Every year there’s more and more reason to head to the Apple Isle for a good time, with music and performance festivals pushing the boundaries with arts experiences for both locals and tourists.
But before Dark Mofo and Mona Foma, there was Junction Arts and it’s back again in September with a new lineup of ground-breaking performances.
Now in its eighth year, Junction features art, food and wine, architecture and music events and sometimes a combination of any or all of those. Two of its points of difference are that it looks to host performances in lesser used venues in Launceston, but also favours events that include an element of audience participation.
About half of the events are free and very few of the tickets are over $25 each. The festival hub is in the heart of Launceston, in Prince’s Square, and it’s one of the highlights for Junction Arts Festival creative director Greg Clarke, who is also the artistic director of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and former CEO of Adelaide Fringe.
“It’s this beautiful 19th century English Square and it’s got that festival feeling to it. So much free music and bars and food, and you can taste Tassie produce, you can drink the local wine and there are these amazing bands playing for nothing in the square,” he says.
“There’s probably over 20 bands playing across the weekend, and it’s all free. Even on the Sunday we have an event called Acoustic Picnic presented by Music Tasmania and it’s all acoustic singer-songwriters performing, so you can chill out in the park and listen to all this amazing local music.”
The majority of the performers are local Tasmanian acts, with just a handful of mainlanders jetting in for shows. One of the performances Clarke is most looking forward to features local Indigenous artists who set out to create their own version of a Black Arm Band concert, an Aboriginal musical art collective which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.
“Journey of the Free Words was written by a great First Nations artist from Tasmania, Nathan Maynard, who wrote the play The Season that recently toured Australia,” Clarke says.
“He’s working with Tasmanian Aboriginal musicians and they’re putting on a music concert with a really interesting and historical look at the history of the genocide of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people. I think this is going to be quite a remarkable work.”
Another performance Clarke is particularly looking forward to is called Breathless. Staged inside Launceston’s oldest church, three very different Tasmanian singers will perform a work designed to “take your breath away”.
Medhanit Barratt is a contemporary singer-songwriter from Launceston, Adhi (comprising of vocalist Sakthi Ravitharan accompanied by Santhana Gopala Krishnan Vaidhyanathan on mridangam) perform South Indian classical carnatic music, and EWAH & The Vision of Paradise describe their music as “tough-noir-rock-meets-shimmering-new-wave”.
Overall the program is exceptionally broad, with theatre, dance, music, performance, installations, storytelling, cabaret, architecture, communal feasts, and even roller-skating. The Tweed Run is an annual bike ride around Launceston’s historic centre and landmarks.
It’s a sense of pride in Tasmania that drives the festival and its creative process and programming for Greg Clarke and despite an increasingly hectic festival schedule, Clarke has no doubts as to where Junction fits into the landscape.
“If you want to go to a festival and discover the best in Tasmanian music, food, wine, theatre performance, we’re the festival to go to,” he says proudly.
“I think that’s really where we’re differentiating ourselves. 97% of this year’s program is all Tasmanian artists.”