Making busy look beautiful, meet your main Midsumma squeeze - Matt Hirst
Producer and performer - programming, arts administration, hospitality extraordinaire and back at Uni (post grad) for more knowledge... it suffices to say that Matt loves to be busy... and makes it look easy.
If you haven't already bumped into Matt at Midsumma Festival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Perth Fringe or Adelaide Fringe Festival (and probably more) then you may recognise this face from the a capella group - united by a love for leopard print (and Shania Twain), Shania Choir, on stage with Shania Twain... Yes this happened!
Currently (among many, many other things) Matt is Programmer and Producer of Camp Conscious Collective, an independent arts initiative, creating space for both queer and female-identifying performance artists and an independent producer with Na Djinang Circus.
With plenty of spare time, we are quick to introduce you to Midsumma's Administration / Stalls and Vendor Coordinator - Matt Hirst
Q: Describe yourself in three words: Pragmatic, Hard-working, Short
Q: What were you doing before Midsumma? I studied music composition and theatre production at university and from there began working as a composer and sound designer. Gradually I moved more into public events at a number of arts and cultural organisations, as well as working independently in the arts as a producer and in other operational roles.
Q: What is the best part of your role at Midsumma? I really enjoy talking to all the event producers during the registration period and the lead up, hearing their early ideas and concerns about them, giving them advice or suggestions, and then seeing the final product - an amazing arts and cultural event that’s part of the festival!
Similarly, when working with Stallholders at Midsumma Carnival, we spend months looking at spreadsheets and maps, collecting insurance certificates, preparing documentation, mapping out electrical requirements, and more. Then on the day of the event suddenly there are thousands of people browsing the marquee city that we’ve created with over 180 community organisations, businesses, and social groups.
Q: What area of your work are you most passionate about? I really like helping people. A large part of my job is solving problems that people come to me with. It’s pretty satisfying when you can apply your skills in a way that makes someone else’s thoughts and ideas come to fruition.
Q: What do you think sets Midsumma apart from the other places you’ve worked? It’s so fantastic to be working with people who care about your community as much as you do. Everyone at Midsumma Festival has such great care for Melbourne’s queer community and with our small team, every staff member approaches projects with a unique angle that makes for a well-rounded end product.
Q: What’s your favourite way to spend a weekend? I’ll be honest and say I do love a boogie - however I have lots of work outside of Midsumma Festival, so work 6-7 days a week most of the year or spend my time off studying. When there’s another festival on, I try to be involved in some way and keep engaged - whether working, producing, or just seeing as much as I can!
Q: What is the future of queer arts and culture? While queer art forms are now becoming more “mainstream”, I’m curious to see if there’s a future of “queering” the practices and systems of arts and cultural production. As queer people we often form our own communities, families, and values. Let’s form our own industries and institutions too.
Q: What are some emerging trends you have seen this year in the Melbourne arts industry? Queer art form and content is a huge part of pop culture at the moment. It’s interesting to see how this has impacted the broader arts industry.
From the success of groups like Briefs or Yummy, to the programming of the Basquiat & Haring exhibtion at NGV or mainstage performances from Hannah Gadsby - queer stories and perspectives are getting some high profile focus!
Q: What is the most important thing you have learnt so far, working at Midsumma? To be honest I think the most surprising thing I’ve learned about is how to ensure safe distribution of electricity!
Q: What is your must-see production/show/event of the year?
It is so hard to pick! But there are a large number of high-quality music events this year, I can’t wait for The Rise and Fall of St. George, Kira Puru at Heide, and Chlorophyll.
Q: Best festival experience? Last year I performed as part of a show in Darwin Festival to a sold out audience in an outdoor venue. By the final number everyone was on their feet, singing along, and dancing - the energy was electric!
Q: What gets you out of bed on a Sunday morning? I’m a Capricorn, so I can’t get enough of the hustle - all day, every day.