Darwin Festival launches 2021 program

Darwin Festival 2021 is bringing big ideas and unique perspectives to stages and venues across Darwin from 5-22 August. The Festival’s breathtakingly bold 2021 program of 84 events is out now and the invitation for audiences to get to the tropical Top End for Australia’s hottest winter arts festival has never been more compelling.

Over 18 hot August days and nights, Darwin Festival will intoxicate the senses and offer up stirring theatrical performances, some of the hottest live music acts in the country, incredible cabaret and circus, cross cultural collaborations, thrumming dancefloors under the stars and epic outings for the whole family. Plus, so much more.

An all-star line-up of Australian talent will share the spotlight with an inspiring showcase of Northern Territory talent, with locals represented in every genre of the program. Some of the incredible shows on offer have been years in the making, while others have been forged directly through the trials of 2020.

The stunning open-air INPEX Sunset Stage will feature live music gigs from the likes of Ngaiire, JessB,  Gordon Koang, Montaigne, Rainbow Chan, Miiesha, King Stingray, Fanny Lumsden and Angie McMahon. This vibrant contemporary music line up is completed with Flight Facilities, who will be headlining  an epic night under the stars at The Amphitheatre, alongside Confidence Man and Sycco.

Cabaret will also be coming in hot with the likes of Constantina Bush and Selina Jenkins,  Unsung  powerhouses Amelia Ryan and Libby O’Donovan and Reuben Kaye, bringing an explosion of high camp and filthy humour in The Butch is Back.

Comedy greats from across the country are bringing the laughs including Hannah Gadsby, Zoe Coombs Marr, Karen from Finance, Dilruk Jayasinha, Ivan Aristeguieta and Oliver Twist.

This year Darwin Festival looks to the future by making space for the voices of young people.  Generations  collide in I’ve Been Meaning To Ask You, as 16 plucky performers aged 9-13 from Darwin’s Corrugated Iron Youth Arts take the stage, and the power, for a rollicking hour of hard questions  and home truths. Aspiring teen DJs and party planners pack the most fun possible into a shipping container in 10 Minute Dance Parties, under the guidance of Melbourne artist JOF. And a collective of young performers cast a fresh light on the plight of children in detention in We All Know What’s Happening, in collaboration with theatre makers Lara Thoms and Samara Hersch.

A canopy of 3,000 colorful dream flags will fly high at the Darwin Waterfront for Fly Me Up To Where You Are, a conceptual project that started in 2020 representing the hopes and dreams of Darwin’s young people. While the City of Darwin Teddy Bears’ Picnic returns to The Esplanade for a big day out for the littlest art lovers and Justine Clarke headlines a huge free concert to close out the family fun at the end of the Festival.

Darwin Festival Artistic Director Felix Preval Said:

Our 2021 Festival is packed with big ideas and big nights out; it’s an invitation to the community to come together and have enjoy the best time of the year in Darwin.

The program features 194 performances, spread across 30 venues and featuring 597 artists from around Australia, the Territory, and even a few kiwis who made it through the bubble. So, whether you’re a local looking for some dry season fun, or an visitor seeking an escape from the winter chills, we’re looking forward to hosting you for this year’s Festival.

Minister for Major Events, Natasha Fyles Said:

Darwin Festival provides a million and one reasons for people to head to the Top End and support the Arts and Hospitality sectors.

They get to see world-class acts perform alongside incredible Territory artists who have earnt themselves a spot in this first-class festival.

They also get to experience everything Darwin and our tourism industry has to offer.

This year’s program is remarkable, as the event continues to elevate its position on the national festival circuit.

The Northern Territory Government proudly supports this event to grow the visitor economy and provide new performance and business opportunities Territorians.

Tickets for the Darwin Festival are on sale from 9am Friday 18 June at www.darwinfestival.org.au

Darwin Festival is proudly supported by the Northern Territory Government and City of Darwin.


Darwin Festival’s opening weekend of events highlights Darwin as the beating heart of First Nations culture in Australia. The festivities kick off on Thursday 5 August with the free Santos Opening Night Concert,  Buŋgul –Gurrumul’s Mother’s Buŋgul, Gurrumul’s Grandmother’s Buŋgul, Gurrumul’s Manikay. Created on country in North East Arnhem Land with the Yunupiŋu family, Buŋgul is a ceremonial celebration of the legendary Gurrumul’s final album, Djarrimirri (Child of the Rainbow), featuring live performance by Yolŋu dancers, songmen and the Darwin Symphony Orchestra.

