The energy within Midsumma Festival

It’s no easy feat getting a festival off the ground. We speak to two people who put their heart and soul into making Midsumma a memorable one.

4 min read
Held in Melbourne every summer, Midsumma is Australia’s premier queer arts and cultural festival. We speak to two people who put their heart and soul into making this massive event a memorable one.

Kicking off on 19 January 2020 and running for 22 days, the event attracts around 280,000 people keen to dip their toes into an extremely diverse range of shows. There’s everything from visual arts, live music, theatre and spoken word, to cabaret, film, parties, sport, social events and public forums.

There’s clearly something for everyone. And it’s no easy feat getting this mammoth event off the ground. Mack Ebelt, Midsumma’s Production and Operations Manager, works tirelessly behind the scenes to make the festival a success.

The festival planning process is long and detailed. Everything is plotted against a schedule that helps the team work towards the event date – and no two days are the same. Mack jokes, “the role is a mix of making spreadsheets and herding cats.”

There’s a long list of things that need to be taken care of, to ensure a great festival experience is delivered and everyone can attend safely. From council permits to onboarding staff, and sourcing suppliers for every service that the festival requires to go ahead.

Mack chatting and laughing with colleague at Midsumma festival launch party

Mack elaborates on some of the most important aspects of producing Midsumma, “the most satisfying things to tick off the to-do list are definitely event permits – it’s not the most interesting thing of the bunch, but arguably the most important.”

“We work with excellent local councils to produce the festival, who require a long list of documentation to ensure that all safety and operational requirements are met by us. These documents often take months to finalise as you are drawing information from a long list of people and places, so receiving the tick of approval at the end of it all is very satisfying.”

And the work’s not done for Mack when the event day finally arrives. They’re busy setting up infrastructure and events on-site from as early as three days before attendees start arriving.

Mack’s careful planning continues all the way through the Midsumma Carnival, managing all of the events and programming, and operating the control room to ensure all staff, contractors and volunteers are working safely and to schedule.

“Then we deinstall everything within one very hectic day where it truly is ‘all hands on deck’!”

Ebelt is a shining example of someone who previously may have felt marginalised but, thanks to Midsumma, now feels empowered.

“As a queer person with a body that hasn’t always been accepted, Midsumma Festival means a lot to me. Seeing everyone come together and feel safe to present their true authentic selves, that really makes all the long hours worth it,” she says.

This unwavering commitment to supporting and celebrating the LGBTIQA+ community is what sets Midsumma apart.

As Midsumma CEO Karen Bryant explains, “We have a strong responsibility to find those parts of the community whose voices aren’t being heard. We can tell our stories in a public and positive way.”

Mack and Karen at Midusmma Festival launch party reading over the run sheet

This year’s launch of Queer Unsettled is a great example of this philosophy. It’s the major project for Midsumma 2020, exploring the Indigenous queer experience through live art and performance. Through the project, the voices of Pacific women of colour, Indigenous Australians, Drag Race darlings from Thailand, dance stars from Taiwan, asylum seekers from Iran and queer diaspora communities will be heard.

AGL proudly supports Midsumma

AGL has been a proud supporter of Midsumma Festival since 2015 and we’ve just signed on for another three years.

AGL staff, family and friends marching at the Pride March

Bryant acknowledges the role that corporate partners like AGL play in helping to bring these voices to life. She says, “Our corporate partners enable us to do what we do. A lot of their support goes directly to our mentorship programs and our work with communities who don’t have a voice.”

Our sponsorship is just one way we can throw our support behind what we see as an incredibly important and uplifting event on the Melbourne calendar – and we can’t wait to fly our flag at the festival.

Visit Midsumma for more information.