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Australia's Best Winter Festivals That Will Make You Actually Want to Go Outside

From nude swims in Hobart to all-nighters in Melbourne, these arts festivals are made for winter weekenders.
By Lauren Vadnjal and Concrete Playground
April 15, 2019
By Lauren Vadnjal and Concrete Playground
April 15, 2019


From nude swims in Hobart to all-nighters in Melbourne, these arts festivals are made for winter weekenders.

When winter hits — and you know when it really hits — pressing command+A and delete on all your iCal entries seems like a rational thing to do. But hold your horses, cold one — there are a few festivals happening that you won't want to miss out on.

In recent years, Australia has developed quite the winter events calendar. With Vivid's lights hitting every visible surface in Sydney, Melbourne's White Night moving to August for the first time, and hedonistic shenanigans happening down in Hobart for Dark Mofo, there is plenty to inspire a break from hibernation. So pull your calendar back up and block out a weekend to have a winter adventure out of town or interstate.

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    Dark Mofo 2019

    Australia’s most sinister festival, Dark Mofo, is back for its seventh year — and it’s set to be as boundary-pushing as ever. As always, the festival will take place in the lead up to the winter solstice, exploring connections between old and contemporary mythology through art installations, performance, talks and music — all taking place in the darkness of Tasmanian winter.

    Hosted by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Dark Mofo will takeover most of Hobart between June 6–23, showcasing a melting pot of artists, creatives and thinkers who dwell in the shadows of mainstream culture. The lineup includes performances by FKA Twigs, an audiovisual ‘soundbath’ by Sigur Rós, and the return of Night Mass, a ritualistic series of multi-venue late-night parties featuring Sampa the Great, FAKA and Empress Of.

    The festival’s dark and quirky arts lineup has grown, too, with the addition of a latex-filled installation and performance by Japan’s Saeborg and an immersive group exhibition — of ten international artists, including Canada’s Cassils, USA’s Paul McCarthy and India’s Shilpa Gupta — inside the former Forestry Tasmania Building. Of course, all the festival favourites are set to make a triumphant return, too. You’ll be able to drink and eat amongst inverted crosses and candles at the Winter Feast, try not to freeze during the very cold Nude Solstice Swim and absolve your sins at Night Mass.

    Images: Rémi Chauvin.
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    Vivid Sydney 2019

    Vivid, Sydney’s annual festival of light, music and ideas, is returning for 23 days and nights this winter. The most overt (and unavoidable) aspect of the program is the lights, and for the second year running their glow will head across the bridge to light up Luna Park. It will extend the reach of the CBD’s Light Walk from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Barangaroo with a collection of 50 large-scale projections stretching along the walk’s three kilometres. The Sydney Opera House’s sails will this year be lit up with hypnotic images of Australian flora from LA artist and video maker Andrew Thomas Huang (who has previously created music videos for Björk), and Customs House will be transformed into an underwater wonderland.

    Vivid Music is once again in fine form. As was previously announced, The Cure will do four shows at the Sydney Opera House from May 24–28 — the band’s only Australian shows this time round. Tickets have already been allocated via ballot, so we hope you jumped on that already. Joining them for the Vivid Live component of the program at the Opera House will be folk rock singer Sharon Van Etten, performing hits of her poignant new album Remind Me Tomorrow, American singer Maggie Rogers and Perth up-and-comer Stella Donnelly, who’s heading to the harbour city fresh off the back of the release of her new album Beware of the Dogs. Another big one is a performance from FKA Twigs who’s bringing her experimental dream pop to Carriageworks, and Rüfüs Du Soul will take over the arts precinct for three nights of electro bangers on June 13, 14 and 15.

    Live music gigs will also be held across the city as part of the program, including at the Lansdowne, Ziggy’s hairdresser and 107 Redfern. Vivid Ideas is, of course, back for those keen to delve into creativity, science and technology — and this year it’s scored Spike Lee as its big-ticket speaker. Lee will be in town to chat about his personal political views as well as his award-winning 2018 flick BlackKklansman.

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    White Night Reimagined 2019

    Since 2014, White Night has brightened up Melbourne with an all-night arts festival each February. But this year, the popular evening is shifting to a new winter berth. While the exact program won’t be revealed until closer to the event, White Night has made the move to August as part of a huge new winter festival taking over Carlton Gardens, Birrarung Marr and the National Galley of Victoria. The after-dark spectacle itself will still only run over a single evening, but the broader fest will be a three-day affair, running from August 22–24, complete with music, design, film, food, performance and street art events.

    Part of the move is inspired by Melbourne’s long mid-year nights, with the lengthier stint of darkness allowing White Night’s luminous activities to kick off earlier — meaning that artists have more hours to play with, and families can enjoy an earlier start time. Aiming to become one of Victoria’s signature events, the overarching multi-day festival will build upon 2018’s bigger White Night program. There’ll be more installations, more live music, more on-street projections and more restaurants and galleries opening all night. We’ll update you as soon as the program drops.

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    WinterWild 2019

    Victoria’s answer to Dark Mofo, WinterWild, is returning to Apollo Bay for two weekends this August. While last year’s after-dark winter arts festival was structured around the death and birth, this year’s theme is ‘visions and ecstasies’. Creeping into the coastal shire on the eastern side of Cape Otway, the festival will take place on the weekends of August 16–18 and August 30–September 1.

    While the program is yet to be released, if it’s anything like last year, each evening will begin with a ceremonial bonfire on the beach. You’ll start with warming food and drinks before moving onto the rest of the shows and festivities. Mark these weekends in your calendar — we’ll update you with more details once the program has been announced.


Image: Dark Mofo nude swim by Rosie Hastie.


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