COVID has presented previously unseen challenges for artists and event organisers around the globe, but for organisers of the SPARK Ipswich festival (Queensland), the pandemic has provided extra time for them to curate their dream event, which debuts this year.
“SPARK didn’t run in 2020, like most other festivals it was paused,” Ipswich City Events Manager Joanna Jordan says.
“The upside to that was we had more time to reimagine what the festival would look like and really plan the adaptions. So it helped us to a certain degree, but we would have loved to have rolled out the original vision last year, because we’d be in second year if that was the case.
“I think everyone has taken a while to get their head around not only COVID, and how we live with the ongoing restrictions, but the threat of increased restrictions.”
Taking the threat of restrictions into account, Joanna said elements of the festival had been carefully planned to work in almost any level of restriction.
“SPARK After Dark, which is three major lighting installations across the CBD, essentially was designed to create something that would withstand COVID-increased restrictions; didn’t encourage major mass gatherings,” she says.
“This idea of SPARK After Dark where you can dress warm, take your headphones, go and see Refraction on the Bremer River, which is an amazing water and light installation; or go up to St. Mary’s and see 11 of our visual artists in the city profiled like never before on the front of our piece of most iconic heritage infrastructure in the city, is pretty exciting. COVID has shaped that.
“We went back and said, ‘Look, we don’t want to be sitting two weeks out from an event going, 'how do we cut capacities? How do we do this?'. . . Everything has been designed to withstand pretty much everything bar a lockdown.”
SPARK Ipswich is one of the half-dozen festivals born from the re-imagining of what was once known as the Ipswich Festival – featuring more of the circus, cabaret, art, music and comedy elements of the original event.
“I think the beautiful thing is that allowed us to actually concentrate on the arts and culture in the region and we say it’s about celebrating the people, the place, the arts and culture of Ipswich – and it truly is, it's given SPARK the opportunity to do that,” Joanna explains.
'Pogogo Show' - Image © Savannah van der Niet
“If you ask me, my favourite highlight is Little Day Out, which is the city’s – and possibly Australia’s – first ever contemporary music, arts and sustainability festival for under-10s. Modelled on a real music festival, but just scaled down for kids.
“We’ve got Regurgitator here doing their 'Pogogo Show', and Fez Fa'anana delivering cabaret for kids; lots of workshops, and Katie Noonan’s protogés The Feral Cats of Tokyo performing, which will be great, because we’ve got kids performing for kids, so I hope it’s incredibly inspiring for our Ipswich kids.
“We’re expecting to put about 3,000 children through in two sessions at Little Day Out.”
“Obviously when you’re designing a programme you get attached to too many, but I love the very unique intersection of heritage and urban in Ipswich’s CBD, so it’s an amazing backdrop for Waghorn To West
, which is 16 artists, 8 sessions, 4 venues between Waghorn and West Street. I think that it’s not often a Queensland line-up comes to Ipswich like that, but also all of our emerging and local musicians are getting the opportunity to perform alongside, in some cases, their idols.
“So it’s great to be able to deliver that with the dual purpose of really capacity-building our local artists as well.” SPARK Ipswich runs from 8-18 July.