Over 18 hot August days and nights (Thursday 9 – Sunday 26), Darwin Festival returns with a breathtaking program of 113 events filled with laughter, stirring theatrical performances, the hottest live music acts, sexy cabaret, daredevil circus and fun outings for the whole family.

The dry season is the most magical time to visit Darwin. Darwin Festival turns up the heat with the very best local, national and international performers taking to the Top End. Highlights of the 2018 season include: Australia’s crown prince of comedy Joel Creasey; the always absurd Sam Simmons; genre-defying musical duo Electric Fields; the 15-member strong Shania Twain choir; the obscene beauty queen Betty Grumble; leading Australian choreographer Lucy Guerin’s thrilling duet SPLITaward-winning indie-folk darling Tia Gostelow; a play spotlighting Lindy Chamberlain Letters to Lindy; and Personal, the moving theatrical story of growing up in a Deaf family.
Artistic Director Felix Preval said, “As the Northern Territory celebrates its 40th year of self-governance, now more than ever is an important time to celebrate our special tropical home. Darwin is a truly magical city with unique experiences, quirky characters and wondrous sights, and the 2018 Darwin Festival program is a reflection of these fascinating aspects of our city.
“Our Festival program spans 113 events, features 595 artists – 305 of who are NT locals – and is spread across 31 Darwin venues, so there is no shortage of artistic happenings to enrich one’s Festival experience.
“We welcomed record crowds at last year’s Festival and 50% of shows sold out. The appetite for incredible entertainment is strong in the Top End so I encourage everyone to book in early to avoid disappointment this year,” said Preval.
Darwin Festival is the Northern Territory’s largest festival of arts and culture. Each August, Darwin Festival combines warm outdoor festivities with a program rich with local, national and international talent over 18 dazzling days and night to celebrate the quintessential spirit and energy of Darwin, with its laidback, friendly lifestyle.
Tickets for the Darwin Festival are on sale from 10am (ACST) Thursday 21 June at www.darwinfestival.org.au
Matt Fraser: Publicity Manager E: matt@cardinalspin.com.au M: 0401 326 007
Amber Forrest-Bisley: Publicity Director E: amber@cardinalspin.com.au M: 0405 363 817
A dazzling night of free music is planned at the Santos Opening Night Concert on Thursday 9 August at The Amphitheatre. Celebrate the start of the Festival and the history of Indigenous country music in Australia with the special presentation of Buried Country. Incorporating live music, stories, art and video, singers and songwriters from across the nation and generations will be brought together, including iconic elders Roger Knox and L.J. Hill, legends Warren H. Williams and Buddy Knox, and younger artists Leah Flanagan, Luke Peacock and James Henry.
The Territory’s hottest local talent ignite The Lighthouse stage with balmy nights of live music under the stars. With the whole industry abuzz over his hip-hop stylings and energetic flair, Baker Boy checks into the Festival for one huge night on Friday 10 August.
Known for his deeply resonant, emotional voice, Yolngu singer-songwriter and ARIA Award nominee Gawurra is set to touch Darwin hearts when he performs on Wednesday 15 August.
A musician from a long line of performers, Darwin singer/songwriter David Spry will treat his hometown to the exclusive launch of his third albumWilfully Adrift on Sunday 19 August.
Merging electric-soul music with living traditional culture, the spine-tingling duo Electric Fields will bring moments of breathtaking beauty and power to the stage when they deliver their memorable musical experience to the Festival on Saturday 25 August.
Once known as an offensive reference to Aboriginal women, the now reclaimed name Stiff Gins is synonymous with one of Australia’s best known and most loved Indigenous acts. Hear their heartfelt songs and trademark harmonies shine in this emotive performance on Sunday 12 August.
Two trail-blazing Indigenous-owned music labels – RPM Records (Canada) and Bad Apples Music (Australia) – come together for a night of mad rhymes, thick beats and searing First Nations politics. Join them for a one-off, all-in hip-hop mega show, RPM vs Bad Apples, on Friday 17 August.
