The insanely talented women of Festival 2018

Grrrl, Festival 2018 on the Gold Coast

It’s impossible to showcase the best creative talent of the Commonwealth without shining a spotlight squarely and firmly at ladies. And women feature prominently when it comes to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games’ cultural program.

Festival 2018, which runs 4 – 15 April alongside the Games, boasts an incredible diversity of talent from across the globe. Here we highlight some of the ladies we’re most looking forward to seeing.


Peaches at The Great Australian Songbook
Main Stage, Surfers Paradise Beach, 5 April 7.00pm

Merrill Beth Nisker, better known by her stage name Peaches, is a Canadian electronic musician and performance artist, who is known for her aggressive, highly sexual and distinctive style of music, and controversial lyrical content. Active under the name of Peaches since her 2000 album ‘The Teaches of Peaches’, Merrill has built up a dedicated fanbase around the world and is a alternative festival favourite. Now she will hit Surfers Paradise for Festival 2018 as a part of ‘The Great Australian Songbook’, which takes our anthems, love songs and ballads and sings them back to us in the vibrant accents of the Commonwealth. The lineup also features Nadine Shah, Winston McAnuff and Afrikan Boy, as well as a host of other artists from around the Commonwealth in an unforgettable night of Australian music.


Main Stage, Surfers Paradise Beach, 15 April 7.00pm

Festival 2018 will close with a bang, starting with GRRRL – a bespoke electronic music collaboration between independent, revolutionary women from around the Commonwealth and beyond. Eight fierce queens will share stories of life, conflict, inequality and change through music, fusing together sounds of dark techno, ghetto bass, hip hop, dancehall, reggae, soul and electronica. Nono Nkoane is a lead vocalist in GRRRL. She is an Original Nu Jazz & folk singer/Songwriter from Kwa Langa, Cape Town. Laima Leyton is a Brazilian music producer based in London, and is the Musical Director of GRRRL. Wiyaala is another lead vocalist, known as ‘The Young Lioness of Africa’. She is an AfroPop singersongwriter from Funsi, Upper West Ghana. AWA – African Women Arise – is both a lead vocalist and rapper. Awa is from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and raps in her native tongue of Ndebele and in English, about women’s
rights, gender based violence and the political struggle in Zimbabwe. Speech Debelle is a rapper / spoken word artist who kicked in the UK music industry’s backdoor in 2009 waving her sensitive, introspective debut album, ‘Speech Therapy’, which won the Mercury Music Prize for British album of the year. Sohini Alam is also lead vocalist. She is British Bangladeshi vocalist whose musical repertoire includes folk, modern and traditional Bengali songs with a specialisation in Nazrul Sangeet. Lei Di Dai is a lead vocalist who was crowned ‘rainha do dancehall’ aka ‘Queen of the dancehall’ in Brazil by Rolling Stone Brazil. AFRODEUTSCHE DJ’s and plays synth. Her production crosses a wide range of styles, classical solo piano, techno, house and electro.

As well as presenting world class shows, GRRRL deliver dynamic political, activist and creative panel discussions about women and social change, feminism and music; incorporating performance, rap, song, protest and debate that has wowed and engaged audiences across the UK.

This special evening is supported by the HOTA Choir with a soulful, contemporary repertoire under the direction of Astrid Jorgensen.


Corinna Bonshek, Composer (Song to the Earth)
Palm Beach Parklands, 7 + 8 April, various times

Composer Corrina Bonshek writes music that is inspired by the sounds and patterns of nature, and her own meditation practice. Foremost in her practice is the desire to create deeply transformative, listening experiences. This has led her to create immersive, sound installations and music-art events in unusual spaces. She told Blank GC how ‘Song to the Earth’ came about.

“I was funded to create Song to the Earth an interactive outdoor classical music experience, where the audience gets up close to musicians and experiences a synaesthetic combination of light, music and nature sounds.

“For me every, artwork is a unique mirror of a place, time, and community (even if it is a broken mirror or shard!). Art brings us together and holds us through powerful shared experience. It has the power to open our hearts and mind. When it connects deeply to a community, it can fuel social change.

