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Castlemaine State Festival 2017

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by Vanessa (subscribe)
WeekendNotes Chief Editor / Chief Writer / PR & Communications.
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The 21st Castlemaine State Festival returns this March with a spectacular 10-day arts, music, theatre, literature and cultural extravaganza.

From the 17th to 26th March, you are invited to enjoy this biennial event, which features an eclectic program of music, physical theatre, circus and dance, literature and storytelling, visual art, film and free events.

From a focus on the Philippines, to a series of concerts at dawn, and a moving celebration of the refugee experience, this year's program presents a diverse selection of works, exploring places and spaces, and the varied journeys along the way.

This year's Festival is expected to draw visitors from near and far with more than 100 individual performances, exhibitions, workshops, conversations and events, in addition to 80 Associated Artist Open Studios, exhibitions, tours and workshops, 415 participating artists, 160 from regional Victoria, 33 Castlemaine Created works including 30 Festival commissioned and supported new works.

Particpating local artists are from Yirrkala in northeast Arnhem Land and the central Victoria region, while international artists come from all over the world, including Argentina, Switzerland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, United Kingdom, China, Philippines, Iran, Greece, India, Sri Lanka, Senegal, Lebanon and New Zealand.

The Festival will once again transform Castlemaine into a bustling creative hub with 30 unique and unexpected locations acting as key venues. From the town's most iconic buildings and landscapes (Castlemaine Town Hall, Theatre Royal, Castlemaine Botanical Gardens) to new venues and unusual sites (Carman's (Goldmining) Tunnel, Castlemaine (Railways) Goods Shed, Castlemaine Magistrates' Court, The Home of Harvey Mitchell, Buda Historic Home & Garden), this year's program is sure to surprise and inspire eventgoers.

Festival Director, Martin Paten says: "If I was to encapsulate an underlying theme at the heart of the 2017 Castlemaine State Festival, I would say it is about 'the journey'. From the town's history to the current day, from the physical re-location of individuals and groups, to the ongoing cultural evolution of this town, the notion of 'the journey' is ever present. Whether it is intimate and subtle, noisy and ecstatic, or entertaining and emotional, each part of this Festival aims to take each audience member on a uniquely personal journey."

The Festival will kick off with a huge night of free entertainment at the Castlemaine Goods Shed with The Future of Things Past. Inspired by an aesthetic fusion of 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery and unstoppable new technology this electric, intergenerational experience will feature more than 200 performers who have worked with an international choreographer Robby Graham to create an event encompassing Castlemaine's unique and diverse community.

Opening night also features a special evening of classical music masterpieces from acclaimed Fijian-born Australian violinist Wilma Smith, together with four of Australia's most sought after chamber musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music; and The Skellingtons, a spooky new offering from FLAP! frontman and trumpet extraordinaire, Eamon McNeils, will get the party started at Theatre Royal, Castlemaine's grand dame and official Festival Club.

Under a Willow - a long way from China

This year's program also shines a bright light on the Philippines, with a showcase of films, visual artworks and socio-political theatre. Highlights include; CROSSROADS - Filipino Film and Society, a specially curated series of award-winning films; a rare insight into regional contemporary Filipino art production, periSCOPE from 98b COLLABoratory showcases a diverse compilation of videos and moving image works from the Philippine archipelago; and one of the Philippines' most exciting young artists, Leeroy New (including past commissions for Lady Gaga) will create a temporary sculptural installation called La Puerta Del Laberinto (The Door to the Labyrinth) combining visual arts, fashion, film and theatre on the façade of the Castlemaine Art Museum.

The former Castlemaine Railways Goods Shed is earmarked to be a new leading and enterprising centre for creativity in central Victoria. The venue launches as part of the Festival, acting as home to an expansive program of physical theatre, circus, cabaret and dance artists including; outstanding Aussie acrobatic Joel Salom, Tom Flanagan, The Pitts Family Circus, contemporary circus company Here and Now, internationally revered Acrobat, John-Paul Zaccarini, Spanish physical theatre performers Lusco and Fusco; Nicole et Martin, The Amazing Drumming Monkeys, Argentinian outfit Mano A Mano, Anna Lumb, award-winning Circus Trick Tease and Three High Acrobatics, Emilie Bloom and Nicci Wilks; and the savagely funny Jess Love.

Poet Vs Pageant

In theatre, winner of George Fairfax New Theatre Award, Chamber Made Opera in partnership with Sichuan Conservatory of Music present Between 8 and 9 – the Chengdu Teahouse Project; in a moving celebration of shared humanity and the reality of the refugee experience, five refugees who have made Australia their new home perform Light at the End… in the unusual setting of a tunnel tucked away under a railway line; mesmerising dancer Janette Hoe brings her trademark Butoh-inspired, improvised movement to the Botanical Gardens to perform Under a Willow – a long way from China; and a poetic re-imagining of Isak Dinesen's The Diver set in an Islamic culture somewhere in the timeless past, CreatAbility perform No Hands.

