The best of the rest (1)
Adelaide Festival of Arts
Where? Adelaide, Australia
How long? 2 weeks
This long-running arts festival has been going since 1960 and is modelled on Edinburgh’s mix of highbrow culture and cutting-edge experimentalism, with a main festival (©www.adelaidefestival.com.au), and a fringe festival (©www.adeiaidefringe.com.au) running alongside.
Beer Can Regatta
Where? Darwin, Australia
How long? 1 day
If you want an Australian festival that fulfils a few stereotypes, then other than the Birdsville Races this may be the one. In a town whose drinking capacity is pretty legendary anyway, even by Aussie standards (after all, there’s not a lot else to do), the Beer Can Regatta sees Darwin given over to the single-minded downing of as many tinnies as possible, culminating in a charity “regatta” in which the “boats” are made exclusively out of beer cans. They’re bizarre contraptions – ranging from full-scale Viking warships to bathtub lookalikes – but the crowds who head down to nearby Mindil Beach to watch the spectacle take it all pretty seriously. They also know how to enjoy themselves, though, indulging in an assortment of cultural activities either side of the race, with thong-throwing competitions a particular speciality (that’s the Aussie word for flip-flops, in case you were wondering).
Big Days Out
Where? Australia and New Zealand
When? January or February
How long? 1 day at eaclt site
Audiences have ballooned since the first Big Day Out (©www.bigdayout.com) was held in Sydney in 1992, and now 250,000 people gather at six different locations to see this festival-on-tour over successive weekends between late January and early February. It’s Australasia’s biggest series of outdoor music festivals, taking in Auckland, the Gold Coast, and then Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, and as such attracts big names.
Where? Masterton, New Zealand
How long? 3 days
Where else would the world’s premier sheep-shearing contest take place but New Zealand? Golden Shears (©www.goldenshears.co.nz) pits the very best in the world against each other in what – in New Zealand at least – draws enough crowds to be classified a spectator sport. Wool-pressing and wool-handling comps are rounded off with “Shearable Arts”, where the catwalk meets the shearing shed. Of course, only devotees of sheep would travel down here specifically to attend. But if you’re in the area, how could you possibly miss it?
Where? Henley-on-Todd, Australia
When? September 9
How long? 1 day
Faced with the problem of holding a boat race in a dry riverbed, the inhabitants of Alice Springs, slap-bang in the middle of the Australian desert and thousands of miles from any water, came up with an ingenious solution. They kicked a hole in the bottom of the boat, stood inside, lifted the vessel to their thighs like a lady gathering her skirts and ran the length of the course, Flintstones-style. Helped by the huge quantities of cold beer that fuel the crews and crowds of spectators, the event (©www.henleyontodd. com.au) now attracts teams from around the world. There are a number of different events nowadays, ranging from rowing pairs and rowing eights to “yachting”, sandshovelling and a “triathlon”. Get seven buddies together, get training, and go for glory.
Where? Alice Spring, Australia
How long? 1 day
There are camel races held elsewhere in Australia, but Alice Spring is the best known and best attended, with a great atmosphere, lots of people, events and stalls, and the opportunity to witness the extraordinary sight of camels racing – something they’re clearly not naturally disposed to. Camel-racing is a serious and venerable sport in many parts of the world, but this event puts a uniquely Australian slant on it.