6 reasons to check out the Melbourne International Arts Festival

The Australian city's annual spectacle of music, theater, performance and public art

Here are the most captivating events to catch in Melbourne:


Performed by the Indigenous peoples of Melbourne — the Eastern Kulin nation — Tanderrum is an Aboriginal ceremony that opens the festival. For just a couple of hours, the busy streets around Federation Square are transformed into a ceremonial site. It’s how the traditional owners of the land on which Melbourne now stands pay respect to the past, and welcome all to gather. October 3, free, Federation Square


Bold and alluring, Lexicon is a circus show in which characters play with magic, humor and poetry — and blow your mind with their skill and agility. Be entertained by acrobatics, theater and an intriguing story that traces 250 years of circus tradition. Lexicon is the newest creation of NoFit State, the UK’s most exciting contemporary circus group. October 3–21, A$89 (P3,420), Royal Botanic Gardens

Fire Gardens

“Luminary alchemists” (or fire artists) from French troupe Compagnie Carabosse re-imagine the Royal Botanic Gardens as a dreamscape of hypnotic, large-scale fire sculptures. A sensory creation that allows visitors to determine their own intimate journey through a garden of firelight and sound, Fire Gardens brings people together in the glow of a shared experience. October 10–13, A$25 (P960), Royal Botanic Gardens

100 Keyboards

An experimental “site-specific listening experience”, 100 Keyboards features exactly what its name suggests — 100 plastic keyboards carefully arranged in a gallery space. Japanese multi-instrumental sound artist Asuna then sets about bringing each one to life until they are all playing the same note — the performance generates a mesmerizing sonic harmony. It’s like an epic electronic sound bath. October 10–13, A$39 (P1,500), The Substation

1,000 Doors

1,000 Doors is an immersive installation that invites you to “lose yourself and find something else in the process”. A series of doors, screens and gateways lead you through passageways in which remnants of former inhabitants remain. Captivating and unpredictable, visitors must navigate their own path through this adventure, following their instincts and allowing their curiosity to run wild. Until October 21, A$10 (P385), Arts Centre Melbourne

Melbourne Art Trams

Look out for Art Trams hurtling through the city. Seven trams have been transformed, externally, by seven local artists — each work in response to the theme of “community”. Melbourne Art Trams will operate on popular lines, including routes to Fitzroy and Brunswick and throughout the CBD. Until April 2019, free (excluding tram fare), Yarra Trams network


This article first appeared in the October 2018 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Marian Reid

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