Now in its 13th year, Canberra’s cherished autumn festival – Enlighten – will once again take over the nation’s capital with more than two weeks of diverse and exciting events and entertainment.
Its seven signature events include Canberra After Dark, City Illuminations, Lights! Canberra! Action!, Canberra Balloon Spectacular, FreshOut Fair Day Canberra, Symphony in the Park and Canberra Day.
But between the 17 days of Friday, 3 March, to Sunday, 19 March, the program promises plenty of highlights, some outside this list of headliner events.
Also under the Enlighten banner, the National Library has promised an evening of nostalgia in the heart of the Festival.
The Library will extend its opening hours on Friday and Saturday evenings between 3 and 13 March, and a special Enlighten program will run throughout the building to entertain all ages.
The Library’s lawn picnic spots are the ideal place to sit, enjoy food from one of the many stalls, and take in the projections.
Out front, giant lawn games, hula hooping, face painting and skipping rope demonstrations from the Jazzy Jumpers will entertain crowds before they’ve even stepped inside.
When you do, you’ll discover the foyer has been transformed into a fabulous jazz lounge – the ideal place to meet with friends before exploring the exhibition galleries or heading to the board games library for some old-school, low-fi fun.
This pop-up lounge will light up on Saturday, 11 March, from 3 pm to 4:30 pm when the Library celebrates Enlighten Festival’s Pride Weekend with WorldPride Story Time.
Drag king Guy Alias and drag queen Dolli with an i share stories, songs, wonderful performances and some craft activities to entertain attendees. The event is suitable for pre and primary school-aged children and young people outside this range (with supervision) and their families.
Bookplate Cafe will be open these evenings and offering a special Enlighten festival menu.
Over at Canberra Theatre Centre, Sydney Dance Company will present their inspired triple bill Ascent.
Running from 9 to 11 March, it features world premieres by artistic director Rafael Bonachela, renowned international choreographer Marina Mascarell and the return of Antony Hamilton’s critically acclaimed Forever & Ever.
This production of three innovative works from local and international talents is billed as an “arresting portrait of contemporary dance and its potential to move, excite and activate audiences”.
This is punctuated by a special post-show event included in tickets for the Friday, 10 March show.
Part of Enlighten’s Pride Weekend, In Conversation with Rafael Bonachela explores the work of this proud gay man as a choreographer, artistic director and curator whose career has spanned high art and popular culture.
From 3 to 13 March, the National Portrait Gallery will offer its contribution to the Festival.
Enlighten – Spirits Shapeshifting is a special light projection blending watercolour and digital animation to “bring vibrant beings to life amid botanical dreamscapes, atmospheric skies and kaleidoscopic visions”.
A collaborative site-specific work exploring diverse cultural backgrounds, it is said to evoke an “otherworldly space to counteract earthly anxieties and troubled times”.
Expect “a cast of supernatural characters and sci-fi incarnations of family including beloved animal spirits” interwoven with “giant lotus and a future-fantastic forest”.
It wouldn’t be a Festival of the nation’s capital without a contribution from the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) at Old Parliament House.
From 7 pm to 10:30 pm on 3, 4, 10 and 11 March, The People’s House invites you to step inside the Museum after dark as the untold stories of people who kept the clocks ticking, meals cooked, hair coiffed, memos typed and the parliamentary record accurate are brought to life (literally).
Expect a hands-on experience including a theatrical element courtesy of the A-Z Theatre Company. Roam the corridors with the Hansard reporter, gossip with the hairdresser and, if you’re lucky, listen in as the maintenance worker spills a few secrets about the building …
Around the halfway mark in the Festival is the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s signature performance, Symphony in the Park.
This year it’s not to be missed, as it presents a hat tip to the Festival’s special WorldPride focus.
Held on the Canberra Day long weekend, the Orchestra will take to the stage to perform with this year’s special guest, award-winning pop, soul and electronica band Electric Fields to celebrate Pride Weekend @ Enlighten Festival.
The list of highlights goes on, proving that well beyond a decade since it first launched, this Festival and Canberra’s institutions can still dish up fresh and exciting surprises as we farewell the warm weather.
Enlighten runs from Friday, 3 March, to Sunday, 19 March. To plan your experience, check out the full program here.