2016 melbourne festival free and family events
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From a pyrotechnic and percussion led CBD street takeover, to kids learning the art of a cut and colour, to a spellbinding stage show from one of Australia’s most renowned puppetry companies and finest children’s playwrights, to a stunning array of free visual arts exhibitions and installations, to the Festival’s closing celebration of diversity through an exchange of coffee, tea and music, the 2016 Melbourne Festival program is loaded with free and family friendly public performances, artworks, shows, workshops and panels to suit children and adults of all ages and interests.

Highlights include, opening with a Tanderrum at Federation Square on Wednesday 5 October, this special ceremony now in its fourth year has become an integral moment in the commencement of each year’s Melbourne Festival when the five clans of the Kulin Nation come together and extend an invitation to city dwellers and visitors to join them on this land.

Festival festivities carry on into the weekend with a a major outdoor spectacle from one of the world’s most renowned street theatre companies, Basque company Deabru Beltzak. Exclusive to Melbourne, they will take to the CBD for three nights across the opening weekend to cause a disruption like no other with Les Tambours De Feu. An extravaganza of live music, pyrotechnics and extraordinary special effects, this free event will attract thousands to embark on a dizzy parade that will set Melbourne’s squares and laneways ablaze, beginning at Federation Square each night from Thursday 6 – Saturday 8 October.

Take a seat in the barber’s chair and let a ten-year-old give you a cut and colour. Haircuts by Children, from Canada’s Mammalian Diving Reflex, is what it says on the tin. Kids are given the tools they require to become working hairdressers, and all that’s needed is their clientele. The children will be taking over a CBD salon Saturday and Sunday 15 and 16 and a Stonington salon Saturday and Sunday 22 and 23 October.

Also perfect for families is You Me and the Space Between. From the mind of Finegan Kruckemeyer, Australia’s most accomplished children’s playwright, comes a tale of wonder and invention that is brought to life in unexpected ways. Step inside a picture book as cartoonist Oslo Davis draws the story live while Sarah Ward aka Yana Alana reads it alongside. All of this takes place amidst a paper set that is cut, ripped, patched and manipulated live to create a world of play at The Coopers Malthouse Tuesday 6 – Sunday 9 October.

Step inside a structure that combines the weight of architecture and the ephemerality of organic life. Internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota‘s bewitching and infinitely intricate large-scale installation The Home Within will embark on a journey across various locations in Melbourne throughout the Festival debuting at the Deakin Edge on Thursday 6 October. Presented in Melbourne for the very first time, the Festival together with Anna Schwartz Gallery showcsase this bright red, yarned masterpiece will wow adults and children alike.

The culminating moments of the 2016 Melbourne Festival will be a celebration of diversity—a fitting bookend to the opening ceremony from the land’s First Peoples, with a multicultural exchange through coffee, tea and music. With Multicultural Arts Victoria, Our Place, Our Home will include acoustic performances throughout the day from  Yorta Yorta man Neil Morris, Yamali and Gunni man Brent Watkins, Japan born Butoh dancer Yumi Umiumare, Malaysian born koto player Brandon Lee, award-winning bansuri (flute) virtuoso Vinod Prasanna, Gambian Kora player Amadou Suso, Melbourne-based all Samoan vocal quintetDFX Barbershop, and a special one off performance from Simon Mavin (Hiatus Kayote, The PutBacks) atMelbourne Town Hall on Sunday 23 October.

Make a day of it on Sunday 9 October and discover many of this year’s exciting range of visual arts exhibitions and events taking place around the city. See festival.melbourne for a suggested route with 2016 highlights including;

Irish artist Gerard Byrne‘s work and his influence on other artists is displayed across two exhibitions at iconic Melbourne institutions this October – Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) present with Life Inside an Image, and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) presents A Late Evening in the Future; and the work of documentary photographer Walker Evans will be at the centre of an exhibition charting his enduring effects on Australian art today with works by many local artists to be exhibited alongside in response to his mastery at the Centre for Contemporary Photography; and get a preview of the results of the inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab: What Happens Now? at the Queen Victoria Market.

Being presented alongside The Home Within is the inaugural solo exhibition of Chiharu Shiota’s body of work at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Absent Bodies takes place throughout the Festival; for the fourth year running, Victorian artists from a wide spectrum of disciplines have been invited to reimagine the most Melbourne of icons with Melbourne Art Trams, this year featuring the work of artists Joceline Lee, Eddie Botha, Jon Cattapan, Reko Rennie, Mimi Leung and Damiano Bertoli, Eliza Dyball and Megan Evans and Eve Glenn; and influential Indian architect Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumba designs this year’sMPavilion, a meeting place and ideas space that hosts a free program of talks, performances, debates throughout the Festival.

For the revellers is Festival Lates at The Toff in Town. Open late each night during the Festival with priority VIP access and cloakroom for Festival ticket holders, artists and supporters, it’s the spot to meet the artists, share experiences over snacks served into the wee hours and look out for a surprise or two. Break bread with fellow Festival-goers, raise glasses, share reviews and, if the mood takes you, party on.

The 2016 Melbourne Festival will also feature a number of free panel discussion and artists in conversation with some of the Festival’s featured artists including the free Creating Worlds panel. Theatre director, Enrique Vargas (The Echo of The Shadow) and Artist and Filmmaker, Lynette Wallworth (Collisions) both create immersive works that explore bold new ways of telling and experiencing stories. Join Enrique and Lynette in a conversation moderated by Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway about creating immersive worlds, audience interaction and experiential storytelling and their most recent works showing at ACMI as part of the Festival on Saturday October 8.

The Melbourne Festival takes place from 6-23 October 2016. For a full program of family and free events visit www.festival.melbourne.