Desert Festival: 11 days celebrating local arts and culture
Desert Festival, our annual signature event, is an 11-day multi arts festival held every September, that showcases local and regional arts and content. Desert Festival is the only local event that provides a multi-disciplinary platform for Central Australian artists from diverse cultural backgrounds across all artforms, while also providing employment, mentoring and capacity building for local staff and crew. Desert Festival contributes to local social capital, participation and community wellbeing, critical for unity and connection, currently critical for local unity and wellbeing.
Desert Festival began in 2001, originally named the Alice Springs Festival, and was Central Australia’s first major annual multi-arts and cultural festival. Alice Springs Festival was founded by the local community as an initiative to create a nationally marketed umbrella brand for events in Alice Springs in the events shoulder season. Since then, the festival has contributed to the development of a strong and vibrant calendar of events in Central Australia and has played a central role in incubating many smaller events into well-known festivals today, such as Bush Bands Bash and Desert Song Festival..
Since then, Desert Festival has become a loved, well known, and diverse festival in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, and continues to hold its place as a leading shoulder season festival that benefits and celebrates the arts, tourism and the local business community.
In addition to seeding well known, independent festivals and events, Desert Festival also successfully partners with local sector peers and businesses, such as Music NT, 8CCC, ABC Alice Springs, Triptic, Desert Knowledge, Alice Springs Town Council, AS Print, Bendigo Bank, Megafauna Central Alice Springs, Alice Springs Airport, local accommodation providers, hotels, and other businesses.
The festival has a long history of diverse local activations, bringing previously unthought of venues or locations to life and setting precedents for how public space can be alternatively utilised. The 2021 festival famously activated 26 local sites allowing for a diverse cross section of audiences to co-exist, while the 2022 festival transformed The Gap View Hotel into a festival hub. This year, the Festival Team were proud to active Olive Pink Gardens into a festival hub.
Our point of difference and uniqueness about Desert Festival is that we are multi arts oriented and support all sectors of the community, showcasing art forms and mediums from all sectors of the community, and playing a vital role in centering and celebrating diverse voices such as First Nations, LGBTQI, disability, women and CALD communities. Through collaboration and partnerships, we are able to maximise community connection to the arts, support incubation of new works, promote artists and artistic opportunities and co-ordinate professional development opportunities for the local arts sector.
The ongoing success Desert Festival has been acknowledged by various awards over the years, such as the NT Music Awards 2022 Metro Festival of the Year, Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Business (Non Profit) in 2022 and 2023, and winning the 2022 Brolga Award in this category.