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Field of Light, Uluru, Burce Munro 2016 (Credit Mark Pickthall)

Arts Festivals Around the World

Desert light shows and Norwegian jazz: Arts festivals you won't want to miss

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13 June 2016 by Simon Langley

Whether it’s following a passion or discovering a new one, festivals add a certain flavour, dynamism and animation to bring out the best in a holiday destination.

You might want to experience opera in its Italian homeland with a performance from a world-leading company or you may prefer the horn stabs and walking bass lines of an international jazz festival. Of course, with food festivals enjoying something of a resurgence, we’ve handpicked our absolute favourite – the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. Whatever you choose, attending an event is the ideal way of adding something unique to your tailor made holiday.

Field of Light Uluru, 1 April 2016–31 March 2017

While sunrises still turn Australia’s most recognisable natural icon iridescent, Uluru has become the unique backdrop to a whole new visual display. With the use of 144 projectors and 380 kilometres of fibre optic cable, artist Bruce Munro has lit up nearly 50,000 square metres of the Red Centre’s vast outback. Step back to watch as an entire ‘field’ is set aglow with gently pulsating colours, framed by a twinkling starscape and that famous tabletop silhouette.

And, comprising 50,000 frosted glass spheres, walks in among the installation are equally rewarding as the lights seem to form the neural pathways of a giant living, breathing organism. It’s an effect that takes on added meaning when you consider the cultural significance of the place. To find out more, read our post on the event.


This summer, the mesmerising Uluru will serve as a backdrop to Bruce Munro's dazzling display – but you have to book in advance

Arena Opera Festival, June–August

Built in the first century, Verona’s Arena is one of the best-preserved ancient amphitheatres. And, just as it entertained Rome’s well to do almost two millennia ago, it still hosts performances today, ranking as one of the most atmospheric venues the world.

To make the most of the Italian weather, a series of shows is played out under the stars each summer; this year, you’ll be treated to the classics with productions of Carmen, Aida and Turandot. There’s also Verdi’s Il Trovatore where entire battles are played out on stage, complete with two storey high knights. With the evening’s entertainment sorted, don’t forget to explore the city’s UNESCO-listed sights as you discover pretty piazzas lined with grand Gothic basilicas and cute cafés.


Verona's Arena is one of the most historic venues for theatre – it was first built in 30 AD 

Oslo Jazz Festival, 14 August–19 August

Leave behind visions of folk dances and fiddles, this is world music at its cultured best. For over 30 years, Norway has welcomed syncopated rhythms from around the globe with everything from gospel and blues to Latin jazz and electronica represented in street parades, intimate gigs and grand concerts held in Oslo’s famed opera house. This year’s highlights include the Charles Lloyd New Quartet and the country’s own Jan Garbarek, credited for putting Norwegian jazz on the map. While you’re here, don’t miss out on the artistry also on display in the excellent Edvard Munch Museum and the Nasjonalgalleriet – no prizes for guessing the translation.


Oslo's opera house hosts an eclectic array of jazz every summer

Margaret River Gourmet Escape, 18–20 November

In recent years, Australia has worked hard to position itself as a foodie destination. And, with a focus a ‘farm-to-table’ philosophy, Western Australia’s Margaret River region is the Land Down Under’s highly regarded gastronomic centrepiece.

For one weekend in November – the start of the Australian summer – beaches, fishing villages, forests and wineries play host to over 50 events that range from craft brewery tasting sessions and wine-matched picnics to farmers’ markets and talks from world-renowned chefs; 2015 hosted one Marco Pierre White. You’ll even find workshops on culinary photography and fermenting. While 2016’s line-up is yet to be announced, you might want to read our destination report on 2014’s event to whet your appetite.


Please note: this video was used to promote the 2015 Gourmet Escape

Regata Storica, 4 September

Venice ’s waterways have long held a firm punter’s grip on the world’s collective imagination. And, for the first Sunday of September, they surpass all but the wildest expectations as costumed rowers take to the Grand Canal in replica 16th century boats to be waved past the Doge’s Palace by the man himself, also in period regalia.

In a tradition dating back to the 13th century, parade boats start the day with a grand procession. These majestic barges were once used as a crowd-control measure with noblemen firing terracotta shot at any overly exuberant spectators. Today, they’re simply a colourful prefix to the main event – the gondolier races. Each Venetian rowing association is represented in twin and six oared contests, the most prestigious of the season. It’s a chance to get an authentic glimpse of Venice’s romantic past.


The annual regatta is a lively, colourful affair that captures the imagination of locals and visitors alike

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