Bleach* Festival returns to the Gold Coast this November

Bleach-Festival-Luther-Cora-photo-by-Maleika-HalpinFeaturing work by 204 artists and more than 214 unique arts experiences presented in surprising locations, over 11 days, the Gold Coast’s beaches, parks, gardens and abandoned buildings will become a spectacular backdrop for contemporary art as the 2020 Bleach* Festival returns from 12 November.

Bleach* 2020 invites audiences to experience the coast through great storytelling, contemporary art, music, cabaret and dance. Whether that be watching an artwork unfold on the edge of the shoreline or in backyards and balconies of soon-to-be demolished houses.

Expect a neighbourhood street party that’s wildly colourful and a little cheeky; a block party on the beachfront that’s urban and gritty; and a magnificent concert at sunset framed by beautiful gardens. There will also be an impressive line-up of First Nations artists and a space for deep listening and conversations, all connected to place.

The 2020 festival will be the first presented by new CEO and Artistic Director Rosie Dennis. Confronted with presenting art in this time of uncertainty, programming was not without challenges.

“2020 was a year where disruption and uncertainty has hovered over communities across the world, keeping us in limbo; stopping and starting our rhythms; separating us from family and loved ones; forcing us to reconsider and reset how we live and opening the door for us to change. It seems as though a festival of any kind was an impossibility,” says Artistic Director Rosie Dennis.

“However, it was vitally important to me, that here on the Gold Coast, in this culturally ambitious City, we find a way to make our Festival a possibility. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to do just that, to share this festival, in real life, celebrating our local artists.”

Bleach* 2020 tells the stories of this place, in this time. It invites you to be adventurous; step into someone else’s shoes; escape from the everyday with an unexpected experience. So, dive in, boots and all, and have a good time,” says Dennis.

This year’s festival will be centred around three distinct arts hubs – Burleigh Heads, Botanic Gardens, and Chevron Island. Highlights of the 2020 program include:

Situated on the beachfront, the Burleigh Hub will host a vibrant program of cultural events every day and night of the festival, with a dedicated First Nations focus. Offering a dynamic showcase of South East Queensland artists and cultural leaders, visitors can enjoy traditional dance, live performance, installation, artist workshops and deadly beats to share rich stories of place.

The festival will begin and end with a very special sunrise ceremony by cultural leader, Luther Cora. As the sun rises on the first morning, and sets on the last evening, Cora brings a moving, one-off performance set on the shoreline, followed by uplifting performances from Yugambeh dancers and Yugambeh Youth choir.

Burleigh will also host a sublime series of recitals at dusk each weekend. Festival-goers can look out to sea as the sun sets, listening to intimate concerts featuring the magical combination of opera singer Myora Kruger followed by Chris Williams on trumpet and didgeridoo.

Storytelling features strongly at the Burleigh Hub, including a special in-conversation event with ABC presenter Daniel Browning – who leads the conversations each weekend with a range of special guests, from his own 101-year-old Nan to architect Kevin O’Brien, as they share stories of place.

Little ones have not been overlooked: charismatic children’s performer Lucas Proudfoot will have kids jumping for joy as they dance, laugh and play in a high-energy musical performance, rich in Indigenous culture. Families can also end the day with storytelling sessions as cultural keeper Mark Cora shares yarns and cultural wisdom each afternoon.

For the more adventurous, Joe Tongi (aka The Godbarber) joins students from Arcadia College in offering a new haircut to anyone who dares. The team have been learning the craft from this barber extraordinaire and local legend of the coast. Their pop-up barbershop will move to the tunes of an all-teenage DJ crew and promises some surprising outcomes.

Burleigh will also host a number of powerful arts installations, including Sky Weave. Created by a team of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander all-female artists from the region, this installation is inspired by nature’s ancient luminary navigators. The artists weave a story of the skies through place and time and visitors can observe this magnificent artwork unfolding.

The festival also presents another large-scale immersive installation by local First Nation’s artist, Rick Roser. Comprising six giant spirit figures, the work is reminiscent of a different dimension – a Dreamtime. Festival goers can recline under a floating ceiling of hanging hibiscus that sways in the seaside breeze: a tribute to giant spirits passed.

The Burleigh Hub centrepiece is a one day only Block Party: a diverse celebration of the local music scene and exciting First Nations musicians. Five hours, five super acts, headlined by powerhouse female rapper Jesswar, with an electric line-up including WildHeart, Kinship Collective, Kelsey Iris, Siala and Robbie Miller.

Chevron Island will be transformed into the second major arts hub. Rendezvous with us for a night of electrifying live performance, sweet cabaret, Queerstories, classical music, installation and more staged from balconies and backyards at Chevron Island. It’s intoxicating, toe-curling and a little irreverent too. Brave the dark, bring your friends and join the party.

Welcome to Club Chez Nous: one ticket, nine art experiences, all set in an abandoned block of houses, slated for demolition. Chez Nous comes to life each weekend with the soothing sounds of The 7 Sopranos and angelic harmonies soaring from windows and balconies; Baarty’s Brew bring spirited jazz tunes; and blonde bombshell J’aiMime twists herself inside out of a giant 6ft balloon.

Mind-boggling contortionist Shannen Jones brings a show of suspense and awe; and vocalist Samira and band make their Australian premiere, transporting listeners with songs from the Middle East. The Mintie Crew complete this art playground adventure by transforming an abandoned house into an immersive installation that is equal parts absurd, surreal, and otherworldly.

Chevron Island will also feature in several intimate one-night only events: Jan Preston offers a nod to the heydays of Chevron with jazz favourites; Nonsemble brings diverse afternoon melodies from obscure electronica to early baroque; and laughs are provided with off-the-wall, immersive cabaret The G.O.A.T Show.

The GC’s finest LGBTQIA+ storytellers are centre stage for a night of Queerstories reflecting on lives well lived and battles fought; Queensland Poetry Festival offers a spokenword showcase set in a suburban front garden as four poets riff on community and isolation; and the Gold Coast Film Festival invites film-lovers to hang under the Hills Hoist for a nostalgic trip back to 70s Australia.

The Chevron program is framed by a giant, once-in-a-lifetime, artwork by Glennys Briggs that will remain until the buildings are demolished. When it is gone, it’s gone.

The festival’s headline event in 2020 will be a very special musical recital curated with works from one of the world’s finest living composers, Elena Kats Chernin. Closing the festival, is an afternoon of live music performed by the Southern Cross Soloists, set against the lush beauty of the gardens. Enjoy a sundowner against the Queensland sky, as the soothing sounds wash over the crowds and the festival draws to a close. Pack a picnic and settle in for the sunset, this highlight is not-to-be missed.

The 2020 Bleach* Festival runs 12 – 22 November. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Image: Luther Cora – photo by Maleika Halpin