A Kaleidoscope of Culture and Tropical Rhapsody: Darwin Festival Reveals 2023 Program


Spanning 18 balmy days and nights, the 2023 Darwin Festival is set to captivate with a diverse array of music, theatre, comedy, dance, cabaret, visual arts, and family-oriented events.

From 10-27 August, Australia’s hottest winter arts festival plays host to an expansive program filled with local talent, renowned national and international performers, and an assorted blend of shows destined to enchant both locals and tourists alike.

This year’s program is jam-packed with over 80 events, including 280 performances spread across 28 venues and featuring more than 850 artists from the NT, Australia and overseas.

The opening night of Darwin Festival dazzles in a new location, staged across the newly expanded Festival Park Precinct with a host of free events and experiences including a Welcome to Country ceremony; the World Premiere of Life/Time, an acrobatic collaboration between Gravity & Other MythsJimblah and Corrugated Iron Youth Arts; interactive installations in Kolsen Twilight Playground and live music on the Power and Water Bamboo Bandstand.

The Festival program embraces the unique fusion of culture and entertainment with special events like the Milpirri Sensorium, where the Warlpiri kinship from the Tanami Desert makes its debut on Larrakia country; Maho Magic Bar, which conjures a neon Tokyo night of magic and mystery; and audiences can explore Rapid Creek Markets through the artist-led Market Market.

World premieres take the spotlight, including The Farm’s Stunt Double, a  jaw-dropping interactive experience exploring the power dynamics of the film industry, and Kingadong, narrating elder Frank Spry’s life through music and imagery with his son David Spry. The Other Side of Me, a UK and NT Dance Company collaboration, is choreographed by local Gary Lang and explores cultural identity through dance.

The Territory’s cherished open-air venue, the INPEX Sunset Stage in Festival Park, hosts a vibrant line-up of live music. Performances to note include Aboriginal women from Groote Eylandt and Dr. Shellie Morris’s Yarnumamalya Ayangkidarrbalangwa, ’90s rock legends Regurgitator, ARIA-winning Budjerah, dance-pop mavericks Haiku Hands, Unearthed High winner Jacotene, Arnhem Land’s rising star Yirrmal, and History of House, a musical journey through disco, pop, and house, with DJ Groove Terminator and Soweto Gospel Choir.

Festivalgoers relish hearty laughter, and the 2023 line-up promises chuckles aplenty, with Merrick WattsMel ButtleSammy JDave ThorntonKaren From FinanceLloyd LangfordLizzy HooAlex Ward and local laugh factory Amy Hetherington delivering stellar punchlines.

The theatre and cabaret program promises a tapestry of experiences that will challenge, entertain, and enthral. Highlights include Robyn Archer’s celebration of 150 years of Australian music, Briefs‘ audacious cabaret Dirty Laundry, and Reckoning, a concert celebrating Indigenous culture. I’m With Her stages stories of resilience against sexism, while Batshit sees psycho siren Leah Shelton challenge the ‘crazy’ label often given to women.

Families are invited to join the festival fun with a selection of all-ages experiences. Enjoy Camp Culture, an interactive circus show championing underrepresented voices, and embark on a luminous journey with Patch Theatre’s interactive installation Sea Of LightThe City of Darwin Teddy Bear’s Picnic also returns to The Esplanade for a day filled with artistic activities, performances, face painting, and fun.

The closing weekend of the Festival unfolds at the iconic Darwin Ski Club, featuring a mesmerising waterfront concert by Queensland virtuoso Katie Noonan performing Joni Mitchell’s Blue, and a musical journey led by The Whitlams Black Stump Band, revisiting cherished hits, and debuting new originals.

Darwin Festival Artistic Director Kate Fell said “Darwin Festival 2023 is an invitation to immerse in a unique, tropical winter play-space, rich with magical moments and deep Territory narratives.”

“Once more, the festival offers a spectrum of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, thrilling performances, and intriguing discussions, taking place across the cityscape of Darwin, and transforming familiar places into sites of discovery. We can’t wait to welcome audiences to this year’s Festival,” she said.

Minister for Major Events, Paul Kirby said, “The iconic Darwin Festival is looking set for another great year, providing an amazing platform for our local creatives to perform, and drawing visitors from across the country who immerse themselves in our unique Top End lifestyle, art, and culture.

