FOMO for MOFO: Culture Scouts Goes Interstate For The Dark Festival

Co-written by Culture Scouts Emilya Colliver & Sophia de Mestre

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A thousand thanks to Bryon Merzeo for helping Culture Scouts with arrangements!

Culture Scouts packed its bags to head south for the winter. Joining the annual pilgrimage to Hobart’s Dark Mofo, last weekend we led a dozen amongst thousands of winter solstice worshippers to the best sites.

It was a heady weekend of late night festivities, immersive installations and performances, music, light and noise. Although we ate the best of Tasmanian produce including cheeses, wines, bespoke beers, gin and apple cider, the best feasting was found at the deluge of artistic offerings.

Dark MOFO: a quick history
The festival, Dark Mofo, was originally launched by Hobart’s Mona (Museum of New and Old Art) as the winter sister to MONA Festival of Music and Art.

Mofo delves into centuries-old winter solstice rituals; aiming to explore the links between ancient and contemporary mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, and birth, death and renewal.

The darkness descends and the music rises...
Our first evening sets the tone for the weekend as we venture down to Salamander Bay. Like a call to prayer, the meditative and emotive, Siren Song, begins to play. There are no holds barred as the melody is played from 450 speakers positioned around the city and (no less) a dancing helicopter.

Video Credit: The Guardian

It lasts around seven minutes – the time it takes for the sun to fully set.

It’s hard to imagine Melbourne or Sydney agreeing to rig up their CBD buildings with speakers blasting siren songs at dawn and dusk...

DARK party in the PARK
We head to DARK PARK to pursue some art delicacies. We’re met by technicolour lasers and immersive sound transform the night sky, organised by the rules of sacred geometry.

First up, we see IY PROJECT by Chris Levine & Robert Del Naja (Massive Attack) and Marco Perry. Meditative, dramatic, and slightly disorientating. According to the gossip, the installations are, in fact, based on sacred geometries and meditation frequencies.

Daniel Boyd’s Hello Darkness is next on the agenda. Presented in a warehouse setting, Boyd’s work consists of a light installation and series of video projections. Dots are the connecting feature. The four video works, presented in pairs, are composed of black screens with transparent circles that simultaneously reveal and obscure underlying images.

Ambient light diffuses the image intensity and audience members position themselves between the projectors and the screen, dancing and allowing their bodies to be momentarily enveloped by dots.

Winter Feast - the food heart & soul of Dark Mofo
It’s a badly kept secret that this midwinter banquet is the main Mofo attraction. Up to 10,000 people come to the Hobart waterfront each night, with fire and flames a central theme of the feast. But the real pull are the stunning long tables laden with thousands of candles.

As we were to learn later on at Mona, alcohol is considered a valuable constituent when look at art.

MONA with Justin
A tour with front of house manager, Justin Johnstone through the subterranean museum art collection is an entirely different museum experience. As stated by the infamous David Walsh, Mona is an ‘anti-museum’. Even the front entrance is comparatively understated in contrast to the grandiose and somewhat intimidating entrances of a traditional museums.

Read our interview with Justin here

Walsh’s collection is authentically his own; Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus are interspersed with contemporary installations, digital works, and digestive machines. Extra un-museum like bonus was their onsite Moorilla wines cellar door. Glass in hand we wandered through the gravity assisted winery.

‘The Museum of Everything’ exhibition
Ever though art was snobby? ‘The Museum of Everything’ Mona exhibition is anything but. Founded and curated by James Brett, the travelling institution, which opened in London in 2009, advocates for the visibility of art that falls outside the confines of the art world proper.

These artists don’t have degrees, but they might have visions or compulsions; they are transcendent scientists, self-taught architects, and citizen inventors; sometimes, they are dedicated followers of personal belief systems, or producing art from inside a hospital or prison.

Sunset Skyspace
Seated on heated concrete benches, we watch the sky’s changing light and cloud patterns as they pass across a central rectangular opening in the canopy, which itself is washed by an ever-changing mosaic of different computer-generated colours.

AMARNA is one of a series of more than 80 Skyspace installations Turrell has built in high altitude and geographically isolated locations.  MONA’s work is the largest Skyspace to date and Turrell’s southern-most installation.

Welcome Stranger…
The Siren Song plays again and dusk descends once more.

