WHAT IS THE VILLAGE FESTIVAL?

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Sometime around late October, passers-by on St. Georges Rd might notice an enclave being built in North Fitzroy’s Edinburgh Gardens.

 

Since 2006, The Village Festival has set up in this idyllic parkland. Some locals have embraced it as an annual fixture, yet for others it has remained an enigma.

 

The Village is described as a cross between an arts festival, a village fair and a carnival. Artistic Director Suzanne Kalk explains: “Enter through the decorated gateway and you are in an alternate reality. There are performances, bands and visual art all over the place, but I think of the whole site as one big interactive installation artwork.”

 

It’s an artwork created by many people. A small programming team has curated more than 250 artists and performers who are involved in creating 150 mini-events across three days.

 

“We don’t want the audience to be spectators, but active participants. We make it very natural for people to connect, both audience-performer and audience-audience, whether it is a group of friends, or with strangers”, says Suzanne.

 

There’s plenty of opportunities to get creative. Kids can experience the digestive system from the inside (!) or try buying “unicorn poo” from the cranky lollyshop lady at Penny Candy.

 

Anyone can jump up on stage in So You Think You Can Interpretive Dance, play interactive games in the Amusement Alcazarar or with two visual artists active on site, you might even find yourself immortalised.

 

Even dogs have a chance to get involved: there are costume-making sessions and on Saturday at 3pm, you can register your dog for The Famous Village Dog Show. Apparently it is famous because it is equal parts adorable and hilarious.

 

We don’t want the audience to be spectators, but active participants. We make it very natural for people to connect, both audience-performer and audience-audience, whether it is a group of friends, or with strangers.”

 

The Village Festival proudly gives opportunities for non-traditional performances. In 2016 there will be eight different theatrical experiences that are happening in unusual venues: caravans, on a couch under a tree, in an ice-cream van or on a roving bicycle.

 

Asked to select some highlights, Suzanne nominates the Friday night opening party that features Lola the Dancing Bear. “This rare species of native Australian dancing bear escaped last summer. It sent a note saying that it will be arriving at Edinburgh Gardens on Friday 28 October, so we’re creating a mysterious show for her to star in – some kind of old worldy, mysterious, carney show, with music, magic, circus sideshow and of course bear dancing.”

 

On Saturday night there is Demon Dumplings, a premiere performance by 20 musicians, all playing toy instruments, such as party horns, slide whistles, zithers, whizzers and razzers. Suzanne says, “Whilst there will be comedic elements, this is actually a properly composed piece by BJ Morriszonkle and the musicians he has assembled are some of Melbourne’s finest.”

 

On Sunday afternoon, the toy symphony orchestra plays with an additional twist. Kids can participate in an instrument-making workshop, then learn to play some music on their creation and finally, get to play along with the professional orchestra! Youngsters can also do a workshop to create a picnic hamper for their family group from delicious locally-grown/sourced produce, to be consumed on the grass whilst the orchestra performs.

 

The music stage runs throughout the festival and features everything from bluegrass to ska, big band swing to boogaloo and exotica to salsa. The theatre selection is equally as impressive and caters for young and old. With puppets a-plenty and Dane Certificate’s magic show, the kids will have wide-eyed stories that last well beyond Cup Day. There are also personal accounts from refugees, and as the evening rolls on, queer comedy, provocateur cabaret and the Freaky Sexy Weird Variety Show.

 

Food and drink are a big part of the festival too. The World Kitchen is described as “the imaginary love child of Nigella and the Swedish chef”. Over the course of the weekend, this will host a variety of quirky food performances including a tasting game-show called Perfect Match; gravel-voiced, New Orleans style jazz legend, Pugsley Buzzard will host Musicians in the Kitchen.

 

Beyond that, there’s beer from Brunswick-based Thunder Road Brewery, a choice selection of wines from GetWinesDirect, plus pizzas, Middle Eastern and Taiwanese street food.

 

Suzanne sums it up: “You often hear the term “something for everyone”, but The Village Festival has so many diverse things happening in the one friendly atmosphere, I think we really can say the festival has more than something for everyone!”

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