Top 10 festivals for 2013

It’s been a big year for festivals and 2013 is set to get even bigger. We offer our predictions on what not to miss.
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It’s been a big year for festivals and 2013 is set to get even bigger. There have been comings and goings in management, relocations and triumphs throughout 2012, while the sheer amount of festivals seems to grow and grow.


To help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we predict the most exciting, enthralling and entertaining festivals for the New Year. While some programs are yet to be announced, the stellar 2012 performance of some festivals make them worthy a look in 2013.


Melbourne Festival

After four years at the helm, Brett Sheehy bid farewell to the Melbourne Festival in 2012 to join the MTC. For his swansong year, Sheehy brought Sonic Youth members Thurston Moore and Lee Ronaldo to Melbourne, as well as Antony and the Johnsons, Billy Bragg, the Force Maejeure piece Never Did Me Any Harm, based on Christos Tsiolksas’ The Slap, Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die and Michel van der Aa’s After Life, as well as the successful Foxtel Festival Hub.


The 2013 program will be one to watch out for when former executive Director and co-CEO of Sydney Festival Josephine Ridge takes the reins. Having worked with Sheehy during his tenure at Sydney Festival, will Ridge follow in his footsteps or shake things up?


Watch this space.


Splendour in the Grass

This year saw Splendour in the Grass return to Byron Bay after two years over the border at Woodford in Queensland. Apart from a 45 minute torrent of rain on the first day that turned Belongi Fields into a muddy swamp, punters enjoyed great weather and great acts, including Jack White, Bloc Party, Lana del Rey, The Smashing Pumpkins and Tame Impala. There were also inspired art installations, Nicole Breedon’s Let’s Get Metaphysical a particular fan favourite.


In 2013 Splendour will move again to a permanent home at North Byron Parklands at Yelgun in the Byron Shire. The new location is a twenty-minute drive north from the current location.

What sets Splendour apart from other three-day festivals is its proximity to Byron Bay. Many festival-goers have accommodation in town rather than campsites, making things like mud a little easier to deal with. How punters react to the isolated spot at Yelgun may prove a gift or a curse.


Fringe World

After a hugely successful debut last year, Perth’s Fringe World is back in late January and will almost double in size. Not only will Fringe World showcase the best Australia has to offer in cabaret, sketch comedy, dance, music, visual art, film and theatre, there will also be a number of international acts bringing debut and award-winning shows.


Highlights for 2013 include London-based musical comedy duo Bernadette Byrne and Victor Victoria, the two halves of EastEnd Cabaret’s Notoriously Kinky, New York burlesque duo Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey, and Belfast’s Tumble Circus performing the Perth premiere of This is What We Do For A Living.


Adelaide Festival

Some say there’s too much going on in Adelaide during March and maybe that’s true. They’ve got the Fringe from late February into March, WOMADelaide, and then of course, Adelaide Festival. We say stop hating and get on board the bus.


This year the biggest of SA’s festivals will feature the Australian premiere of Grzegorz Jarzyna ‘s Nosferatu, the Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds inspired Murder and the acclaimed One Man, Two Guvnors.


That’s just the theatre.


Neil Finn and Paul Kelly will perform a free concert, the Australian premiere of dance piece, 6000 Miles Away, starring Sylvie Guillem, Adelaide Writers’ Week, films and of course the crazy festival hub Barrio.


Festival of Voices

Since Kris Stewart came aboard Tasmania’s celebration of the voice the event has evolved from its choral roots to encompass everything anyone could ever link to language while remaining a community inclusive event.


The much-loved bonfire at Salamanca Place remains a highlight, as does the Big Sing but in 2013 audiences will get the chance to hear American A Cappella legend Deke Sharon, musical theatre master Adrienne Angel, as well as leading contemporary choral conductors David Lawrence and Tim Seelig. Not to mention the Australian artists already announced, Harley Mead, Robert Stewart and Claire Preston.



Why not take the entire city of Sydney and make it your canvas? That’s what the artists involved with Vivid do each year. Rather than paint, they use swath the city in light, transforming everyday and iconic buildings into inspired installations.


Not only are there projections over every inch of concrete, there are also musical performances from loca and international acts at Vivid LIVE and the Vivid Ideas Exchange that feature some of the world’s leading creative thinkers.


Last year Vivid hosted a giant digital game of Tic Tac Toe that visitors could control. It was projected onto a building. Need we say more?


Perth International Arts Festival

The oldest international arts festival in the country is also one of the best. Since 1953, the Perth Festival has grown to become one of the major events on the international festival circuit. Routinely attracting the best in theatre, dance, music, film, street arts and literature, there’s no genre not covered, not art not performed.


This year creepy auteur David Lynch is collaborating with Texan songstress Chrysta Bell in an Australian premiere, the West Australian Ballet will celebrate 20 years of Ballet at the Quarry with two world premieres, the Berliner Ensemble presents Brecth’s The Threepenny Opera while Miles Franklin winning author Anna Funder will close the 2013 Perth Writers Festival. Not to mention the visual arts on display as well as the Lotterywest Festival Films program.


Fremantle Street Art Festival

Over Easter in Fremantle, there are no bunnies hopping around unless they’ve been pulled from a top hat. Australia’s biggest street arts festival literally turns the city streets into a carnival, with top Australian and international street performers, from buskers to circus troupes and magicians, all vie for the best stretch of concrete.


It’s the atmosphere that makes this one of the best festivals to attend. Fremantle streets are literally filled with spectators and spectacles, with people travelling locally, interstate and internationally to get in on the action. With over 10 stages in public places, this is as immersive as festivals get. Don’t want to be involved? Then you’ll have to stay indoors.


Byron Bay Bluesfest

While we have already included Splendour in the Grass, it doesn’t mean we’re biased to the region. It’s the ever-expanding line-up of legends that puts Bluefest on the list. You’ve got the voice of Led Zeppelin Robert Plant, punk pioneers Iggy and the Stooges, one half of Simon and Garfunkle (the Paul Simon half), guitar virtuoso Santana, another iconic guitarist in Bonnie Raitt, the resurrected American folk singer and musical hero of South Africa, Rodriguez, Southern gentleman Chris Isaak, soul godmother Mavis Staples and reggae icon Jimmy Cliff.


The only thing we’re biased towards is great music. That’s all.


Art & About Sydney

We like it when people take art outside the box or the gallery, as the case might be with Art & About. Boasting to display art in unusual places, Art & About does just that, with installations, light projections and public exhibitions taking over some of the most iconic Sydney streets such as Oxford and George.


In the 2012 edition of the festival they even had a house that rained inside in I wish you hadn’t asked, by James Dive and The Glue Society, as well as an accessible program that audience members could take in simply by walking through the city streets. Hyde Park hosted Craig Walsh’s Emergence, which projected faces into the trees in the area while Green Square hosted the tower of sustainable art, The Great Crate by Plus One.

We’ve tried not to retrace our steps by including events that appeared in our previous article about the best 10 summer festivals, but they’re certainly worth checking out.

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