When James Lees says that recommending just six events from MELT 2017 is like picking children, he’s hardly leaning on clichés. Lees guided the first-ever MELT into existence as Festival Director in 2015, so he has strong ties to Queensland’s annual celebration of LGBTIQ+ voices in the performing and visual arts.

Director Adam Gardnir created the 2016/2017 program, but Lees will be back in the chair for 2018. Here he guides Broadsheet through the fun and fiery 10-day program.

MELT Beauty Pageant 2017
“This is a highlight of the festival’s opening night. It takes the form of a beauty pageant for drag performers and genderqueer performers of all kinds. There’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek quality to it. It’s very much about bringing the community together – anyone can enjoy it, you don’t necessarily have to be part of the drag scene.”

MELT Portrait Prize
“This is another strong community engagement event. It started last year and it was such a success we had to bring it back. It’s a wonderful way to not only engage with a lot of queer artists but also see people in the community represented in so many different ways. There are 18 portraits in the exhibition, one of which will be awarded the prize. It’s a showcase of the diversity of the community, as well as artistic talent. It’s free and runs for the duration of the festival.”

Hedwig 15
“Forgive me for blowing my own trumpet a little but this is one I’m actually producing myself. It’s called Hedwig 15, for the fifteenth anniversary celebration of the classic queer film Hedwig and the Angry Inch. We screen the film, then we have a live band with five lead singers who perform the soundtrack in order as a party performance. There will be a bar in the theatre and we encourage people to dress up. This is for any fans of queer films and theatre, and any fans of punk and glam rock especially.”

MELT Talks: Steven Oliver and Georgie Stone
“This is a new stream for the MELT Festival this year. It involves informal conversations between queer speakers and Radio National’s Paul Barclay. There are two: one is with Steven Oliver, Brisbane writer, actor, performer and comedian best known for the TV show Black Comedy; and the other is Georgie Stone, a teenage transgender woman talking about her story as a transgender youth. There’s a real appetite for people to come and not just have a party and enjoy the theatre, but also hear incisive conversations from really intelligent people in the queer community.”

On a Night Like This
“This is written and performed by Lizzie Moore. It’s totally fictional and follows the “career” of the lesser-known third Minogue sister, Erin Minogue, as she fights to justify her surname and become a famous singer. It’s incredibly silly and so funny. It was part of the MELT festival in 2015 but it did so well, and is so great, we had to bring it back.”

An Evening with Amanda Palmer
“Amanda Palmer is our international guest this year. What’s interesting about this event for me is that she’s not a flag-waving, queer-identifying performer, but is just generally a progressive, highly inclusive artist. She has such a strong queer audience, and it’s great to have the diversity of not everyone in the festival being openly queer. She cuts across a lot of audiences, she’s an activist and a fantastic singer, obviously. These two performances on closing weekend will just be Amanda solo, which will be a really powerful way to end the festival.”

MELT 2017 runs from Wednesday January 25 to Sunday February 5 at the Brisbane Powerhouse.