Our group scattered: some of us braved the Welcome Stranger obstacle course, others watch the unforgettable live performances by political sex clown, Betty Grumble in a 19th century church.

There was karaoke in thematic rooms at the Welcome Stranger pub, ballet performances with tennis balls at the Royal Tennis Club, Jess Johnson’s digital inspired works at the Masonic Hall, Ulver’s cinematic masterpiece with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra amongst too many to count

For those who had stamina (or who think they do) at 1am head to Transliminal - the electronic underbelly of the subterranean club scene.

Seeing the Art Mob
Owner of Art Mob art gallery, Euan Hills, invited us bright and arlt to his gallery to view the collection of Indigenous paintings, shell necklaces and other artifacts. Euan, who has been an Indigenous art dealer for over 15 years, is well connected amongst communities all over Australia.

Getting out: the nature of Mount Wellington

It was a relief to immerse oneself in the nature of Mount Wellington after all the dark and subterranean experiences of the last couple of days. The spectacular panoramic view of Hobart and the Southern ocean tingle the senses as fresh chilly air blasted our faces. The Alpine sub-climate at the top of the mountain is a visual spectacle with gnarled and twisted eucalyptus trees, heathers and moss covered boulders.

Walking Tour With Surry Hills Creative Precinct

On just the second day, winter was giving us a sneak preview of the chilly weather we can expect in the coming months.  However, that did not stop the wonderful media group partaking in a Culture Scouts Walking Tour of the Surry Hills Creative Precinct on Friday 2nd June.  Walking around the creative hub of Surry Hills: up Campbell Street, along Crown Street and down to Bourke Street our scout Sophia informed us of the local artisans who are at the heart of this city precinct.

Paramount
Starting in the chill of the morning at Paramount Coffee Project we were shown around by Bob Barton (director of Golden Age Cinema and Bar) who explained how the integrity of the Functionalist building has been maintained.  The architectural design was born out of Art Deco, beautiful and functional without the excessive decoration.  Paramount utilises the space with bold efficiency, revitalising the once busy loading dock into a cafe and converting the underground storage space into a bar that emanates a speakeasy atmosphere.

 
 

Hay
Minimal, functional yet beautifully crafted only begins to describe the Danish design house of Hay Sydney, conveniently located on the corner of Crown and Campbell Street.  The concept of Hay is to illustrate great design can come at an affordable price.  There is a warmth and calming effect to their products that would be welcoming in any home.

Citizen Wolf
Where in Sydney can you walk into a store and design your own T-shirt, choosing your preferred length, neck-line and fabric? At Citizen Wolf on Crown Street, this dream has become a reality.  The philosophy of co-founders Zoltan and Eric is to provide a zero-waste environment for casual fashion pieces to be created and enjoyed.  Tailor made, hand or laser cut design and locally assembled, Citizen Wolf believes this will be the best T-shirt you will ever own.

Zoo Emporium Vintage
A quick stop past Zoo Emporium lightened the atmosphere of gloomy rain clouds above.  Specialising in vintage products from the 1970s and 1980s, no matter what piece of clothing, shoes or accessories you are searching for, Zoo has you covered.  Operating for over twenty years, this is no ordinary vintage shop, well versed in their preferred era of fashion.

 
 

Reko Rennie Building
Beginning as a City of Sydney street awareness initiative in 2012, the Reko Rennie Building at Taylor Square has become an icon in its own right.  Rennie, an Indigenous artist, boldly painted the building and included the sentence “Always was, always will be”.  This artwork is poignantly illustrating to viewers they are standing on Gadigal Land, that it has always been Gadigal Land and will always continue to be Gadigal Land.

Formaggi Ocello
What is not to like about a cheese and wine boutique.  The group stopped past Ocello for a cheese tasting, sampling only three of their two-hundred locally and internationally imported cheeses.  We were told the wonderful story of how sixteen years ago, founders Carmelo and Sogna Ocello, lovers of cheese began distributing goats cheese from Queensland and how their cheese empire now supplies the best restaurants in Sydney.

Gratia
First noticing the warm and inviting atmosphere, Gratia welcomes visitors to explore their Bourke Street location as the first ‘profit for purpose’ cafe in Sydney.  The cafe donates 100% of their profits to local and global initiatives aimed at promoting positive change.

