BRISBANE will soon be home to the next prominent Australian LGBTI cultural festival that will run around the time of Midsumma and Mardi Gras, in an effort to showcase the city’s vibrant queer arts scene.

The MELT festival has been tagged as a celebration of queer arts and culture to complete an “east coast trilogy” of LGBTI festivals in Australia and is presented by the Brisbane Powerhouse.

Powerhouse artistic director Kris Stewart has lauded the new festival as a highlight on Queensland and Australia’s LGBTI arts calendar.

“We’re so excited to be a part of MELT and launch Brisbane’s queer arts festival with events within and beyond Brisbane Powerhouse,” he said.

“Being in February means we can collaborate with Midsumma and Mardi Gras and being almost exactly six months after Brisbane’s own Pride Festival will also create a great seasonal balance with a strong focus on the arts.”

Speaking to the Star Observer, the newly-appointed MELT festival director and artistic pioneer in Brisbane’s cultural scene, James Lees, who has produced events for the Brisbane Pride, Fringe and Cabaret festivals, said that the opportunity was one of a kind for the city.

He is also the composer and percussionist for popular alternative Brisbane band Silver Sircus.

“The MELT festival is a brand new idea for Brisbane, it’s a festival that is providing a platform for queer arts and culture to occur at the Brisbane Powerhouse and some other venues,” Lees said.

“It’s occurring around the time of Midsumma and (Mardi Gras) purely to serve a partnership and solidarity with them,

“It also means it can present another opportunity for nationally and internationally touring artists to come to Brisbane.”

Lees described the opportunity to lead the festival as a dream.

“It’s probably the most important thing for me as a queer Brisbane artist to have this festival emerge,” he said.

“I’ve been involved with the queer community in Brisbane since the early 1990s as an artist, producer and events coordinator. For me personally to help shape what MELT can be almost feels like a dream job.”

MELT has just started its submission process for LGBTI artists and creative acts to take part in the festival and Lees hopes to be surprised by what Brisbane has to offer.

“One thing I’m looking forward to with throwing open the gates of the submission process is getting all the weird and wild stuff that we could never imagine. I’m looking forward to having various acts that just are out of this world,” he said.

“My main background is as a musician so I’ve got some keen ideas on what MELT can bring and foster musically. I’d also love to see a great comedy section in there along with performing and creative arts.”

Lees added that he understood that festivals like MELT had a role to push boundaries.

“We haven’t discussed the issue of how risqué an act we can include in the festival but it’s a really interesting point and idea. It’s something I discussed during the Brisbane Fringe Festival and the general consensus was that there was no limit,” he said.

“It’s really something to consider with a queer arts festival. The notion that a lot of the forefront of artistic endeavour has historically come the LGBTI community… and that potentially makes it a really interesting festival for challenging ideas.

“It’s probably a bit too early to know where that limit is for MELT but the idea that arts festivals need to push the boundaries and challenge people is a given. It can be really interesting to see how artists interpret that through their work and I’m 100 per cent supportive of that.”

One of the key ideas behind establishing MELT is to foster and present an unique “Brisbane” personality to the rest of the country and world.

Just how the festival organisers hope to do that depends on the creative force they can attract.

“It will be interesting to see how we can take the personality of the city to this festival and make it feel ‘Brisbaney’,” Lees said.

“I’m hoping it can be represented in our name: what do you do in Brisbane during summer? You melt,” he joked.

MELT will incorporate the Brisbane Queer Film Festival (BQFF) into its program and Lees has borrowed from a similar model used in Toronto.

“The BQFF will retain its same identity, look and style that has seen it exist for 15 years and we want to make sure it continues to flourish into its 16th. We’re partnering up these events and they’re completely feeding and running off each other.”

According to its organisers, MELT will “incorporate music, visual arts, film and performance of all varieties, alongside special gala events” and submissions for artists are now open.

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