The Melbourne Arts Festival

The Melbourne Arts Festival, now just called the Melbourne Festival, happens over a few weeks every October in Melbourne. It presents unique international as well as distinctly local Australian performance events in dance, theatre, music, visual arts and multimedia.

It has an outstanding reputation as one of the major international multi-arts festivals.

It brings us a huge program of high quality work and cutting-edge artistic exploration, both from renowned and upcoming artists and companies.

Included are also a wide variety of free family-friendly outdoor events, weaved through the city and designed to engage everyone in the experience of art.

The festival indulges all our senses and it challenges our perceptions and ideas. It exclusively debuts and premieres some of the top Melbourne artists and international collaborations in their new works and firmly upholds Melbourne as the most excellent arts destination in Australia.

The Melbourne Festival Story

The Melbourne Festival is the 'established' Melbourne arts festival. It grew out of the innovative and independent Melbourne Fringe Festival that had started in 1982 when Melbourne was still a city somewhat off the international map.

Together with the Fringe Festival it became the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds and the Melbourne Piccolo Spoleto Fringe Festival in the 1980s. While the Fringe Festival is the festival of the artists and people, the Melbourne Festival is the festival of internationally established art. When the two festivals separated again, the mainstream one became the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

The Melbourne Festival seeks, through excellence, diversity and a variety of venues and ticket prices, to present the best possible artistic experience to as many people as possible.

The Artistic Director

The artist director of any arts festival gives it its shape and flair. Since 2009 Brett Sheehy, one of Australia's most accomplished and acclaimed artistic directors, has been a young and dynamic director of the Melbourne Festival.

The job of the festival director is to source every year's program, to search the artistic recesses of our city and the globe for cutting-edge talent.

Sheehy is known for curating cutting-edge festival programs, by sourcing companies from a wide array of places, such as theatres in Johannesburg or China, visual art exhibitions in San Francisco and live music from San Paolo - bringing these international art experiences right to our doorstep.

The Festival Program

The variety of artistic talent presented by the Melbourne Arts Festival is astounding. Musical performances range from hip-hop, to sonic dreamscapes and noise art, to classical songs, string quartets and chamber orchestras, to contemporary composers, Indian fusion, street funk, indie bands, electronic sounds, and blues and jazz.

There is opera, both contemporary and classical, as well as ballet, contemporary dance, ethnic moves and hip-hop circus. There is theatre from New York, the outback, German classics and local playwrights, Shakespearean drama, the political and the romantic.

Passers-by can enjoy provocative street art, light shows and art installations around Swanston Street, the Arts Centre and various venues. There are photography exhibitions, interactive installations, forums and discussions.

The Melbourne Arts Festival's success has been that of providing space and a venue for art to do its job, the job of shaking us up, inspiring us and throwing up new ideas. Art creates our future and this festival ensures that this role of the arts is firmly in Melbourne, our city of the arts.

Check our the Melbourne Festival program and splurge.

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