Don your finery for the ultimate nostalgic ‘90’s ball-rock-show as Young Hearts Run Free delivers an eclectic line-up of live music to the Lighthouse.Celebrating 20 years since Baz Luhrmann turned the greatest love story ever told into the greatest soundtrack ever sold, this wild night of abandon brings together a host of musicians and special guests together to perform the Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack (Vol I) in full. Check it out on Friday 24 August.
That don’t impress you much? Then how does a choir of 15 Shania Twains sound? United by a love of leopard print, Shania Choir weave country classics into a capella harmony for an upbeat celebration of all things Shania. Join them on a journey through song, dance and drag on Sunday 26 August.
Over at the Darwin Railway Club, the Festival’s musical journey continues to wow with the likes of Tia Gostelow’s arresting vocals (Friday 24 August), synth-pop maestro Donny Benet’s slick and sexy sounds (Friday 10 August) and a mix of traditional Indonesian music and experimental death metal with the contemporary duo Senyawa (Saturday 11 August).
There ain’t no party like an after-party and the only place to be to keep those good vibes rollin’ till morning is the Festival’s after-hours venue, Club Awi. The club will present an eclectic mix of DJ’s and special performers every Friday and Saturday night throughout the Festival.
A must-attend event of Darwin Festival each year is the annual National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs). This year the NIMAs celebrates 15 years of the best in contemporary Indigenous music, dance and culture. Presented by MusicNT, the NIMAs will feature artists including Baker Boy, Busby Marou and more for a family friendly night of stellar sounds under the stars on Saturday 11 August at The Amphitheatre.
In a moving and long-overdue dialogue between Lindy Chamberlain and the nation, Letters to Lindy is a theatrical work developed from more than 20,000 letters written to Chamberlain as well as extensive interviews with her. Filled with humour and heartbreak, this stunning work explores the public’s relationship with one of 20th-century Australia’s most talked about figures. Lindy herself will join playwright Alana Valentine and cast for an audience Q&A session on opening night, Tuesday 14 August at The Playhouse, Darwin Entertainment Centre.
Personal blends performance, storytelling, multimedia and animation, and is performed in Auslan and English. In this stirring show Jodie Mundy shares her story of growing up inhabiting two worlds: having the ability to hear while living in a Deaf Family, and living in a society that sees only the family’s disability with voyeuristic curiosity. Personal runs from Tuesday 21 – Sunday 26 August at Brown’s Mart Theatre.
Based on real conversations with her own family, Mish Gregor’s participatory theatre work The Talk lays bare family dynamics in a wholly undomesticated evening. Audience members re-enact the family’s conversations covering topics of sex, sexuality and love in a cringe-worthy night of laughs, Friday 24 – Sunday 26 August at Happy Yess.
Rapper, poet and lyrical powerhouse Omar Musa brings his new show, Since Ali Died, to Darwin Festival. Mixing deeply personal stories with riotous political songs, Since Ali Died is an hour’s mash up of poems, live music and storytelling that delves into the human condition and exposes the dark realities of Australian culture. Catch Since Ali Died from Friday 10 – Sunday 12 August at Happy Yess.
Hailed the kings of kid’s comedy, The Listies head to Darwin Festival with their show The Listies Make You LOL. Featuring alien attacks, toilet paper guns, spew and the most disgusting pair of undies in the world, The Listies Make You LOL promises to be an unruly hour of fun guaranteed to have the whole family LOLing on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 August at The Studio, Darwin Entertainment Centre. 
Two family favourites return to Darwin Festival in 2018. If you go down to The Esplanade, you’re sure of a big surprise… On Saturday 12 Augustthe much loved City of Darwin Teddy Bears’ Picnic is back for a morning of free entertainment, shows, and stalls. This year is a jungle theme and The Aurora Spiegeltent is hosting a jungle party disco that is part performance and part adventure. So dress up your Teddies in their Tarzan finest and prepare for a wild day out!
emBARK!, the mini festival for mini humans, returns with a huge program of free and interactive activities for young festival fanatics. Lego, virtual reality, an NT Library story corner, robots and dance party all feature in this three-night artistic adventure. Head to Festival Park, Tuesday 21 – Thursday 23 August to join in on the fun!
