It’s time to unwrap the tasty Midsumma morsels as the Star Observer reveals its must-attend events during Melbourne’s queer culture season. Starting with festival highlights Carnival and T Dance this weekend, it looks to be a cracker of a three weeks.

Carnival & T Dance
It’s touted as queer Melbourne’s single largest event, and Carnival has a new home in 2011 as Birrarung Marr hosts the opening of the festival.

Attendees can expect the usual mix of sneak peeks at upcoming Midsumma events and special guests on Carnival’s two stages, including performances from Circus Oz, the cast of Xanadu, Dolly Diamond and Luke Gallagher, and Olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham.

The big breaking news of the event is Ruby Rose’s role as a special guest judge of the ever-popular Dulcie’s Dog Show. 2011 categories include ‘cutest bitch’ and ‘best owner and dog combo’.

Carnival runs from 11am-6pm with the official welcome kicking off on the Batman Stage at 2pm. Cost is by donation.

Up at T Dance is international headline act DJ Bimbo Jones. The duo have more that 45 dance chart #1s, having remixed the likes of Lady Gaga, Britney, Kylie, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Deep Dish, Janet and Usher.

Zoe Badwi and X Factor finalist Hayley Teal will also be lending their talented voices to the event, alongside Melbourne’s own DJ Nugget and Rob Gilbert.

Midsumma is also offering a limited release of VIP tickets which will give you access to the Moroccan-styled VIP Marquee where you’ll enjoy the view of all the action from the comfort of a suffah, as well as access to an exclusive bar.

Well hung
There’s a real emphasis on the visual arts at his year’s festival with some exciting exhibitions to peruse.

Don’t miss ManStyle at NGV’s Ian Potter Centre. The showcase of men’s fashion from the 18th century to present day features 80 works for inquisitive fashionistas. Matto Lucas’ Necrosis is a must for fans of the darker side of digital photography at fortyfivedownstairs as part of the Identity exhibition – Ryan Davis’ Naked Space is also worth a look-in there.

For those always intrigued by the artwork used in the advertising campaigns for the Trough parties, be sure to visit Club80 between January 15-24 to check out the photos, projections and props that make up the party.
All of these exhibitions are free.

Give back
Midsumma is also about community and there are numerous chances for attendees to give back during the festival.

The long-running Midsumma Mooning returns. The fundraiser for the David Williams Fund at the Laird Hotel is a chance to win prizes for lots of naughty activities while donating money to a fantastic cause.

The DT’s Golden Stiletto Rally is another great event for those after an Amazing Race-type experience through the streets of Richmond. A $5 donation gets you the clues to winning the event.

Centre Stage
There’s simply so much to choose from in terms of theatre and live acts in 2011, but the Star Observer has got its eye on a few different productions.

The Book of Spells – A Love Story sees master storytellers from Canada Jan Andrews and Jennifer Cayley tackle the tale of middle-aged women who decide to share a life together, and has garnered considerable buzz.

Over at Gasworks, Nath Valvo’s muse on the ‘Fag Hag’ and Suzy v. Samantha: Fur will Fly have great potential too.

We like to party
T Dance not enough for you? Us either. There’s plenty of time to let loose over January and February.

Blonde on the Bay has our vote for the girls and Trough X at Club80 has the boys covered. Orlando’s proven its ability to handle considerable indie fair, so check it out at the Victoria Hotel on January 28.

The ALSO Foundation will host its Boat People party on January 28 to raise money for the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council and we’re excited about the Rocky Horror-themed Midsumma wrap party at Red Bennies on February 11, complete with boylesque, drag kings, disco and cabaret tunes.

Go West
Hobsons Bay Council isn’t about to let Melbourne City have all the fun as the suburbs of Altona, Laverton and Williamstown welcome a swag of Midsumma events and international guests.

Williamstown Mechanics Institute will play host to a fiction writers’ workshop on January 17 and a series of queer films from January 18-20. A free sailing day on Altona Bay’s high seas on January 23, courtesy of Altona Yatch Club, will be worth a look.

There’s also a contemporary art exhibition at The Joel Gallery from January 29-February 13, featuring work from queer creatives in the west and be sure to check out Wes Snelling at the amazing Substation venue in Newport.

Stay cool
If you’re heading into town to check out all Midsumma’s offerings, don’t forget you can snap up a great deal at the groovy Cullen Hotel in Prahran.

Part of the Art Series group, the stunning boutique accommodation – inspired by the art of Adam Cullen – has partnered with Midsumma, so mention the festival when booking to receive special rates of accommodation. Bookings: call 1800 278 468.

For full Midsumma Festival details and to book tickets, visit www.midsumma.org.au

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