Maroochy Music and Visual Arts Festival Director James Birrell on the emergence of ‘a new contemporary culture’

The Maroochy Music and Visual Arts Festival returns to the Sunshine Coast this month for what is set to be an unforgettable time out with some of Australia’s favourite musicians and intriguing visual artists. Since its inception last year, the support for the festival has grown incredibly and is now well on its way in becoming one of the premier live music and arts festivals in Queensland.

Speaking with Festival Director James Birrell recently, he remains cooly confident when it comes to addressing the overwhelming nature of the festival’s expansion in 2016. With only one stage in a natural amphitheatre setting, punters are presented with a boutique festival experience but as recognition has grown within the last 12 months, so has the calibre of bands and the ambition of the visual arts program.

“I think there seems to be a lot of support out there,” he says. “It’s hard to tell, because we’re only in our second year now. Everyone I bump into who knows the event and has been to the event has been saying how much something like this has been needed. I think, as time goes on and more people become aware of our event, that support will continue to grow. We just need to keep making people aware; there’s so much going on these days, we just need to keep at the forefront of people’s minds.”

“I’m getting really excited. All the memories of how great last year was have started flooding back and filling up my Facebook feed; it’s an incredible undertaking to do something like this, it’s very overwhelming. Having all those wonderful memories coming back now that I’m back on site again, building the installation, is an awesome feeling.”

A key feature on this year’s visual arts line up is the debut of Amanda Parer‘s Fantastic Planet series; giant humanoid figures being installed on the festival site, giving the impression that they’re exploring the festival grounds on their own. Birrell comments on the growth of the program and the realisation of their goals since the festival’s beginnings last year with excitement.

“It was such a big vision to begin with,” he admits. “We haven’t quite reached that vision yet, it’ll take many, many years for it to get where we want it to be. To have gone from purely renting our main art piece last year to actually co-commissioning our main art piece this year, has been a huge achievement for us.”

“Particularly in the visual arts world,” he continues. “There is not the same sort of infrastructure set up for talent co-ordination and artistic management. Comparing that to the music world, it’s easy to get on the phone and to book an artist or musician; to find a visual artist to scope a project and to deliver that project is a huge undertaking and risk. That’s something we probably never envisaged until we were in the trenches, really. Delivering this huge art piece has been a wonderful experience, to see that come to life. Particularly seeing  Fantastic Planet by Amanda Parer, it’s actually five gigantic humanoids – it’ll be its debut exhibition in the world. It begins here and it goes to Prague.”

With this unique fusion of visual arts and live music remaining a high priority of the Maroochy Music and Visual Arts Festival moving forward, Birrell has also seen a diversification in audience since their debut event. It’s no longer just about young people kicking on over the course of a day and night and getting wasted – the experience the MMVAF team are offering their attendees is much more visually and creatively stimulating.

“It’s been wonderful to see how much passion and love has gone into this event from many other different people from all walks of life and age groups!” Birrell says. “That’s what’s surprised me, that cross-generational support we’ve been getting, it’s not just the kids. That, for me, has been an eye opener. I know a lot of people who weren’t exposed to new music and they’re now in their 60’s and 70’s and are coming to our event now and are partying with the kids! They’ve fallen in love with this new contemporary culture; I’ve found that to be quite an interesting spin on it all as well.”

“I think people in general, are wanting more from life. I think it cuts deep too, the understanding of what contemporary culture is; it’s multi-dimensional and we’re exposed to so many different things now, that you have to be continually breaking down those boundaries and finding new frontiers to keep people interested.”

The Maroochy Music and Visual Arts Festival takes place at the Horton Park Golf Course on the Sunshine Coast on September 10th, featuring live sets from acts including Matt CorbyPeking DukNGAIIREClient Liaison and George Maple. Buy your tickets and find out more information about the festival itself HERE!

Header Image: Joshua White.


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