Queensland’s sprawling coast always draws packed cars and caravans, but the state’s radiant warmth makes it equally suited to outdoor festivals and events during winter. It’s an idyllic setting to watch concerts by the beach, browse art amid the ocean air and soak up Australian cinema in the outback.
Whatever you fancy, Queensland’s winter festivals have something to entice. With a wide range of free events along with ticketed ones, accessibility is key to the season’s offerings. Here are five of our picks for the colder months – from a First Nations fashion show to queer cabaret and 10-minute dance parties.
Springtime (September 1-3)
Free and all-ages, this weekend dance party in Surfers Paradise is worth the trip just for each night’s headliners alone. That would be Bag Raiders (in DJ mode), Benee and Matt Corby, with the wider program anchored by wowing acts like Sycco, the Babe Rainbow, Grentperez, Eliza & the Delusionals, and Sunshine & Disco Faith Choir. Also expect a pop-up beachfront skatepark hosted by Vans, and a top-secret sequel to last year’s oversized slingshot installation. Springtime will integrate the Gold Coast Music Awards too, along with other vital in-roads to the area’s creative community.
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Australian Festival of Chamber Music (July 28 to August 6)
Every year, chamber musicians come from all around Australia – and internationally too – to share their craft against the seaside backdrop of Townsville. This year that includes a special concert on Orpheus island, complete with a whale-watching ferry ride. Other standouts range from a live score for Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent film The General to a family-friendly double bill of Ferdinand the Bull and Peter and the Wolf. Lectures and masterclasses will unpack specific aspects of chamber music, while composer/author Stephen Johnson will host an introduction to the venerable artform designed for all audiences and entry levels. And rather than try to catch everything, you can purchase single tickets and various ticket packages to plan your ideal immersion.
Bleach (August 3-13)
The Gold Coast’s multi-disciplinary Bleach festival spans a busy hub in Broadbeach as well as free live music and outdoor events in North Burleigh. The latter hub opens proceedings with a sunrise performance of Heartland by William Barton and Véronique Serret, featuring didgeridoo and violin with traditional songlines and poetry penned by Aunty Delmae Barton. Other highlights include Katie Noonan’s 50th anniversary tribute to Joni Mitchell’s Blue; a drag hybrid of comedy and cabaret from Beverly Kills; the skating-themed musical Roller Coaster and the queer-centred nightclub experience Bliss. Eddie Ray’s Silence of the Jam blurs the lines between movie and music, while Ma’p Boulé sees Nancy Denis unpack her entwined Black, Queer, Haitian and Australian identities. And among the free offerings are lengthy blocks of 10-minute dance parties that might just include some world-record attempts.
Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival (June 23 to July 1)
Marking a decade this year, Central West Queensland’s Vision Splendid film festival attracts movie lovers to the small outback town of Winton. It opens this year with a street party and a screening of Limbo, a black-and-white crime film that’s been earning Simon Baker some of the best praise of his career. (Bonus points go to director Ivan Sen, who shot most of 2013’s Mystery Road in Winton.) A pre-screening showcase will focus on work from Brisbane’s Griffith Film School, shot in the Winton area, and the packed wider program features recent Aussie movies such as Elvis and Of an Age. Also look out for older selections like 1978’s Money Movers and 1994’s Sirens, plus the closing night’s nationwide short film competition.
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (July 13-16)
All forms of First Peoples expression thrive at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF), from food and fashion to theatre and music. And, of course, visual art including paintings, sculpture and many other mediums. With a theme of “Weaving our Future: Claiming our Sovereignty”, this year’s fair will overflow from the Cairns Convention Centre to activations around the city. Of particular interest is the fashion show Woven, devoted to how First Nations knowledge can be integrated into specific choices in materials and techniques. Beyond performance, CIAF also includes artist talks, workshops, masterclasses and communal yarning and leaf-weaving events. At the centre of it all is the free-entry art fair that started everything, plus an art market where you can pick up plenty of handcrafted works from more than 50 stalls.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism and Events Queensland.