Bendigo your go-to destination for winter arts

The regional Victorian city of Bendigo comes alive with three major cultural events this winter.
Bendigo your go-to destination for winter arts

Art lovers of all ages and interests will find something to love in Bendigo in the coming months as the city hosts three major cultural events.  Writing, music and fashion are at the heart of this diverse and exciting program of festivals.

Together, the Bendigo Writers Festival, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, and the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (BIFEM) make Bendigo the place to be this winter.

‘All that glitters’ is the theme of this year’s Bendigo Writers Festival. The packed program of one hundred events across three days with 150 local and international speakers promises to spark many brilliant conversations.


Beginning on Friday August 9th – and filling up the entire weekend – the Writers Festival will inspire and delight. Whatever your literary passions, from poetry to politics, food and fiction, memoir and mystery, to history and the future, your curiosity will be piqued and debate will be provoked. 

Criminal psychologist Julia Shaw and academic Stephen J Pyne, from Arizona State University, are two speakers who are already drawing crowds.

‘Julia Shaw talks about where evil comes from and Steve Pyne coined the expression "the pyrocene" for what we need to learn about fire and the landscape,’ said Festival Director Rosemary Sorensen.

Sorensen said the headliners include philosopher AC Grayling on democracy, John Marsden on parenting, and Ranjana Srivastava on planning a better death.

‘We're also delighted to be finishing on a very high note, with the inspiring surgeon Munjed Al Muderis talking about changing lives,’ said Sorensen.

And there are two new features to the Writers Festival this year, with a re-invention of audience questions and a new place to unwind.

‘We know that question time at the end of a session can sometimes feel a bit slow and old-fashioned, so both writers and audiences are keen to try out this new way to Q&A using the Slido digital platform,’ said Sorensen.

And after all that writerly fun, there’s a new Festival Club with a late-night bar. ‘We want to invite everyone to enjoy the warm and relaxing atmosphere of the whole weekend in our beautiful city.’

The following week, lovers of art, fashion, and design should head to the Bendigo Art Gallery for the opening of Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

This is a major survey of the work of fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga. It highlights his exquisite craftsmanship and pioneering use of fabrics that revolutionised the female silhouette and set the scene for modern design.   

Revered by his contemporaries, including Christian Dior and Coco Chanel, Balenciaga was known as The Master and was one of the most innovative and influential fashion designers of the 20th century.

This exhibition showcases many of Balenciaga's iconic garments from the 1950s and 60s and explores the style of this renowned couturier.

Curated by Cassie Davies-Strodder, the exhibition also explores Balenciaga's legacy, tracing his influence through the work of more than 30 fashion designers across the last fifty years.

‘We are thrilled to bring this exhibition from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and to continue to showcase the work of some of the world’s most important designers at Bendigo Art Gallery,’ said Gallery Director Jessica Bridgfoot. 


Dovima with Sacha, cloche and suit by Balenciaga, Café des Deux Magots, Paris, 1955, © The Richard Avedon Foundation. Image supplied.

In a major coup for a regional gallery, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is being shown exclusively in Bendigo. This follows on from the recent exhibition of Royal Portraits that was also a Bendigo exclusive.

‘The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian, and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous atelier in Paris. It is a timely reminder of the enduring influence of his work,’ said Bridgfoot.

Music takes centre-stage in September with the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (BIFEM). From the 6th to the 8th, this innovative music festival will highlight virtuosity in musicianship and innovation in composition.

Many of the featured works will be premiered at the Festival. It will also be an opportunity to hear many long-form works from the canon of exploratory music that are rarely performed.

This is the seventh year of this illuminating and exciting festival that includes music from Chile, Brazil, Turkey, Sweden, the UK, France, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand.

‘With no fewer than 24 world premieres, this year we have an accent on New Zealand and South American creators,’ said David Chisholm, founding artistic director and CEO of the Festival.

Alongside the concerts and recitals that are the heart of the 2019 Festival there is also a strong program of free participatory works.

‘We have immersive Virtual Reality compositions, works built inside gaming engines, wearable instruments, and 1-to-1 performer-to-audience works that challenge and excite the very idea of musical experience,’ said Chisholm.

‘BIFEM prides itself on being more than just a series of music concerts and events; it's an important community gathering of like-minded friends and colleagues, that takes place across the whole weekend in and around the Capital Theatre,’ said Chisholm.

If you love the arts, you’re sure to find something to love in Bendigo this winter. For more information, go to

Diana Carroll

Tuesday 9 July, 2019

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Adelaide. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.