Midsumma Festival

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Midsumma Festival
Carnival crowd at Alexandra Garden
Carnival crowd at Alexandra Garden 2010
GenreLGBT festival
Location(s)Melbourne, Australia

Midsumma Festival is an annual celebration of queer, intersex, transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay culture, held during January and February in Melbourne, Australia. The festival began as a one-week celebration of gay pride in 1989. The festival has expanded over the years to a three-week event that attracts 180,000 individuals to its opening Carnival alone.

Midsumma Festival is considered a major event by Tourism Victoria and the City of Melbourne, with both government agencies providing funds to the festival. The festival is one of the top five gay and lesbian arts and cultural celebrations, along with New York, San Francisco, Vancouver and Sydney.

Previous events have included what at the time was Australia's only gay short play competition, Pink Shorts, a collaborative project engaging theatre veterans and drama newcomers to bring new short works to the Melbourne stage. Summa Cabaret which featured Hugh Jackman, Geraldine Turner, and the ensembles Combo Fiasco and The Great Big Opera Company.

The festival, has since 2008 opened with Carnival on the middle Sunday of January. Carnival is a day-long celebration in the City of Melbourne providing access to both gay and mainstream communities to picnic with family and friends, view entertainment, as well as browse stalls. The festivities continue into the night with T Dance – an outdoor dance party – featuring some of Melbourne's and Australia's most popular DJs.

Midsumma's visual arts program features exhibitions in and around Melbourne from local, national and international gay artists. Yarra Arts and Queer City play home to many of the exhibitions.

The festival's performing arts program includes musicals, theatre, cabaret, film, spoken word, music events and dance parties. These performing arts events are largely produced by the community.


Traditionally held in Alexandra Gardens with stalls, food, and entertainment taking place through the commitment of Midsumma's principal partner, the City of Melbourne, the event relocated to Birrarung Marr in 2011. The main stage includes entertainment from the coming festival program to showcase and promote the coming events. Some community and arts and entertainment identities to have performed include Luke Gallagher, Dolly Diamond, Anthony Manchetti, Hannah Gadsby and Adam Richard, as well as popular Drag Production Show "The Classics".

Duclie's Dog Show is a Midsumma Carnival institution where community members show their dogs, with categories including "cutest bitch" and "best owner and dog combo".

T Dance[edit]

The day is brought to a close with the T Dance, Midsumma's dance party under the stars. Artists who have performed at T Dance include Slinkee Minx, Trevor Ashley, Ricki-Lee, Paul Heron, Inaya Day, and the Divine Knights.

Queer City[edit]

Queer City is the collaboration between City of Melbourne, Arts Victoria, Midsumma, and local galleries and artists from the gay community. In 2012 the Queer City was focussed around 1000 Pound Bend Gallery and performance venue, in Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne along with City Library and a new exhibition space known as Mailbox 141, which is the old glass and wooden mailboxes of 141 Flinders Lane, that have been converted into a small art exhibition space.

There is an exhibition of Vivien St James’ work, a celebration of fluid or ‘unstable’ gender at Platform Space, as well as exhibitions at Guilford Lane Gallery and fortyfive downstairs.

Re/Gendered brings together international and Australian artists in a group exhibition that celebrates the notion of fluid or 'unstable' gender, striving to transgress and blur the boundaries of gender performance.

Yarra Arts[edit]

Yarra Arts is the collaboration between the City of Yarra, Arts Victoria, Midsumma, local galleries and artists from the gay community.

In 2009 this exhibition series featured a premier event from T.J. Bateson, a group show, TransMasculinities, which explored aspects of gender, as well as a range of work at the artist run gallery initiative 69 Smith Street on the street of the same name, in Melbourne's Fitzroy. T.J.Bateson’s new body of work, Veiled In Plain Sight, was created specifically for Midsumma celebrating the relaunch of Tacit Contemporary Art in Abbotsford. It was off the back of the exhibition series, Transmen Translated in 2008, that artist and curator Jesslyn Moss brought together TransMasculinities, a Midsumma group show featuring photography, painting, drawing and video by eight Female to Male artists from Australia, the UK and the United States. The exhibition explored new ideas of masculinity and offered an insight into the physical and psychological aspects of transgender butch, gender queer and transmasculine experiences, and was shown at Red Gallery. 69 Smith Street featured work from Benja, Mark Bareald, Gary Campbell, J. Kristensen, Piepke, Mel Simpson and Rat Simpson and explored concepts ranging from identity, relationship and material assumptions through photography, and even playful work which portraying women's relationships with each other and the open road. The 2009 Yarra Arts Exhibition was launched on Wednesday 20 January at 69 Smith Street Gallery.

In 2012, Ross Watson presented his 25th Anniversary exhibition series entitle Cycles & Sequences which explored cycles of life, notions of time and endurance, change and transition in today's disposable society. Cycles & Sequences included the first ever paintings of the Bel Ami stars, Lukas Ridgeston, Kris Evan and Dolph Lambert. Celebrating positive gay role models in his art has been an important aspect of Watson's work, and this exhibition featured Lance Corporal James Wharton II, who appeared on the front cover of the U.K.'s Armed Forces magazine in 2009, as a soldier who is openly gay. Of the exhibition Professor Martin Comte OAM, PhD said 'In his latest series of works, Ross Watson displays a maturity that clearly stamps him as one of Australia's outstanding artists.'

Registered events[edit]

The majority of Midsumma Festival events are within the umbrella events program. That is, they are created, produced and funded by independent third parties who pay fees for inclusion in the Midsumma Festival each year. In 2012 there were approximately 160 events.

Midsumma Boards and Management[edit]

  • Midsumma Festival Inc. is an incorporated association.
  • The Chair of Midsumma Festival is John Caldwell
  • The Board of Midsumma Festival includes Dr. Jane Daniels, Rodney George, Dean Hamood (Treasurer), Aaron Hockly, Rachel "Rat" Simpson, Kate Wickett. Mark Latchford resigned in March 2012.
  • The Festival Manager is Monique Thorpe.



  • Chair: Lisa Watts, Board:
  • General Manager: Adam J Lowe


  • Chair: Lisa Watts, Board:
  • General Manager: Adam J Lowe



  • General Manager: Jarrod Hughes
  • Festival Administrator: Molly Whelan

See also[edit]


External links[edit]