You’re Invited – Melbourne Festival 2013

After months of planning, last night the 2013 Melbourne Festival was officially launched revealing an innovative and inclusive program that responds to what we love about this city. Bethany Simons spoke with Josephine Ridge about dreaming, detail and the thrill of delivering her first Melbourne Festival.

Josephine Ridge. Image by Prudence Upton
Josephine Ridge. Image by Prudence Upton

Between last-minute meetings and madly rehearsing her launch address ('it’s too long – I have to cut it!”), Creative Director Josephine Ridge took time out to give an insight into the process and program highlights of her first Melbourne Festival.

“What happens in the cycle of a festival is an increase in intensity as you get closer and closer to the date. We start off with sweeping thoughts and contexts – inevitably far more than you could possibly end up working with. Then, over time, you shape it down. Four or five months ago we had a very clear picture of where we were headed and then there’s just been an enormous amount of detail to make sure we get all the layers, textures and nuances into the program.”

Though there is no overarching theme this year, there are definitely touchstones and reasons for specific programs. Ridge explains, “There are a lot of reasons why the program is the way it is. One of the really big concerns has been to be as inclusive as possible. The other is to create a festival that is utterly Melbourne – really responsive to the character and personality of the city.”

When programming, the idea of inclusivity was applied to the needs of the audience, artists and partners, but Ridge is adamant that by no means has this resulted in a compromise on quality.

“It’s not about dumbing down. It’s simply about broadening the invitation. We think about the sort of festival which is going to appeal across the broad range of Melbourne audiences.”

As Creative Director of an international arts festival, world travel and meeting great artists from all over the globe comes with the territory. Though grateful for the opportunity, Ridge is honest enough to admit that this lifestyle is not always as glamorous as it seems.

“[Travel] is a fantastically exciting dimension of the job. There are many instances where I go, ‘I’m sitting in a rehearsal room or talking to some artist –what a privilege…’ But, never underestimate how much hard work travelling is either. Perk is not a word I would use! When we travel out of Australia, we want to make the most of our time. I travel very fast and cover a lot of ground – I want to make sure that I see as many artists and as much work as possible.”

And she does. Ridge has said that she happily spends almost every night of the week out and about, seeing almost everything that the arts world has to offer. Sometimes she will attend an exhibition or show because she already has an interest in the work, but other times she stumbles across new and exciting things and finds herself approaching the artists afterwards.

“There are many situations at other festivals or arts markets where you are surprised. You come across artists and go, 'My goodness, I didn’t know about you!' What a joy to discover. Then you have to go and knock on the stage door and say, 'Hello, my name is Josephine, and would you like to come to Melbourne?'”

So, what should we see?

Brief  Encounter at MIAF 2013
Brief Encounter at MIAF 2013

In a bid to bring life to the city, Ridge is excited to be activating virtually all of the heritage venues in Melbourne’s CBD. Some of the program highlights include: 6000 Miles Away and Push – two contemporary programs featuring legendary ballerina, Sylvie Guillem, in works by world-renowned choreographers at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Kneehigh Theatre’s Brief Encounter – Emma Wright’s exhilarating adaptation of Noel Coward’s timeless work of romance and longing – which plays at the Athenaeum Theatre for the duration of the festival.

Trailblazer at MIAF 2013
Trailblazer at MIAF 2013

If family friendly is what you are after, then head to Federation Square for Kids Weekend (19 & 20 Oct) featuring a range of interactive events including Polyglot Theatre’s Trailblazer – a site-specific work that transforms this Melbourne landmark into a world of wonder.

If you would like your art to transport you – literally – why not jump aboard one of the Melbourne Art trams that will be on the tracks throughout the festival? Inspired by an initiative started in the late 1970s, Arts Victoria and Yarra Trams have joined the Festival in selecting eight Victorian artists to create moving works of art.

Art Trams at MIAF 2013
Art Trams at MIAF 2013

Ridge is proud to be doing as much as possible to support the creation of new work and to support the ambitions of the artists. This includes a number of commissions and international co-commisions such as Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre’s The Rite of Spring/Petrushka at the Comedy Theatre and the world premiere of The Shadow King – an indigenous adaptation of King Lear at Malthouse Theatre.

If it all gets too much, why not recharge over a glass of wine at the Foxtel Festival Hub along the Yarra River? Designed by the team from Bluebottle, not only will it be a social hub, but also a state of the art performance space for contemporary music programs.

Rite of Spring at MIAF 2013
Rite of Spring at MIAF 2013

“Essentially, we want to maximise our sense of that incredible location – down by the river, in the park, the city stretched out in front of you, the spire from the arts centre in view – you are absolutely in the heart of Melbourne.”

Now that the festival has been launched, the program has hit the streets, and tickets have gone on sale, what do Ridge and her team have to do between now and October?

“A lot more detail. The better planned, and the more thought through the detail, the more we can all actually relax and enjoy our own festival!”

And that means you! See you there.

Melbourne Festival
11 – 27 October, 2013
View full program here:

Tickets on sale from Friday 16th August.