Celebrating Then to Now - an opinion piece
Meet Flick (aka Felicity McIntosh) - Midsumma's Marketing and Communications Manager, through this opinion piece that was originally published in KOS magazine 21 Jan 2020.
"It really is quite an exciting and proud time to be working in the Midsumma Festival team. This year we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Pride March and it’s a really emotional time of celebration and reflection. Pride March started as a protest and still very much is a march of power today. The queer community in Victoria has really come a long way since that first march in 1996 and we will remember that Midsumma Pride March is about affirming that we are fabulous, and we are loved, and we’re diverse and we’re proud. We march in solidarity for those who can’t.
Midsumma Festival was born very much out of the need to showcase LGBTQIA artists and culture makers from our communities who were underrepresented in mainstream festivals, theatres and media and galleries in Victoria.
In 1988, a small team formed under the helm of inaugural Chairperson, Danny Vadasz - to develop the annual community celebration that we now call Midsumma Festival. This team, made up of our community members, were at the forefront of supporting, producing and encouraging the development of innovative queer artistic content and a unique LGBTQIA cultural experience.
The first festival ran over ten days and almost as many nights with street parties, theatre shows, cabaret, warehouse parties, queer film and a history walk - to show and introduce audiences to the rich queer history that was around them.
The best part about my job is always flipping through the historical notes, images and film from many of the very first festivals to try to piece together the story of Midsumma. We do have an online history book and our key milestones which have been compiled from internal research, the Australian Gay and Lesbian Archive (ALGA) and contributions solicited from past and present Board members and volunteers of Midsumma Festival.
There is definitely not one story, and everyone has their own beautiful version of how this festival came to be so important in our lives and how it has continued to grow in program and audience size over 30 years.
I believe that where we have come from is really important and maintaining a history of Midsumma is just one of the ways that we can recognise the efforts of those people and organisations which have been, and continue to be, an integral part of Midsumma's history, but also to help us keep moving forward and growing the rich artistic culture we have.
I have heard many people share stories about how in the beginning it was such an underground (or for a better word), grassroots festival that allowed a lot of people to go out and fully express themselves surrounded by a group of like-minded people who wouldn’t judge them. It gave a lot of people a chance to discover themselves and do this in an environment where they felt safe.
Over the years Midsumma has been a driving force for political change, a safe haven for our communities and a time of celebration, of our history, of our achievements and of our cultures.
Today, Midsumma has blossomed into a premier queer arts and culture festival, that has one of the largest queer performance and visual arts programs in Australia, we partner with major arts institutions across Victoria and are joined by over 5000 queer artists and culture makers each year.
Where Midsumma Festival is “today” is always a reflection of our communities and what is most important to us. For example, in 2017 our program was strong in highlighting the need for marriage equality; in 2018 – Midsumma curated and presented Horizons, which focused on breaking down the homogenisation of queer culture and celebrating diversity; 2019 saw the major project BODY, a suite of artwork and artforms that amplified the voices of trans, gender diverse and intersex peoples. Each year we add more “chairs to the table” we have more in-depth and diverse conversations about queer art and each year we, as a collective with our independent producers, deliver the most incredible three-week festival journey you probably will ever experience.
The Midsumma program this year is bulging at the seams with pretty much everything you could ever dream of experiencing, we have experimental, interactive, and informative queer shows, events, and exhibits across so many art forms - I couldn’t possibly even scratch the surface with a summary. But, there is one aspect of the program this Festival that again pays homage to queer culture and issues that we, as an organisation, believe are voices from our communities that need to be heard and that’s through the 2020 project Queer Unsettled.
Queer Unsettled is a suite of performances that celebrate the stories from Pasifika Womxn of colour through music, indigenous perspectives on queer history through theatre and dance, asylum seekers from Iran (who cannot be identified or take credit for their work in fear of never being allowed to see their family again) who have created a multidisciplinary video installation that tells the story of queer diasporas – by the way one of the most moving works I have ever seen – these are just to name a few.
The theme and heart and power and emotion that runs through these works is indescribable and can only really be understood firsthand.
Come to one of the 194 shows! Getting out and experiencing something in Midsumma Festival is one of the best ways for you to support our artists. We also work year-round on two mentorship programs (so if you’re super nice you can donate to Midsumma to keep these going - we are an NFP) and we also love and need our (400) volunteers, without whom we could not function."
- Felicity McIntosh