Meet RISING, the new festival replacing White Night and Melbourne International Arts Festival

Meet RISING, the new festival replacing White Night and Melbourne International Arts Festival

Chinatown, image by City of Melbourne
Words by Tom Parker

The festival will be locally-focussed first and foremost.

There’s a new cultural being within the shadows of Melbourne’s expansive arts landscape. In previous years, White Night and Melbourne International Arts Festival have ignited the city with an artistic gusto largely unrivalled – in 2021, they will be no more.

In one of the most exciting developments in Melbourne’s cultural history, there’s a new player in town set to inject a newfound optimism into the arts and music scenes the city adores today.

Titled RISING, the new festival was set to take place this year but with the current uncertainty, the occasion will now enjoy its inaugural run in winter 2021. Tipped to be locally-focused first and foremost, RISING will invest $2 million in local artists to develop shows, exhibitions and events for inclusion in the festival program.

Within this, the festival sports an accessible expression of interest process, meaning the curation of RISING will be largely artist-led. For co-Artistic Director Hannah Fox (Dark Mofo, Mona Foma), the idea is to celebrate what’s on our doorstep before looking afar.

“It was something that when Gideon [Obarzanek] and I took on the job last year, we really wanted to … I guess pivot from the idea of bringing the best of the world to Melbourne, to really focusing on Melbourne as a cultural destination of itself,” Fox tells Beat Magazine. “But also acknowledging that Melbourne is a very international city and so are our artists – they live all over the world and all over the country and that Melbourne is the place where people often come to launch new records or mount new exhibitions or other events.

“So the festival and this commission are very much about reflecting the really diverse culture of Melbourne, in terms of the cultural makeup of the city, but also the really thriving themes amongst music, performing arts, visual arts, food and design all coming together under the one roof.”

Co-Artistic Directors Gideon Obarzanek and Hannah Fox

Alongside Fox and her co-Artistic Director Gideon Obarzanek, comes a large curatorial team comprising the likes of Woody McDonald (Meredith Music Festival, Golden Plains), Genevieve Lacey (Solveig, Soliloquy), Jeff Kahn (Performance Space), dancer and choreographer Amrita Hepi, Kimberley Moulton (Museums Victoria) and more.

Each of these transcendent artistic minds will engage in an open EOI process that will see them assess all submissions from interested artists.

“The first round of the process is really simple, it’s either submitting 300 words or a two-minute video just describing the idea,” Fox says. “That will then be assessed by our curatorial panel which is a really diverse group of people from all sorts of backgrounds and from not just Melbourne but from around the country and around the world. We will be looking for things that can only really happen in a festival context and not what would be happening in year-round, normal event time.

“So we’re looking for stuff that really engages with the public in a major way or that really reflects that moment in time and place.”

With today’s society more turbulent than ever, this exercise could prove especially fruitful and diverse. But the very instability that underpins this creativity could create its own headaches.

“I think [the current crisis] is a challenge in terms of not having any real certainty means that you can’t plan one way or the other and that you are continually running A, B and C plans, not only on international travel but social distancing and just how events will function,” Fox continues.

“But I also think it’s a massive opportunity for Australian artists. The likelihood is that a lot of festivals will be focused on Australian programming so although it’s pretty tough for artists and musicians in the industry right now, when we do start to come out the other side of it and events come back online there’s going to be a really strong focus on local work which is really positive – it’s a moment we should all take advantage of.”

RISING will hit Melbourne in winter 2021. Head to the festival website for more info.

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