“There is a perception elsewhere that the Gold Coast is all glitz and glamour with no soul. This simply isn’t the case.”

In ‘Song to the Earth’, visitors will wander through a forest of musicians in an immersive, live orchestra event.


Electric Lady: Meg Mac, Nina Las Vegas, Wafia, Kardajala Kirridarra curated by Holly Rankin
Main Stage, Surfers Paradise Beach, 10 April 7.00pm

In March 2017, triple j’s Hack released the ‘By the Numbers’ report, revealing that women are still underrepresented in most areas – including music festivals. Three months later, Australian singer songwriter and producer Holly Rankin (AKA Jack River/Director of The Hopeless Utopian) says she launched the concept of ‘Electric Lady’ – an all-female concert series – to help close the gender gap in live music.

“I wanted to shine a light on female acts as there are so many women doing incredible things in music but there’s a lot of gender inequality in the music industry.

“’Electric Lady’ is more than a band night; it’s a platform for established artists and up-and comers to connect with each other and amplify the incredible surge of women in music.

“’Electric Lady’ is inspired by the movement of women electrifying their voices, guitars and rights across the world. I wanted to give something progressive and positive to the women’s movement that we’re seeing from men and women around the globe,” Ms Rankin said.

Holly Rankin curates each ‘Electric Lady’ concert with her team. Festival 2018 Gold Coast marks the first time the ‘Electric Lady’ series will be staged in Queensland, after performing in Sydney and Melbourne. Each iteration features a different lineup to showcase diverse female musical talent.

Hailing from Forster on the coast of NSW and now based in Sydney, Holly Rankin originally performed under her own name but soon took on the Jack River moniker and signed with Aussie indie I Oh You Records. Jack River latest releases include j award nominated video ‘Fool’s Gold’ (produced by Rankin and Xavier Dunn) and ‘Fault Line’ with her debut album out this year.

Meg Mac headlines this lineup of Australia’s most powerful female fronted acts including Nina Las Vegas, Wafia and Kardajala Kirridarra. ‘Electric Lady’ is inspired by the movement of women electrifying their voices, rights and passion across the world.


Susheela Raman (Ecstatic)
Main Stage, Surfers Paradise Beach, 13 April 7.00pm

‘Ecstatic’ celebrates the Commonwealth’s diverse spiritual traditions. This major concert event is led by world-music legend Susheela Raman, uniting artists from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
and Sri Lanka. Susheela is an acclaimed British Indian musician who has released five albums since 2001 and was nominated for the 2006 BBC World Music Awards. Raman’s debut album ‘Salt Rain’ was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2001. Raman is known for energetic, vibrant, syncretic, and uplifting live performances built on the sacred Bhakti and Sufi traditions of India and Pakistan, and will bring her unique talents to the Main Stage at Surfers Paradise for a musical and cultural experience like no other.


Gabrille Nankivell, Choreographer (Surge)
Roundabout Stage, Broadbeach, 5-8 April, various times

Witness daring athleticism and highpowered choreography in a new dance work ‘Surge’, that dramatically swings between harmony and havoc. Choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell and sound designed by Luke Smiles, watch as five dancers embody the hypnotic paradox of beauty and violence that rages within the elements; igniting our senses, wrestling with our temperaments and wreaking havoc on the imagination.

Gabrielle Nankivell is an Australian director and performer with formative ties to Europe. Working independently and commissioned by leading dance companies and training institutions, Gabrielle also maintains a collaborative creative practice with composer Luke Smiles. Gabrielle’s work has been widely presented across Australia, Europe and Asia. in 2017 she was nominated for a Helpmann Award for ‘Best Choreography in a Ballet, Dance or Physical Theatre Production’ for her Sydney Dance Company piece ‘Wildebeest’, and she also provides choreography and movement consultancy across stage and film productions. Gabrielle has been awarded several coveted international choreographic residencies and is the recipient of the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship, two Impulstanz Vienna DanceWEB Scholarships, the inaugural Keith Bain Choreographic Travel Fellowship and the 2015 Tanja Liedtke Fellowship.