 
 

The School of Life
Just a quick walk up the stairs from Gratia, The School of Life aims to provide education and direction to those seeking answers to life’s most basic issues.  Programs explore how to live more wisely by discovering the self, to become more resilient, more confident and how to love yourself first and foremost.  The group was invited to take part in a couple of exploratory and trust exercises to briefly understand how the school operates.  After only a 15 minute session, it was made clear to the group how beneficial it can be to understanding another person by asking simple open-ended questions and truly listening before responding.

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REVIEW: Sydney Cultural Walking Tours: Discover The City Differently On Foot

While moves are definitely afoot to revitalise Sydney’s inner city, much of the grassroots cultural scene is currently to be found in the small suburbs around the city fringe, including Newtown, Darlinghurst, Pyrmont, Chippendale and Surry Hills. Walking tours are a great way to discover everything these artistic enclaves have to offer. Reviewed by: Joanne Karcz, The Big Bus - May 2017

It’s known for its food, art and design, and is steeped in the early history of settlement. It also has a great community feel. Surry Hills is one of the cultural hotspots covered by Culture Scouts – which offers Sydney cultural walking tours with the aim of helping guests to ‘discover Sydney differently’. On today’s tour that’s exactly what I hope to do.

It’s only a short walk from Sydney’s Central Station to the meeting place on the corner of Devonshire and Bourke Streets. In 2004 the Bourke Street Bakery started in a little corner store here. They now have eleven outlets across Sydney. I have time for a coffee and a bite to eat and I choose a ginger crème brulee tart to accompany my flat white. This tart is one reason (the sourdough bread is another) that many locals and visitors alike make a beeline for this bakery. It definitely lives up to the hype.

Our guide Sophia begins the tour by leading us down a little laneway. On our right is a door set into a large dark wall. To the right of the door is a scaled down version of a sculpture I recognise. The full-sized ‘Almost Once’ is located outside the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It is the work of esteemed artist Brett Whiteley, who lived and worked in this converted warehouse in the 1980s. I am excited to finally visit his workspace. Downstairs is the exhibition space, while the living area and studio are upstairs. Music from Whiteley’s collection is playing. It’s been chosen to complement the current exhibition (which changes regularly). Entry to the Brett Whiteley Studio is free. It’s open to the public from Friday to Sunday.

The Head On photography festival is on this week in Sydney and one of the exhibitions is displayed at the Special Group studios. The interesting series of photographs is called ‘Resist Laughter’ by Alana Holmberg. They explore the experiences of young feminists in Turkey. I wish I had time to examine each photograph more closely, but we have to move on.

On either side of a half-open red roller door is some great street art. I’m told the pieces are by ‘Ears’. I expect the work was commissioned by The Pottery Shed in Nickson Street, which is our next stop. Joseph Darling who founded The Pottery Shed, tells us that in three two-hour lessons beginners can walk away with basic pottery skills and a thrown pot that they have made themselves. As Joe demonstrates the technique on a wheel, he talks about the meditative value of pottery. I find myself itching to get my hands into the smooth clay; to feel it taking shape. I decide to sign up. Pottery classes will be a fun activity for me to do with my daughter. As we leave, other tour participants express similar thoughts.

At the end of a covered laneway, another surprise awaits us. ‘Village Voices’ is an artwork that was commissioned by the City of Sydney. We are lucky to have the artist, Astra Howard, present to explain the work and how it came about. The artwork features regularly changing text in the form of short stories, which are developed in workshops with locals or submitted by individuals. The text has strong local relevance. Large white plastic letters form the words, which are placed in rows along the wall. The work is thought-provoking, encourages conversation and is a wonderful way of reflecting and promoting a sense of community.

Where there is art, there is often a need for a frame. We are taken to Acme Framing, which has had a workshop in Surry Hills for many years. They have an innovative approach to their craft and like to meet the challenge of an unusual framing request!

Further up the street is The Standard Store, a clothing boutique popular with local creatives. Nicola, the owner, travels overseas regularly to source unique items of clothing that reflect the nature of Surry Hills. While her store has an online presence, she prefers the ‘bricks and mortar’ of fashion retail, and enjoys meeting her clients who live and work in the suburb.

Sophia explains that Culture Scouts likes to tailor tours of Surry Hills to meet the needs and interests of participants. Today’s tour has been curated as an introduction to the Surry Hills Festival, which is happening later in the year. Other tour options include one with an emphasis on coffee – where a visit to roasters and brewers in and around Surry Hills is the order of the day. A tour combining food, wine and coffee is also a popular choice, while art lovers might choose an itinerary with an emphasis on art and history.