Following on from opening night the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (6-8 Aug) offers a chance to ethically purchase artwork direct from over 70 Indigenous-owned Art Centres. Its companion events, the annual Country to Couture textiles and fashion design showcase (4 Aug) and the National Indigenous Fashion Awards (3 Aug), demonstrate exactly why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fashion is so hot right now.

Australia’s most celebrated Indigenous music event, the National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs) is back in 2021 with a live event and electric line-up boasting the likes of Baker Boy, Miiesha, Electric Fields, King Stingray, Dallas Woods and Kee’ahn, Alice Skye and more. Taking place on Saturday 7 August, the NIMAs present a true window into the future of Australian music. Gather under the stars with special host Steven Oliver and discover the hottest new talent while celebrating Indigenous music past, present and emerging.

The Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) have been showcasing the best Australian Indigenous art from around the country for nearly 40 years. See a diverse range of work from emerging and established artists as part of the exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory or at art galleries across the city as part of Salon Art Projects’ SALON 21.


Flight Facilities jet into Darwin Festival for an epic Friday night (13 Aug) of live music at Darwin Amphitheatre. This Australian electronic duo are bringing their electrifying new live show to the Top End backed by an incredible line up of guest vocalists and a mind-blowing visual show. Joining them on the night will be two stellar support acts; portable party ensemble Confidence Man, arguably one of the hottest live acts in Australia today, and Sycco, a First Nations star on the rise star taking the scene by storm with her pop-soaked psychedelic take on neo-soul.

Devised by New Zealand artist Tiffany Singh, Fly Me Up To Where You Are (5-22 Aug) is a large-scale installation at Darwin Waterfront. Wander under a canopy of 3,000 colourful flags capturing the hopes and dreams of Darwin youth. Work on this large-scale installation began in 2020 when students across Darwin created the unique dream flags with personal designs covering everything from global issues like Black Lives Matter to the environment and family.

After delighting audiences last year with Avoidable Perils, techno-trouble makers, Counterpilot, are back with a new social experiment. Truthmachine (12-15 Aug) seeks out truth in a world of fake news and alternative facts using real biometric sensors and live voting systems. Blurring the line between cutting edge technology and live performance, this is an intimate, playful and intriguing theatre experience for adventurous audiences who aren’t afraid to take a lie detector test in front of a room full of strangers in the unique surrounds of the Supreme Court.

Melbourne artist JOF and a guest line-up of young Darwin locals invite rave-ready audiences into a shipping container in Festival Park for the best dance party of their lives – the only catch is there’s only 10 minutes to dance like no-one’s watching. And dance you will at 10 Minute Dance Parties (12-15 Aug)!

In Shaun Parker & Company’s Trolleys (20-22 Aug) + Hover (14-17 Aug), revellers can see trolleys spin, glide and slide around Festival Park, expertly guided by five exceptional dance and physical theatre artists or discover epic hoverboard pop-up performances inspired by street dance, circus and classic 90’s boy-band hits.


The Festival’s newest outdoor venue the INPEX Sunset Stage plays host to an epic line-up of contemporary music throughout the Festival. Artists rocking gigs at the Sunset Stage include, dance pop renegades Haiku Hands (7 Aug); eight-time Golden Guitar and 2020 ARIA Country Album Award-winner Fanny Lumsden (8 Aug); Australia’s 2021 Eurovision entry, indie darling Montaigne (13 Aug); Kiwi hip-hop sensation JessB (12 Aug); Neo-soul powerhouse Ngaiire (20 Aug); South Sudanese pop-star Gordon Koang (22 Aug); and indigenous surf-rock group King Stingray (21 Aug).

Darwin’s favourite year-round music venue, The Railway Club, will once again feature a feast of live music talent every Friday and Saturday night of the Festival. Head out to the rails to experience sets from the likes of fierce rockers Cable Ties (20 Aug), the psychedelic Slowmango (7 Aug), synth starlet Clypso (21 Aug), and the hip hop slash dance artist Mista Monk (13 Aug) all with local supports.

To keep the good vibes and party alive well into the night, every Friday and Saturday night of the Festival, audiences can kick up their heels at Club Awi with DJ megastars from around the country (and across the ditch), spinning tracks late night under the stars at the INPEX Sunset Stage.


The obscenely intelligent, rib-crackingly funny Reuben Kaye heads to the tropics with The Butch is Back (18-20 Aug). Get ready for an explosion of high camp and filthy humour as this international cabaret star blends lavish storytelling into gilded song.

