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Rising, Melbourne’s mega new arts festival, taking over from White Night

The festival has been delayed a year, but is using a portion of the 2020 budget to fund new works
Written by
Nicola Dowse

After a year of speculation, we now know the name and dates of Victoria’s mega new arts festival. Rising is Melbourne’s brand-new winter arts festival, set to run from May 26 to June 6 2021. 

The festival amalgamates two of Melbourne’s biggest annual events – White Night and Melbourne International Arts Festival – and will be a celebration of art, music, ceremony and the night. The new festival was due to debut in August 2020, however, the recent event cancellations forced organisers to delay for a year. 

Rising is led by co-artistic director Hannah Fox (Dark Mofo) and Gideon Obarzanek (Chunky Move, Melbourne Festival and AsiaTOPA), who have outlined their vision for the festival to help “re-stitch Australia’s cultural landscape” – no small task given the current untenable state of the nation’s artistic industries. 

Part of that plan involves using $2 million originally designated for the 2020 festival to immediately commission Victorian artists to create new works to be shown in the inaugural Rising 2021. The funding will solely help Victorian artists to create shows, events and exhibitions for the 2021 festival that “are ambitious, unusual and that could only happen in a festival context,” says Obarzanek. “Whether these respond to the times or reach beyond them, we invite ideas that are radical and critical; ideas that are absurd and bombastic; ideas that are contemplative and philosophical; and ideas that are celebratory and unifying.”

While White Night was (for most of its Melbourne history) a one-night-only explosion of art, music, performance and veritable glowing things, Melbourne International Arts Festival was a more refined, multi-week affair showcasing the arts in a largely traditional sense. 

Just how Rising differentiates itself from the two remains to be seen, though the festival is currently calling on Victorian artists to submit applications for works that are Melbourne specific, radical, ambitious, generous, celebratory, for the community, can only be realised in a festival context, or that could be presented at multiple festivals or cities.

Rising is planned to take place from May 26 to June 6 2021. Visit the website for more information.

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