There’s nothing Territorians love more than comedy, and the 2018 Darwin Festival has handpicked a selection of the very best comedians to have you chuckling throughout the entire Festival. He’s Australia’s Crown Prince of comedy, having appeared on TV in comedy galas, celebrity interviews, panel shows and even I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, now Joel Creasey is headed to Darwin with his new show Blonde Bombshell. Strap in for a night of laughs as Creasey smashes and sasses celebrities, pop culture and himself on Friday 17 – Saturday 18 August at The Lighthouse.
Having taken Asia’s comedy scene by storm, Singapore’s only full-time female comedian Sharul Channa invites Darwin to revel in her rib-tickling take on Indian weddings. Sharul Weds Sharul is a wedding like no other. Watch on as Sharul marries herself and finds answers to some of the burning questions she has about Indian weddings on Tuesday 14 – Thursday 16 August at Happy Yess.
Zoe Coombes Marr is one of Australia’s weirdest and wildest comedians and her show, Trigger Warning, features the feminist funny lady taking to the stage in drag as Dave – a mouthy male yobbo who suffers an epic meltdown. Trigger Warning is an award-winning show and a hilarious, bewilderingly wild night of manic laughs on Thursday 23 – Sunday 26 August at Happy Yess.
Sam Simmons, comedy’s multi-award-winning grand master of silliness, makes his Darwin debut with his hilarious show Radical Women of Latin American Art, 1960-1985. Daring and unconventional, Simmons offers audiences a chance to see him at his bizarre best in a show that promises to be pointless, totally crazily so. Catch him on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 of August at The Lighthouse
The stunning Aurora Spiegeltent makes a grand return to the Festival, taking pride of place at The Esplanade to serve up a magic new show,LIMBO. From the creators of last year’s sell out smash hit, BLANC de BLANCLIMBO will play for the duration of the Festival and is set to wow Territorians with its intoxicating mix of cabaret, circus and acrobatics. This show is so hot, Madonna saw it twice!
Award-winning musical comedian Gillian Cosgriff went to see Interstellar with a throbbing hangover and developed astrophobia. To The Moon and Back is a show about her fear of space, of marriage, of the future and inevitable apocalypse. Charming and unique musical comedy coupled with gut-bustlingly biting songs, To The Moon and Back is a thoroughly entertaining cabaret experience. See Cosgriff on Tuesday 21 – Thursday 22 Augustat Happy Yes – before the world inevitably ends.
The award-winning Betty Grumble is best described as a surreal showgirl, obscene beauty queen and sex clown. Love & Anger, Grumble’s new show, is a highly provocative and hilarious womanifesto call to arms that features her unique blend of outrageous comedy, physical theatre, clowning and nudity. Love & Anger is on Thursday 16 – Sunday 19 August at Happy Yess
Making their Darwin Festival debut are the middle men of two of Australia’s most loved comedy trios, Paul McDermott (Doug Anthony All Stars, ABC TV’s Think Tank) and Steven Gates (Tripod). Paul McDermott & Steven Gates Live offers up two living Aussie legends in a night of outstanding music as they sing songs of beauty, songs of heartbreak, old squabbles and spontaneous nonsense. Catch Paul McDermott & Steven Gates Live over two nights, Wednesday 15 – Thursday 16 August at The Lighthouse.
Explore the history of gin through story and song in Mother’s Ruin. Heaving with harmonies and tipsy candour, two of Australia’s rising cabaret stars take audiences on a journey from 18th-century London and New York speakeasies to the Australian bush, telling tales of love and women, gin and secrets. Mother’s Ruin takes to the stage on Tuesday 21 August at The Lighthouse.
