Canberra is often a serious and hard-working city, being the nation’s capital and all, but it has a fun-loving and colourful side too. In fact, music festivals in Canberra are every bit as vibrant and energetic as those anywhere else in the country.
When choosing where to live, study or holiday, if you’re a music festival fan, keep Canberra in mind.
And by ‘grown-ups’ we mean grown-ups of all ages (the kids get to go to the family-friendly events). You may prefer a classical music feast or you may get excited over a down-and-dirty party-hearty fest with some spectacular, thumping entertainment. You’ll find something to suit your tastes in Canberra.
- Canberra International Music Festival (May) – Every year for ten days in May, the CIMF unleashes its seriously excellent chamber music on the expectant public. For 25 years, the festival has been a much-anticipated event, drawing crowds from near and far. The program is considered to be innovative and of high quality and while chamber music used to be the focal point, the flavour has changed a little. Now, you can expect performances from the jazz, classical and contemporary genres as well. One of the best features is that the majority of the performances are acoustic so the venues are usually quite intimate. Attend concerts, master classes and lectures in some of the city’s most iconic architectural venues and nationally acclaimed institutions. CIMF embraces youth and provides ample opportunities for young musicians to find themselves in the spotlight, with audiences pleased to offer encouragement.
- Spilt Milk Festival (Nov) – When cutting edge music, artisanal food, experimental art and youth culture get whizzed up in a blender and poured out on to the grassy field that is Commonwealth Park, out pours the Spilt Milk Festival. Some of Australia’s most talented musicians share the spotlight with international acts providing thrills for the hugely enthusiastic audience. Expect to enjoy around 30 acts and when you get ravenous, feed your face on the temptations from the food trucks. Better rest up before the big day because it’s an exhausting but highly satisfying event that’ll require plenty of sunscreen and bottles of water.
- Groovin’ the Moo (Apr) – Whack on your gumboots because partying in the country can be a dirty business. The Groovin’ the Moo festival makes its way around six Aussie regions and hits Canberra in April. But it’s not just music you’ll be there to enjoy. Craft makers show off their wares and local farmers take along their fresh produce. Held on the University of Canberra campus, Groovin’ boasts a big line-up of local and international acts. It’s been going for nine years and every year, the acts get bigger and better. You’ll see more than 25 artists over the span of 12 hours. Don’t be afraid to turn up in costume; the more colourful and glitzy, the more fun you’ll have. There are free water stalls plus market stalls selling vintage clothing and accessories and if it rains – which it sometimes does – then you’ll just have to have your fun with a side of water. No matter what, the rapid sell-out of tickets each year will tell you it’s definitely worth a look.
Grab the kids and get along to one of Canberra’s music festivals that offer entertainment for everyone in the family. Make wonderful memories with the children and watch as they witness in wonder the brilliance of live music.
- Bungendore Country Music Muster (Feb) – Walk on in, bring the campervan or sleep in your 4WD; Bungendore is an open-air event that runs for a weekend in February. Located at the showgrounds just outside Canberra, the site offers excellent amenities for campers and festival goers can also look forward to visiting the surrounding wineries if they choose. This family-friendly event has been running since 1986; it hosts a busking competition and welcomes newcomer acts as well as the big names. Sway to the strains of the bush balladeers as they serenade the crowd with their beautiful, if sad songs. Get up and dance when the up-tempo bands get cracking and throw in a few “wooohoooos” because you know you want to! The annual Bush Ballad Awards are given out to Best Male Vocal, Female Vocal, New Talent, Instrumental Group or Duo, Album, Song Writer and Comedy act.
- National Folk Festival (Mar/Apr) – The Easter weekend brings Canberra’s National Folk Festival which includes a KidzFest program for the little ones. From 10am to 5pm every day, KidzFest provides a magical environment for children to participate in workshops, dress-up activities and tons of other fun stuff, some of it educational, some of it purely for laughs. Across the festival, you’ll see roving street performers and circus acts and there’s a big top as well. Attend spoken word performances like storytelling, poetry and debating, join a dance workshop, meet artisan instrument makers, stretch out at a yoga class or rev up at a Zumba class. Participate in a community singing session or join the Festival Choir. Brave up for an open mic performance or head to the Community Arts precinct for more than 250 workshops on everything from felting to puppet making and woodcraft. There’s so much to do every single day that you won’t know where to start!
- Anthems Music Festival (Jun) – Well it started in 2018 and it looks like it’ll be a huge success every year. The star-studded line-up pulled quite the crowd and especially since the venue is the National Arboretum, the Anthems Music Festival has a lot going for it. Aussie music legends John Farnham, Daryl Braithwaite, Kate Ceberano and the Black Sorrows were a huge hit and will you tell a little about why the festival was named ‘Anthems’. Audience members of all ages can sing along to the music and relive memories through every bar. Family-friendly and with plenty of food options on site, this is one not to miss.