10 September

Dame Nellie Melba’s Coombe Estate opens to the public

Coombe Estate blog

If there’s one thing to know about Dame Nellie Melba – arguably Australia’s most famous opera singer – it’s that the lady had style. Rising to prominence in the late 19th century, Melba also became known for her refined taste in art, fashion and décor, and for her lush, seven-acre gardens surrounding her home in Coldstream, just adjacent to the Yarra Valley.

Tomorrow, Coombe: the Melba Estate opens to the public as a gallery, providore and suitably high-class restaurant. The grounds are free to explore – as is the gallery – and for $20, you can take a guided historical tour (Wed-Sun, 11am & 2pm), which includes a morning or afternoon tea.

Our tip: put on your best party hat, grab some buddies and make a fancy day out of it. After you’re finished roaming the grounds, stroll into the home and admire the gallery. The collection includes Melba’s 14-piece Louis Vuitton luggage set, Hermes riding boots and Cartier handbags from Paris (we told you she had style). Inside the providore, you can pick up exclusive Melba memorabilia and jams, and in the adjacent restaurant, you better believe Peach Melba will make an appearance on the menu.… Read more

6 August

Melbourne Fringe Festival launches 2014 program

Fringe Festival 2014

When you hike up to the top of Madame Brussels on a Wednesday morning only to be greeted by a friendly gorilla, you know the Melbourne Fringe Festival is just around the corner.

Underground, cross-platform, subversive, weird and a little bit wild: Fringe truly offers art for everybody. Back for its 30th year, the festival’s 2014 theme seems to be its sheer size – there are over 400 programmed events crammed into 19 days, with more than 5000 artists participating.

Not sure where to start? At this morning’s media launch, creative director Jayne Lovelock recommends jumping into the Fringe Hub at the North Melbourne Town Hall and Lithuanian Club, which will host more than 60 events. “You could see three shows there in one night!” says Lovelock – including puppetry, burlesque, cabaret, comedy and music. In addition to comedy crowd-pleasers like Arj Barker, Rod Quantock and Greg Fleet, the hub will host Indigenous cabaret showcase Flash!Read more

28 July

Top five things to know about the Melbourne Festival 2014 program

Cirkopolis

The Melbourne Festival is the most significant arts festival in the city’s calendar, and this year, the organisers are squeezing over 60 music, theatre, film, dance and art events into just 17 days. The program – released today – can feel a little overwhelming, so we’ve put together the top five things about this year’s cultural fiesta that impress us most.

1. The opening of the festival will bring together elders from the five clans of the Kulin nation
Last year, elders from the five clans of the Kulin nation (Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Wathaurong, Taungerong and Dja Dja Wurrung) invited the people of Melbourne to a Tanderrum: the first ceremony of its kind since modern Melbourne was founded in 1835. This powerful affirmation of Koorie culture is back again this year, comprising song, storytelling and dance.

2. There’s a huge focus on circus
And it’s far from lion-tamers and tightropes. Festival Director Josephine Ridge and her team decided to celebrate Melbourne’s rich circus tradition (the Arts Centre used to be the site of the Wirth Brothers’ Circus in the early 1900s) by inviting the world’s most innovative circus artists – including Montreal’s Cirque Éloize, Belgium’s Dique & Fien and France’s Circa – to perform alongside local indie ensembles like Dislocate.Read more

18 July

Five small Victorian towns will be transformed

Very Small Town Transformation

Who says there’s nothing to do in the country? The artistic and creative potential of regional Victoria is about to be reinvigorated with the Victorian Government and Regional Arts Victoria’s Small Town Transformations project.

Avoca, Dookie, Natimuk, Neerim South and Ouyen (don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them – that’s the point!) will each receive $350,000 for their arts projects, aimed at enhancing social engagement for the local communities as well as attracting visitors from afar. A rigorous application process saw residents of these towns – populated with less than 1500 people – look on their landmarks and public spaces with fresh eyes and propose ways of creating new focal points for activity and entertainment.

Two of the projects will pay tribute to the shared histories of their towns. Avoca will plant a sustainable Chinese garden near to the area’s first Chinese burial site, and Natimuk will create a space to generate alternative power that brings together their Indigenous and farming heritages.… Read more

18 July

Melbourne Writers Festival 2014 program announced today

Helen Garner

When you’ve got Australian literary giant Helen Garner (above) delivering the opening address and McSweeney’s prodigy Dave Eggers wrapping things up with the closing speech, you can be pretty sure that the 29th Melbourne Writers Festival is going to be rather special.

Some of the big-hitters – including Sir Salman Rushdie and YouTube-famous astronaut Chris Hadfield – were announced earlier this month. The rest have just been released, and there’s over 400 authors participating in the ten-day program.

Taking the reins for the second year, Festival Director Lisa Dempster has put together a literary lineup that’s diverse, contemporary and international. Masha Gessenauthor of Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot will talk about her book and her own LGBT activism in Russia. Meg Wolitzer, American author of recent bestselling novel The Interesting will discuss the difficulties women face when writing about family and marriage and Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo will open up about her coming of age debut novel We Need New Names – the first novel by a black African woman to make the Man Booker Prize shortlist.… Read more