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A illuminated moon sculpture in a blue lit room
Photograph: Luke Jerram, the University of Bristol

Rising festival announces its huge, playful and immersive line-up

The inaugural festival is bringing some of the biggest names in art, music and performance to Melbourne

Nicola Dowse

Rising, Melbourne's new winter arts festival, has announced the first events in what is set to be a massive, literally star-studded program. The new festival features 750 Victorian artists who will transform Melbourne's landscape with music, public art, performance and ceremony for 12 nights from May 26 to June 6. A total of 133 creative events will take place as part of Rising, including 36 that will have their world premiere during the festival. 

Rising co-artistic director Hannah Fox: says: "Rising is a festival of unrepeatable, site-specific performance and large-scale public art, new collaborations in theatre and dance, and novel line-ups in live music all connected by food, wine and fun." Victoria is going big with the new event, intending for it to become the leading cultural festival in the Asia Pacific. The festival is taking place across four major spaces in the Melbourne CBD – midtown; the arts precinct; Chinatown; and Birrarung – as well as in satellite locations (including Arts House in North Melbourne, Dromana Drive-In and the Substation in Newport). 

OK, that's enough preamble. You're here to find out what's happening at Rising, and we're only too happy to oblige.

Highlights of Rising 2021 include:

'The Wilds'
Sidney Myer Music Bowl is hosting what we think might be one of Rising's most popular works. 'The Wilds' turns Sidney Myer Music Bowl into a supernatural forest. Visitors will enter through a bamboo forest before encountering illusions, tunnels of light, large-scale sculptures, video art and ice skating. Yep, Sidney Myer's stage is being turned into an ice rink. Luke Jerram's breathtaking 'Museum of the Moon' is also returning to Melbourne as part of The Wilds. If you only see one thing at Rising, make sure it's this. 

'A Miracle Constantly Repeated'
Well-known hyperrealist artist Patricia Piccinini is taking over the Flinders Street Station Ballroom (plus 15 neighbouring and secret rooms) with a multi-sensory installation for Rising. The work is described as a "walkable eco-system of hyper-real silicon sculptures, video, sound and light" and will be one of the few circumstances that the public can access the mysterious French Renaissance-style ballroom.

'Wandering Stars'
The Yarra has long been a home for eels... but none quite like this. 'Wandering Stars' features a 200-metre-long illuminated eel made from lanterns. It'll be located on the equally undulating Yarra River banks, where there will also be food offerings and a sonic work, 'The Rivers Sing', by Deborah Cheetham. 

'The Nightline'
Back during lockdown Roslyn Oades and Bob Scott started The Nightline Project, asking Melburnians up late (between midnight and 6am) to call a hotline and leave a voicemail. It didn't matter why you were still up – the project simply wanted to hear the thoughts and musings of those burning the midnight oil. Now the team are furthering the project with 'The Nightline'; a late-night underground listening club where you can hear the stories of your fellows still up in the wee hours. 

Club Purple
NAKED DISCO. Got your attention? Club Purple is a non-sexual nude dance party from possibly Australia's biggest naturism-inclined artist, Stuart Ringholt. Take part in the event at the Queen Victoria Women's Centre. 

Atong Atem is one of Melbourne's most exciting early-career artists, so we're hardly surprised she's taking part in Rising. Atem's 'Banksia' is an eight-minute video projected within an inner-city carpark. The work explores the history and layers of the African diaspora in Australia and features a score by Petra Salsjö.

'Museo Aero Solar'
Remember when you used to use plastic bags to make kites and balloons as a child? 'Museo Aero Solar' takes that concept one step further, creating a "flying museum" from 400 repurposed plastic bags, each written or drawn on by members in the community.

'Parade for the Moon'
Much of Rising is centred around the moon (it even opens on the night of a total lunar eclipse), including Jason Phu's 'Parade for the Moon'The work will have Lion Dancers, drummers and amateur dancers dressed in costumes inspired by folklore of the moon and parading through Chinatown each evening. 

Music is woven throughout works at Rising, but there's also a dedicated program of one-off gigs happening at the Comedy Theatre. Artists like the Necks, Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin (with Kee'Ahn), the Orbweavers and Connan Mockasin are lined up to play, plus the Saints founder Ed Kuepper is teaming up with Dirty Three drummer Jim White for a set. Max Watts will become (appropriately) a hub of underground music during the festival and will host two huge nights of hip-hop (featuring the likes of Soju Gang, Barkaa, Sevy and BayangDrmngnow, and Lil Kootsie).

Rising also comprises a significant food and drink program as well. For the festival Melbourne Town Hall will be converted into the Mess Hall, a cultural hub driving conversations and creating experiences based around food and drink over six nights. A nightly banquet will take place in the form of the Dinner Party, which will treat guests to a four-course meal centred around the Hall’s grand 147-rank pipe organ. You'll also be able to sit down to Late Night Yum Cha in a setting like no other and celebrate the Cantonese practice of partaking in tea and dim sum. Or educate yourselves on all things ramen, pho, miso, soup, stock and broth with the Stock Exchange, which will invite a different local artisan each day to dish up the hot stuff. Boon Wurrung senior elder, N'arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM will resurrect her beloved restaurant Tjanabi for the festival and will explore ancient First Peoples culinary traditions through a multi-course dinner, too. Think clay baking; native raw seafood; grains; and native bush foods.

The festival is an amalgamation of Melbourne International Arts Festival and White Night, both of which had their final run in 2019. Rising was set to fill the gap in 2020 but then, you know, other things happened. 

Rising runs May 26 to Jun 6. For the full program head to the festival website.

In the meantime, do you think Melbourne is a great city for the arts? Let us know in the Time Out 2021 Index survey.

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