A fleeting utopia, a glimpse into possible futures for Central Australia. 18 August – 7 September.


Hon. Lauren Moss MLA, Minister for Tourism and Culture

Welcome to the program for DESERT FESTIVAL 2017.

Since the first DESERT FESTIVAL in 2001, the Festival has grown to become a highlight of spring in Alice Springs, leading and platforming development of arts and cultural vibrancy. The Festival has built an audience and appetite for boutique, special, participatory, arts-driven experiences in the unique setting of Alice Springs and has provided many local and visiting artists with development and performance opportunities. The Festival plays an important role supporting emerging artists as well as established ones.  DESERT FESTIVAL is helping to raise local liveability, positively connecting diverse people and shaping the town into Australia’s inland capital of art and culture.

The NT Government is a proud supporter of DESERT FESTIVAL which is recognised as a key platform for performance in Central Australia.

Congratulations to all the artists participating, and thank you to all who have come out to support them, their arts and the entertainment in this year’s Festival.

Doris Stuart Kngwarreye, Apmereke-artweye, Mpartnwe-arenye

Alice Springs sits in the heart of Arrernte country. This part of that Arrernte country is called Mparntwe. The Mparntwe-arenye people are the people who belong to this place and have the responsibility to protect the sites and stories belonging to Mparntwe.

There are many sacred sites here in Mparntwe some are well known by outsiders and newcomers to our home, some less so, some have been badly damaged by having a town built on top of them, but beneath the buildings and roads the stories and the sites and the spirits are still alive, all still here. We hold these sites and stories in our hearts, they are a part of us.

When you come into our country we ask that you be respectful of our sites, our stories and our people.

Some sites are marked and easily found, but many are not marked. The hills and ranges, creeks and rivers, trees and stones are all part of the Altyerre*. Really this whole country here is sacred to our families. Our families have been living here since the dawn of time, we are a part of this country.

Please walk softly.

*Altyerre is an Arrernte word meaning the creation of the world and the things in it, and its eternal existence. Often translated as the Dreamtime or Dreaming.

Jason Quin, Chair of Red Hot Arts Central Australia

Werte! It’s my pleasure to welcome you to DESERT FESTIVAL 2017. We invite you to immerse yourself in the creative current of Mparrntwe/Alice Springs, a river through time and place.

Converging on this island in the wide arid lands will be artists and musicians from across the country and beyond. Here to share story, wonder, and thrill your senses. The Festival is an opportunity for the community of Central Australia to come together and explore culture in all its diversity and brilliance. An opportunity for people and place to show off and celebrate life in the desert.

So, get involved, with a ticket or two, or jump on stage. Join with us and the many people and organisations who are working together to bring the DESERT FESTIVAL to life in 2017: Northern Territory Government, Festivals Australia, Yeperenye Shopping Centre, Henley on Todd and the Alice Springs Town Council.

Ben Fox, Artistic Director of Red Hot Arts Central Australia

Every festival is unique, but there is one thing they have in common: people sharing special experiences with each other.

Festivals work across divides and cultures, playing a unique role in gathering different communities together to connect and celebrate. The 2017 DESERT FESTIVAL links people and cultures across Central Australia.

This year the opportunities for you to connect include the Mermaids’ Picnic, a sunset family event where dressing-up is definitely encouraged. Another highlight is The Desert Gardens, an enchanting pop-up festival space where you can meet friends, see performances, enjoy local food and discover what’s hot. Throughout the Festival you’ll be inspired through conversations, exchanging ideas, new experiences, and staying informed about the issues at stake in our inland heartland.

We’ve embraced the theme of ADAPT, so experimentation is woven throughout the Festival. We’re keeping it local—with art, people and creative practice from our desert region firmly at the centre of the program—without losing sight of our global linkages. In the spirit of ADAPT, we’re staying light on our feet, dancing with opportunity, arms open to change but always creating new and delightful experiences for audiences and artists alike.

I thank our incredible staff, artists, Board, partners and volunteers; Alice Springs has such a strong creative spirit and it’s stunning to feel it in full effect.

We’re building an open, influential, international event which is welcoming to everyone who comes with a curious mind. Have a tremendous time!