In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
Robyn Archer never meant to be a festival director. For one thing, finding the time wouldnt be easy. One of Australias leading cabaret artists, Archer was also busy finding success as an author, playwright and actor. She stumbled upon her latest career path in 1993, when a friend asked her to direct the Canberra Festival.
As with most of my career, its all entirely by accident, Archer says. Ive always been incapable of anything like a five-year plan. Anything thats happened to me is because somebody says to me would you like to try this, and its invariably something which scares the hell out of me. For some unknown reason I just say yes.
At the time, she didnt feel that she was a natural choice for the role. Most festival directors were men, were usually from Britain and had beards. So I became the first woman to direct one of Australias major festivals.
Archer has since curated several big-name festivals and created several more. This month her creation The Light in Winter sees Federation Square transformed into a glowing refuge against the winter darkness.
Exhibits this year include a solstice celebration, a shining UFO and a specially commissioned sculpture by renowned Spanish collective Luzinterruptus. The latter promises to be a surprise to everyone involved.
We dont quite know what its going to look like, but they tend to be books that are lit in various ways, so you get a lava flow of books, Archer says. Weve really given them Federation Square and its environs to do what they like.
Books are very much the theme of this years exhibits. Given 2012 is the National Year of Reading, Archer (one of that programs ambassadors) decided to focus on the importance of storytelling. As a result, the festival features a wide range of approaches to the art of reading, reflecting Archers keenness to involve as many different local communities as possible.
A campfire, run by indigenous elders and artists, will burn throughout June, providing a beacon for storytellers. Members of Melbournes Greek, Japanese and Jewish communities will host calligraphy workshops. And one of the most intriguing exhibits will ignore words and, instead, read the body.
There are some cultures where reading only came with the arrival of Christianity, Archer explains. The reading that those cultures did was all about signs on the body, patterns, hieroglyphs, that sort of thing. We wanted to honour that.
The highlight of this particular exhibition will see a Pacific Islander performer become a work of art herself, as she receives a tattoo. Its a tattoo down her backbone using preChristian-era hieroglyphs and, when she rises, shell then acknowledged as a person of wisdom in her adopted country.
Another exhibit is equally tactile, if somewhat less painful. Created by Sydney engineer Rob Caslick, cBraille will be a lighting installation for the blind.
We talk about light and things being beautiful, but that begs the question, well, what if you dont have light? Theres a whole lot of backlit Braille and a soundscape. It allows visually impaired people to read it and also gives the wider population a sense of what its like to be without sight.
Theres also Reading in Bed, in which people will be invited to spend the night in Fed Square, reading by whatever light source they use at home be it bedside lamp, iPad or Kindle. A photograph of the gathered throng will be taken for posterity and readers will be asked to leave behind their rugs and sleeping bags for the Salvation Army.
Certainly, the festival will have no shortage of unusual bedfellows. Archer says her approach to curating owes a lot to her onstage background. My mentor always used to say cabaret was all about the art of juxtaposition about taking the young and old, familiar and unfamiliar and putting them together in such a way that the one informs the one after. I think thats a perfect description of festival making.The Light in Winter runs until July 1 in Federation Square. All events are free.