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You Are Here: A festival with (he)art

Josephine Walsh

We’ve been spoilt rotten in Canberra lately. The Multicultural Festival, Enlighten, the Balloon Spectacular, Canberra Day celebrations, Art Not Apart—every week there seems to be something wonderful happening that celebrates the vibrant culture and community of our nation’s capital.

One of our favourite events in the autumn calendar is ‘You Are Here’; an experimental festival that is all about bringing art to the people. Opening today and running until Sunday 22 March, artists transform and take over the city—think poetry slams in a pub, a stunning neon bike ride around Lake Burley Griffin, and a multimedia dance performance in the heart of the city.

“It encompasses a bit of everything—music, dance, theatre, all kinds of performance,” says Vanessa Wright, who is one of the four managing producers of You Are Here.

“The festival is all about being fun, challenging, and approachable. We want to make art as accessible as possible. All of the events are free and revolve around bringing talented artists and their work into people’s consciousness.”

Now in its fifth year, You Are Here began in 2011 to build an events program in the lead up to Canberra’s centenary in 2013. The festival remains close to its roots in showcasing local artists and creative communities.

“The artists featured are already producing outstanding work, but they get to experience a new platform through You Are Here, as well as the chance to experiment and take risks with their practice,” Vanessa explains.

Never been to You Are Here? A great idea is to turn up on Opening Night (18 March) to dip your toe into the festival. Head to the Record Store at 6pm to pick up your program, and start opening all of the art (aka experience a bit of everything!):

  • Want to consider the meaning of life from a plastic horse? Check out 82 Laps, which brings the Garema Place merry-go-round to life with music and performances by Chris Endrey and Friends.
  • Find new ways to appreciate trees in Braddon other than searching for the powerful owl – In The Tree, Part of the Tree is a stunning display of circus acrobatics.
  • Explore diverse stories in Women of Canberra; a Humans of New York-inspired photographic project at the Women’s Centre for Health Matters.
  • Head back into the Record Store for Rainbow Helter Skelter, where talented singer-songwriter Ruth O’Brien brings something new and different to cabaret, jazz, pop and blues genres.

If you have checked out the festival before, you might be wondering why it’s a little shorter than in previous years.

“The 2014 festival was our biggest yet,” Vanessa says. “This year, we really wanted to focus on providing more support and development opportunities to artists, with the aim of producing the best experience possible.”

One exciting new partnership that has been able to flourish this year is ‘Noted Festival’, the newest writer’s festival in the ACT.

“This is a really strong, collaborative publishing community,” Vanessa tells us. “Writers collective Scissors, Paper, Pen, people from rip publishing and Grapple Publishing are all involved in producing different work for ‘You Are Here’, but the ultimate aim is for ‘Noted Festival’ to blossom into its own thing in the coming years.”

One of wonderful things about the festival being entirely free is that it doesn’t put a price or expectation on itself. You get the chance to work out what you’re interested in by exploring lots of different artistic mediums, which comes back to the festival’s goal of being accessible, easy-going, and providing a great variety of different experiences.

“Ultimately, ‘You Are Here’ is about showcasing that Canberra is a great place to be,” Vanessa says. “The city has a high level of artistic contribution throughout the year, and we love showcasing that. It’s a great place to be an artist, because you can try new things of your work, and people are so supportive. There’s a genuine appreciation of what you can do. “

The essentials

What: ‘You Are Here’ Festival
When: Wednesday 18 to Sunday 22 March
Where: Canberra CBD
How much: Free
Web: youareherecanberra.com.au

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Josephine Walsh

Jose Walsh loves A-line skirts, the arts, and all types of pasta. She moved to Canberra in 2011 to study at ANU, and follow her dream of working in a museum. With an education background, she's currently harnessing her love of connecting people in a social media and PR role in a national institution. She loves great film, rambling about her succulents, and finding the perfect spot to share with her favourite people. More about the Author

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