Rising returns this winter for its fourth edition. And this year’s iteration of the winter arts festival, which transforms central Melbourne into a nexus of performance, music and art, is the longest one yet. Running from June 1 to June 16, this year’s program has been designed to take in three weekends, with the King’s Birthday long weekend serving as the festival’s climactic midway point.

“We’re focused more heavily on the weekends this year, as response to where the activity was last year,” says Hannah Fox, Rising’s co-CEO and co-artistic director, “so we have three big weekends rather than two.”

Following on from the successes of previous years, such as last year’s cacophonic Fed Square performance featuring 10,000 kazoos, Rising is doubling down on inclusive, large-scale participatory events that the public can get involved with.

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“I think Rising is really about those truly live events that can’t be experienced in any other way, that bring the audience to the centre,” Fox says. “That spirit of participation, ritual and live-ness is really core to our program.”

Another focus of the program is to host events that challenge the audience, provoking discomfort and encouraging discussion.

“It’s about new work that pushes us into new places, in some ways,” says Fox. “It’s important for an arts festival in Melbourne to not just be polite entertainment, for there to be works that challenge in there, and that’s the case in the festival we’re presenting this year.”

The long weekend event that can’t be missed

Day Tripper is an all-day party on Saturday June 8 at the Melbourne Town Hall and the surrounding precinct – including Max Watts and the Capitol Theatre’s cinema – that shows off Rising at its multidisciplinary best. “It’s really responding to program overwhelm,” Fox says. “Some people do look at our program and go, ‘I don’t know where to start,’ so we’ve curated a whole day of music, dance, art and film across a whole city block, that’s all under the one ticket. We’ve done all the work for you – you just need to turn up.” It includes performances from post-punk outfit Bar Italia, Indian disco heavyweight Asha Puthli, and a tribute set to MF DOOM by hip-hop legend Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def).

Crowd-pleasers and audience participation

Shouse, the electronic duo whose 2017 single Love Tonight, recorded in a Brunswick warehouse, has become a billion-stream hit, are revisiting the idea of collective creation with Communitas, which will take place in St Paul’s Cathedral. One thousand people are invited to gather, sing and make music together. The result will then be made into a song – with proceeds from the song’s release shared among participants. For more participatory experiences, check out 8/8/8: Rest. The follow-up to 8/8/8: Work – the second instalment in a planned triptych – runs from 9pm to 5am at the Melbourne Arts Centre, and will take attendees well into the guts of the building over the course of the evening. “It’s looking at these ideas of capitalism and identity, and how our sleep and rest is being co-opted for productivity,” says Fox. “Done by really smart theatre makers who know how to do participation well.” There’s also Food – a dinner party hosted by an illusionist that’s heavy on the illusions and light on the dinner. “You will leave hungry,” Fox says. “You probably won’t get much rest at Rest and you probably won’t get much food at Food.”

You, Beauty, the latest show by Melbourne dance company Chunky Move, set within the Melbourne Immigration Museum’s Long Room, is one to seek out. “It’s going to be absolutely stunning,” Fox says. “It’s new work, a performance inside an inflatable, where the dancers and the audience are inside it together.”

A glut of gigs and parties

If you’d prefer to cheer people on from the sidelines, don’t miss One Song, devised by Flemish artist Miet Warlop. It’s one rock song, performed by a crew of musicians simultaneously running an obstacle course of balance beams, treadmills and trampolines. The concert ends once they’re basically too exhausted to play anymore. “It’s an art-versus-sport marathon where the audience ends up really barracking like it’s football,” Fox says.

Other concerts to catch include Sky Ferreira making her first performance in Australia since 2015, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) performing his elusive, unstreamable album The Ecstatic, local boys Good Morning touring their latest album in a rare hometown show, and a soulful performance by Tuareg musical collective Tinariwen. There will also be sets from Egyptian-Australian DJ Moktar and Mount Druitt drillers OneFour, plus trance bangers from Evian Christ, and massive shows from big acts such as Fever Ray and the Dirty Three. And that’s just scratching the surface. Other standouts include an opening night tribute to Melbourne arts maverick Shannon Michael Cane; Acid Brass, acid house performed by brass bands; Hear My Eyes: Hellraiser, a live re-scoring of the horror classic Hellraiser; and Crip Rave Theory – an inclusive and accessible club night. That’s not to mention the array of things to discover at the festival’s social hub Night Trade. It’s a warren of installations, exhibitions, eateries, micro-bars, and performances in the laneway network underneath the Capitol Theatre, connected to Howey Place.

First Nations focus

First Nations artwork and stories have always been a key part of Rising’s curatorial remit, and this year is no different. Head to Fed Square for The Blak Infinite, a collection First People’s art and culture anchored by the Richard Bell installation Embassy, inspired by the tent embassy at Old Parliament House in Canberra. By the Yarra, a new version of acclaimed sound work The Rivers Sing returns to Rising. Further up Swanston Street, on the facade of the State Library, you’ll also find Pay the Rent – a visual representation of the calculated debt owed to First Nations people by the government since Federation. There’s also Eclipse. This new Rising commission, based out of Melbourne Town Hall, is described as “a First Peoples future- forward that spans the ages – into Blak queer future that awaits us all.” And Melbourne’s art trams will once again be adorned in a variety of newly commissioned pieces by First Nations artists.

General tickets for Rising are on sale from 12pm, Thursday March 14.

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Rising. Rising is an initiative of the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria and Visit Victoria.