With covid-safe practices allowing a hint of normalcy back to the calendar, it was always going to be a blessing for those who can take advantage of the outdoors. Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen, with its verdant green space and parkland, was well-positioned to step up to the task. This summer they’ll host the first ever Heide Summer Festival.

It’s not the museum’s first step back from the brink of covid. It’s currently showing the work of essential Melbourne modernist Joy Hester. But from January 17 to March 7, the much-loved sculpture park at Heide will be home to live acts like Solomon Sisay, Emma Donavan and The Putbacks, The Deans, and Diimpa and Forest Collective to name a few, as the venue embraces live performance through an outdoor event series.

“We’re very lucky,” says public programs manager Bernadette Alibrando. “We have 16 acres of land so we're able to host outdoor events and support artists who have lost gigs over lockdown. This is the first time that we've really had anything on this scale, it’s very exciting.”

With the gardens around the museum creating a natural amphitheater, hosting live events has always been an area of interest for the Heide team. The pandemic has unexpectedly provided an opportunity to finally make the leap.

“Like everyone else we've had to twist and turn and be very flexible this year,” says Alibrando. “We've had a good look at what we can do and how we can partner with different organisations. We were also very fortunate to receive a grant from Creative Victoria to support the program, which has helped enormously.”

For Heide’s first serious foray into live performance, Bernadette’s goal was to try and cover as much ground as possible.

“We really wanted to create a diverse program that would cater to many different types of people,” she says. That was assisted by a trio of partners: Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Songlines Music Aboriginal Corporation, and Midsumma Festival, each of which will host various artists throughout the festival.

“It's really lovely to be able to support the Melbourne International Jazz Festival who had to postpone their festival this year,” says Alibrando. “We worked very closely with them on their curated program.”

The Jazz Festival performances will run over three Sundays in January, and features Solomon Sisay, Nichaud Fitzgibbon, and Allara Briggs Pattison. That’s followed by two weekends of performances in February by Indigenous artists, dancers and storytellers in collaboration with Songlines, and later in the month Midsumma Festival and Heide collaborate once again to deliver a weekend of events supporting LGBTQIA+ artists and community.

“Midsumma are presenting All The Queens Men and the unique pairing of Diimpa and Forest Collective, and Songlines will bring us performances by First Nations artists Emma Donavan and The Putbacks, The Deans, Djirri Djirri Dance Group and storytelling with Uncle Larry Walsh,” says Alibrando. There will also be free youth bands showcasing the next generation of talented jazz and pop/rock artists.

Heide has strict safety guidelines in place but the advantage of its large grounds means social distancing is less of a problem. “There is a lot of room for people to gather in the grounds and have picnics without being too close to one another,” she says. “This is ideal in regards to ensuring we are covid-safe. Plus it has been helpful to work with the other organisations who have a lot of experience dealing with events on a much larger scale. Being able to share information and learn from them has been invaluable.”

After the year the arts has had in Melbourne, being able to support other organisations and artists is a big part of what is driving the event.

“Many artists, particularly performing artists, have had a terrible year,” says Alibrando. “Not everyone was able to receive JobSeeker or JobKeeper. We all felt it, and it's really important to support each other. To be able to reach out and give a hand is lovely. It’s our community.”

See the full program, information and details.

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Heide.