As Sophia says: ‘’Our tours embrace all things art, design, architecture, food and bespoke retail. We want people to experience our city as a creative and cultural destination’.

All too soon this tour is over – and what a great mix of experiences it has been. Even though I am a Sydneysider, I have been continually surprised by what we’ve seen. That’s what discovering Sydney differently is all about.

Joanne travelled as a guest of Culture Scouts. 

Redfern Storytelling Tour Feature: Tracey Moffatt X Venice Biennale 2017

Photo: Linda Yablonsky

Photo: Linda Yablonsky

Photo: John Gollings

Photo: John Gollings

Interested? Book the 3rd June Indigenous Storytelling Tour NOW. Spaces are filling fast. 

As we at Culture Scouts continue to ramp up for our 3 June Indigenous Storytelling tour, it seems fitting to spotlight one of Australia’s best loved artists who will be featured on the tour.

Read more about the tour here

Photo: John Gollings

Photo: John Gollings

In support of artist Carol Ruff, Australian great Tracey Moffatt helped created the famous eighties 40,000 years mural that is opposite Redfern station. According to Vanessa Berry, the mural was designed by Ruff, while Moffatt aided by asking the local community what they wanted included in the mural.

Moffatt is now a household name, and is currently exhibiting in the Australian Pavilion at the 57th Biennale in Venice. She is the first Indigenous Australian to have a solo show there.

The last artists of indigenous descent to exhibit in the pavilion were in 1997.

Tracey's installation at the Australian Pavilion titled My Horizon depicts the human condition in her trademark stylised still photography and video works.

"I wanted the 40s-era film noir images to read as being 'of the past’,” she says, “but the storyline speaks about what is happening in the world today, with asylum seekers crossing borders."

Moffatt’s work is cinematographic, poignant and dramatic in its authority on themes synonymous to her practice and on a global scale. Although constructed through a postcolonial lens, it is her ability to tell a universal story that is the key to her success.

Tracey Moffat's biography on the Art Gallery of NSW website describes her as "probably Australia's most successful artist ever, both nationally and internationally'.

Although identifying as an indigenous artist she has eschewed traditional indigenous art making practice; preferring to tell her story through the lens and through film. Referencing childhood memories and merging them with her own constructed dramas. Moffatt plays director to glamorised film like stills that touch on themes of displacement, drama, fairytales, race, identity, sex and gender.

You can see and hear about Moffatt's contribution to the street art of Redfern on Culture Scouts Indigenous Storytelling tour on Saturday June 3rd.

Interested? Book the 3rd June Indigenous Storytelling Tour NOW. Spaces are filling fast. 

A Whistlestop Trip: Marrickville Open Studio Tour

Two tours for the Inner West Council

All aboard! Culture Scouts led The Cultural Express Tour in partnership with Inner West Open Studio Trail last Saturday (2pm - 4pm). Hopping on the train at Newtown Train Station, we took the group to pull back the curtain on the vibrant inner-west creative scene.

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Saturday: The Cultural Express Tour #1

STOP #1: MLC Gallery
Artist, Miriam Cabello, is also the curator of the MLC Gallery Space - the studio and gallery. As part of Vivid Ideas, Carnival of the Bold collaborated with Miriam to present Cause & Effect: Artists for Social Change. Our lucky walkers attended the critical discussion; part of the two-week MLC exhibition worked on by Miriam and five other artists; Andrea Srisurapon, Mandy Schöne-Salter, Marwa Charmand, Sherine Tan and Tia Kass.

STOP #2: Lennox Street Studios
Lennox Street Studios, one of Sydney’s oldest artist run studios, developed out of a need to meet the demand for traditional artist spaces in Sydney. Recently they have been trying to bring outsiders in through photography and design. Each artist now has their own profile page. Art classes and exhibitions are held all year round, with occasional community events (Saturday was a classic BBQ).

STOP #3: Newsagency Gallery
Newsagency gallery evokes a sense of Aussie nostalgia, with a faded Women's Weekly sign out the front. But in no way is it stuck in the past. Both curating group exhibitions, and hosting solo shows by emerging and established artists, Newsagency likes to shake things up.

