Frankston set to illuminate with an unforgettable 10-day South Side Festival

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Frankston set to illuminate with an unforgettable 10-day South Side Festival

words by Tyler Jenke

This May is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in Frankston's vibrant culture thanks to the impending kickoff of the 2023 edition of South Side Festival.

Innovative, thought-provoking, and immersive, South Side Festival made its debut just last year, with the eclectic event designed to aid the local community in reconnecting with artists following a difficult few years.

Following the success of its inaugural year, the festival is again set to return to Melbourne’s south-east, with South Side taking over the modern urban amenities and breathtaking arts precinct of Frankston from May 5th until May 14th.

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A 10-day celebration of art exhibitions, First Nations dance, light and sound installations, torch-lit tours, and live music, it’s on track to be an experience that lucky attendees won’t soon forget, with more than 60 artists heading up over 30 events and experiences.

Leading the list of myriad events on the South Side lineup is LuminoCity, a multi-discipline experience that aims to delight the senses across three immersive journeys. Taking you from an interactive sea, to a dazzling installation, and finally onto an underground digital playground, LuminoCity is is presented by White Night favourites Skunk Control, international lighting superstars Mandylights and also features the talents of South Australia’s own Patch Theatre.

Continuing the theme of visual brilliance will be Perth-born Academy Award-winning filmmaker Shaun Tan, who will bring his rarely-seen visual arts exhibition Rules Of Summer to the Frankston Arts Centre. Likewise, Karul Projects and choreographer Thomas E. S. Kelly will bring their powerful First Nations dance performance, SILENCE, to the Frankston Arts Centre on May 5th.

As Kelly explains, the production aims to break the titular SILENCE as it makes a demand for Land Back, calling upon live percussion and a troupe of dancers as they explore the past, present, alternate realities, and dreamscapes of the milky way and Murun, the emu in the sky.

SILENCE interprets what a 250 plus yearlong denial of meaningful listening to First Nations people has done to the psyche of the people and land,” Kelly explains. “Brown feet kick up sand, earth, dirt, and dust. The sand seeps through brown fingers as it always has. Always was, always will be.”

Visual arts exhibitions keep on coming thanks to Jenny Zhe Chang’s Light With Hope – Unity, a site-specific installation of 77 symbolic lanterns reflecting 77 cultural and ethnic groups living in the City of Frankston. Similarly, Eleesa Howard’s Edge Of Colour looks to celebrate the city of Frankston with an abstract celebration of the community’s beauty within the urban environment and the natural landscape.

Elsewhere, Australian/British actor and comedian Damien Warren-Smith returns home to bring his Garry Starr alter ego to South Side with a performance of his award-winning production, MILKE: Garry Starr Performs Everything.

Lovers of music are also well-taken care of, with numerous events set to appeal to lovers of all genres and styles. Having recently wrapped up a performance at Sydney WorldPride 2023, jazz singer and cabaret artist Mama Alto will bring That Song Changed My Life to South Side, as will Big Bao, whose MELD show is a transcendent and immersive celebration of live music, movement, dance, and lighting.

The life and legacy of late Australian choreographer Philippa Cullen will be celebrated in Dancing The Music at McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, while the other end of the spectrum will see Singing Bird Studios hosting Makeshift Mayhem, an all-ages showcase of heavy metal featuring names such as Diploid, Nembutolik, Rare Olives, and more.

Despite the dizzying list of events on offer, this barely scratches the surface of what attendees of this year’s South Side festival can experience, with countless free and ticketed events set to fill up schedules as the days go by. 

Alongside the aforementioned highlights, attendees can stumble upon Joseph O Farrell’s 10 Minute Dance Parties at the Frankston Library Forecourt, take in both games of roller derby and Carnivale on wheels at the Sk8House, enter festival competitions, or simply experience all the food, drinks, and local colour that the city of Frankston has to offer.

Even ahead of its launch on May 5th, the 2023 edition of the South Side festival is shaping up to be a big one, expanding upon its inaugural year and cementing Frankston as a cultural hub that often finds itself overlooked.

“We were so thrilled with the success of South Side’s first outing last year,” explained Festival Producer Freyja Macfarlane. “The super positive responses from audiences and the creatives involved gave us great inspiration and drive to continue to support the awesome local scene and bring innovative programming to Frankston.”

“We are driven to stimulate imaginations, transform perceptions, excite and entice and South Side Festival’s dynamic programming delivers on all counts,” adds Frankston City Council Mayor Nathan Conroy.

Whether you’re a Frankston local, or a visitor from the big smoke, this year’s dazzling list of events invites you to craft new experiences, to think differently, and see how it’s all done South Side.

The full program, ticketing information, and associated content warnings for specific events at South Side 2023 is available via the festival’s website.