Brisbane Festival reveals a brightly 2021 program

BF21-Boy-Swallows-UniverseStep into Brisbane Festival, a Brightly Brisbane program of events and experiences in 2021, inviting the city to re-emerge, connect, celebrate and shine brightly under Brisbane’s expansive skies this September.

The uniquely Brisbane program celebrates the city with an awe-inspiring line-up of premiere productions, cutting edge collaborations, commissioned new work, awardwinning performances, surprising venues and a brand-new Festival hub.

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said Queenslanders will brightly embrace the Brisbane Festival as it brings the community together through the joy of rich arts experiences that celebrate positivity, resilience, and hope.

“The 2021 program has a real focus on connecting Brisbane, bringing life to the city’s streets, suburbs and cultural venues with diverse and unique performances,” said Minister Enoch.

“Showcasing 63 Queensland companies and employing more than 1000 local artists, this year’s Brisbane Festival program will also feature 168 First Nations artists engaged across the 23-day Festival, the largest in the Festival’s history.”

Launching her second program, Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Louise Bezzina said the core themes of community and celebration lay at the heart of the 2021 Festival.

“There is a renewed ambition to this year’s Festival, a joyous and uplifting celebration of our River City, with large new creations, such as the premiere of Brisbane’s Art Boat along with a spectacular line up of world class talent,” said Ms Bezzina.

“This year’s program builds upon 2020’s Boldly Brisbane vision and beckons locals and visitors alike to step into the spring light, reconnect, celebrate and enjoy this Brightly Brisbane Festival,” Ms Bezzina said, adding that more than half of the events are free.

Over 23 days in September, Brisbane Festival will commission 18 new works, stage 15 world premieres, deliver 139 productions – and present events in a staggering 223 locations across the city.
Brisbane Festival Indigenous Advisory Group chair Michelle Tuahine said this year’s Festival would spotlight unique and untold stories.

“This year, 168 First Nations artisans, performers and creatives share their intensely personal narratives through ceremony, smoke, songline and performance,” Ms Tuahine said. “We look forward to sharing our world with you,” Ms Tuahine said.

The Festival commences with Jumoo – a smoking ceremony at South Bank on 3 September. Led by Yuggera and Turrbal man Shannon Ruska, Jumoo connects Brisbane Festival and its visitors to Country and cleanses the pathway for a peaceful journey into September.

Northshore, Hamilton will be one of two ports of call for the Festival highlight, Brisbane’s Art Boat – a new floating art experience cruising between South Bank and Northshore, Hamilton immersing audiences in a glowing world and bathing the Brisbane River in a new light.

BF21-Airship-Orchestra-photo-by-Ben-WeinsteinAirship Orchestra – a multisensory inflatable installation up to six metres high sets sail on Brisbane’s Art Boat from 3 – 12 September with Sky Castle – an interactive dreamscape of inflatable, luminous arches and ethereal symphonies taking to the water from 16 – 25 September.

Created by art and technology studio ENESS each installation will alternate between its home at Northshore, Hamilton while the other floats down the river hosting live performances and a pop-up bar on Brisbane’s Art Boat.

A major Australian contemporary performance work is also playing at the industrial riverside precinct of Northshore, Hamilton. From 8 – 12 September, RED is a contemporary dance piece from Townsville-based Dancenorth Australia that is both epic and intimate. In a breathtaking statement on survival, two dancers perform inside a transparent bubble as the air they breathe slowly runs out.

Brisbane Festival unveils BOQ Festival Garden – a wondrous world of food, wine, entertainment and discovery, popping up in South Bank. Free and open to all, the brand-new Festival hub features live entertainment, roving performers, school holiday fun, food, bars and a mysterious interactive adventure.

The Festival opens with two stellar events led by the keenly anticipated world premiere season of Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe, adapted for the stage by Tim McGarry and presented by Brisbane Festival, Queensland Theatre and QPAC. This world premiere season will run for an extended fifth-week from 30 August to 3 October to meet insatiable audience demand.

Another opening night scene stealer, transforming the South Bank Piazza into a haven of hip, is award-winning singer and all-round entertainer David Campbell bringing his Back in the Swing big band show to Brisbane for one night only.

South Bank Piazza is also home to a remarkable design performance event First Nations Fashion: Walking in Two Worlds, cabaret delivered on a grand scale in Skyfall, Casus Circus’s heart-warming and celebratory Auntie’s Fiafia Night and many more artists and acts infusing the new precinct with appealing shows to suit a broad range of audiences, including late night revelers who love to party, Festival style.

