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By Felix Preval, Darwin Festival Artistic Director


Archie Rose has come together with the Artistic Director of Darwin Festival, Felix Preval, to learn more about the 2020 program and their Archie Rose Tailored Gin.

Talk us through how the last few months have been for the team at Darwin Festival?

It’s been a rollercoaster ride planning this year’s event! Back in March when we’re usually signing off our program, we were staring down the barrel of cancelling the whole thing, like many live events have had to. Since then we’ve gone from planning an online-only, lockdown version of the program, to a super socially-distanced festival for just a few people, to our final version – an eclectic mix of live performances and online activity. We at Darwin Festival pride ourselves on showcasing the best talent the Northern Territory has to offer, and this year is no exception. This year has provided an exciting opportunity to get back to our roots and program a local line-up with our DF20 Homegrown program, in which old friends find new ways of making magic! We’re most excited that we’ll be able to meet up in Festival Park, have a drink, enjoy some delicious food and experience the incredible creativity of our homegrown artists.

Are there any initiatives that the 2020 Darwin Festival has undertaken to help adapt to these changing times?

Iconic venue, The Lighthouse, will take a year off and instead there’ll be a new outdoor stage better suited to physical distancing. The brand-new Sunset Stage at Festival Park is the place to catch all the hottest homegrown acts — from storytelling with SPUN, to stunning musical performances from the Top End’s best, including: Caiti Baker, Serina Pech, and Stevie Jean in Settle Down Sisters; Arnhem Land all-stars, Yilila and Ripple Effect Band; and Festival favourite Electric Fields. We even have a drag tribute to the workers who’ve carried the load during the pandemic – Drag Divas: Essential Werk.

National audiences will be able to get in on the fun with the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and the National Indigenous Music Awards — both going virtual for the very first time, as well as award ceremonies for the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (Telstra NATSIAA) and the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards, also available online. We’ve also commissioned a new work by Indigenous violinist Eric Avery, Morning Music¸ that audiences can listen to at dawn each day of the Festival. Hopefully some of these little touches help people feel connected at this difficult time.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during COVID and how did you come out the other side?

One of the slew of new words we’ve had to learn this year is ‘un-produce’. Having to dismantle a full festival program in March and make something brand new in a few short months was a massive challenge.

Full credit to the Darwin Festival team who forged ahead, full of positivity and buoyed by optimism that something might be possible come August and so far we have made it through these trying times. We’ve been hugely lucky of course, and continue to be. It is hard to watch a whole industry suffer, I only hope that 2021 sees some normality return for artists, venues, and festivals we love around Australia and the world. People need art. And gin.

Archie Rose is so happy to have collaborated with you to create a Tailored Gin for the 2020 Festival, what does this spirit represent for the festival?

In 2019, we created our first ever Tailored Gin with Archie Rose to commemorate Darwin Festival’s 40th Anniversary. The special birthday edition was the perfect celebratory touch and the team were already dreaming up the 2020 blend when COVID struck.

Just as the first Festival brought Darwin together in the wake of Cyclone Tracy in 1979, the 2020 Festival will be a much-needed pick-me-up; a source of hope and positivity as well as a celebration of Territory strength and resilience. What better way to mark this unique year in Darwin Festival’s history with a DF20 Homegrown edition. And, let’s be honest, it’s always the right weather for a gin in Darwin.

Inspired by all things tropical Top End the Darwin Festival gin blend features native scented gum, river mint and hints of citrus. Best served under festoon lights with your Festival friends.


The 2020 Festival is yet to kick off but one project has already begun in schools across the city. Fly Me Up to Where You Are is a hands-on public art project from New Zealand artist Tiffany Singh that invites students to create one of 5,000 unique dream flags inspired by their hopes and dreams for the future. Local artist T’ara Cole also joins the project with her unique flag design inspired by her home here on Larrakia Land.The flags made in schools this year will form part of a stunning installation at the 2021 Darwin Festival. This project, made possible by the support of INPEX, is a celebration of young people in the Northern Territory and Darwin schools are jumping at the chance to be involved.


Darwin Festival is the flagship major cultural and tourism event of the Northern Territory. Recognised as Australia’s Hottest Winter Arts Festival, Darwin Festival shines brightly on the national events calendar attracting audiences from interstate and around the world each August while still retaining its strong Darwin community origin.

A vibrant arts and cultural event with a broad, dynamic and innovative program, the Festival is presented in spectacular outdoor venues that take advantage of Darwin’s blissful dry season weather. The Festival reflects Darwin’s position at the Top End of Australia, its unique Indigenous and multicultural population, and its close proximity to Asia, while at the same time showcasing some of Australia’s finest performers. In 2019, Darwin Festival presented a third consecutive record-breaking event, with the 2019 Festival the most successful in its 40-year history. More than 148,000 people attended, and new box office records set with 50,545 tickets sold smashing the previous record of 44,191 tickets sold in 2018. Darwin Festival is an Australian Tourism Awards Finalist having taken top honours for Best Major Festival & Event in the Northern Territory at the 2019 Brolgas, and most recently the Best Live Music Venue (NT) at the 2019 National Live Music Awards.

Darwin Festival will run from 6-16 August 2020 and 5-22 August 2021