It’s more than a mardi gras.
Yes there are sequins and sparkles, feathers, leather and lace but there’s also community outreach, conversation forums and even Christian worship
This is Adelaide’s Feast – and there’s nothing else quite like it in Australia.
Every year, the annual queer arts and cultural festival attracts national and international attention, drawing performers and visitors from all across the globe. Last year’s headliner was acclaimed Aussie songstress and actor Dannii Minogue; the year before that, bearded Austrian drag artist and Euro-vision winner Conchita Wurst was the star attraction.
This year, the festival is celebrating its 21st birthday by presenting a combination of headline attractions. Triple J Unearthed favourites Electric Fields and ARIA award-winner Joanne will both perform at the Opening Night Party, while ambassadors including Adelaide Crows AFLW premiership co-captain Erin Phillips, renowned Australian drag artist Trevor Ashley and Adelaide artist Raymond Zada will be in attendance at various events across the festival’s two-week run.
But it’s not just the glitz and glamour of celebrity performances that attracts visitors to Feast; the festival is also a respected platform for the arts and culture, as well as one upon which voices from all parts of the community can be heard.
“Feast is recognised internationally and nationally for its nurturing and support of artists,” says Feast’s producer and co-founder Margie Fischer. “It’s also working with community groups, the disadvantaged – like projects with Aboriginal people, with youth, with elders – that don’t get done anywhere else.
“Another thing I’m really proud of is that Feast is working with older lesbian and gay people; so even though Feast isn’t producing the events, they’re partnering with organisations that work with queer older people – and I’m talking about the over 60s. We’re also working with young queer people who are under 25; it’s really wonderful. That’s a stunning thing for me.”
This year, Feast is producing two major events: the Opening Night Street Party (otherwise known as Feast’s 21st birthday party), for ages 15+, and Picnic in the
Park, a more family-themed day out where you can kick back and relax among family and friends.
Across the rest of the Feast program is a diverse range of entertainment options, including cabaret, dance, play readings and workshops, writing live, visual art, comedy, music, conversations, sports, films and more.
Like most other long-running festivals, the number of visitors to Feast has increased over the years, with last year’s event attracting 45,000 festival-goers. Unlike other long-running festivals, however, the number of performers and shows has remained relatively small … which suits Fischer’s “size isn’t everything” adage perfectly.
“I don’t think bigger is better,” she says. “What is good about Feast is that there aren’t events that are competing with each other. The festival has been curated over the years by artistic directors and creative producers, so you can showcase the artists and they can actually get a lot of people to their shows.
“And also there are a lot of forums, visual arts events, community events – it’s much more about quality and diversity.
“The audiences and participants have definitely increased but I don’t see that events increasing is a measure (of success).”
Born in Sydney, Fischer co-founded Feast in 1997 along with three others – Damien Carey, Helen Bock and Luke Cutler – and, 21 years later, continues to be impressed with the calibre of talent on offer in South Australia. “I have seen the most creative ideas come out of Adelaide, and an enormous quality of arts and cultural events,” she says.
One such emerging talent is 28-year-old Grace Mitchell, a musician and graphic designer who created the cover design for this year’s Feast guide. Mitchell has been involved with Feast for the past decade, initially as a festival-goer and more recently as co-ordinator of the Feast Queer Youth Drop-In and a member of the Feast Youth Committee.
“The festival is great because it has a range of activities for a range of different community members, ages, interests,” she says. “It plays a significant role in the queer community. It’s a great chance for performers and people of various skillsets to show their talents off to everyone and share their stories.
“Feast also does a good job of having community-run initiated events and curated acts – it’s an important part of Feast to make sure everyone gets a say, and there’s scope to have healthcare discussions or political discussions as much as there is arts. For whatever reasons, we’re political at the moment.”
And political they most certainly are, with the result of the marriage equality plebiscite expected on November 15, just four days after Feast kicks off. Both Fischer and Mitchell are confident that, no matter the outcome of the vote, the LGBTIQ community will celebrate nonetheless.
“I have no doubt that our community will still band together,” says Mitchell. “In a way, it will be interesting to see if it affects how many people come to Feast. It always gets a significant turnout but whether (the vote) has solidified our feeling as a community and the importance of being present and celebrating who we are – how that comes to fruition will be interesting.”
Adds Fischer: “A festival brings people together and it also gives people the opportunity to feel proud of who they are and supported and celebrating. So it’s wonderful to have the queer community coming together for a celebration of Feast’s 21st birthday party. I think there will be marriage equality; however, whatever happens, the community will be celebrating our diversity and pride. It will give us strength either way, and joy.”
And Fischer is keen to share that joy with everyone, not just those in the LGBTIQ community.
“Feast is an inclusive, welcoming festival,” she says. “You don’t have to be queer to come to Feast.”
It’s a sentiment backed by Mitchell.
“I hope that it’s not just the queer community (who come to the festival),” she says. “I hope that allies get behind the events, too, and also get behind the visibility and the support because that means a lot.”
WORDS – Lynn Cameron
2017 Feast Festival
Adelaide Queer Arts & Cultural Festival
Get frocked up and go see…
Trevor Ashley: Diamonds are for Trevor
Ashley will perform his acclaimed two-act show at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Accompanied by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the show celebrates Shirley Bassey’s 80th birthday, with hits including Big Spender, Goldfinger, Never, Never, Never, This is My Life, History Repeating and, of course, Diamonds are Forever.
Presented by an extremely talented group of Aboriginal gay performers, this is a multicultural show exploring the theme of labels. Culture, sexuality, gender, fashion … even toilets. In a world surrounded by political correctness, why must everything be labelled?
This program of short films from local, national and international talent brings a rainbow of intense experience to illuminate what it means to be queer right now. The event is divided into five themed screenings and promises something for everyone, whether young or old, shy or bold.
Attracting both academics and community members to Adelaide, this year’s forum topics include Tackling Diversity in the AFL, Everything you Always Wanted to Ask a Queer Sex Worker, Creating Housing Conversations and Asserting the Right to Choose. “I think the quality of the forums is extremely intelligent,” says Fischer.