The organisers of Melbourne’s annual GLBTI festival, Midsumma, have launched their 2011 program with a swag of new initiatives and partnerships to further enhance its profile as one of the leading queer arts and cultural festivals in the world.

While the change of venue for Carnival and T Dance to Birrarung Marr is among the most exciting new ventures for the festival, the neatly-defined arts hubs for the line-up of events has provided an array of options for culture vultures.

Sircuit and The Glasshouse will host bars on the upper and lower terraces during Carnival for the first time, with special attendees such as the Sircuit ‘Buck & Ride’ bull, sure to delight the Carnival cowboys. The terrace set aside for T Dance is undoubtedly going to wow crowds with its exceptional views.

During the festival itself, venues such as The Butterfly Club are set to receive their usual traffic, but keep an eye on the likes of up-and-coming cabaret venue Kaye Sera’s Bizarre and Gasworks Arts Park, who’ve each put together an impressive program of shows.

The Bizarre’s drag make-up seminars, Kaye Sera’s Funky Fraulein and the Lobster Lounge should not be missed. Gasworks’ adult panto For the Love of Fritz, Nathan Valvo’s muse on the Fag Hag and the staging of Grease 2 live on stage should similarly prove big winners.

The western suburbs have well and truly arrived as major players in the line-up as well; the Joel Gallery and the striking Newport Substation venue are very deserving of a look-in.

Stand-alone shows like Trevor Ashley’s acclaimed Liza (On An E) – which sadly consists of only two performances – will sell out very quickly; it should be your first-stop for ticket purchases.

Midsumma runs from January 16-February 6. Tickets to events are on-sale from this week.

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Midsumma Festival and eFirst Group have launched the official Midsumma iPhone app. You can browse and search the 2011 program by date, venue and section, identify shows that are selling fast and sold out, read news, view venues in Google Maps, as well as get direction from your current location. It’s now available from the iTunes store.

For those travelling to Melbourne for the festival, 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.

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