Australia’s hottest winter arts festival, Darwin Festival returns in 2020 bringing DF20 Homegrown to the Top End. The festival will showcase the Territory’s very best talent, with this year’s program overflowing with live and online events.

Kicking off on Thursday August 6 Until Sunday August 16, DF20 Homegrown will host the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and the National Indigenous Music Awards, with both events streaming online for the first time. The festival will also host the virtual award ceremonies for the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and the National Indigenous Fashion Awards.

Opening night events include Housewarming, which will be a weekend of digital and physical offerings. A free event, it will see performances from Gary Lang’s NT Dance Company and musicians Eric Avery, Mandy Garling and Hotel Red.

The newly introduced Sunset Stage at Festival Park will feature a line-up of talent including Settle Down Sisters, Arnhem Land all-stars Yilila, Indigenous singer-songwriter Shellie Morris, Ripple Effect Band, Kuya James, and David Garnham and the Reasons to Live.

The Festival will see performances from a range of other First Nations artists, including Maningrida-born Djolpa Mackenzie, women from the Saltwater Divas mentoring project, 2019’s LGBTI Australian Artist of the Year Drag Star, Ben Graetz aka Miss Ellaneous, rappers Birdz, J-Milla and Lil Kootsie, and a screening of film, The Skin of Others which features the late Balang Tom E. Lewis.

Families will also be able to join Larrakia Elder Aunty June Mills as she tells her story Witladla in Festival Park.

“We at Darwin Festival pride ourselves on showcasing the best talent the NT has to offer, and this year is no exception,” said Darwin Festival Artistic Director, Felix Preval.

“We have reimagined the scale and scope of this year’s festival to deliver something special and unique for 2020.”

“This year has provided an exciting opportunity to get back to our roots and program a local line-up with our DF20 Homegrown program, in which old friends find new ways of making magic!”

The 2020 program has 48 different events and spans ten Darwin venues.

With COVID-19 still a risk to community, Darwin Festival Acting CEO, James Gough, is ensuring the festival’s top priority is the health and safety of those attending.

“We’ve worked tirelessly with the Department of Health to ensure DF20 Homegrown is a celebration that fits into this different world we live in,” he said.

“We strongly encourage all patrons to exercise COVID-safe principles at the Festival—wash your hands, practice physical distancing and download the COVIDSafe app. There will be a limited capacity to Festival Park, however, entry is guaranteed for those who buy a ticket to a Sunset Stage show for that night. So, book early to secure your night of fun!”

Birdz features on the Darwin Festival line-up. Photo supplied by Original Spin.

With the threat of cancellation, it’s been a mammoth effort from the Darwin Festival team to get this year’s festival up and running.

“Back in March when we’re usually signing off our program, we were staring down the barrel of cancelling the whole thing, like many live events have had to. Since then we’ve gone from planning an online-only, lockdown version of the program, to a super socially-distanced festival for just a few people, to our final version … a mix of online activity and live performances,” said Preval.

“We’re most excited that we’ll be able to meet up in Festival Park, have a drink, enjoy some delicious food … and experience the incredible creativity of our homegrown artists. It’s set to be one fabulous party celebrating everything that’s great about life in the Territory. Where else would you want to be during our tropical winter, than at Darwin Festival?”

Darwin Festival is supported by the Northern Territory Government and City of Darwin.

“The NT Government is proud to support the iconic Darwin Festival as it provides incredible opportunities for local artists and contributes to the liveability of the Territory for Territorians,” said Minister for Tourism, Sport and Culture, Lauren Moss.

“This year will look and sound a little different as we focus on our amazing local talent and welcome back some of our iconic events, like the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and the National Indigenous Music Awards in a virtual setting. The Sunset Stage sessions at Festival Park will be sure to entertain festival goers with some of the Territory’s best talent.

“With the announcement of our borders safely opening on 17 July, we also encourage interstate visitors to head to Darwin to experience a world class showcase of local talent.”

DF20 Homegrown runs from August 6-16. To access the program, visit: www.darwinfestival.org.au.

By Rachael Knowles