“Last year’s festival drew a record 170,000 attendances, and delivered a huge economic boost to the Territory, with an economic impact of around $32.5 million. That is massive news for a number of industries, especially our tourism and hospitality sectors.”

Darwin Festival’s full program of events is on sale from 9am Friday 2 June, with tickets available from darwinfestival.org.au and the Top End Visitor Information Centre (6 Bennett St, Darwin City). Friends of the Festival members can get first dibs on tickets online from 9am Wednesday 31 May with an exclusive two-day presale period.

Darwin Festival is proudly supported by the Northern Territory Government and City of Darwin.

Check out the full program:


The 2023 Darwin Festival launches with a vibrant celebration at the newly expanded Festival Park and Festival Lawn.

The opening night features a heartfelt Welcome to Country ceremony, the world premiere of Life/Time, a collaboration between Gravity & Other MythsJimblah and Corrugated Iron Youth Arts, where world class acrobats join forces with talented young Darwin performers in a living, breathing lighting design that moves through the space.

Festival Park comes to life with free performances, the best of Darwin on a plate and a new play space, Kolsen Twilight Playground, where audiences can experiment with light and sound in two interactive installations – Mirror Mirror and Hexadeca. Bring the family to Gravity & Other Myth’s A Simple Space and dance into the night with international superstars Soweto Gospel Choir and DJ Groove Terminator in History of House.

This year there’ll be double the fun as the Festival opens a new space, Festival Lawn, with the return of Darwin favourite Blanc de Blanc Encore in The Spiegeltent, and a new venue – Maho Magic Bar, featuring mind-blowing Japanese magic.


Milpirri Sensorium, a product of a 30-year partnership between the Lajamanu Community and Tracks Dance Company, brings the Warlpiri kinship of Milpirri from the Tanami Desert to Larrakia country for the first time. The outdoor event features 27 vibrant Milpirri banners, a bilingual soundtrack, and rare performance footage, celebrating the blend of youthful energy and elder wisdom in learning Western and Warlpiri ways.

Maho Magic Bar brings a neon-lit Tokyo night to estival Lawn, featuring close-up magic and captivating performances. This unique experience, part show and part bar, promises amazement, cocktails, and laughter.

Celebrate and explore the home of the Rapid Creek Markets through the eyes of local creatives at Market Market. Experimental artists, curators, thinkers and foodies come together in this educational, edifying and entertaining program of community gatherings and shared artistic experiences. Alongside this, a national artist-led lab kicks off with a curated program of discussions, meals and workshops to foster new collaborations between local and visiting artists.

In Counterpilot’s satirical event, Not a Cult*, audiences don headphones and follow playful instructions, creating an impromptu flash mob in Festival Park.

Join ABC Radio Darwin’s Happy Hour in The Spiegeltent, hosted by Liz Trevaskis. This event offers a blend of festival insights, guest artist interactions, and exclusive backstage stories. Attend in person or listen live on the radio or online for must-see show recommendations and festival hijinks.


Stunt Double, by dance and theatre collective The Farm, offers a thrilling, interactive exploration of film industry power dynamics. This spectacle features stunt doubles performing high-risk stunts, highlighting the disparity between their efforts and the actors’ glory. Selected audience members join the crew, witnessing the action and actor-stunt double interactions firsthand.

Kingadong is an intimate performance depicting Marranunggu/Marrathiel elder Frank Spry’s life and human rights advocacy through music and imagery, presenting a local Stolen Generations story of trauma and triumph. Brought to life by Frank and his son David Spry, this is a special World Premiere of music, poetry, prose and images.

The Other Side of Me is an international collaboration by NT Dance Company and Northumbria University, UK. This World Premiere event, choreographed by Gary Lang, tells the true story of a young Aboriginal man from the NT, raised in the UK by his adoptive white family. The performance explores themes of the Stolen Generations, cultural and personal dispossession, and relationships between one’s original and adoptive countries.


The 17-year-old National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs) celebrate the diversity and achievements of First Nations musicians, fostering careers of many acclaimed artists, and promises another must-see event this year.

Darwin’s Symphony Orchestra presents Desire & Destiny a compelling program featuring works by acclaimed Australian composers, Brett Dean and Rebecca Erin Smith, alongside Wagner’s and Copeland’s classics, exploring themes of love, death, and destiny.

