Five Dark Mofo tips from a first-timer

Here are the top tips from a Dark Mofo novice on how to get the most out of the 2023 festival.

As a Dark Mofo first-timer, I felt pretty prepared for this year’s festival after having visited nipaluna/Hobart just six months prior and making sure I triple checked the weather forecasts. Yet there were still a pleasant number of surprises.

After emerging from the dark side, here are my top tips for those dipping into Dark Mofo Week Two and any future festivals.

Tip one: pack your outing essentials

The expression “from dusk ’til dawn” feels pretty apt for Dark Mofo as Hobart becomes the festival’s grand stage after sunset. Portable phone chargers will come in handy when you’re going to be at it for five to 12 hours and tickets are only sent digitally.

As with any festival, smaller bags are an advantage – there will either be lines for cloaking or none provided at all. Attire-wise, boots are your friend and, better yet, make them rain/mud proof. Both Dark Park and MAC2 require hardy footwear, not to mention you’ll likely be walking from venue to venue (though scooters are an option). Same with headwear – caps, beanies, bucket hats and the lot will help against the breeze and that occasional shower. Masks and hand sanitisers are mostly BYO, so bring ’em if you think you’ll need ‘em.

On a further note, as a regular solo traveller I find that Dark Mofo, and Hobart in general, to be totally single-friendly. It feels safe to be wandering at night during festival time and kudos to the ground staff who are always helpful and welcoming. That being said, being in the company of friends or travel buddies at certain events, such as Night Mass and Dark Park, can make the experience more enjoyable.

Tip two: subscribe to Dark Mofo’s newsletter and socials

Special announcements will be made throughout the festival via Dark Mofo’s email newsletters and social media platforms. For example, the three-day long rave Trance offered free entry for its last couple of hours.

It has also been announced that Max Richter’s sold-out event, the eight-hour long SLEEP, will be broadcast on Hobart’s Edge Radio on Wednesday 14 June from midnight.

Read: How to navigate a festival program

Tip three: experience the festival without breaking the bank

Tickets to Dark Mofo concerts and events aren’t cheap, but there are ways to experience the breadth of the festival without putting too much pressure on your wallet.

Entry to Dark Park is free with large-scale installations and live performances inside the Blue Velvet Lounge. There are also plenty of free exhibitions, such as the group show Interfacial Intimacies featuring Bruno Booth, Amrita Hepi, Léuli Eshrāghi and more at Plimsoll Gallery.

Websters Warehouse, Good Grief Studios, Contemporary Art Tasmania and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery are also holding exhibitions with local and international artists. Opening times vary from the usual 10am-4pm to the twilight hours, so check before going.

Hobart’s regular art scene is also thriving outside of the festival’s programming. For example, Bett Gallery is currently showing the works of Hobart street art icon Tom O’Hern and the enticing gouache paintings of Nicola Gower Wallis, on view until 1 July.

Tip four: check out Mona’s new beer bar

If you’re like me, and didn’t get a chance to ferry over to Mona (Museum of Old and Ndew Art) during Dark Mofo, a new mini brewhouse has brought some of the Museum’s essence to Salamanca.

Moo Brew is the oldest craft brewery in lutruwita/Tasmania and another one of Mona founder David Walsh’s ventures. Manky Sally’s is Moo Brew’s brand new home in Hobart, a small intimate space fitted with furnishings and artworks from Mona’s warehouses.

A seasonal offering at the moment is the Winter IPA. It’s dark but fruity, and described as being like ‘eating fruit salad and coffee biscuits in a pine forest while it’s snowing’.

Tip five: nourish the soul and the body

As may be evident from my Dark Mofo 2023 Week One review, I’m notoriously bad at taking a break when it comes to seeing art. Often my itinerary considerations are all based on when and where I’m going to see something, rather than what to eat – hello cup noodles in the hotel room past midnight.

Read: How to survive festival fatigue

Most of Dark Mofo’s programming starts around 4pm, which means grabbing a late filling lunch is a good set-up for a long night. Food trucks are available in Dark Park, plus there are a few offerings in District X for Night Mass. There are also plenty of food options around Hobart, and of course Winter Feast offers seasonal fare until 11pm (15-18 June).

Speaking of Winter Feast, plenty of artists will also perform at the outdoor stage and these gigs can be electrifying. On Saturday night (10 June), lutruwita/Tasmania musician and Yorta Yorta, Yirendali and Kalkadoon woman Miss Kaninna delivered a thrumming set that included her latest single ‘Black Brittany’. She also used her time on stage to draw attention to the Voice referendum – a powerful move asking audiences to stand by Blak voices.

Festival time is often jam-packed with exciting offerings and when FOMO (fear of missing out) tends to spike, don’t overcompensate by risking your mental and physical health. Some content at Dark Mofo can be quite confronting, so if you need to step out for some fresh air, do so. Clear content warnings are available on program webpages and outside of venues, so make sure to check and mentally prepare before going in.

The last tip is about striking that balance between seeing art that makes you feel alive, and taking care of the physical body. Sometimes even if it feels as if you can wait around in between performances or see five gigs in a day, taking that time to reset or take a break can do wonders in the long festival marathon.

This writer travelled to Hobart as a guest of Dark Mofo 2023.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram @lleizy_