Sunday: Delve into Marrickville Tour #2

STOP #1: Fintan Magee & ZAP street art
No trip to Marrickville would be complete without seeing some of the remarkable street art murals that are so numerous you’d almost forget how amazing they are. Fintan ‘the Banksy of Australia’ Magee was showcasing his social realism. He depicts workers, and other people who are assets to the community who don’t usually get seen. The mysterious ZAP artist also made an appearance with his jaunty comic book-esque graphics.

STOP #2: Monster Mouse Studios
The walkers were welcomed off the winding back lanes by Carizza, who took us around the maze of artistic nooks and crannies. Walking in and out of the studios of woodworkers, painters, and sculptors was a highlight - especially when Art Pharmacy painter Claire Nakazawa paused in her work to give us some information about how she worked. Afterwards, tourers admires the exhibition taking place within Monster Mouse.

Claire Nakazawa

Claire Nakazawa

STOP #3: Scratch Studios
The energy was incredible - performance art involving sugar cubes and clay, artists working away on their projects, and all working as smoothly as clockwork. A highlight was photographer’s Grace Costa’s beautiful horse photographs. The images were so soft, you’d be forgiven for thinking some of them were paintings. Carmel, of Scratch, rounded off the visit with a talk about the inner workings of Scratch.

STOP #4: Batch Brewery Company
For thirsty walkers, nothing is more appealing than a beer a cold beer, in an atmospheric brewery on a stunningly beautiful Sunday afternoon. With some delicious kebab wraps to regain stamina, the guys at Batch brewer were friendly and hospitable.

Like to do something similar? Book here

 

Culture Scouts x Australian Tourism Exchange 2017

Interested in booking a tour for yourself or for an organisation? Contact us here
Are you an interested ITO or journalist? Contact us here

Head Scout, Emilya Colliver and Culture Scouts General Manager, Sophia de Mestre

Head Scout, Emilya Colliver and Culture Scouts General Manager, Sophia de Mestre

Culture Scouts was once again part of the Australian Tourism Exchange in Sydney last week! We’re still catching our breath from the flurry of hosting Culture Scouts walking tours, meeting international journalists and catching up with international tour operators (ITO’s).

We took around journalists from the NBC, New York Post, The Daily Telegraph, Arts Hub and more, to show what a culturally rich city Sydney is.

Read more about our Surry Hills tours here

We wanted to communicate the Culture Scout goal: to usher out of town visitors past the Opera House and into the heart of what makes Sydney the artistic hub it is today. We want visitors to Sydney to think twice before they spend their whole Sydney visit in Circular Quay with an over-priced drink at a tourist bar. As the Sydney street artist, La, says, “There are those people you meet, and talking to them is like talking to a wall. Then there are the walls you meet...”.

The Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) is Australia’s largest annual travel and tourism business-to-business event.  ATE brings together Australian tourism businesses in a forum to promote their products directly to tourism wholesalers and retailers from around the world through a combination of scheduled business appointments and networking events. It also provides international travel Buyers with the opportunity to experience Australia’s tourism offering first-hand through pre and post event familiarisations.

Interested in booking a tour for yourself or for an organisation? Contact us here
Are you an interested ITO or journalist? Contact us here

Art & Architecture With Surry Hills Creative Precinct

Even a month's worth of rain in under twenty four hours won't stop this cultural mission! Culture Scouts took an international media group on a cultural walking on Friday 19th May, on behalf of Surry Hills Creative Precinct. Consisting of visitors from across the world, the group were taken around Bourke Street, Crown Street and Devonshire Street in search of the design driven minds that the Sydney cityscape is famous for.

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Smart Design Studio
Culture Scout Guide, Sophia, led guests into Smart Design to meet William Smart - the founder and Creative Director of the studio. Shortlisted to build the Singapore National Museum at the age of twenty-nine, Smart is a passionate architect who throws himself into his projects. He speaks to visitors about how he is currently trying to harness unusual tension between the old and new aspects of a bridge that is  being built. Using 3-D printing, the models they create aim to make the building they create both sculptural and beautiful to their purpose. Interestingly, the studio itself used to be a farmhouse, and was once part of soldier Joseph Foveaux’s farmland in nineteenth century Sydney.

