Mona Foma (often shortened to Mofo) is one of Australia’s most critically-acclaimed music and arts festivals. Next year, it’s moving full-scale to Launceston. Curator Brian Ritchie, who is also the bassist for the Violent Femmes, talked all things Mofo with the Examiner, squeezing in time before heading out on an American tour.Mofo’s lineup launched on Friday. The list of Tasmanian, national, and international artists rivals anything they’ve brought to Hobart since the festival’s inception in 2009, and it will all centre around Inveresk in January.
A lot of our readers won’t have heard of a lot of these musicians and artists – why should they trust your curation?
We’ve got a reputation now for having very interesting performers and artists involved with the festival. So people do take a leap of faith. Even though they don’t know each and every act - which is impossible anyway in the modern world - they’re going to encounter something that’s interesting. And even if they don’t like it, there’s so much going on that they can just walk around to the next venue or another stage. We’ll have indoor and outdoor things happening – it’s unlikely that they’re going to be bored.
We’ve won a Helpmann Award for Best Contemporary Music Festival three times in the last ten years. That’s very uncommon, for a festival that’s not basing itself off radio airplay popularity, or other commercial trends.
What kind of spaces will you be utilising around Launceston?
We know that the gorge is the heart and soul of Launceston. We start on January 13 by opening a massive inflatable sculpture in the Gorge by Amanda Parer, she’s a Lonnie artist but she’s got an international profile. I met her when she painted me for the Archibald Prize - unfortunately those people had the poor taste not to give her the award [laughs]. When I knew we were moving to Lonnie I contacted her, and she’s very excited about something of this stature moving to her town.
We can’t do large-scale performances at the gorge this year because they’re still doing some renovations there. However, we do also have morning meditation concerts at the Fairy Dell every day.
We’ll be having other art openings around the city, and dance performances at the Earl Arts Centre. Then the big weekend is Friday, Saturday and Sunday the 18th, 19th and 20th. QVMAG [Queen Victoria Museum] is again going to be hub, but this time it’s expanded on what we did last year. There will be two big outdoor stages, several indoor stages, as well as gallery spaces that we’re using for installations. So it’s going to be pretty massive. It’s the same scale as anything we’ve ever done in Hobart, so Launceston’s getting the full Mofo experience this year.
Are you nervous at all about doing something on that scale in a new city?
Well, I don’t get stage fright [laughs]. We have faith.
Why have you chosen QVMAG as your hub?
We’re aware that there are other really fantastic events happening in Lonnie, Junction Arts Festival and also Festivale. They already use some of the most notable spaces in Launceston, and we didn’t want to encroach on their territory.
We went and looked at the Inveresk site and thought that the decrepit, industrial nature of the railyards were a really good backdrop for contemporary art and music. We’ll be using the planetarium, we’ll be using the theatre that they have there, we’ll be using the gallery spaces, and to have all that infrastructure there at our disposal and to have had such a great welcome from their staff, it was an obvious choice for a great festival hub.
Are there any particular local artists on the lineup that you wanted to highlight?
Well we’ve got Bansheeland, as I mentioned we’ve got Amanda Parer, we’ve got some very interesting exhibitions at the Academy Gallery which is based on the human body and will be actual human body specimens in interaction with local visual artists.
We’ll have the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra performing at Albert Hall. We’re going to make that user-friendly, it’s going to be a cheap ticket, family-friendly, bean bags, relaxed and casual - we want to get people who don’t normally come out to the Symphony to give it a chance.
On that - what would you say are the shows you’re putting on that are most accessible?
Well the entire weekend at QVMAG is accessible and family-friendly. We’ll be having the onesies again that were such a hit last year. It’ll be a different kind of version of it this time, people can put together their own onesies. We’re working with this company from Finland called Self-Assembly that have a method for putting together the onesies yourself. This kind of fun stuff makes it very feasible for an entire family to come and enjoy the festival.
We’re very proud of our demographic, we have a full range in our demographics from zero to people in their nineties, and it’s pretty much even throughout most of the age groups, and this creates a healthy vibe.
Is there any sort of overarching theme you’re going for in this year’s festival?
This year we were awaiting news of our funding from the state government and luckily they came on board, but it was kind of late in the game. We put together the program quite quickly and we didn’t have time to impose a theme upon it... so the theme this year is just good stuff, lots of it, kick-ass performers, and fun.
Are there any particular shows that you’re excited for?
Oneohtrix Point Never is an electronic artist from the United States, and his show will involve theatre as well as spectacular visuals. We’ll be creating in the QVMAG area a special screen system, because he has a new, really innovative way of projecting imagery. That’s going to be quite immersive and that’s the kind of stuff we specialise in.
Courtney Barnett - she was in Tasmania for a long time. When I moved here she was in Tasmania and now she’s been claimed by Melbourne so we’re pretty excited to have her back.
I didn’t know that!
Yeah, she was in Tassie when I first got here. She was just playing the pubs. Obviously she’s one of Australia’s best-known international acts now, she’s touring all over the world and getting incredible acclaim.
Neneh Cherry, she’s from Sweden and she’s a fantastic hip-hop and kind of jazzy electronic artist who we love. Underworld are fantastic. Also an electro band with good visuals, they’re pretty venerable.
And then the visual art component - we’re having a lot of stuff curated by the Mona art curators, so we’ll be bringing that kind of Mona attention to detail. Some of that will be at QVMAG and some will be spread around the city.
We just really hope that everybody comes out, comes to see us and has fun, because that’s what a festival should be about.
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