“Hobart is over,” Brian Ritchie said on Monday, the concluding day of Mona Foma for 2020.
More than 50,000 people came through the gates for Mona Foma events in Launceston over the past 10 days. As Ritchie, the festival director, pointed out, that’s almost half the usual population of the city.
“These things show it was a good idea to expand our footprint,” he said. “It’s very gratifying to get support from people.”
Instagrammable installation Architects of Air alone brought more than 10,000 people to Royal Park.
More than 4000 attended The Examiner‘s festival highlight: the Dark Ride takeover at Penny Royal, called Hypnos Cave. This was an installation in the best Mona Foma tradition: fun, irreverent art that is enjoyable for everybody – not just for people with a fine arts degree – that didn’t take itself too seriously.
Everybody we went with had a different interpretation on what the laser show, trippy video projections and techno soundtrack were supposed to “mean”, exactly. But no matter what you took out of it, it was a joy.
Like much of Mona Foma’s offerings, the Dark Ride – the project of Robin Fox’s Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio and Launceston video team Soma Lumia – was cool for two reasons. One, the experience itself, and two, for the fact that it even happened.
Take giant puppet show King Ubu. Even if you weren’t able to make it, you can still appreciate the more than $125,000 spectacle of a show, with its own stage, band including a harp and taiko drum, about 80 community arts performers, and two gigantic custom-made walking puppets, all plopped down in the Cataract Gorge for three nights, is something that actually occurred. It sounds like a fever dream – except that it wasn’t.
“That was remarkable for us as a festival,” Ritchie said.
“It’s the largest production that Mona Foma – or any Mona event – has done as a single event. That was one of the festival highlights of, not only this year, but of the entire festival.”
At late night party Faux Mo, the comment that was almost too obvious to be stated was, “I can’t believe this is happening in Launceston”. But we kept saying it anyway.
The night consisted of a daggy venue – Mona Foma favourite the Workers Club – re-purposed with drag queens and too-cool-for-you-to-have-heard-of-them DJs. Stages, outdoor bars, and glittery party-goers spilled out into every nook and cranny of the surrounding alleys, with a deep-chill pop-up room of warped video projections and fake lawn surfaces, hypersexual performance art, and a outdoor bar with a tactile jungle between you and your drink. It would be a stunning party even if it was taking place in the inner north of Melbourne, where one expects such antics. In Launceston, it was almost unbelievable.
That’s not even touching on the Festival Hub. But that’s the great thing about Mona Foma – and this year more so than the previous two. There’s no shortage of festivals with set stages and a roster of scheduled musicians, as is the case at the Inveresk hub. But what other festival takes over its host so thoroughly, and with so much meticulous devotion to unique experiences? With events everywhere from Launceston Church Grammar School to the Elphin Sports Centre, Mona Foma truly took its punters on a Launceston-wide rollercoaster.
With planning already underway for 2021, we can’t wait to see what they cook up next.