The Gold Coast contemporary arts extravaganza mingles sport and arts in this year’s festival, says AD Louise Bezzina.

The Bleach* Festival has announced its 2017 programme – a swathe of music, circus, theatre, dance, cabaret and installation events presented at more than 20 venues across the city. The festival, which spans two weeks and three weekends, prides itself on making use of the public spaces and natural landscapes of the Gold Coast.

“Each year I think about our city, the landscape, the temperature and begin to curate a body of work that speaks to a specific theme or through line,” Bleach* Festival’s Artistic Director Louise Bezzina tells Limelight. “In 2017, the Festival explores and interrogates the relationship between sport and art, and the playful moments of collaboration where these experiences collide, merge, interact, conflict and complement.”

Fun Run, photo by David Choo

“In the lead up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” she says, “Bleach* Festival and many of our collaborating artists will take inspiration from these concepts, with a highly physical and highly visual programme that encourages celebration and expression, as the city comes alive over three weeks.”

Bezzina channels the sports and recreation, outdoors and active lifestyles associated with the Gold Coast in her programming. “The location is probably the most influential component in my inspiration for the programme,” she explains. “The Gold Coast is truly beautiful. The beaches are vast, long, clean and gleaming. The headlands are large green canvases where the surf breaks and the hinterland is just behind the gold so to speak. I don’t mean to sound like a tourism advertisement but in a place with an evolving arts sector, a reasonably large population and one indoor arts venue, looking to the outdoors becomes a natural place to make and present art.”

“The Gold Coast is famed for being active and outdoors so it makes sense that the festival represents this sense of place,” Bezzina says. “Often I consider the placement of some of our programmes in popular outdoor locations as artistic interventions.”

One of the outdoor events at the centre of the festival – falling on the middle weekend – is Fun Run, by Melbourne-based participatory arts and theatre company All the Queens Men, which will see artist Tristan Meecham run 42 kilometres on a treadmill as homage to the legend of Pheidippides, who ran to Athens to announce the Persians’ defeat in the battle of Marathon. The performance in the heart of Surfers Paradise will feature visual effects, a booming soundtrack, a local professional cast of dancers and an extended community cast.

“I have been wanting to present Fun Run for some time so I am really thrilled we can present this in the 2017 Festival,” Bezzina says. “This work really fits beautifully with this year’s festival and I love that it has the opportunity for mass community participation.”

Frank Enstein, photo by Claudio Kirac

Frank Enstein by The Farm in collaboration with CO3 is also a work that I am excited we are commissioning and presenting,” she says. “This production brings two of Australia’s boldest contemporary dance companies – Gold Coast/Berlin-based The Farm and Perth-based Co3 – together for the first time to re-imagine Mary Shelley’s classic story.”

Inherit the Wind, photo by John Gass

Percussionist Michael Askill will team up with string orchestra DeepBlue for Inherit the Wind, in which they will perform the world premiere of Song to the Earth – an immersive music installation by composer Corrina Bonshek, in a circular bamboo structure at Coolangatta beach.

Highly Sprung, photo by Daniel Boud

Another event not to miss will be Highly Sprung. “Highly Sprung takes audiences out of their everyday environment in a fast-paced new work of buoyancy and incredible athleticism,” explains Bezzina. “With the ocean as the backdrop, the urban edge of this show will transport you to new heights. The perfect event for the Easter holiday weekend, this Queensland premiere invites you to play on the set and be completely captivated by the skill and talents of trampolinists, parkourists and physical theatre performers. Legs on the Wall creatively bring together performers from unconventional sports and athletics backgrounds and thrust them into an artistic space.”

What advice does Bezzina have for eager festival-goers? “Find a map and mark out your journey,” she says. “Look at the tram to get around from Broadbeach to Southport. If you are visitor, the city is long and actually rather large so hiring a car or finding a local to take you around might be a wise move. Other than those practical points, have a great time, pack as much in as you can. There really is no excuse, particularly as 85 % of the programme is free.”

In its sixth year, the Bleach* Festival is still relatively young – but it’s gaining momentum. “Like many creatives, we are never satisfied,” says Bezzina, “and each year I hope we push both our audiences and artists a little harder.”

The Bleach* Festival 2017 runs from March 31 to April 16

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