Australia’s premier Indigenous showgirl Constantina Bush is back in Darwin for one night only. Ride the Night Train (17 Aug) will see the illusive and fun-loving Bush share stories and naughty revelations on her life, as well as a slew of new tunes, backed by local roots legend David Spry.

From the artist who delighted (and shocked) Darwin audiences as the larger-than-life Yana Alana, comes The Legend of Queen Kong (13 – 14 Aug) a queer, comic, sci-fi rock odyssey of meteoric proportions, bursting with hilarious pop culture references, mind-blowing visual projections and unforgettable original music.

Unsung (11-12 Aug) is a rollicking, raucous celebration of songs and stories from 1960s Australia by award-winning cabaret powerhouses, Amelia Ryan and Libby O’Donovan. This uplifting and nostalgic hour of cabaret pays homage to the women who blazed the trails for generations to come.

The dazzling darlings of Darwin’s Drag Divas are throwing a massive 21st party with 21 Forever (21 Aug). Join local lip-sync assassins Crystal Love, Ferocia Coutura, Donnie Piccolo, Sherri Lee Volua and Vogue MegaQueen, as well as a host of other local kings and queens for this blowout cabaret celebration.


Darwin audiences love a hearty chuckle and this year, the Festival has delivered with a who’s who line-up of stand-up royalty. Fresh from a star turn on Drag Race Down Under, Karen from Finance sashays into the Northern Territory with Out of Office (11 Aug); Hannah Gadsby debuts her new live show, Body of Work (22 Aug); Band camp dorks will rejoice with Zoe Coombs Marr’s surrealist stand-up show Agony! Misery! (15 Aug); Utopia star Dilruk Jayasinha presents a heartfelt and hilarious hour of comedy with Victorious Lion (18 Aug); and local legend Amy Hetherington is ready to sell out another Festival season with her new show Baby Shower (17 Aug).


A journey of loss, grief, growth and resilience, Joel Bray brings Daddy to this year’s Festival (6-8 Aug). A proud Wiradjuri artist, Joel presents an enthralling, provocative and hilarious story of his cultural and sexual identity and how he navigates the world, connected to those who came before.

Award-winning artist Bron Batten returns to Darwin Festival with her political and provocative new show Waterloo (20 – 22 Aug). Audiences will be taken on a journey behind enemy lines to find out what happens when this leftie Australian performance artist dates a high-ranking, conservative UK military official.

The story of Nauru and the plight of asylum seekers who found themselves there is the subject of the compelling and unsettling theatre work We All Know What’s Happening (13-15 Aug). Part school musical, part history lesson and part political probe this is an absurd yet true story that will have everyone talking. While Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s Heart is a Wasteland (11 – 15 Aug) combines First Peoples’ storytelling with live music in a whisky-fuelled love story that takes place on the road from Darwin to Alice.

You’re Safe Till 2024: Deep History (17-19 Aug) is a performance project by writer-performer David Finnigan that looks at the massive changes taking place on our planet, placed against the story of an Australian family during the 2020 summer bushfires.


Gravity & Other Myths’ The Pulse (17-20 Aug) is an exhilarating spectacle that will leave audiences awestruck. This epic circus production is unlike anything Darwin has ever seen before and features 30 acrobats performing heart-stopping stunts and incredible feats of strength, accompanied by the spine-tingling vocals of a live 22-person choir. The impressive work is the second of the two incredible co-commissioned works by Darwin Festival included in the 2021 program and was developed by artists throughout 2020.


Kings of kid’s comedy, The Listies are back with their new show Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark (20-21 Aug). These legends of cheeky kids’ theatre have pulled apart Shakespeare’s classic and glued it back together with hilarious costumes, loads of silliness and plenty of interactivity.

Step inside a theatre-turned-playground-turned battleground for a riotous theatrical experience full of questions asked by young people and answered by adults. I’ve Been Meaning to Ask You (6-8 Aug) is a critically acclaimed show where a panel of 13-year-olds from Darwin’s own Corrugated Iron Youth Arts tackle the answers they get to the questions they’ve always wanted to ask.

The much-loved City of Darwin Teddy Bears’ Picnic returns to The Esplanade for a Sunday morning full of free performances, activities and delicious food (8 Aug).

And for the little ones who like to sing, dance and jump around, beloved children’s entertainer, Justine Clarke + Monski Mouse’s Baby Disco present a free afternoon family concert at the Darwin Waterfront to close out the Festival (22 Aug).