In 27 Club, experience a live rockumentary celebrating the music and stories of legendary artists who tragically left us at 27. Performed by Australian rock icons including Sarah McLeod (The Superjesus) and Kevin Mitchell (Jebediah, Bob Evans) along with Carla Lippis, Dusty Lee Stephensen, Cam Blokland and Wanderers, this promises to be in a mind-blowing tribute to the enduring legacy of music legends.

History of House is a musical journey through disco, pop, and house music, featuring the Grammy Award winning Soweto Gospel Choir and ARIA-nominated DJ Groove Terminator, reimagining and reigniting dance music through the decades.

Join Aboriginal women from Groote Eylandt and Dr. Shellie Morris in a world premiere of an album recorded entirely in Anindilyakwa, the traditional Groote Eylandt language. Yarnumamalya Ayangkidarrbalangwa is a unique celebration of language, music, and culture.

Don’t miss the opportunity to experience Yirrmal, Arnhem Land’s rising star, renowned for his captivating storytelling, soulful singing, and powerful, uplifting music that truly touches the soul.

Experience the electrifying R&B sensation and ARIA-award-winning Budjerah. Expect an unforgettable night of soul, gospel and contemporary pop from one of Australia’s most exciting new talents.

Prepare to be captivated by the powerful voice of Jacotene, the 2022 winner of triple j’s Unearthed High. Drawing influences from the likes of Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz, Amy Winehouse, and Adele, this emerging talent promises a mesmerising performance.

Regurgitator celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of the anthems of ‘90s Australia alternative rock by performing the entire UNIT album in all its mashed-up, exuberant glory.

Witness the electrifying performance of dance-pop renegades Haiku Hands; andjoin Jason Heerah & Otentik Groove for a tropical dance party featuring a high-energy fusion of soul, reggae, and zouk.

Silence of the Jams combines a movie and live music gig. Eddie and his Band of Legends present their self-made independent film, accompanied by an original soundtrack, for a humorous and epic experience.

Stay on after the 9pm INPEX Sunset Stage shows every Friday and Saturday night for the Festival’s iconic late-night hot spot, Club Awi. Curated by Kuya James, Club Awi hosts renowned DJs, including Kimani, Shantan Wantan Ichiban, MzRizk, and more, blending global sounds for an electrifying experience. Highlights this year include SANGEET संगीत, an Indian and South-East Asian takeover celebrating community through music and dance.

Enjoy free live music every night at the Power and Water Bamboo Bandstand in Festival Park. Discover local talents like Prayer Corby, Ward Hancock, In The Pink, and Jordan Ravi while enjoying food and the Dry Season evening with friends.

Darwin’s favourite year-round music venue, The Railway Club, will once again feature a feast of live music talent every Friday and Saturday night of the Festival.  Head out to the Rails to experience sets from the likes of Out to Lunch Presents EtsonTek Tek EnsembleKuya James’ Jeepney RockRipple Effect BandBones and Jones and Wet Funk: Friends of the Funk.


Bask in the glow of the setting sun at Darwin’s iconic Ski Club for two laid back evenings of music to help close out the Festival.

Renowned Queensland virtuoso Katie Noonan delivers Joni Mitchell’s Blue, backed by an outstanding quintet, in a waterfront concert for music and poetry aficionados.

The Whitlams Black Stump Band, including Tim Freedman and Terepai Richmond, revisits classic hits and presents new originals and Americana. The evening opens with David Garnham and the launch of Stuart Highway Part 2, a road-themed concept album created in collaboration with some of the NT’s best songwriters.


The Spiegeltent returns to Darwin Festival with the world-class cabaret sensation, Blanc de Blanc Encore, featuring a new all-star international cast that wowed audiences in three sell-out seasons in Sydney. Experience vintage French flair, spectacular aerials, and sparkling comedy in the expanded Festival Park Precinct.

Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook sees stage legend Robyn Archer celebrate 150 years of Australian music, from convict laments to contemporary artists, accompanied by top Australian musicians, promising laughter, politics, tragedy, and fun.

Darwin’s favourite misfits Briefs returns with Dirty Laundry, a fresh party cabaret featuring acrobatics, comedy, dance, boylesque, and showmanship, delivered with a glitter-stained, ballsy attitude.

Reckoning is a concert celebration of Indigenous culture addressing racism effects. Expect storytelling, visuals, and dance-worthy contemporary sounds from Samuel Gaskin and The Merindas.


