13 July 2020

Where You Are is the recovery festival that gives everyone hope

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Fan dancing

Are you a fan of fan dancing? Photos: Michelle Kroll.

Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay phrased it best at the launch of Where You Are, the live-streamed, on-demand and limited live gathering festival that’s running from now until September, as “a way of making Canberra itself again” after months and months of bad news and hard times.

And whether where you are right now is in the front row or at home on the sofa in your pajamas, this assemblage of arts, events and ideas is designed to give you something to feel hopeful and positive about.

It comes from the ashes of several events that were planned for midwinter and had to be scrapped at short notice. That, in turn, has given birth to the RISE Canberra calendar, a big, easily accessible list of ideas and events.

Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay launches the Where You Are festival.

Now, Where You Are gives shape and substance to the creativity of Canberra’s arts community. Launched Friday morning (10 July) by Minister Ramsay, it involves the likes of Canberra super band Hands like Houses, who have live-streamed to as many as 80,000 people during the shutdown (Joel Tyrell from the band says that’s probably the biggest crowd they have ever played to).

The two-month long program of activities runs to 11 September, highlighting unique Canberra experiences across art and culture, music, ideas and forums, sport, community and food. The festival is a platform to promote Canberra as a vibrant, innovative and creative centre to the rest of Australia and internationally.

It’s also a $240,000 investment in arts and events sector, which Minister Ramsay described as being “hit harder than any other” from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Canberra is renowned for its vibrant events. They mark who were are, they give energy and life to who we are. We are taking another step forward and creating a hybrid festival. We are safely connecting the ACT community while the public health restrictions are appropriately and rightly still in place.”

Twenty Canberra creators and makers have been funded to provide workshops, events and more for the festival, whose intention is to “sustain the community, to help us reflect and mark who we are as a community, and to celebrate and move ahead”, Minister Ramsay said.

Jazida productions

Jazida productions will be launching a distanced edition of their Decadence and Debauchery show.

You could, for example, drop into Jazida Productions’ Decadence and Debauchery – it’s a long-running Canberra variety show that puts burlesque, circus, comedy, belly dance and drag into the spotlight. But this is the distanced edition, and founder Rachel Reid says that while it will still be held at the Abbey function centre on 22 August, there will be spaced out cabaret-style seats for distancing and Side Stage production service will run a live stream of the show with full Auslan interpretation

Hands like Houses have sold 150,000 albums and have had two top ten hits. They’ve had a difficult year as live performances were forced to shut down and Joel Tyrrell says one of the challenges of live-streaming shows has been creating the same atmosphere as when performing before a large crowd.

They’re working with local company Eavs to make their Live in Ya Lounge live-streamed event on August 29 as interactive as possible.

“It will be a high-level production,” says Joel. “Then we’ll take the next steps towards holding a show at EPIC where a limited number of people can come and be the studio audience and learn a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes.”

Canberra artists

Canberra artists and makers are at the heart of Where You Are.

But it’s not all about the more adult forms of entertainment. Keren Huggett’s ‘Bush Play Connections, Awakening Educations’ has come from some profound shut down reflections about the need to slow down, open our eyes (and ears) and take a lot more notice of our surroundings in the bush capital.

“Reflection for connection” is Keren’s key phrase in COVID-19, with a focus on helping kids to understand how important connections are to family, friends but also the earth. Her bush play workshops are taking place around Canberra, from Cotter Bend to Mt Majura and encompass bushcraft creation stations, bush wandering walks, nature exploration and respectful foraging.

To find out more about these and other great events in the Where You Are Festival Program, visit RISE Canberra.

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