Darwin local Tracks Dance Company deliver a world premiere performance set at the foot of a Rain Tree in the luscious George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens. Seasons of Skin and Bark (8-16 Aug) presents a spellbinding response to the local tropical environment, exploring the emerging science of plant life intelligence.

A new work by GUTS Dance/Central Australia, Value For Money (17-19 Aug), sees an exceptional cast of renowned Australian performers and creatives interrogate the unquestionable traits that bind us as a human race.

Sydney Dance Company bring their thrilling combination of modern ballet, yoga and contemporary movement to Darwin Entertainment Centre with Impermanence (10 Aug). Joined live on stage by the Australian String Quartet performing a score by The National’s Bryce Dessner, Rafael Bonachela’s newest creation is a visceral and thrilling exploration of the place where beauty and devastation meet.

Renowned intercultural dance theatre company Marrugeku celebrates 25 years with a powerful and provocative new work that brings them back to the NT for the first time in many years. Challenging, joyful and deeply affecting, Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] (13-14 Aug) confronts Australia’s shameful fixation with incarceration in a world premiere performance featuring movement, spoken word, installation and an original musical soundscape.


Lovers of classical music should look no further with Darwin Festival presenting a line-up of unique live concerts. Hear all the most cherished Radiohead tunes like never before with Radiohead for Solo Piano (11 Aug) where pianist and YouTube sensation Josh Cohen takes the band’s back catalogue to new frontiers.

Darwin Symphony Orchestra will perform the world premiere of Wavelengths (barra-roddjiba) at this year’s Festival. A collaboration between Ripple Effect Band members, Maningrida elders and Australian composer Alex Turley, barra-roddjiba tells the story of the Djomi baby spirits who bravely protected Maningrida from Cyclone Monica in 2006. This special premiere gives audiences the opportunity to hear the voices of women singing in Ndjebbana language with an orchestra for the very first time.

Bizet’s iconic opera, Carmen, comes to life at Darwin Entertainment Centre (6-7 Aug) in a vibrant new production with Opera Australia’s singers, a live chamber orchestra and a children’s chorus drawn from the Darwin community.

Following the huge success of Distanced Duets at the 2020 Festival, the intimate chamber music performances return with Distanced Duets 2.0 (10-12 & 17-19 Aug). Presenting an eclectic program of duets in the stunning surrounds of Audit House, this will be a soulful listening experience unlike any other.


A favourite of the Festival, SPUN (10 Aug) returns with another evening of stories drawn from real life in the Northern Territory. For its 20th live storytelling event, SPUN: After Dark has gone into the shadows to find an extra special selection of untold stories by storytellers who aren’t afraid of the dark.

For those keen to hear more about the show’s they’ve just seen, Charles Darwin University have partnered  with Darwin Festival to present a series of in-depth discussions with the creators of some of the Festival’s most enthralling performances. Six performances will feature in the Artist in Conversation with CDU series, check the program guide for details.


This year, Darwin Festival presents two powerful and captivating films from Canada that shine a light on the world from a First Nations’ and refugee perspective. Memory Box (9 Aug) is a poignant Canadian-Lebanese-French drama where the lives of three women are connected by a box that resurfaces containing notebooks, photographs and audiotapes. Blood Quantum (16 Aug) blends bloody horror with sociopolitical subtext when a Canadian tribal reservation is beset by zombies, and its indigenous inhabitants are strangely immune.


Salon Art Projects presents six curated exhibitions across Darwin galleries. Every August Salon des Refusés (4-Aug – 25 Sept) features works submitted but not accepted into NATSIAA (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards). The quality demonstrates the superb standard of art being created by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists nationwide and provides valuable insight into where the movement has come from and where it is heading.

Patsy Mudgedell is a contemporary artist redefining what Aboriginal art is, and can be. In her new exhibition Awakening (6-28 Aug) she encourages respect for country through her richly textured paintings.

Maru Munu Piranpa (Black and White) (24 Jul-21 Aug) showcases a selection of outstanding works by leading artists from Kaltjiti Arts. The primary focus of this community-based Aboriginal art centre is on artistic excellence, cultural maintenance and the promotion of economic sustainability through the arts.

irrinkirripwoja Jilamara (6-12 Aug) is a celebrated annual exhibition that features internationally renowned authentic, contemporary Tiwi artwork based on jilamara (body painting design), clan totems and Tiwi creation stories.

Season Details

Venues: Across Darwin
Date: 5-22 August 2021
For Tickets Booking Click on HERE

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