Amy Shark
Queensland Music Stage, Broadbeach, 4 April 7.00pm

After touring North America, headlining festivals across Australia and securing two ARIAs, Amy Shark hits the Queensland Music Stage. Gold Coast born and bred, Amy is a contemplative and soulfully brooding singer-songwriter who sells out wherever she plays. Amy will be fresh from touring the USA when she hits Broadbeach for Festival 2018’s opening night.


Roslyn Oades, documentary maker for Sea Stories
Chelsea Avenue, Boradbeach Beach, 5-15 April, 5.30am

Roslyn Oades is an award-winning writer/director and documentary artist best known for her innovative work in the field of headphone-verbatim and audio-driven performance projects. Her work has been shortlisted for the NSW Premiere’s Literary Award, Sydney Theatre Awards, a Helpmann Award and an AWGIE Award.

In ‘Sea Stories’, Roslyn invites you to grab a free coffee, pull up a deck chair and settle in for an intimate, uplifting journey into the headspace of some extraordinary humans. Where does the human mind go when it’s challenged to survive, endure or succeed? Inspired by the experiences of elite athletes, ‘Sea Stories’ takes you into the a meditative zone. As the sun rises over Broadbeach you’ll hear a collection of first-person stories that poetically connect with the everchanging seascape before you. ‘Sea Stories’ draws on local interviews and original sound design by Bob Scott to explore the relationship between dreaming, discipline, resilience and water. 


Grace Lillian Lee, Artist and Fashion Curator (Intertwined)
Kurrawa Park, Broadbeach, 14 + 15 April, 6.00pm

‘Intertwined’ asks you to join a captivating celebration of multicultural diversity through art, fashion, movement and song. Yugambeh people have walked this country for generations, and many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still call the Gold Coast home. ‘Intertwined’ celebrates the beauty and diversity of identity and the complexities of remaining connected to our culture when on another’s country. Led by internationally acclaimed artist Grace Lillian Lee (whose work is inspired by her own Indigenous heritage), the Gold Coast community intertwines the old and new to share their stories with you.

28-year-old Grace Lillian Lee is a fashion artist, designer and curator who is making waves across Australia. Hailing from Cairns from a multicultural background, it’s Grace Lillian Lee’s Torres Strait Islander heritage that inspires her passion for celebrating Indigenous culture through fashion performance.

“I started out exploring my own cultural identity through my fashion practice, and I wanted to delve deeper into Indigenous culture,” she says.

“I found myself gravitating towards mentoring youth in Aboriginal art centres and collaborating with Indigenous communities to give young people a chance to represent and
be proud of their culture.

“The collaborations are about developing traditional art into textiles and adornment in a contemporary way. At the same time, there’s this wonderful sharing of artistic culture between generations as the communities preserve and celebrate their traditional techniques and creatives.”


Michelle Ryan, Artistic Director of Restless Dance (Intimate Space)
Hilton Surfers Paradise, 4-7 April, various times. Bookings required.

Michelle Ryan has enjoyed a career that has spanned over 25 years in the arts, working for Queensland Arts Council, Meryl Tankard’s Australian Dance Theatre, and on projects all over the world. Michelle was appointed Artistic Director of Restless Dance Theatre in 2013, and was inducted into the South Australian Woman’s Honour Roll in 2015. Her most recent piece, ‘Intimate Space’, will weave guests through an evocative performance set in the Hilton Surfers Paradise. On this travelling adventure, spectators will move from the sophisticated bar to lush rooms with dazzling views and the stark nooks and crannies of the hotel’s back-of-house. Guided by an alluring soundscape they will witness a series of delicately crafted vignettes including a tender and cheeky duet in a private room and an urgent physical explosion in the linen room. It’s an exquisite performance experience which will leave all surprised and enchanted.

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Festival 2018 runs 4 – 15 April 2018 across the Gold Coast. Get all the details at

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