Midsumma Festival wraps with increased numbers and awards announced

Midsumma Kira PuruMidsumma Festival 2020 wrapped up in a blaze of glory last Sunday 9 February with one of Australia’s biggest vocals, and a force to be reckoned with, Kira Puru.

With the three- week festival finishing up for another successful year, total attendances for the 2020 Midsumma Festival are expected to exceed 255,000 attendances across a total of 194 events across more than 100 venues which included over 5000 culture makers in Melbourne’s CBD and wider Victoria.

The Festival had a successful Festival kick off at Midsumma Carnival, which saw attendances reach 117,000 the success was followed up with a record-breaking celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Pride March with total participants in Midsumma Pride March at 10,607 (2,177 more than 2019) and total attendances for the event of 55,607.

“Midsumma continues to set benchmarks at the very forefront of queer arts culture nationally,” said Karen Bryant, Midsumma Festival CEO. “We are thrilled that this year’s program hit new heights, growing in artistic depth and variation of the highest standard.”

“With the largest number of events presented on record, highlights included repeated standing ovations, and sell-out performances whilst visual arts exhibitions showcased the vitality of contemporary queer ‘voices’ from across Australia.”

In its fourth year the Queer Playwriting Showcase (previously Playtime Stage Readings) sold-out to audiences at Gasworks Arts Park with the judges announcing that Home Fires Burning by Maeve Marsden will take home the award for Queer Playwriting 2020. Marsden is set to work alongside Midsumma and Gasworks over the next few months to deliver a full work for Midsumma Festival 2021.

“I’m so thrilled to have my work in progress selected for the Queer Playwriting Award,” said Maeve Marsden. “It was an honour to present the reading with such brilliant actors, and to see, through performance, what did and didn’t work, what needs polishing, how the dialogue feels in a room full of people.”

“I’ll be developing the play this year and am excited to see where the story takes me, and I thank Gasworks for this honour and for the support of new queer work.”

The Queer Playwriting Awards identifies, supports and develops original Australian theatre with a queer focus. The LGBTQIA+ community is diverse, exciting and full of stories and ideas that deserve to be heard on the stages of performing arts venues throughout the country. The ultimate aim of the Queer Playwriting Awards is to tour the work nationally to expose it to a wide range of metropolitan, regional and rural audiences.

Also announced on the last day of the festival was the People’s Choice Award for the 2020 Midsumma and Australia Post Art Award – the votes are in and the winner is Samuele Tomasulo for Empathic Deniability.

“As an artist, I experiment with emotions to help understand others,” said Samuele Tomasulo. “I hope to expand our collective emotional intelligence by creating sound sculptures that pull my audience into the mind of a specific character. Bringing light to the trauma of growing up in a world that trains a group of people to believe that they are degenerate. Giving a voice to those silenced by society, especially the LGBTQI+ community.”

Also announced in the third weekend, the Midsumma Pride March Awards – selected by LGBTQIA+ artists and community advocates Kevin Reader, Anna Piper Scott and Amao Leota Lu – encouraged a bright presence from participants and were won by the following groups: Parents of Gender Diverse Children received the Peter Dewildt Award – Most Significant Message.

This award honours the memory of Peter Dewildt, Pride March Victoria’s first president, who passed in 2019. Most Fabulous – awarded to the most fantastically-frocked group: Rainbow LARP (Live Action Role Play). Most Innovative – awarded to the cleverest group in the march: Pacific Essence.

Midsumma Festival is a volunteer-fuelled organisation that wouldn’t exist without the contribution from individuals within our community. 615 volunteer applications, 510 volunteers rostered across the three-week Festival, 610 volunteer shifts completed and 2215 volunteered hours.

The Midsumma Festival will be back next year with the dates: 17 January to 7 February 2021. For more information, visit: www.midsumma.org.au for details.

Image: Kira Puru – courtesy of Midsumma Festival