Winter wonderland – and an ice rink – returning to Civic in July

Ian Bushnell 13 May 2021
Malcolm Snow

City Renewal Authority boss Malcolm Snow on the ice when the rink was in Garema Place. Photo: File.

A Winter Festival in the city is returning this year after the pandemic put the event on ice in 2020, with innovation themes, but not in the originally proposed format.

The Civic outdoor ice rink and winter wonderland will be back, but a government spokesperson said the Winter Innovation Festival in its proposed format would be postponed until July 2022 to provide the best opportunity for it to be delivered to its full potential.

The spokesperson said the government would still be supporting a series across the city from Friday, 25 June to Sunday, 11 July to align with the ACT school holidays, curated around the themes and pillars of the Innovation Festival.

“Events ACT is currently working with all stakeholders gauging interest and capacity to develop and present COVID-compliant content during Winter 2021 and to assess funding requirements for the delivery of selected content,” the spokesperson said.


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The government has also contracted Fyshwick firm Show Pony Events to work with the City Renewal Authority to co-curate events in Civic Square, Ainslie Place and possibly other sites, including delivering and managing the ice rink.

The Authority had been running its Wintervention event for several years, with an ice rink in Garema Square, before switching to Civic Square in 2019.

The nearly $200,000 contract says the Festival will embrace and celebrate Canberra’s winter, creating a sense of warmth and winter fun, and include “aesthetically enriching experiences through both physical elements and events, performances and activities”.

The Festival will also support and engage city businesses near the sites and along pedestrian routes by giving them more exposure and boosting trade.

The contract says the Authority plans to deliver a commercially viable event through ticketed activities and sponsorships, but an additional budget of $180,000 is available to allow additional elements to boost the overall look and feel of the event, such as free entertainment and enhanced audio-visual effects, and pay for infrastructure that may not be available at the event sites.

If the event is cancelled, the government will pay Show Pony Events amounts proportionate to when a decision is made, including 100 per cent if there is only 24 hours’ notice.

Before COVID-19 hit, the government had hoped to fill a gap in the events calendar with a new Winter Festival that would promote Canberra as a home of innovation, new technology and creative thinking.

Nearly $2 million had been allocated to the 2020 festival and a tender released for an experienced event executive producer to deliver and run it over six days, bringing together creative thinkers, technologists, futurists, artists and designers.

The government envisaged an event that included fairs and expos with a festival vibe featuring music, food, showcases, launches, and demonstrations of the latest technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence advancements.

The event was to have four key event pillars – the future of society and humanity, democracy, technology and culture.


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