Experience the real-life stories of eight extraordinary Australian women confronting sexism, staged by a diverse Darwin women cast. I’m With Her is a thought-provoking demonstration of resilience in the #MeToo and #TimesUp era.

In the award-winning play Cusp by Mary Anne Butler, three Northern Territory teenagers navigate the threshold of adulthood, dealing with personal desires, community expectations, and the consequences of their choices.

Re:group’s Coil blends live theatre and movie-making in a nostalgic homage to the video store era. Witness a unique live cinema experience that explores the joys and pitfalls of reminiscing.

Batshit is a visceral performance combining pop psychology and humour, challenges the label ‘crazy’ often assigned to women. A deeply intimate exploration of female madness and societal compliance by the killer creative team behind Bitch on Heat.


Silence, by First Nations company Karul Projects, is a bold dance performance about Treaty, featuring seven dancers on a sand-filled set and a live percussion score. It examines the long-standing promises and questions surrounding a Treaty.

Deejay X Dancer, choreographed by Nick Power, is an energetic tribute to 1970s New York block parties and the origins of hip hop. Featuring world champion DJ Total Eclipse and three renowned Australian breakers, it’s a thrilling live showdown exploring the interplay between traditional hip hop forms.


Turn the LOLS up to 11 with a brand-new musical comedy show by The Listies that’s fabulous fun for the whole family. Join the kings of kids’ comedy, Rich and Matt, for an insane mixtape of silly songs, stupid sketches and crazy clowning in Make Some Noise!

Camp Culture is an interactive circus show, led by acclaimed circus artist Dale Woodbridge-Brown. This all-ages event, blends skill and sass in a performance that champions underrepresented voices, while using humour and heart to provide an entertaining and empowering experience.

Explore two interactive light installations at the Kolsen Twilight Playground at Festival Park. HEXADECA is an interactive, architecturally designed playground that merges sensor technology with sound and light. Participants become conductors as they sit and spin in glowing chairs, triggering segments of a musical score featuring artists like Aurora choir, Adam Page, and Tom Thum. Mirror Mirror, by Patch Theatre, invites participants into an intimate, mirrored dome for a mesmerizing journey to infinity. This dazzling, immersive experience lets you control the light and lose yourself in a kaleidoscopic dream, providing a moment of self-reflection.

Join a morning of fun, free artistic activities when the City of Darwin Teddy Bears’ Picnic returns to The Esplanade. Dress up, bring a teddy, and enjoy performances, face painting, and a junkyard band adventure for this fun, free, family outing.

Embark on a light journey with Patch Theatre’s interactive installation Sea Of Light. Paint with a UV torch, enjoy a gentle soundscape, and hear an inspiring National Science Week talk at MAGNT.


Interloper offers daring acrobatics, hula hooping, magic and humour, exploring themes of belonging and connection in a contemporary circus setting.

A Simple Space presents seven acrobats pushing their limits in a raw, spectacular display of strength and skill, driven by an original percussive soundtrack. Feel the intensity up close in this stripped-back circus experience.


Join a unique evening under the stars with SPUN: Unprecedented, featuring everyday people sharing their extraordinary true stories. From desert discoveries to unexpected life changes, delve into a world of secrets and world-firsts at the INPEX Sunset Stage.

Under the stars at Deckchair Cinema, celebrate NT Poetry Month with the Territory’s finest poets and spoken word artists. Enjoy short poetic films, live music, and poetry readings, igniting the winter night with powerful voices.


Amy Hetherington hosts Secret Life of Territorians, a variety show unveiling the secret talents of Darwin locals, from office-job comedians to break-dancing construction workers.

Experience a power-packed hour of laughs with TikTok star and live comedy circuit heavyweight, Mel Buttle.

Join award-winning Welsh comedian Lloyd Langford as he explores his various moods in this cheeky and curious performance.

Lizzy Hoo’s observational comedy tackles expectations, reality, and the passage of time in this must-see show.

Sammy J’s large-scale musical comedy sketch features favourite characters from his hit ABC TV show.

Enjoy punch-line heavy comedy from Alex Ward, a regular on ‘Have You Been Paying Attention?’ and writer for ‘The Project’.

Dave Thornton offers a laughter-filled exploration of health, stress, and critical decision-making.

