True North: Reservoir Arts Festival

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True North: Reservoir Arts Festival


“We want to celebrate the unique identity of Reservoir,” explains festival director Craig Rogers, “not shy away from the quirkiness or the oddities of life here, but really embrace it and celebrate it. We want to prove to people that life in the suburbs doesn’t have to be boring, and that High St, Northcote is not the end of the arts world. There are a number of amazing artists who work all over the world, who live in Reservoir, and so it’s really about trying to educate people and show people that Reservoir is an amazing place to be.”

The initial notion for True North was conceived nearly four years ago, but only in the last 12 months has the City of Darebin actively focused on bringing this unique festival to the underutilised streets surrounding Reservoir’s main precinct. It’s taken a lot of work by a lot of people, and Rogers can’t believe the weekend is upon them at last – his excitement is palpable as he runs through what the intrepid visitor can expect.

“One of the things that I think is probably most exciting for us,” he elaborates, “is we’ve established Reservoir’s first pop-up bar, called the Compass Club. We’ve programmed free entertainment every night there during the festival. On opening night we have free live music including Yeo, Susy Blue and Tek Tek Ensemble – three amazing bands who I really love. On Saturday night we have a free comedy night featuring Nelly Thomas, Kate McLennan, Wes Snelling as Tina del Twist and Simon Palomares from Wogs Out of Work. Then on the Sunday night we have a free burlesque night organised by the Australian Burlesque Festival.”

In fact, with the exception of Sunday’s ticketed Tea Parties hosted by new local business Lady Bower Kitchen, all the events and attractions of the three-day festival are free. And True North is not just limited to live acts.

Reservoir is demonstrating that it’s just as versatile as its inner-city kinsmen, hosting its very own open air Laneway Cinema, in an attempt to bring locals out from behind their curtains. Opening night will see Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane splashed across the bricked lane, followed by Saturday night’s screening of the dystopian classic, Metropolis. “It’s really about bringing people out of their homes and viewing Reservoir in a new way,” says Rogers. Coming out to the streets doesn’t necessarily mean giving up the comfort of your lounge room though. The Lounge Room Project, by Leah Popple, is art made interactive. At various locations around the neighbourhood, makeshift lounge rooms will appeared, complete with sofas, coffee tables and writing desks where punters are encouraged to pen letters to pals.

Rogers hopes that True North will shine a light on local businesses too.

“We have one project called Food for Thought, where four local artists have been given a challenge to create art pieces from food purchased within stores in Reservoir. So one of our artists has been given a deli; one, a Coles; another artist has been given a home produce store; and the final artist has been given a cake store. Each of the artists purchased $100 worth of items from inside their assigned store, and then has created an essentially edible art installation [with those items] in the shops front window – all of which will be on display throughout the weekend.”

The rest of the True North program boasts other attractions just as unique. On Saturday, Bec’s Tree House will dress up as a boat house for the day – come in, create and contribute a fish or a boat to the nautical community art installation. Meanwhile, Reservoir Library will be playing host to a Recycle Book Sculpture Workshop, where artist Julie Proe will help you breathe new life into tired books. Running alongside the Darebin Community and Kite Festival at Edwardes Park, True North attendees will also be privy to skateboarding competitions, BMX demos, DJs, animal farms, free face painting, a sky full of kites by day and sky full of fireworks by night. Watch out for live music performances by Darebin locals who have fashioned their instruments out of rubbish – sustainability is an overarching theme of the True North ethos. And pay close attention to the trees as you meander through the streets: they may be trying to tell you something.

While it is a Darebin festival celebrating the local area, Rogers says the focus is about the larger community as whole. “One of our big aims with True North is to bring other people into Reservoir as well,” he insists. “It’s not just about engaging with the local residents, it’s also about encouraging people in Collingwood and Brunswick and Northcote to maybe make the train trip – a little bit further than they would usually go – and experience this fabulous festival and life in the suburbs.”