The 2023 Midsumma Festival program is now live, bringing a kaleidoscope of preeminent queer arts and cultural festivities from 21 January – 12 February. Expect over 200 events showcasing queer culture, featuring local, interstate, and international artists in spectacular performances, talks and social events.
Key events and festival favourites are back for 2023 including Midsumma Carnival on Sunday 22 January in the Alexandra Gardens; St Kilda’s Fitzroy Street and Catani Gardens comes alive with the Midsumma Pride March on Sunday 5 February; and Victoria’s Pride returns to Smith and Gertrude Streets, bringing the festival to an end on Sunday 12 February.
The 2023 Festival features a range of Festival Hubs across Melbourne, dedicated to providing a diverse showcase of events to enrich the Midsumma Festival experience. Festival Hubs and highlights include:
VICTORIAN PRIDE CENTRE (VPC):
A new hub for the Festival, VPC presents a fabulous program of Midsumma events that connect, support, and amplify LBGTIQ+ voices. VPC highlights include:
Cheers, Queers! – The very best comics from Melbourne’s Queer comedy scene come together to present a fabulous new night of comedy with a new line up each night. 27 – 29 January.
Piano Bar X Pride Centre – Join Andy Pobjoy and the team from Piano Bar for a night of drag fabulousness, singalongs with extra special guests performing audience song requests. 27 – 29 January & 2 – 4 February.
Trans & Gender Diverse Clothes Swap – A fun and fabulous clothes swap and perfect timing to pick up a new outfit for summer. Saturday 11 February.
The Making of the Victorian Pride Centre – This free exhibition explores the last 100 years of LGBTIQ+ history in Victoria and the development of the iconic Victorian Pride Centre. Featuring architectural drawings and models, photos of construction and building artefacts. On display from 2 December to April 2023 in the Pride Gallery.
This St Kilda institution is also a Festival hub and will be buzzing with seven ground-breaking shows across three performance spaces for a truly queer program that embraces and celebrates the whole rainbow community. Theatre Works highlights include:
Queer Garden – An eclectic program of queer artists. Audiences can sit back, grab a drink and have a boogie at the Theatre Works’ BlackBox booze garden every Friday and Saturday night during the festival. 27 – 28 January, 3 – 4 & 10 – 11 February.
BURGERZ by Travis Alabanza – Part cooking show, part reclaiming of an act of violence – BURGERZ explores how trans bodies survive and how, by them reclaiming an act of violence, we can address our own complicity. 8 – 11 February.
GASWORKS ARTS PARK:
For over a decade this has been the south side hub for Midsumma Festival. Midsumma at Gasworks in 2023 will see a diverse and inclusive program spanning outdoor circus, cabaret, comedy, visual arts, live music and twilight craft markets. Gasworks highlights include:
Code of Conduct – The premiere season of an award-winning new Australian play that’s both deeply personal and ripped-from-the-headlines. When boundaries in and out of the classroom are crossed, relationships and identities within the school are set to explode. 7 – 11 February.
Hot Summer Nights! – An outrageously fun circus cabaret hosted by the exuberant and charismatic cabaret sensation, Tash York, and featuring some of Australia’s finest cabaret and circus performers. Presented as part of Circus In The Park, get steamy under the stars for this outdoor circus spectacular. 23 – 25 & 27 – 28 January.
Bleeding Heart Radicals – This is the first exhibition for Sebastian Passions, a very queer kiwi, working and living in Melbourne. During a period of chaos and loss, Trevor (Sebastian’s alter ego) discovered the joy of ripping/tearing and cutting paper and magazines and then arranging/rearranging images to create something new, something pretty, something very queer. 22 January – 12 February.
Australia’s largest arts and cultural precinct, the Convent is a place of arts, culture and learning. This year, Midsumma will be featuring an array of incredible artists sharing work that champions creativity, inclusivity, wellbeing and community; everything from dance parties and creative rope workshops to lip synching and cabaret. Abbotsford Convent highlights include:
Fountain – Presented by Forest Collective, Midsumma Festival & Abbotsford Convent as part of Convent Live, Fountain is an orchestrated performance about approaching the world and the self with fluidity, and how such a shift can be revolutionary. 3 – 5 February.
A Composting Cabaret – Colourful and energetic showgirls, Dandrogyny and Betty Grumble, are back at the Abbotsford Convent presenting a joyful landscape of performance offerings inspired by Mini Beast Disco’s research play. 27 – 28 January.
ROPETIMES – Touching and Tying – A workshop in rope bondage and navigating intimacy, pleasure and consent. Facilitated by acclaimed artist and ropeworker, Luke George (Still Lives – NGV/Rising) – an introductory rope bondage class for beginners and anyone who wants to learn, practice and play. Saturday 4 February.
THE BUTTERFLY CLUB:
This CBD gem has plenty of shows, award-winning foyer bars, and an enormous collection of kitsch. Butterfly Club highlights include:
Cherry – Audiences are transported back to 2008 where 13-year-old Sarah is watching RAGE when Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl comes on and her obsession begins. On a cloud of cotton candy, Cherry goes on an intimate, bubblegum, pop journey that hilariously and insightfully celebrates the power of music to transform and enlighten in this one woman’s thank you card to her idol. 8 – 11 February.
Liz and Mil Walk into a Bar – Liz is an uptight lesbian that needs to get out more and Mil is a self- destructive bi disaster in this raucous sex comedy that is also a tender exploration of queer friendship and community, in the vein of Fleabag and Broad City. 23 – 28 January.
THE MOTLEY BAUHAUS:
A newly renovated, proudly independent and inclusive multi- disciplinary arts space, with a focus on the weird, wonderful and Motley. This stunning large venue has two performance spaces and a visual arts gallery that are jammed packed with innovative queer art this Midsumma Festival. Motley Bauhaus highlights include:
Le Freak – the retelling of sideshow from the inside by trans, queer, disabled and sex worker performers. Le Freak is a celebration of the freak, the weird, the different. 24 – 28 January.
The Last Brunch – A delectable new musical that follows Bea, who is invited to brunch by her ex-boyfriend Brandon. The last thing she expects is for him to announce his engagement. The news sets in motion a series of conversations and confrontations, as secrets are revealed. 31 January & 1 – 4 February.
A collaboration of Melbourne’s western region Councils in partnership with Midsumma, highlights include:
Queer on Country – A new series of six works by Ngarigu artist Peter Waples-Crowe on display at The Substation outdoor Billboard Gallery. Through these artworks, Peter has reflected upon their identity, blurring the binaries of their intersecting lived experiences as a queer First Nations person. 22 January – 12 February.
Footscray Queer History Walk – The much-loved queer history walk by the Australian Queer Archives is coming to Footscray for the first time in collaboration with the Living Museum of the West. Saturday 28 January at Footscray Community Arts Centre.
A SAFE(R) SPACE:
New for 2023 is A Safe(R) Space – an artistic exploration of intersectional identity between different facets of queer communities comprising of 21 works. The program will look at what defines a safe space for artists and communities, uncovering a range of work from artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and how artists come together to collaborate and create within a resourced environment.
The 2023 Midsumma Festival runs 21 January – 12 February. For more information and full program, visit: www.midsumma.org.au for details.
Image: Queer Garden – photo by Underground Media