In Karen From Finance Is Doing Time, Australia’s favourite ‘corporate’ queen, Karen From Finance, delivers a hilarious one-woman show with her unique drag style.

Merrick Watts blends his comedic talent with wine expertise in a fun-filled journey through the world of wine in An Idiot’s Guide to Wine.


The Barber of Seville is a comical opera featuring lyrical acrobatics and lively characters. Wealthy Almaviva and clever Rosina enlist the matchmaking skills of Figaro, the barber, to navigate Rosina’s betrothal. This famous Rossini masterpiece, performed by Opera Australia’s finest and a live orchestra, offers a humorous journey to true love.


Celebrate Indigenous fashion at two major events. Country to Couture (8 Aug) highlights over 25 collections from Indigenous designers and artists, plus unique Aboriginal community-label collaborations. The National Indigenous Fashion Awards (9 Aug) at Deckchair Cinema honours excellence in First Nations fashion and textiles.

Flowers Underwater presents a runway show of wearable art by Darwin artist ILMA ALI, inspired by Pacific coral reefs. The art transforms into garments through a collaboration with designers like BLACK CAT COUTURE, OSSOM Australia, and FREYZZY Design. Showcasing Darwin’s diverse migrant models, it’s a vibrant, tropical celebration of women.


The launch of Darwin International Film Festival 2023 features Luku Ngärra: The Law of the Land, a compelling documentary about a Yolŋu elder’s 45-year fight for his people’s political and spiritual freedom.


The 17th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair invites visitors to explore a diverse range of Indigenous art from over 1,500 artists and offers a unique opportunity to purchase directly from more than 70 Indigenous owned Art Centres.

Marking its 40th year, the 2023 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) showcases an impressive breadth of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Celebrate at the opening night and awards ceremony, then explore the exhibition’s outstanding breadth of works.

SALON Art Projects returns with an array of exhibitions featuring ethically sourced Indigenous art, including paintings, textiles and 3D works. The highlight, SALON des Refusés, presents outstanding artwork not selected for the NATSIAAs, offering a glimpse into the past and future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. UNTOLD Darwin complements these exhibits with a program of Indigenous storytelling, discussion, and exchange.

Birds From Here captures the beauty and diversity of Top End birds through the creative lens of local artists. This exhibition, set amidst coconut palms at the Botanic Gardens, is complemented by a musical meditation performed by Arafura Music Collective.

Ngayu Bugai (I Am Bugai) features the self-reflective works of revered Martumili Artist, Bugai Whyoutler, known for her masterful use of colour and subtle brushstrokes depicting cultural landmarks and desert flora.

Binygurr Wirrpanda’s solo exhibition presents a mix of ironwood sculpture and Dhudi Djapu law renditions on bark and metal, reflecting his role as Chair of BukuLarrŋgay Mulka Centre and senior community ceremonial leader.

Big Mob Thepa Thepa (Birds) showcases the creative ideas of Yarrenyty Arltere artists through an exhibition inspired by their beautiful desert home.

Blak Power is a survey exhibition at Northern Centre for Contemporary Art honouring First Nations superheroes in Indigenous Australian contemporary art through diverse mediums, exploring popular Blak culture’s identity and supernatural elements.

Gumurr’manydji Manapanmirr Djäma is a photographic exhibition celebrating Yolŋu culture, self-determination, and ingenuity, curated by an all-Indigenous team, complemented with insightful talks from community members.

Kurrujupunyi (Ochre Colours) displays exceptional Tiwi art from Munupi and Jilamara art centres, enriched by a traditional Tiwi “Yoi” dance performance at the opening event.

Remix showcases the creativity of a new generation of CDU Visual Arts students through a vibrant collection of fluorescent Risographic posters, with interactive workshops for beginners to contribute to the installation.

Coconut Studios features works from the Top End and Desert in two exhibitions, including new and remade pieces by Larrakia artist Gary Lee, and expressions of collective creativity from Papunya Tjupi Arts men’s studio.

Darwin Visual Arts will be vibrant with five unique Darwin artists showcasing their creations across five galleries, including works from Deanna Field, Stephen (Buffalo) Dalton, Peta (Piiiij) Goodrem, Ulrike Kachel, and Jeannie and Jim Bennett.

: Darwin Festival 2023       
When: 10-27 August 2023.
More infowww.darwinfestival.org.au

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