Rising Melbourne Is Coming to Brighten the City Streets This Winter

Flinders Street Station lit up in blue with the word Rising on the front to showcase Rising Festival Melbourne.

Rising Festival: Melbourne’s answer to Sydney’s VIVID, Hobart’s MONA FOMA, and Adelaide’s, uh, March, where they cram a year’s worth of festivals into a few weeks and then do nothing for 11 months.

Rising is the newest all-city offering in Australia, taking over as the spiritual successor of the Melbourne International Arts Festival and White Night. It’s also the unluckiest, having been scheduled to debut in 2020 and suffering two years of COVID-related cancellations.

But, never missing an opportunity to rub the title of ‘culture capital’ in Sydney’s face, Rising is following up on a stellar 2022 debut with another offering of world-class music, food, art, and intrigue under frosty moonlight.

Naarm is pulling out all the stops this year and boasts a programme packed with living legends including Paul Kelly, Cate Blanchett, Robyn Archer, and Flying Lotus, alongside super cool trendsetters like NTS and Obongjayar. American bass-slapping sensation Thundercat will also be bringing the funk while there’s another event where 10,000 people simultaneously blast kazoos. It’s not for the easily over-stimulated.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure you get a slice of the winter weirdness.

Rising Festival

Born from the minds of artistic directors Hannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek, Rising has lofty aims to bring a healthy dose of the bizarre to cold Melbourne streets during the darker months.

Spark at Rising Melbourne is set to fill the night's sky with millions of tiny lights.
Image: Supplied

With a focus on experiences that utilise the city’s spaces, the festival seeks out “Ideas that are ambitious, unusual … radical and critical; ideas that are absurd and bombastic; ideas that are contemplative and philosophical; ideas that are celebratory and unifying,” Obarzanek has said.

Rising centres around Flinders Street Station, spilling out into the surrounding streets, car parks, churches, theatres, town square and the Birragung. It’s all part of the Victorian Government’s plans to re-ignite the city after the pandemic and has been a key beneficiary of the $200 million Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund.

As the name and iconography would suggest – playing off the ‘rising’ moon – the festival is mainly geared at boosting the night-time economy. Events, pop-ups, and activations run from 6pm to 6am, guaranteeing more than a few memorable (if a little fuzzy) nights out.

Rising Melbourne Dates

Looking to heat up the coldest time of the year, Rising will be filling the streets of Melbourne from Wednesday 7 June to Sunday 18 June.

That gives you 12 nights of cultural goodness to get stuck into.

What’s on at Rising Melbourne 2023

I mean, what isn’t? The festival will see 400 artists perform across 185 events. 35 of these are commissions and 12 of them are world premiers.

The festival highlights local talent and rising Indigenous stars, intermingled with big international names. There’s going to be theatre, huge public artworks, dance, song, family events, interactive and immersive experiences as well as tonnes of great music.

A tiger in a grocery store as part of the show 'Euphoria' for Rising Melbourne 2023.
Image: Supplied

Kicking off with ‘the city as a stage’ concepts, we’ve got Shadow Spirit taking over abandoned rooms in Flinders Street Station with Indigenous artworks from across the country, Anthema vast projection of folk singer Beverly Glenn-Copeland rippling across fabric in St Paul’s Cathedral, and Euphoriaan immersive film starring Cate Blanchett projected in 360 degrees set to choral music inside Melbourne Town Hall.

On the music side of things, you’ve got Ausecuma Beats, Batrider, Flying Lots, Liv.e, NTS Paul Kelly, The Damned, Shinitaro Sakamoto, Thundercat, Weyes Blood, and Yasmin Lacey, to name but a few.

Dance, theatre, and performance duties come in the form of shows like Buŋgul, Hide the Dog, The Dan Daw Show, Oil Pressure Vibrator (which is exactly what it sounds like), and Tracker.

There are also visual artworks like Electric, Ghetto Biennale, and Under Maintenance. Plus, don’t miss the Goddess Exhibition Up Late.

Also don’t miss The Rink, a new ice skating spot opening for the festival at Birrarung Marr where you can slide across the ice for two hours under huge illuminated sculptures. You can also just watch other people brave the ice while sipping on mulled wine.

What we’re saying is that there is a tonne of good stuff to get around and you should head to the Rising site for performance times and full details of anything and everything that catches your fancy.

Is Rising Melbourne Free?

Sort of. Rising festival does have a range of free or low-cost events, as well as public art displays which no one is going to charge you for scanning your eyes over. Otherwise, most of the performances and gigs are paid-entry.

But that doesn’t mean you have to shell out a heap to enjoy some of the best of the fest. 10,000 Kazoos is entirely free (they even provide the kazoos) in Federation Square and looks to be a lot of fun.

The Rink at Rising Melbourne offers a place to go ice skating in the city centre. Image shows a woman junping on the ice in ice skates.
Image: Supplied.

You’ve also got Spark, a big dump of biodegradable sparks over Fed Square to create “ever shifting clouds of light,” conjured up by Ditch artist Daan Roosegaarde.

Archibald-prize finalist Matthew Clarke has also created 20 large and colourful wallabies that will be scattered along the banks of the Yarra, free for everyone to find.

Rising Melbourne Tickets

There are no bulk-entry tickets for Rising, meaning you’ll have to individually purchase for events you want to see.

As above, those tickets start at $0 for some of the public displays, with The Rink and Hide the Dog being two of the cheaper events at $22 and $25 respectively. Most shows are around $50 but expect to pay up to $110 for headline shows like Paul Kelly’s Drinking.

Tickets are currently available for purchase and went on sale on Friday, 17 March.

Several shows have already sold out, including Ethel Cain, Thundercat, and Ichiko Aoba while Weyes Blood has had a second show added due to demand.

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