Casus Circus and Circus Oz bring together the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander circus legends for Chasing SmokePre-conceptions will be challenged in this captivating show featuring circus feats, stand-up, sketch comedy, dance and personal monologues. Chasing Smoke offers a unique insight into historic and contemporary Indigenous Australia, and will tumble onto the stage Friday 10 – Sunday 12 Augustat Studio, Darwin Entertainment Centre.
In a masterful and biting piece of physical theatre, Cockfight follows two blokes in an office – one younger, one older – as their bodies are pushed to their limits in a mash-up of extreme physical risk-taking, graceful movement and slow-mo fight sequences. Hailed as a cross between The Office and a straight-up cage fight, Cockfight explores the power play between men, the fragility of the aging body and questions our culture’s desperate struggle for achievement. Cockfight takes place Studio, Darwin Entertainment Centre on Wednesday 22 – Friday 24 August.
Australian Dance Theatre hits the stage with their tour-de-force, The Beginning of Nature – a stunning work exploring life cycles, metamorphosis and transformation in nature. The spellbinding score combines electronica, strings and libretto sung in Kaurna language, the first language of the Adelaide Plains. Experience one of the world’s most formidable dance companies on Friday 10 August at Playhouse, Darwin Entertainment Centre.
In their latest cross-cultural and intergenerational work, Tracks Dance Company combines a love of culture, passion for sport and familial bonds with In Your Blood. Drawing on the threads between mothers and sons, football and cricket, and traditional and contemporary dance, the dance work is backed by a massive soundtrack from Darwin’s very own, ARIA-nominated producer James Mangohig. Don’t miss the show on Sunday 12 – Monday 13 August Thursday 16 – Sunday 19 August at the Holtze LawnGeorge Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens.
Lucy Guerin Inc’s Split is sharp, claustrophobic, elegant and perhaps the most talked-about dance event of 2017. As a reflection of negotiating with oneself and others in an ever-pressured world with reduced resources, two women – one clothed, one naked – move together in-sync as the tension escalates and their space shrinks. Watch this poignant and provoking work on Tuesday 14 – Thursday 16 August at Brown’s Mart Theatre.
Trapped in a hotel room somewhere in Darwin, Joel Bray stops, looks over his shoulder and takes a long, hard look at his life. Loosely echoing the story of Biladurang, the platypus, the show – of the same name – has Bray taking the audience on a funny, tender and dark journey as he looks at the drugs, the sex, the cigarettes, and asks himself, “Is this who I’m supposed to be?” Biladurang takes place at the H Hotel on Friday 10 – Sunday 12 August.
This year, Darwin Festival presents two very different Aussie films that both expose a side of the country often left out of the tourism ads. Outback noir meets neo-western in Goldstone, a film from the award-winning Ivan Sen. Starring Aaron Pederson as Detective Jay Swan, Goldstone is a gripping mystery full of crime, corruption and greed in the heart of Australia. Catch a screening at Deckchair Cinema on Monday 13 August.
Expertly remixed from official archives by the dynamic duo behind Soda_JerkTERROR NULLIUS is a political revenge story that wants to un-write Australia’s national mythology. Part political satire, eco-horror and road movie, TERROR NULLIUS creates a world in which minorities and animals conspire, and not-so-nice white guys finish last. Don’t miss it at Deckchair Cinema on Monday 20 August
Two of Australia’s most accomplished classical musicians, sister-act Monica Naselow and Lisa Grosman, join forces in an unforgettable concert performance Bach Together. Taking audiences on a musical journey from the Baroque period to contemporary Australia, this special sibling concert includes an arrangement of a rarely performed JS Bach Fugue together with works by Alan Ridout and Ross Edwards and an exciting new Darwin Festival commission by local composer Cathy Applegate. See it at Brown’s Mart Theatre on Sunday 12 August.
Gao Shan Liu Shui (High Mountain Flowing Water) is an exquisite retelling of an ancient Chinese tale of friendship, beauty, loss and music. With the combined talents of pianist and composer Gao Ping and guqin master Wu Na at the helm, this is a truly unique performance and moving story. Experience it at Studio, Darwin Entertainment Centre on Tuesday 21 August.
