When it comes to ranking Australia’s cultural centres, you might think Melbourne and Sydney are clear winners. But for three weeks every August, the Darwin Festival transforms the capital of the Northern Territory (NT) – or Top End as it’s affectionately known – into an artistic hub of pop-up stages, bars and food stalls under the stars. Moreover, as festival artistic director Felix Preval points out, the city boasts a thriving arts and culture scene all year round. Here are his favourite venues and events.
If you need to track down anyone in August, chances are you’ll find them having a drink and a bite under the fairy lights in Festival Park – the hub of Darwin Festival.
Preval says: “Experience the very best of performing arts in a range of indoor and outdoor venues, eat from a selection of the finest local pop-up restaurants and make the most of the beautiful August nights.”
From April to November, Darwin’s Film Society sets up deckchairs down by the harbour and puts on a daily schedule of films to enjoy alfresco, glass of wine in hand.
Preval says: “This is a dry-season favourite. The Deckchair offers audiences an eclectic programme of art house and popular films, paired with delicious food from a variety of local traders.”
Top End theatre-makers create their magic within the Heritage Register-listed sandstone walls of this historic building, which was built in 1885. The season at Brown’s Mart is filled with a mix of local productions and touring shows.
Preval says: “It’s the home of indie theatre in Darwin and a great spot to catch some free live music on a Friday in the cooler months.”
Tucked away in the leafy suburb of Parap, the oldest social club in the city is a true locals’ haunt and the best place in the state for live music. See a show before popping out to the beer garden, which feels like a friend’s backyard.
Preval says: “This is a suburban oasis of excellent live music, spoken word events and trivia nights, with a tropical garden bar teeming with life. It’s also my local!”
Located in Parap Village Markets, the NCCA exhibits a wide range of visual arts touring Darwin. Swing past on a Saturday morning when the markets are buzzing.
Preval says: “NCCA is a fantastic starting point for visual art lovers. It’s the only dedicated contemporary arts space in the NT and shows some of the most exciting contemporary Aboriginal work.”
This trendy spot is Darwin’s newest alfresco dining option. Chef Zach Green discovered his Aboriginal heritage at the age of 12 and now uses his food to tell the stories of Indigenous culture.
Preval says: “An all-Indigenous team delivers a menu of wild local and traditional ingredients, such as buffalo, barra and camel, cooked with contemporary flair in a gorgeous outdoor setting.”
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.