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