In a special inaugural concert for Darwin Symphony Orchestra’s new artistic director and chief conductor, Jonathan ToobyMaster Series II: New Horizons marks the beginning of a new era. Kicked off by the Cuban-inspired rhythms of Márquez’s Danzón No. 2 and Mozart’s radiant 4thViolin Concerto, followed by DvoÅ™ák’s ‘New World’ Symphony, this concert is a true celebration of fine music. See it live on Saturday 25 August atDarwin Convention Centre.
As the Northern Territory celebrates 40 years of self-governance, Darwin Festival celebrates its citizens in Congress, where eight local citizens will be teamed up with eight local wordsmiths to craft their own first speech to Parliament. Connecting the personal with the political, these inspiring ‘first speeches’ will be presented to the people on Saturday 25 August at Parliament House Main Hall.
A favourite of the Festival, SPUN returns with another evening of stories drawn from real life in the Northern Territory. To mark the 25th anniversary of the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission, SPUN shines a light on stories inspired by power. This event is an early sell-out each year, check it out on Tuesday 14 August at The Lighthouse.
Charles Darwin University delivers an inspiring afternoon of provocative questions and stimulating ideas with Sunday at CDUJoin the likes ofLetters to Lindy playwright Alana Valentine and NT Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne for a panel discussion on being a woman catapulted into the public eye. Plus, relive the Darwin Rebellion, or enjoy a panel of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives discussing the ways people record and share histories through song and storytelling
Life is full of spectacular failures. In a special group exhibition, creative arts PhD and Masters candidates at CDU respond to this theme, making commentary on social or institutional absurdities and honestly delving into the art making process. Special Failures is exhibiting at Nan Glese Gallery, Tuesday 14 – Friday 31 August.
For over 16 years Behind the Wire has provided Northern Territory prisoners with an opportunity to exhibit their works of art to the public. Be awed by the amazing depth and creativity of their works from Saturday 11 – Sunday 25 August at Fannie Bay Gaol. 
Mick Rictor was a young boy when he and his family ‘walked in’ from the Great Victoria Desert in 1986, making him one of the last Aboriginal people to withdraw from a traditional nomadic life. Now a senior man painting for Spinifex Arts Project, he carries his knowledge of traditional lore and custom with him everywhere, demonstrating it artistically through his expressive paintings. See Rictor’s work on display at Tactile ArtsFriday 10 – Monday 20 August.
Since he began painting and making ceramics in 2009, Pepai Jangala Carroll has quickly positioned himself as a sought-after artist whose unique style is elegant in composition, sophisticated in palette and full of life. This rare solo exhibition brings together a collection of sublime works that truly celebrate Carroll’s individuality and will run from Wednesday 1 – Friday 31 August at Outstation Gallery.
The 12th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) showcases a rich diversity of art from over 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community art centres and charts the future of the vibrant and evolving Indigenous art scene. Experience cultures from Australia’s most remote desert and coastal regions, to rural and urban communities, as well as an extensive program of traditional dancing and artist workshops, short films and the Fair’s fashion show From Country to Couture. DAAF takes over the Darwin Convention Centre, Friday 10 – Sunday 12 August.
The country’s most prestigious national Indigenous art awards is back for the 35th year. The Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (Telstra NATSIAA) celebrate the extraordinary calibre of artists from diverse geographic regions across the country, and bring an important Indigenous voice to the political, social and cultural dialogue in Australia. Engage in the wonderful works of up and coming artists and enjoy the major works of Australia’s most revered artists.  This year’s awards ceremony and opening night is filled with incredible live performances, music and dance.
Darwin’s very own brand of Salon des Refuses SALON18 is back popular demand. Featuring a selection of the boldest contemporary Indigenous art that were unsuccessfully submitted for the prestigious Telstra NATSIAA, SALON18 is a vibrant and diverse showcase of the quality of artwork being produced in Australia today. SALON18 runs from Wednesday 8 August – Saturday 6 October at the CDU Art Gallery.