Smart mofos: How Hobart keeps leading the festival pack

From the Sunday Herald Sun article written by Nui Te Koha

Some grudges are worth it.

“There’s probably a younger sibling thing going on in a national context,” Mark Wilsdon, the co-CEO of Hobart’s world-renowned Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), says of the mainland perception of Tasmania.

“We were left off the logo of the Brisbane Commonwealth Games,” he adds, laughing.

“I mean, there are some things you just don’t forget.”

However, these days, in the realm of boundary-pushing art and music events, especially if it’s packaged into must-see festivals like Mona Foma or Dark Mofo, Tasmania is front of mind.

The Apple Isle hosted Mona Foma in Hobart and Launceston last month in a way that will most likely become a blueprint for mainland festivals during the pandemic.

The strategies included capped crowd numbers, staging events in unusual spaces (including a hardware store, chairlift, church, former power station and boat sheds) no festival hub, and a line up of 352 artists — 90 per cent of them Tasmanian — playing in 58 venues across the two cities.

“We hedged out bets,” Mona Foma curator, Brian Ritchie, says. “If one venue went down, the whole festival wouldn’t go down. If you have a festival hub, and one person gets sick with COVID-19, that’s it for the festival.”

Ritchie, who is also the bassist of the US folk-punk band Violent Femmes, says a festival comprising of 90 per cent local performers meant “a shift in mentality” from the audience.

“We all tend to take the local performers for granted. This is human nature,” Ritchie says, then laughs: “Even I experience this. I’m an international performer, but wherever I’ve lived, I’ve been taken for granted, to some degree.

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