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Launceston's Junction Arts Festival had it all from music, to theatre, even cabaret

Featuring everything from a walking theatre production to a rock’n’roll after party in an actual hotel room, Junction Arts Festival returned this spring in style to showcase the best of Tasmanian arts in the heart of Launceston.

A stroke of genius saw the event shifted to the city’s Prince’s Square in 2016, creating a festival hub in an easily accessible and wonderfully picturesque location.
 
Launceston holds the kind of community usually reserved for small country towns, and it seemed locals were out in full force for the five-day festival. Family-friendly performances from the likes of Dr Hubble’s Bubble Show and Like It Or Loop It were popular with daytime festival-goers, while the events running into the night continued to draw large crowds.
 
Australian cabaret star Michael Griffiths treated audiences to two unique shows celebrating the respective careers of Annie Lennox and Madonna. Trusting in the imagination and belief of the crowd, Griffiths performed without donning a wig or makeup, integrating hit songs with a life story in a highly entertaining, live autobiography. His infectious personality embellished his performance, producing a set brimming with confidence, talent, and pure entertainment.
 
Adam Page brought more musical expertise to Junction with his show, YouTunes. Relying on audience participation to create songs live on stage, Page proved he is a genius with a loop pedal as he captivated the crowd for the entire set. He flaunted his impressive musicality in an impromptu duet between Page and an audience member – the latter’s surprising singing ability generating lasting applause.
 
The essence of Junction is its celebration of unique art, a theme epitomised in the performance of Uta Uber Kool Ja. Alongside her manager George, Uta brings together a room full of people in an immersive theatre experience that sees the audience become guests at an after party. Taking place in an actual hotel room complete with champagne and a spontaneous singalong of George Michael’s Freedom! 90, Uta’s party granted guests the chance to abandon their inhibitions and revel in the performance's unity and undeniable fun.
 
Described in only the vaguest of terms and with the forewarning to dress for the weather, ULG proved another worthy addition to the Junction program. The walking theatre production unfolded around the festival hub, from a carpark to the local synagogue, ending at Launceston’s Workers Club. The audience became part of a funeral, so immersed in the fictional death that the poignant story drew genuine emotion from the crowd. Wonderfully scripted, impressively performed, and a true festival highlight.
 
New to Junction in 2017, the Tamar Valley Taste Trip was also a definite standout of the program. The event was Tasmania at its finest, celebrating some of the best wine and food the state has to offer against the stunning backdrop of Tamar Valley at sunset. Adding a further touch of charm was the soundtrack provided first by talented harpist Emily Sanzaro, followed by a flawless performance from folk singer Claire Anne Taylor, and concluded with an impressive set from Tasmanian jazz/blues band Mangus & Co.
 
Junction covered an array of arts throughout the festival’s duration. Nightlight gave artists the chance to showcase their work around Prince’s Square, with everything from fluorescent window painting, fountain lights, and instant poems featured in the self-guided art walk. Live music performances frequently drew large crowds, while comedy was on show when Three’s A Crowd brought laughs to maintain the carefree, joyous air of Junction. The festival nights were complete with Nightcap, a jazz bar featuring sensational live music and the most nostalgic of outfits from attendees.
 
Whether you look at attendance, choice of setting, program design, or overall execution, 2017’s Junction Arts Festival was an undeniable success. It’s a wonderful feature of Launceston and one which will undoubtedly be a lasting attraction.

By Jessica Over