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Summer and Autumn Festivals

Andrea Dawkins

Andrea Dawkins  -  Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Tags: Arts, Festivals, Music

Ms DAWKINS (Bass) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to speak on the Tasmanian summer and autumn festivals I have attended, and to report that we are doing extremely well and attracting sincere followings.  On 19 and 20 March, Beaconsfield was the place to be for the Tamar Valley writers' festival to hear luminaries speak on matters of importance to us all.  Bob Brown, Julian Burnside and Kerry O'Brien were interviewed by Phillip Adams to an enchanted and enthralled audience.  They spoke of the changes that their lives have spanned, and acknowledged that the recent period of pure concentrated change as being unparalleled in human history, though Bob did chime in with, 'I have not changed, the world has changed around me'.

The reading of current public discourse was stark, they said.  Kerry O'Brien postulated that Australians have lost their capacity to debate; they have lost inspiration, which is no measure to march us toward this time of the new.  Julian Burnside named Tampa as the turning point for Australia's human rights devolution.  He believes it is our real lack of empathy, which holds us back from seeing refugees as ourselves.  He noted that in 1947 in Australia we were actively blocking Jewish people from emigrating to Australia after the Second World War.

Burnside maintains that the big moral questions require strong leadership, and he believes this is presently sadly lacking in Australia.  Bob Brown talked about the importance of a truth house of the black wars.  He wants to see a space where the first Australians are able to document their history after invasion.  Burnside ended his contributions saying that the first peoples are playing a very long game in Australia.  He believes that when we have failed to negotiate climate change and failed to prepare for its aftermath, the nation's first culture will endure, whilst ours will fail.  Phillip Adams’ acerbic, irreverent wit ensured the audience was spellbound.  This was one of the dozens of well-attended events over the weekend and another triumph for the organisers of the festival.

A Festival Called Panama again delivered one of Australia's small curated music festivals.  Held at Golconda on the hallowed grounds of the circus festival, the organisers had thought of everything - the village with food vans, stalls, clothes swaps and early morning yoga sessions provided a support to the musical offerings, which never failed to impress.  Hiatus Kaiyote, Sean Kuti and Egypt 80, Natalie Prass, CW Stoneking and - the pick for me - Marlon Williams with his indie, country smooth style captivated the relaxed audience.  There were no incidents and no conflicts.  It was a family-friendly event that transcended the generations.  There was no rubbish.  Everything was removed by festival-goers, recycled or composted - a truly unique, sustainable Tasmanian experience, which brings people from the mainland to experience the best of Tasmanian hospitality in a beautiful natural environment.

MOFO managed to pull us out of our ennui and disrupt our comfort by highlighting the solo drummer at this year's festival.  Held at MONA for the first time, the weekend at Walshy's was the muso artist's dream.  The 35-minute drum solo my partner was in raptures over failed to connect with me, but I do not think it was supposed to, nor should have.  We certainly were being pushed beyond the normal idea of accessing entertainment.  I came away from the weekend renewed, refreshed and reminded that being extended by art is a good thing.  Over three stages the festival morphed from the multi-dimensional beast it had become at Princes Wharf 1 into a feast of music and meanderings on the site.  Access to the museum was available during the festival and people wandered in and out at will. 

The Gilbert and George exhibition had been much hyped, and I thought it delivered a pop art attack on modern society and the extent we have allowed the industrial machine to dominate all aspects of our lives.  It was cheeky, irreverent and sometimes heartbreaking.  There were many Melbourne folk in the crowd.  I believe that just as many Tasmanians once regarded Melbourne as the go-to city for weekend fun, the opposite can now be said.  From watching the security guards make space for the ducks and ducklings as they wove their way through the crowds, to the enigmatic performance of the Flaming Lips, I hope there are many more weekends at Walshy’s to commune with friends and to be provoked from the everyday by exceptional art.