It has been 10 years of art, music, performance, creativity, and passion at the Junction Arts Festival. What started as hopes and dreams has turned into one of the biggest staples in the Northern Tasmania event calendar. Junction even adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting Hometown - a smaller event still focused on the arts. With 2021 the year the festival celebrated turning 10, The Examiner decided to take a look at how the festival has grown and where it is headed in the next decade.
Outgoing executive producer Frith Mabin first started with Junction back in 2021 as a program coordinator, working closely with Canadian artist Jon Sasaki on Promise it Will Always Be This Way.
"My progression to an executive role seemed natural, I'd been mentored by Natalie Devito [previous festival director] for many years. Nat was so generous with her knowledge and although it was daunting, I'd been taught by the best in the business and had the full support of the incredible Junction board," she said.
"Working with Greg Clarke, Ryan Limb, Mary Shannon, and Jess Robinson has been a career highlight. Everyone has such a unique approach to the festival and that's what creates a dynamic and fulfilling workplace."
Ms Mabin had previously worked at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival before she took on Junction, and had always been in awe of the power festivals have held to bring people together.
"Junction was a first for Launceston, and the momentum that it built in the creative communities was magnetic. I was thrilled to be able to attend a festival of its calibre in my hometown, and even luckier to be a part of the magic," she said.
The festival evolved during Ms Mabin's time at the helm, and the move to Princes Square allowed the festival to take things to the next level.
This year, the festival sold more than 5000 tickets, and worked with 268 Tasmanian artists and 200 community members to bring together the 10th anniversary.
"Junction has just celebrated a stellar 10th festival. It was an absolute privilege to present our biggest festival yet while so much of the country was in the grips of lockdown," Ms Mabin said.
Though 2021 has seen Ms Mabin complete her last festival as executive director, she is looking forward to enjoying the festival as an audience member and what comes next in her professional journey.
"I absolutely love Junction and feel really proud of my contribution to the festival over the years," she said.
The executive producer reminisced about some of her favourite festival memories, like in 2014 when the team commissioned and presented RIDE from United Kingdom artist Abigail Conway.
"Hometown in 2020 was also extremely special. To be able to bring the community together in the middle of a pandemic was no mean feat, but to hear live music and see friends reuniting after lockdown was very rewarding for our team," she said.
An artist's perspective
Junction is well-known for collaborating with a range of artists. Artist, and Situate Arts in Festivals executive producer, Emma Porteus has been involved with Junction since its inception and her first year as artistic director at Stompin.
"We premiered one of the signature works of the festival: WeTubeLIVE. [The work] was a living exposition of solos from YouTube, performed by 50 young Tasmanians," she said.
"Being able to perform as part of an arts festival in our hometown of Launceston to an audience of national arts delegates and locals was such a special experience."
Ms Porteus has specifically worked with Stompin and Tasdance in relation to the festival, which has allowed the organisations to test our ideas, create ambitious work, and showcase that work to national and international audiences.
"Our 2021 work, Muster, became the vehicle for 100 community members to take the stage as performers and the importance of this opportunity and the impact it allowed Tasdance to have at a grassroots community level cannot be overstated. There is no way we could have achieved such an ambitious work without the support of a festival like Junction," she said.
Ms Porteus has seen the festival shift and change immensely over the 10 years. She noted the original focus was on presenting small-scale participatory works which allowed audiences to view places they knew and loved in a new light through creative experiences.
"The next iteration of the festival saw both a move to Princes Square as a hub and refining of the vision to primarily support Tasmanian artists," she said.
"This was a timely and strategic move that helped cement the festival in the state event calendar, and see it become a celebrated Launceston event that signaled the end of winter through music, art, and great food and wine."
Change is coming
Ms Porteus said Junction was Launceston's art festival, created for the people by the people, and believed it was an important fixture in the Tasmanian festival calendar.
However, nothing stays the same, and Junction's future has not been set in stone yet. With Ms Mabin's exit - and the final festival for creative director Greg Clarke - comes the entrance of new festival director Paul Selwyn Norton.
Mr Norton has had a wide range of experience stretching from break-dancing, to Batsheva Dance Company, to Ballet Frankfurt, to STRUT Dance. When STRUT's Perth Festival show was postponed due to the pandemic, Mr Norton seized the opportunity to take some leave.
"I jumped on a plane to Hobart, hired a camper, and spent seven glorious weeks driving around the isle with my husband. Tasmania is not pretty. Its beauty is brutal, fierce, and tenacious and we fell deeply in awe," he said.
With eight years under his belt at STRUT, Mr Norton was itching for a new challenge and the role for Junction popped up at the perfect time.
"The Junction board was clearly inviting change and re-envisioning and it really was the interview process that turned my head," he said.
"Frith, Greg, and the Junction team have done such an incredible job - building a solid and beloved heart for the festival. What a gift for any incoming director."
So, what can we look forward to with the next Junction festival? Mr Norton is keeping things pretty quiet, with the Junction team about to go into a period of strategic and creative frame-working.
"I have spent the last two months talking to ... stakeholders, artists, organisations, community, and people in the street. Listening, collating, and slowly piecing together where Junction sits in the festival jigsaw and where the opportunities lie to elevate and amplify locality," he said.
"Junction is already an exemplar in this space. However, once, borders reopen, I look forward to reconnecting the local back to the national and global, and through my networks, help celebrate Tasmania to the world.
"Junction is 10 years old and is just about to hit its teenage years ... we all know what happens when kids hit puberty."
Ms Mabin hoped that Junction would continue to grow and build on its successes, and believed that "a connected, collegiate arts and events sector" had the ability to forge long-term partnerships.
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