THIS year’s instalment of Midsumma Festival was once again a veritable highlight of Melbourne’s summer calendar, with arguably our biggest and best festival ever.

Our performing arts program had some truly magnificent offerings such as Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, a dark but funny musical at Chapel Off Chapel; Trevor Ashley at the Melbourne Arts Centre with a Liza Minelli twist on “the shows that she never performed”; and Michael Griffiths and Carlotta with highly acclaimed shows at fortyfivedownstairs.

Superb offerings from rising local playwrights were a joy to behold. For example: Fraternal (by Jake Stewart), a professional and sympathetic treatment of brotherly love; and Member (by Ben Noble), a different take on Sydney’s gay hate murders of the 1980s and 1990s.

Three venues programmed a mini-festival within Midsumma. One of them was Gasworks Arts Park whose program included Elegy, a moving play and exhibition about asylum seekers; Playtime, which sought to develop new LGBTI-themed works for eventual distribution to mainstream audiences; the sexy circus event Uncovered, and much more. Meanwhile, La Mama theatre had a total of 12 different shows, providing opportunities for development of new works in particular, and Hares and Hyenas had their diorama of twisted cabaret, off-beat comedy, spicy spoken word, dynamic discussion, launches, exhibition, bent books and potent performance.

The success of our two inaugural visual arts competitions was particularly pleasing: the Guide Cover Competition, to choose the guide cover for Midsumma 2016; and the Australia Post Arts Prize. The standard of submissions to both was really high and they helped fulfill our objective to “nurture, support, showcase and promote opportunities for emerging and established artists”.

Our Visual Arts program was excellent across the board this year, with contributions from a diverse range of exhibitors — from the high-profile to novice artists and everything in between. The exhibitions ranged from simple historical accounts, to sculpture and traditional art forms, to Allison Bennett’s high-tech Visual Drag exhibition at Testing Grounds.

Magnificent weather for our signature outdoor events, Carnival, T Dance and Pride March, saw record turnouts and a wonderful vibe for both. It was great to see such diversity and colour, with everyone happily just being themselves. Despite the heat we had very few incidents, with crowds being extremely well behaved.

This year we had more forums than ever before, most of them with at-capacity audiences and some with superb musical offerings across different genres. As usual, there were also picnics, trivia nights, sporting events and different types of parties.

Volunteers are essential to us being able to deliver such a large festival with so few staff, and this year they were magnificent, ensuring that audiences were welcomed and cared for in a truly professional but friendly manner.

Midsumma is an open access festival, which means that anybody is able to register an event as part of our festival. If you, or somebody you know, has a great idea for a Midsumma event, now’s the time to start planning for that. If you’re not quite sure how or where to start, please get in touch with the Midsumma office. Email us at admin@midsumma.org.au to workshop your ideas, or simply get some advice.

The Midsumma Team — Details: www.midsumma.org.au

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of Midsumma.

PHOTO GALLERIES:

Carnival 2016 (pt I)         Carnival 2016 (pt II)

T-Dance 2016                    Midsumma Pride March 2016

Midsumma Pride March 2016 (pt II)

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**This article was first published in the April edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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