Castlemaine State Festival director Glyn Roberts has certainly got his work cut out for him. The logistics of staging a festival – especially one with such a long and august tradition as the CSF – are made even more challenging during a pandemic.

Goldner String QuartetThe Goldner String Quartet. Photo supplied

Factors that influence the programming of a regional arts festival include the geography of the region, the audience – both locals and visitors – and the available venues. This year saw the introduction of a novel constraint – international and potential state border closures – that proved both a curse and a blessing.

With local literary talent of the calibre of Helen Garner and Cate Kennedy, no one’s complaining about parochialism. And the ban on international travel works both ways: internationally renowned soprano Cathy-Di Zhang has forged her entire career overseas but, like many Australians, has spent most of the past year baking sourdough at home. This year is Castlemaine’s chance to get to know her.

And, thanks to low rates of infection in both states, the Victoria-New South...