Stories of this place: BLEACH* Festival drops its 2020 program

BLEACH* drops a sensational 2020 program that’s all about this time, and this place.

Our beloved BLEACH* Festival returns in 2020, over 11 thrilling, thoughtful and provocative days in November, with a whopping 214 performances, and 34 events.

As most folks could imagine, the current pandemic has made the planning and execution of live, community-based events uncommonly complicated, however the team at Placemakers* Gold Coast have rolled admirably with the punches, pulling together a unique and largely local program that is well worthy of the festival’s status as a leading national arts experience.

Taking place across three hubs: Burleigh Heads, Chevron Island and the Botanic Gardens at Benowa, BLEACH* will utilise first-rate local talent to tell the stories of this place, in this time, making it a wholly unique and inimitable cultural adventure that is sure to be recalled with fondness, long after the event.

CEO of Placemakers* and BLEACH* Artistic Director Rosie Dennis has had one helluva rollercoaster ride in her first year at the helm, but she’s definitely taken some positives out of it.

“Nothing like a pandemic to help you make friends pretty quickly,” she laughs, when I ask about all the program re-jigging that went on with border closures.

“It’s not the program I would’ve curated in my first year, but COVID has afforded different relationships and fast tracked some relationships that would’ve been two or three years in the making, particularly with some First Nations artists.

“There has been a different level of generosity across the city so we’ve been able to build trust more quickly,” she continues. “We’re all united over something that is out of our control, and people have been able to get on board and say ‘we’re in, we’ll do it’, so that’s been really exciting.

“The team has been really great with all the changes, and I’m genuinely excited about where we’ve landed with the program. I was always committed to finding a way to do the festival.”

And find a way she certainly has. BLEACH* kicks off with 11 days of COVID-safe, place-based music, storytelling, dance and culture on 12 November. And just because we love you, we’re giving you one of your first looks at the program, and what’s going to be on offer at each of the three hubs.

 

Justins Park, Burleigh Heads | 12-22 November

BLEACH* takes its particular brand of outdoor arts fusion to the beach this year, with the Burleigh hub at Justins Park running for the duration of the festival. Luther Cora and Yugambeh Dancers will open the festival at sunrise (5am) on 12 November and close it at sunset (6.20pm) on 22 November with FIRST LIGHT LAST LIGHT, a fitting bookend for a zone that is packed with local Indigenous content. Morning to night, the Burleigh precinct will be running music, workshops, talks, light installations, weaving and more, all hosted by locals and all with a rich connection to place. Entirely free and family friendly, the Burleigh hub will have something for absolutely everyone.

“I’m excited to see how people engage with the Burleigh hub really,” says Rosie. “It’ll be there every day, so you can drop in and out. Will curiosity get the better of people who do their morning walk? We’ll have to see how it plays out.

“It’s a really big footprint, the work will provoke a lot of really great conversations, and it’s just time. The broader Gold Coast community is hungry for this kind of space to be able to dive into different conversations.”

 

Chevron Island | 12-14 November, 20-21 November

The Chevron hub at BLEACH* is an intriguing little precinct. First up is CHEZ NOUS ON CHEVRON which runs over the two weekends of the festival, and offers nine experiences for one ticket. An abandoned block of houses will be transformed into an outdoor theatre, where seated audiences will be surrounded by large-scale installations, swooned over by seven sopranos, and wowed by music and cabaret. It’s a place to come and abandon your workaday cares, sit back with a drink and let the good times flow.

Rosie is no stranger to turning derelict buildings into stages, having curated works across old social housing buildings, abandoned shopping centre and even entire streets in her career.

“As an artist I think a lot about what to do with these spaces that are just ghosts,” she says. “They have a particular design that you just want to work with, let that tell the story, and you just fill it with work.”

As part of the BLEACH* COVID-safe plan, the theatrics planned for the houses’ interiors has been moved outdoors.

“On Chevron the work will sit around the audience at 360 degrees, the audience can’t move, we’ll direct the work around them,” explains Rosie.

That work will also include such gems as a once-in-a-lifetime installation by artist Glennys Briggs that will eventually be demolished along with the buildings (so catch it while you can!), a live poetry festival, hills hoist cinema thanks to Gold Coast Festival, bopping bombshell J’aiMime and her Bubble Girl routine, and more.

 

Botanic Gardens | 22 November

Enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon at the Botanic Gardens and let the soothing sounds of the SOUTHERN CROSS SOLOISTS wash over you as the clouds drift, the wind blows and the sun goes down on the last day of the Festival.

The Southern Cross Soloists will present a specially curated program of songs for the season. The concert highlights the works of Australia’s finest female composer, Elena Kats Chernin, who has been dubbed Australia’s answer to Mozart.

 

“I’m really excited about the composer’s work we’re predominantly playing,” says Rosie.

“As a contemporary arts festival I think it’s important that we profile the work of living artists, and Elena Kats Chernin is probably our most famous female composer.  Pretty much every single orchestra has played her work, she’s very well known in the classical scene and not so much outside of that.”

“It was important to do something at the gardens this year,” Rosie continues. “It’s a great location and it’s really under-utilised. This will be a Sunday afternoon, so it’s super family friendly, free, and there will be a lovely bar. People can BYO food and picnic blankets and just relax and enjoy the 75 minute concert.

BLEACH* runs from 12 to 22 November 2020. The vast majority of events at this year’s festival are free, however most do require you to register beforehand as part of the COVID-safe plan. That’s not to say you can’t just wander by and watch from a different vantage point, but you’re probably better off registering in order to ensure a good spot within the audience area.

Visit bleachfestival.com.au now for the full program of events, and to start planning your visit.

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