Darwin Festival celebrates 40th birthday with best Festival ever
A momentous 40th anniversary celebration for the 2019 Darwin Festival (8-25 August) saw more than 110,000 people flock to events across 18 glorious hot August nights, delivering a third consecutive record-breaking year for the Northern Territory’s premier arts and culture event.
With a stellar program of stirring theatrical performances, live music acts, sexy cabaret, daredevil circus and family fun, the 2019 Festival is the most successful season in Darwin Festival’s 40-year history.
The 2019 Darwin Festival smashed all previous ticket sales records with 50,436 out of an available 57,700 tickets sold, representing more than 6,000 tickets sold on the previous record set in 2018 of 44,191, and more than 13,700 tickets sold on the 2017 ticket sales of 36,669.
The 2019 program featured 609 performers, including 306 NT artists, in 214 free and ticketed performances across 33 venues.
65 per cent of ticketed shows sold out – a total of 107 sold-out performances out of 165 ticketed performances – with the Festival scheduling additional theatre, comedy and cabaret shows to meet demand.
“The opening weekend of our 40th anniversary program celebrated the best in contemporary Indigenous arts practice was huge, with record attendances at the National Indigenous Music Awards, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and the NATSIAAs, as well as the Santos Opening Night Concert, where 3,500 people flocked to see Yothu Yindi live” said Artistic Director Felix Preval.
“Darwin loves a Spiegeltent, and this year the masterminds behind 2017’s sell-out success Blanc de Blanc returned with a new Spiegeltent and a sexy new show, Blanc de Blanc Encore. A smash-hit with audiences, this Gatsby-esque glamorous party staged 22 performances over the Festival’s run, playing to 12,563 ticket holders.
“The enigmatic Mojo Juju took over The Lighthouse on the first weekend to kick off our incredible live music program with a sold-out performance. The likes of No Mono with their emotive electronica and the new, dynamic performance by two First Nations performers Leela Gilday and Emily Wurramara will be impossible to forget, along with Archie Roach, Tjungu, Mambali and Parap Fiction, who all played to sold-out houses.
“We delivered sold-out shows for some amazing contemporary theatre including My Urrwai, Bighouse Dreaming, Love+, Perhaps, Perhaps…Quizas and Blood on the Dance Floor.
“Audiences flocked to awe-inspiring works of dance and circus, with Man with the Iron Neck, Neon, Phare Circus’ Eclipse, The Perception Experiment and the Bangarra Dance Theatre all enjoying sold-out shows. Once again, Darwin’s own Tracks Dance Company sold out their entire run of Global Positioning.
“One thing Darwin cannot get enough of is cabaret! Post-post-modern diva Meow Meow hypnotised with a sold-out run, and Yummy, Glittery Clittery and Bitch on Heat astonished audiences with captivating artistry at their sell-out shows.
“This Festival was a favourite among comedy-lovers, that’s for sure! Every comedian in the program this year played to packed or sold-out houses: Tom Gleeson, Aborigi-LOL, Cal Wilson, Nazeem Hussain, Damien Power and Wil Anderson. It was also heartening to see Darwin’s own funny lady, Amy Hetherington, in high demand. So high, in fact, we added another two shows!
“Our free family events were a true highlight: the City of Darwin’s Teddy Bear’s Picnic remained a firm family favourite, attracting over 3,000 people, while our free mini Festival for kids, emBARK!, saw swarms of little ones flock to Festival Park for three consecutive afternoons of activities. Formosa Circus’ pop up work PUZZLE proved a real hit with families, and Taiwan in the Park saw the largest crowds yet at Festival Park enjoying an array of cultural offerings by First Nations Taiwanese performers.
“Festival Park is the heart of Darwin Festival. It’s the place to meet up before a show, or just kick back and enjoy some fine food and free entertainment in a vibrant and bustling environment. Always a hit with families, friends and everyone in between, this year an estimated 32,000 visitors enjoyed all Festival Park had to offer for the 18 days,” said Preval.
The Volunteers Program, supported by Power and Water, set a new record of 126 volunteers helping to make the Festival experience enjoyable for all. The Friends of the Festival loyalty program saw another record broken, almost doubling last year’s membership, with 463 people signing on to receive ticket discounts, priority access, free shows and Festival extras.
“The Board and staff thank the Northern Territory Government for its strong support, as well as our wonderful funders, sponsors, partners, suppliers, artists, volunteers and Friends for their contribution to the Festival’s record-breaking success this year,” said Chair Ian Kew.
“The results speak to the hard work and dedication of the whole Festival team under the leadership of CEO Emily Mann and artistic direction of Felix Preval,” said Kew.
Preliminary research data reveals that 30% of 2019 Darwin Festival visitors originated from outside Darwin, with 24% of visitors from interstate and 5% from overseas who identified as having travelled to Darwin specifically to attend Darwin Festival.
“We are pleased to have the support of local audiences. However, growing interstate and international audiences is critical not only to the future success of Darwin Festival, but to the tourism and cultural economies of the Northern Territory under the Turbocharging Tourism stimulus package,” said Chief Executive Officer Emily Mann.
“This year, Darwin Festival implemented a 21-week targeted national digital marketing campaign that has yielded fantastic results. This digital campaign has been served more than 24 million times to targeted online consumers, resulting in more than 62,500 click-throughs to the Darwin Festival website that have converted into 876 ticket booking confirmations to consumers in southern states.
“Darwin Festival is fast becoming recognised as the hottest winter arts festival in the country.
“Darwin Festival would not be possible were it not for the team of dedicated staff who work around the clock to ensure that everything runs smoothly. I cannot thank this hardworking team enough for the passion and love they show the Festival.
“And finally, to the many audience members of the Festival, thank you for sharing in these past 18 hot August nights. We’re delighted that you came out to support the program, relax in Festival Park and share in the many events we had on offer. We look forward to welcoming you back in 2020, August 6 to 23,” said Mann.