What's On

RISING Festival’s Mammoth 2021 Program Unpacked

By Kate Fleming

You might have already seen some of the announcements for RISING trickling through your feed, like the Melbourne Art Trams, the Patricia Piccinini’s showstopper exhibition and our initial announcement way back in May 2020, but today is the big day when we announce EVERYTHING. We’re not normally ones for crunching numbers, but with 133 events, including 36 world premieres, featuring 750 Victorian artists over 12 epic nights, these figures speak for themselves. 

Basically, this new major cultural event is up there with the big guns in Melbourne’s event calendar, so we’re here to help you plan your itinerary and check off the big ticket items for the premiere festival. We don’t have the space or time to mention every event—we’re busy running a website over here—so we’ll take you through the highlights that we know you’re going to love. 

If you’re late to the party, here’s the rundown: “RISING is a festival of unrepeatable, site-specific performance and large-scale public art” says co-artistic director Hannah Fox, “The vision for RISING is centred on the idea that culture is a human right. This means really embedding art, music and ceremony in public spaces and creating opportunities for participation.” Danny Pearson, the Minister for Creative Industries says, “[RISING] brings together hundreds of our artists, musicians, choreographers, writers, theatre makers, designers and hospitality stars to create a memorable 12-night event for all Victorians to enjoy.” So in the spirit of community comradery, there will be loads of free events and immersive public spaces across the five key locations: Chinatown, Birrarung, Arts Precinct, Midtown and Satellite sites.   

Things To Do And See

Some of our favourite Melbourne sites will be transformed for the event, starting with the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The beloved amphitheatre is turning into The Wilds—a supernatural forest complete with an ice skating rink on the stage. Enter through a bamboo forest, traverse through architectural tunnels of light, see large-scale sculptures and skate the night away to the soundtrack of a DJ. The National Gallery of Victoria is also becoming a performance space thanks to percussion artist Matthias Schack-Arnott and renowned choreographer Lucy Guerin. Their installation, Pendulum, features suspended bells which respond to dancers’ movements by tolling, humming and swinging through the space. 

It’s nudity on the dancefloor so you better not kill the groove at Queen Victoria Women’s Centre Club Purple. That’s right, it’s a naked disco. But before you freak out—or get too excited, depending on what you’re into—this disco is a naturalistic, alcohol-free, wholesome event designed to help you shed inhibitions and get dancing. Go for a solo session or take your mates of choice for a private booking. Strictly no stranger danger at this disco.  

If you want to keep your clothes on though, then we’d recommend taking a trip to the Golden Square carpark—a “swirling vortex of contemporary art”. For this festival-long art takeover, the car park will be reimagined as a space for art and ideas. There’s also going to be a rooftop bar so that’s always a bonus. Start up the top and work your way down for an artistic ride that looks at migration, colonisation, technology, consumerism and the environment—big stuff. 

For something out of town, go for a night of intimate and scary cinema at the Deep Throat Drive-In at Dromana. The brainchild of cinematographer Sandi Sissel with Willoh Weiland and James Brennan, this filmic journey examines misogyny tropes and celebrates queer, feminist and erotic cinema in a grand celebration of non-binary and gender diverse experiences.

Undeniably the tear-jerker of the festival, The Dispute features kids taking to the stage to describe their parents’ separation in their own words—we know, it’s A LOT. Take some tissues and prepare for one of the most moving, wholesome, beautiful and brave theatre evenings of your life. 

Live Music To Hear

Definitely making up for the drought of live music last year, RISING is bringing some of our favourite musos back to the stage. Julia Jacklin is back two years after the release of her stunning album Crushing, and she’ll be joined at the Comedy Theatre by Melbourne-based artist Kee’Ahn. The beloved indie-rock band Augie March will be taking to the stage too for the 21st birthday of their Sunset Sounds album—makes you feel old, doesn’t it?—and performing the album in full at the Melbourne Recital Centre

One of the standout events of the festival is Buŋgul—an intimate look at the inspiration behind Dr Gurrumul Yunupiŋu’s posthumous album Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow). The performance is directed by Senior Yolŋu Don Wininba Ganambarr and Nigel Jamieson, in collaboration with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It will be a moving culmination of dance, song and art that inspired the late great musician, within the spectacular surrounds of Hamer Hall.

Food To Eat

Mess Hall will be the foodie hub of RISING at the Melbourne Town Hall. The concept-driven food and drink experiences bring together some of our fav chefs and cuisines, from Late Night Yum Cha to the Stock Exchange big ol’ broth cookup. There will also be a nightly four-course banquet Dinner Party in the Main Hall which will be soundtracked by the grand 147 rank pipe organ—it’ll be quite the atmosphere.

We’re saving our stomachs though for the rebirth of Tjanabi, the legendary restaurant by First Nations Boon Wurrung senior elder Dr Carolyn Briggs AM. As chairperson for the Boon Wurrung Foundation, Briggs knows a thing or two about native ingredients. Her food draws on traditional techniques and flavours that have been enjoyed on Country for thousands of years. Through this multi-course meal, you’ll traverse the past and be introduced to the future of First Peoples food culture. 

 If you’re feeling ambitious, go check out all 133 events over on the website. The festival rises on Wednesday 26 May and wraps up on Sunday 6 June, so start your planning now. 

Meanwhile, check out our top picks for Melbourne Design Week happening now.

Image credit: supplied

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