After almost two years of cancelled, postponed and restricted events, Australians can’t wait for our festivals to return to normal… and there’s plenty to look forward to in 2022.
“I think festivals are going to go really well because people have missed being with people,” said Karena Armstrong, co-director of Tasting Australia. “Streaming or Zoom is not the same as being near someone else who’s also feeling that energy and that excitement and the anticipation of sharing the experience.”
Tasting Australia, starting in April, is South Australia’s premier food festival, with events held across the state. Highlights this year include an overnight expedition to Coober Pedy for incredible dining experiences, a one-night-only dinner with Maggie Beer, and affordable lunches in the centre of Adelaide.
“This year we’re really focused on accessibility, so the lunches are a main course and glass of wine for $40 a person and even all our top headlining international chefs are doing that,” Ms Armstrong explained.
South Australia also has the Adelaide Fringe starting in February, the Adelaide Festival in March and the OzAsia Festival from October – plus one Ms Armstrong always looks forward to.
“I’ve got three children and we go to WOMADelaide every year and it’s a really calm, great, safe musical festival. Going from stage to stage through the beautiful Adelaide parklands, it’s ethereal and it almost makes me feel like I’ve been transported to Spain.”
Melbourne’s cultural scene is certainly ready to take off this year, and there are high expectations for the new Rising festival, which had its inaugural year cancelled in both 2020 and 2021. It’s due to go ahead in June, with more than 130 arts events across Melbourne.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival was also curtailed last year but its director, Susan Provan, has big plans this year and headliners include Stephen K Amos, Arj Barker and Urzila Carlson.
“It will be exciting to see the new work that has emerged from the last two years,” Ms Provan said. “It’s been tough for comedians because they develop work in front of live audiences and stage time has been really compromised. But despite all that, I reckon there will be great work to see.”
The Healesville Music Festival is back in February and November this year, the Port Fairy Folk Festival is on in March, and Groovin the Moo returns to Bendigo in May. Ms Provan is cautiously optimistic about how the year is coming together.
“I’m looking forward to Melbourne Fringe getting a full, live run in 2022,” she said. “And I’m also looking forward to a day at the Australian Open.”
Vivid Sydney was another major celebration forced to cancel because of the pandemic but Gill Minervini has taken over as festival director this year with some bright ideas.
“We have refreshed and reimagined the festival and that is something I can’t wait to share with our audiences – new directions, old favourites and lots of surprises,” she said.
Before Vivid, the Great Southern Nights festival will see hundreds of music events at venues all across NSW in March and April, while the Sydney Writers’ Festival will be held in May and the Sydney Film Festival is on in June. Ms Minervini has a couple of other events she particularly recommends.
“I love Sydney Festival – it’s great to be able to celebrate Sydney in summer with an arts festival of that calibre. If you haven’t been to the Elvis Festival in Parkes, then do yourself a favour – music on every street corner, everyone dressed to impress, NSW country hospitality – what’s not to love?”
One festival that’s always evolving is the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival in Winton, about nine hours’ drive west of Rockhampton. The Queensland town has been dubbed “Hollywood of the Outback” because of the number of films made here and the June festival has screenings in an original open-air cinema, a dinner and silent movie in a theatre, and another celebrity inducted into the Winton Walk of Fame.
“In 2022 we are also introducing Industry Days into the program, where key industry professionals will be in Winton to contribute to panel discussions, workshops and masterclasses, including the Indigenous Writers Lab for emerging Indigenous storytellers,” said festival director Mark Melrose.
While Australia’s capital cities have some incredible festivals planned for this year, some of the most fascinating events are in more remote areas, including two that Mr Melrose recommends.
“The Big Red Bash in Birdsville has great Aussie bands and acts from around the country playing in front of Big Red, the gateway to the Simpson Desert,” said Mr Melrose. “And the other one is the Mt Isa Rodeo, a truly Aussie Outback experience with the toughest cowboys from around Australia competing for the honour of being crowned champion.”
With plenty of diversity in Australia’s 2022 festival offerings, there’s certainly something for everyone.