28 March 2013

What's next for You Are Here in 2014?

| Barcham
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The third You Are Here festival has come to a close. Fletcher Jones has once again become a torso and clothes-hanger filled wasteland, the Ellis Collective aren’t singing to you during your lunchbreak, and Canberra’s arts scene caught up on some sleep. It was a wonderful and exhausting ride, and already people are talking about next year.

Questions have arisen about the future of the festival. Jorian Gardner in in particular wrote an interesting piece on the importance of supporting You Are Here into the future, and I agree. We’d be foolish to let something this special fade away.

The Centenary team have done a fantastic job of making Canberra into a place where artists can support their art and find work over the last three years but sadly that well runs dry in 2014.

Festival Producer David Finnigan is confident in the festival’s future.

It’s probably premature to say that we’re going to successfully receive funding, but we believe we will. We’ve worked really hard to try and make something that’s structurally sound, we had record attendances and great artists involved, we had really good reviews and a really active online community, so I think we can make a pretty strong case to the powers that be that we should continue existing.

Nothing’s certain in this world, but there will be a You Are Here 2014.

That’s good enough for me.

You Are Here’s third year was easily its biggest, both in terms of its program and its attendance. More than 100 performances took place over the 10 day festival and every event I made it to was well attended with a wonderful variety of people having a great time. I even met some of you there. I hope all of you who made the time to come have a look found something to love, but I really hope you found something new.

This year the festival stretched its great arms wider than before. There was theatre, music, spoken word, dance, workshops, and everything we’ve come to expect from You Are Here. There were also plenty of surprises. A man jumped onto a scissor lift at the NFSA and threw his hat at a projector screen, where it magically travelled from our reality into the film and was caught by the actress on film. A singer songwriter put her guitar down sat down and performed a puppet show about her horse. Customers visiting Gentle Nails in Garema Place were treated to a piece of audio theatre played to them on headphones while their nails were painted.

There was even a web-series, a wonderfully cheesy and fun look at the festival. Each episode was made in a day and set during the festival. What other festival can claim to have made it’s own ongoing musical/action/comedy web series? What other festival would even bother to try?

Here’s the whole series. Watch it. It’s brilliant nonsense.

All of this in Canberra. All of this and so much more in this little nowhere city where apparently nothing really happens. It’s important to note the Festival didn’t just make this stuff. It was already here. You Are Here just ran around with a highlighter and drew our attention to what an amazing place we live.

Festival Curator Adam Hadley compares Canberra’s arts scene to eating a crab. Follow that link, it’ll make sense.

Whether or not you personally made it in to any events plenty of people did, and they saw Canberra at its finest. Life was everywhere. Art flooded the streets. Civic is enhanced during You Are Here. It crackles with energy. Empty spaces are revived, people are enticed into old store fronts and alley ways, tours are led through the city and eulogies are given to icons of Canberra’s past.

While I do adore events like the National Folk Festival, Multicultural Food Day, and Floriade, none of these feel like something that could only exist here. These are events that were (fortunately) placed in Canberra. You Are Here seems to have grown out of Canberra.

When Folkie finishes the tents are pulled down and packed away, when Floriade is over it is dug up. When You Are Here ends it stays. It sleeps in Canberra’s empty storefronts and feasts in her food courts and grows stronger. When it’s ready, it will rise again.

I hope to see you there next year.

[Photo by Adam Thomas]

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It is also worth noting that the events were spread right over the day, making it easier for people to attend at least some events. The lunchbox concerts were really worthwhile.

Thank you organisers!

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