Vibrant inflatable installations also take root in West Village with Lost – an enchanting garden of extinct and endangered floral illuminations created by Australian artist Amanda Parer.

The free outdoor exhibition runs the duration of the Festival and is accompanied by a weekend and school holiday program of art activities. Storytelling and live music combine in Heart is a Wastelanda cross-country, whisky-fuelled love story playing QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre from 15 – 18 September. Reimagined by ILBIJERRI Theatre Company Artistic Director Rachael Maza, the powerful piece cuts to the country’s heart as it examines an individual’s right to love.

BF21-Considerable-Sexual-License-Joel-Bray-photo-by-Bryony-JacksonWiradjuri man Joel Bray takes audiences on a flirty and passionate look at sensuality in Considerable Sexual License at The Block, QUT Kelvin Grove from 10 – 15 September.

Queensland premiere dance piece plenty serious TALK TALK is a wickedly sharp and gleefully funny commentary on the complexities of negotiating culture across disciplines, genres and eras, playing La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre from 11 – 15 September. The provocative Queensland premiere performance blends cabaret, comedy and choreography as it skewers conservative sexual politics.

Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Louise Bezzina thanked the Indigenous Advisory Group and First Nations curators for shaping and guiding the delivery the Festival’s First Nations program.

“Critical to the spirit of Brisbane Festival is a program where diverse voices have a platform to tell stories and share their culture in this grand celebration of connection and community,” said Ms Bezzina.

A standout smash in 2020, Street Serenades hits the road again presented by Brisbane City Council to dazzle audiences across all 190 Brisbane suburbs with big-name artists including Boy & Bear, Christine Anu, Montaigne and Queensland Ballet and showstopping performances spanning circus, cabaret, dance, DJ sets and live music.

Additionally, Street Serenades: At Our Place is a new public program working with neighbourhood and community centres in Inala, Acacia Ridge, Wynnum, Ellen Grove, Cannon Hill, Nundah, Mitchelton and Coopers Plains to bring people together through music and movement engaging artists including Common People Dance Project and RakoPasefika for a month-long series of workshops and residencies.

At QPAC’s Concert Hall, Bungul – an exquisite celebration of the talent and musical legacy of Gurrumul Yunupinu, makes its Queensland debut from 24 – 25 September. Yolnu dancers, songmen and musicians from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University and Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra bring to life the songs, dances and paintings that inspired Gurrumul’s album Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow).

Karul Project’s Weredingo entertains as it challenges what audiences think they know about shapeshifting in its world premiere season at Metro Arts from 3 – 11 September.

The Tivoli is home to a First Nations-led program of music including the world premiere of Restless Dream on 19 September, a large-scale musical production with cinematic soundscapes and dance. The new production is a collaboration between Kamilaroi elder Uncle Bob Weatherall, Brisbane band Halfway and Digi Youth Arts telling the story Uncle Bob’s ongoing social justice work.

Brisbane Festival and Brisbane Powerhouse dust off the wrecking ball for the world premiere of Polytoxic’s Demolition, an explosion of physicality, theatre and social activism in a mind blowing large scale production from 4 – 11 September.

BF21-Lets-Be-Friends-Furever-photo-by-Morgan-RobertsThe arts venue then goes to the dogs in Let’s Be Friends Furever – a crowd-sourced homage to our four-legged friends turning Powerhouse Theatre into Brisbane’s artiest offleash area from 16 – 25 September.

All eyes turn to Brisbane’s skies when Sunsuper Riverfire makes a bold return on Saturday 25 September to add the final big-bang sparkle to Brisbane Festival 2021 – providing a glittering crescendo after COVID-19 forced the pyrotechnic spectacular into hiatus in 2020.

Ms Bezzina said September is Brisbane Festival, bringing the city alive with art, dance, music and joy for all ages and interests, from young families to late-night revelers. She invited visitors to make the most of their Festival experience by checking out the curated Festival Itineraries at

“Block out your September because you are going to want to be part of this party!” she said.

The 2021 Brisbane Festival returns to fill the city with art, music and joy from 3 – 25 September. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Images: Boy Swallows Universe / Airship Orchestra – photo by Ben Weinstein / Joel Bray in Considerable Sexual License – photo by Bryony Jackson / Let’s Be Friends Furever – photo by Morgan Roberts