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Second major festival on the way as Gold Coast's Bleach gets green light for November

Culture

Gold Coast’s Bleach Festival will go ahead in November, joining Brisbane Festival as major arts and culture programs to fight through the challenges of COVID-19 and find a way to continue bringing live art and cultural celebration to Queensland.

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The Coast’s signature arts and culture festival, originally scheduled for August, will be held across three hubs with indoor and outdoor performances over 10 days in November.

Bleach artistic director and chief executive, Rosie Dennis, told InQueensland the focus for the organisation in overcoming coronavirus restrictions to bring Bleach 2020 to life was a strong commitment to investing in Queensland artists and Gold Coast community and culture.

“It feels good now I’ve got to say, I saw Brisbane Festival announced and I thought this is pretty good news for Queensland – Brissie Fest goes up then further south there’s another festival that goes up.

“Actually Queensland is looking good in terms of arts and culture, that we’ve been able to find a way to make things work,” she said.

She said it was important to proceed with Bleach in a city that was hurting after tourism and many businesses that have been hit hard after months of pandemic-related closures and lockdowns.

“We need to invest in our local ecology for a sense of self and purpose and place. We know arts and culture is great for the economy, there’s enough data out there that tells us that.

“We know arts and culture is really great for our mental health, for building a sense of community and social cohesion – these are really critical and important things at this time to get people out of the house and coming together.”

Dennis said Bleach would be on a different scale this year to adapt to coronavirus impacts including social distancing and travel restrictions.

When strict gathering lockdowns came into play in March, organisers were just closing off the program and were going to design, throwing plans for an August festival into chaos and casting a haze of uncertainty over what could be produced.

“Right at that moment we were scheduled to do a photoshoot and were ready to go,” Dennis said.

“For us it just became looking at practicality, to deliver what we want to deliver. We couldn’t do site visits, so for a festival that looks at activating public space in a temporary way, when you can’t access site because you’re not an essential service, it makes things pretty difficult.”

It simply became about finding a way, she said.

“It’s all about finding ways to bring people together really around stories. That’s what we’re really committed to doing and finding ways to do it still in a time of COVID.”

Local and Queensland artists will take centre stage, while expectations state borders would be open by November meant some artists from around the country would still participate.

“I think it’s really fabulously healthy for a local ecology to have strong representation from international, national and local artists, because it really profiles our local artists on a national and international stage,” Dennis said.

“We are optimistic the borders will be open by November but I do think there’s great value particularly on the Gold Coast, where there’s not as big a local artist community yet, to really champion our work and showcase our work alongside our national peers.”

But mostly, she said, it was a chance for locals and visitors to reconnect with the Gold Coast through art and culture.

“I think working locally and also being place-based or connecting to place and finding the story of that place is great for locals and a great way to build a sense of community.”

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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