Singing up a winter storm
Tasmanians are dusting off their puffer jackets and getting ready to sing up a storm with preparations in full swing for this year’s Festival of Voices.
This ‘celebration of singing’ is just one of the unique cultural events heating up Hobart’s chill and bringing on a winter tourism bonanza.
“We are the original celebration of the puffer jacket, the pioneer of winter festivals if you like,” Festival of Voices Director, Peter Choraziak said.
“Back in 2004 someone had the bright idea to light a bonfire in the middle of the city and have a big sing-song, as a way to activate winter in Hobart.
“Well that proved rather popular.”
It certainly did.
What began as that bonfire sing-along 14 years ago has now morphed into Australia’s premier celebration of song attracting 26,000 people from every corner of the country and overseas.
“The Festival of Voices is happy and joyful – it is the light that follows Mofo’s dark,” Mr Choraziak explained.
“Our festival is all about participation, with the core belief that singing can change the world.
“Singing alters people’s moods and mental health, it can even change beliefs.”
This year’s Festival of Voices runs for 17 days from late June, kicking off with three days of celebrations on the stunning East Coast.
The focus then switches to Hobart with 50 events over two weeks bringing together local, national and international artists – and participants.
Choirs will ‘pop-up’ in unexpected places, and four hundred young performers will join together for Tasmania Sings.
There will be educational workshops including a ‘sing-posium’, all culminating with the spectacular Finale Concert at Federation Hall.
However, it is undoubtedly the giant bonfire – which lights up Hobart’s historic Salamanca Place – that is the enduring image, and this year there are changes afoot.
The Big Sing Bonfire draws 5,000 revellers into the chilly night air, and this year it is leaving its traditional Friday time-slot, for a Sunday.
“We are doing this to create a more relaxed family friendly event by avoiding that frantic Friday after-school rush,” Mr Choraziak said.
“Everyone loves the Big Sing Bonfire. It gets them out of their homes and joined together as one community in song, while visitors experience what it is like to be a true Tasmanian for a few hours.”
However, the Festival of Voices is not the only event warding off Hobart’s mid-winter blues.
Dark Mofo will get the ball rolling in mid-June when it unleashes three weeks of winter solstice celebrations, including the highly controversial DDT (Dark and Dangerous Thoughts) talkfest.
A record 450,000 people attended last year’s event.
The newly installed Hadley’s Art Prize will then cap off winter festivities.
It is the world’s richest prize for landscape art – with a $100,000 purse – and will draw crowds to Hobart’s iconic Hadley’s Orient Hotel for a stunning exhibition of finalist’s work.
Together these winter celebrations are a ‘game changer’ putting an end to Hobart’s mid-year slump, and further re-branding the southern capital as a cultural hot-spot.
“Since the 1950s the ‘holy grail’ of Tasmanian tourism has been to promote the state as a winter destination,” Chief Executive of the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, Luke Martin said.
“That has never worked, until the last few years.
“Now tourism activity in Hobart in June is equivalent to tourism activity at the height of summer – and that is unbelievable.
“Dark Mofo was the first event to really shine a light on Tasmania as a winter destination.”
While it may have been the advent of Dark Mofo in 2013 that triggered Hobart’s winter boom, Mr Martin has no doubts where it all began.
“As far as I am concerned, the Festival of Voices really is the unsung hero of winter tourism,” he said.
Winter Diary Dates:
- Dark Mofo: 15 – 24 June
- Festival of Voices: 29 June – 15 July
- Hadley’s Art Prize: 20 July – 25 August
Image courtesy of Phil Kitt for Festival of Voices
11 April 2018, Edition 193