Adam Gibson
Mona/Rémi Chauvi
Travel Tip

3 Wickedly Warming Winter Events

Rachel Eldred
Temperatures may be low, but the temptation to venture outside is hard to resist as Tasmania heats up the cooler months with three winter festivals that celebrate community, culture and creative expression. Winter feasts, fireside sing-a-longs, pagan rituals, art, light, music, story-telling, play and fun ... come cuddle up for a winter getaway guaranteed to warm your heart, mind and soul.

The art of darkness

To celebrate the winter solstice and the longest night of the year, Dark Mofo (7-24 June) has re-imagined age-old rituals in a contemporary context and the result is a festival quite unlike any other. Imagine a harbour city in a brilliant display of light and fire that pulsates with art and music and the Winter Feast, where food is given a theatrical twist. “The vibe of the festival is electric,” says Dark Mofo Marketing Director Nicole Smith. “There’s something about a festival that only happens at night. It invites people to release inhibitions. Visitors trust us to deliver a weird and wonderful program and are happy to be taken along for the ride.”

The ride for 2018 is the most ambitious yet and includes a new late night attraction called Night Mass on the Friday and Saturday nights of the two main weekends, 15-16 June and 22-23 June, where over 100 artists will perform in different venues across the city.

Dark Mofo dark park winter event hobart waterfront tasmania
Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions, 2017
Image Courtesy Dark Mofo, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Asked to share one Dark Mofo highlight, Nicole was excited about Tanya Tagaq, a Canadian Indigenous performer and throat singer. “Our artistic associates and executive producer saw her in Montreal last year and thought it was one of the most mind-blowing concerts they’d ever seen, which is a pretty impressive feat.”

One of the most popular events, on again in 2018 and expected to double in number, is the Nude Swim which last year saw over 1000 participants strip off and brace the chill for the thrill of a sunrise dip in the ocean after the longest night of the year. “Apparently,” says Nicole, “it is warmer in the water than it is on land”.

Ready to take the plunge? The Dark Mofo website is where the journey for the 2018 event begins.

Folklore, fire and feasts

Willie Smith’s Apple Shed is home to 120 acres of fruit trees and the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival. Held over the weekend of 13-15 July, the festival is an invitation to connect to land in a fun and celebratory way. “We invite people to get outdoors and be social,” says Festival Manager Krystal Cox. “Its whole focus is on connection to land and the seasons, and it kicks off with a welcome ceremony that invites participants to join with Ruth Langford, a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman, in dance and ritual to prepare for the year ahead.”

A huge effigy is set alight at the end of the welcome ceremony to light up the night sky and make way for the main event the next day, the wassail, an ancient tradition that involves lots of noise. Festival goers, many dressed up in the winter finery of Europe’s pagan days (there are substantial cash prizes for the best dressed, says Krystal), are invited to beat on pots and pans to scare away evil spirits and invite in a bumper apple harvest.

Huon Valley Mid Winter Fest winter events huon valley Tasmania
Natalie Mendham Photography
Wassailing by the fire

Afterwards, it’s time to feast on food and cider a-plenty from over 30 stalls of home-grown produce. Watch out for Ned Long from Wild Grove Kitchen who last year roasted some chickens that hung off a Hills Hoist. The 2018 theme is junkyard-style barbecue. The music program is jam packed with talented acts to get the heart a-thumping and the feet a-moving. Krystal highlights 8 Foot Felix, which she describes as pirate poet punk; VulgerGrad, dark, Russian gypsy storytelling; and Denni Proctor, a young Tasmanian Aboriginal woman who was part of Triple J Unearthed.

Keen to know what to do with the little ones? Sunday is family fun day with a kids’ wassail, dances around the maypole, yoga and music. The invitation to head out this mid-winter has never sounded so sizzlin’.

Sing away the winter blues

Celebrate the magic of voice and song, and beat the mid-winter doldrums at the 2018 Festival of Voices, 29 June to 15 July.  “We are the original celebration of the puffer jacket,” (the Tassie winter uniform) says Festival Director Peter Choraziak. The first festival in 2005 was a three-day boutique winter event, explains Peter. It’s since grown into a 17-day event and Australia’s biggest choral festival. “The keyword is community,” says Peter. “Festival of Voices is the honey that attracts singers from around the world, along with choral leaders, tutors and conductors. Singers and participants come along not only to be entertained but to learn and join in.”

Peter describes the vibe of the festival as joyous. Not only is it Australia’s biggest choral festival, it’s also a contemporary music festival, a cabaret festival, an east coast road trip and the place to come to hone musical skills. Workshops sell out fast so get in quick. There’s still time to join up for the chance to work with the Choir of St James, a celebrated Sydney choir. Participants in the workshop get the opportunity to perform as part of the festival’s Sacred Music Concert on 8 July.

Festival of Voices Big Sing bonfire salamanca Hobart Tasmania
Peter Whyte
The Big Sing

For festival goers who prefer a fireside sing-a-long, head to Salamanca Place on Sunday, 8 July  for the Big Sing Bonfire. Also new to 2018 is pub choirs which Peter says will be “…an absolute hoot. Cuddle up with someone and sing your guts out.”

The trip up the east coast conjures up images of medieval European minstrels who travelled through tiny hamlets to share music, news and good cheer. “It’s a fun road trip that brings music to the towns along the way,” says Peter. “There’s a bit of everything – blues, roots, pop, country.”

Back in Hobart, the cabaret show adds jazz and mayhem to the choral mix. “It’s a grown-up’s playground in there,” says Peter. The only thing left to do is get involved.

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