In literature, the Festival builds on its 2017 focus of story-telling and social commentary with highlights including; a Bowie Bookathan celebrating the Star Man's 100 favourite books with an afternoon of dress up and filmed fun at the Castlemaine State Library; poet laureate Telia Nevile presents Poet vs Pageant; highly acclaimed historian and author Robyn Annear tells stories gleaned from 19th-century Australian newspapers in Tales from Trove; Urban Theatre Projects present the uniquely Arab-Australian story of Michael Mohammed Ahmad's award-winning novel The Tribe, to be performed in a backyard in Newstead; and three outstanding literary presenters present The Novels of Harper Lee Versus the People, a memorable and moving part-debate, part discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird taking place at Castlemaine Magistrates' Court.

A massive music line-up will take place within the town's refined and historic venues, from local churches and community halls to civic buildings and private homes and gardens. Castlemaine Town Hall will play host to a line up of national and international artists; Uncle Jack Charles, Emma Donovan, Kutcha Edwards, Jida Gulpilil and more take to the stage for a very special night titled Ulumbarra – Gather Together; British international classical violin sensation Charlie Siem performs alongside the Omega Ensemble; Finland's musical prodigies, Paavali Jumpannen comes together with the Bendigo Symphony Orchestra; and ARIA award-winning pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska and one of Australia's most recognised composers Elena Kats-Chernin perform two glorious concerts at the Castlemaine Town Hall and charming Home of Harvey Mitchell with its famous Imperial Bosendorfer piano, made in Vienna in 1899.

My Bubba

The Castlemaine Theatre Royal will be home to a line-up of outstanding and high energy artists throughout the Festival including Niko Ne Zna, New Zealand's very own Balkan gypsy brass extravaganza; Scandinavian folk sensations My Bubba; eight-piece powerhouse comprising jazz, soul and rock 'n' roll, Jazz Party; and Senegambian Jazz Band perform; and Music in the Churches takes over Castlemaine's 19th century built and atmospheric Anglican Church, Presbyterian Church, St Mary's Catholic Church, and Uniting Church for a series of classical concerts featuring winners of the 2016 Mietta Song Competition, Laura King and Jonathan Wilson, Nick Tsiavos returns to Castlemaine State Festival for the first time since 2011, alongside Deborah Kayser; and bringing together members of the Dja Dja Wurrung community, with field naturalists, ARIA award winning songwriters Kavisha Mazzella, Neil Murray, Carl Panuzzo and Eva Popov perform Singing From Country, to name just a few.

Stepping out of the conventional and into the unusual, Thompson's Foundry Band perform nestled amongst the gargantuan machines of the Vossioh Cogifer Steel Factory exploring the percussive possibilities of the metal; internationally acclaimed Ben Opie performs Ecstasy, a selection of solo oboe works within the intimate setting of Carman's Tunnel and performed by candelight; and master musicians including Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Manju Mehta, and Jay Dabgar perform Bhupalam Raga, a form of pentatonic northern Indian music customarily played at dawn for a uniquely exquisite welcome to the day.

2016 Mietta Foundation Song Competition

In visual arts, the program includes a curated exhibition program featuring workshops, conversations and celebratory openings with central Victorian artists across 80 studios and galleries, including Castlemaine Art Museum. Highlights include; Balndnhurr – A Lasting Impression, a celebratory exhibition showcasing the Yolngu respect for clan and country; artists from Yirrkala, Castlemaine, New Guinea and North Queensland come together for an exhibition exploring themes explicit in the act of mineral exploration and exploitation in The Extractive Frontier – Mining for Art; and a poetic work combining art forms such as walking, tea, and other culinary practices, Director Jude Anderson invites audiences to follow in the footsteps of thousands from Guangdong migratory passage from Robe in South Australia to the Victorian Goldfields, in Big Walk to Golden Mountain, with two exquisite works to be displayed in two locations.

The Festival's education program offers a range of extraordinary experiences for Castlemaine's aspiring young adults with events including; Gobyerno (Government) from Philippine Sipat Lawin Ensemble and students of Castlemaine Secondary College offering young people the opportunity to make their own; this year's Primary Schools Program invites over 1500 students from across Mount Alexander Shire to participate in five days cultural and artistic riches with local and international featuring artists including treasured Swiss children's theatre company, Nicole e Martin; and The Little House Project sees 250 local children aged 4-5 years explore themes of 'Being, Belonging and Becoming' in the creation of their own little clay house which will come together to create a village to be presented at the Castlemaine Art Museum.

The Festival ends once again with the much loved free Don Garden Party in the Botanical Gardens. Bringing together the community for an entertaining day awash with puppets and poetry, laughter and song, tumblers and tricks, and exceptional food and wine from the region, Festival-goers just need to pack a picnic rug and kick back amongst friends and family.

The 2017 Castlemaine State Festival runs from the 17-26 March. Tickets are now on sale - plan your visit by heading to

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When: 17 - 26 March 2017
Where: Castlemaine Victoria
Cost: Various including free events
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