The Pottery Shed
The Pottery Shed is exactly how you’d imagine a seventies California pottery workshop. It’s an oasis of calm in a busy existence (albeit a modernised one). Located on Nickson Street, just off Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, The Pottery Shed has a warm interior, with glowing tea cups, bowls and vases sited carefully on every surface. Joe Darling, the founder of the establishment, comes in halfway through to tell how his classes work. “[Pottery] draws you in,” Darling explains, “restricting other thoughts; pulling together your centred-ness and focus. It would have been the thing that would have kept me out of my possibly troubled youth.”

Read the interview with Joe Darling here

Village Voices
Next the group walked along to performer’s Astra Howard’s public artwork, Village Voices. Created as a work that can be changed often, Village Voices selects texts submitted by the public through a drop box at Surry Hills Library. They are then displayed at the Wiltshire Through Link off Crown Street. Through doing this, Howard hopes to tell both local and global stories to passers-by.

Special Group: Pool Collective
Special Group are an independent creative company, who work with such creative giants as R.M. Williams, King Living, Pet Barn and Qantas. They currently reside in what was the Hughes Gallery (Ray Hughes is a colourful Sydney art character - famous for his dramatic lunches). Boasting a beautiful collection of art, they just finished hosting Pool Grant winner, Alama Holmberg’s photographic collection, Resist Laughter. A series based around the then Turkish Prime Minister’s, Bülent Arinç, comments that women should ‘resist’ laughing in public, Holmberg photographed women’s rights activists. The night of Friday 19th May, The Pool Collective - a group of commercial artists who are resident - are launching their exhibition, Pool IX. We particularly loved Christopher Ireland’s video work, which documents the residents of a building in Kirribilli.

Gascoigne and King
After a sneaky coffee stop at the Artificer Specialty Coffee Bar & Roastery (for the most delicious flat whites Sydney has to offer the international crowd) the group took a final stop at the home of entrepreneurial Bronwyn Gascoigne. Gascoigne created and drives a line of natural and environmentally friendly candle products. A professional nez, she used a series of perfumes to demonstrate how she mixes scents. Known for her woody and mixed variety, her candles made the whole place smell almost delicious as the cupcakes she gave out.

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On Tour With Surry Hills Creative Precinct

Culture Scouts pulled on its best gumboots to take a media group on a cultural walking tour this wet Friday. Taking place in Surry Hills - home to one of the highest creative concentrations in the world - the tour was undertaken on behalf of Surry Hills Creative Precinct. Read on to discover how we hit up hidden studios, off-peak galleries and comic book-obsessed coffee shops, in search of the perfect Sydney cultural trip.

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Carol Crawford: Sculpture
Culture Scout Guide, Sophia, ushered the guests up an unobtrusive side door behind Central Station. Going up some narrow stairs, we found ourselves in a winter lit sculpture studio. Carol, the resident artist and owner, hands covered in alabaster dust from the Italian stone she carves, explained how she finds and carves it. Crawford prefers stones with faults in it - seeing her art making process as a journey of discovering the personality of the object. We could have stayed there for hours - but after a near miss with an exquisitely carved alabaster seagull we beat a careful retreat.

Michael Reid Sydney
Next up, Michael Reid Sydney. Located in the historical Standard House on Kippax Street, the international gallery is currently hosting a Christian Thompson exhibition. A Bidjara man, Thompson’s latest exhibition is a series of gorgeous photographic mix of black and white, and colour.

The Reformatory Caffeine LAB
Stopping for coffee at The Reformatory Caffeine LAB is more than just grabbing a hot cup to warm your hands. We spoke to the baristas on how they achieve their strong brews, while our faces were lit up by the bright colours of theJustice League cartoon playing on the television. The walls are lined by an eclectic dark black and green comic book strip - making the Reformatory a nostalgically fun experience. 

planet au
Gold leaves dappled the ceiling, as tourers listened to the story of planet’s sustainable design. Specialising in natural textiles, as well as timber, planet stocks lots of hand dyed Indian fabric (that participants couldn’t help running their hands over). By the end we had to be ushered out repeatedly to make us leave!

China Heights
Blink and you’d miss it. China Heights gallery, founded by Edward Woodley, Mark Drew, Benji Phillips, under the guidance of conceptual artist, Michael Sharp, CH has been going strong since its founding in 2004. Currently it is showing the aesthetically delicate, but emotionally strong, collection of work by Miso/Stanislava Pinchuk, entitled ‘Sarcophagus’. Sarcophagus explores through an intricate tapestry the emotions of the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone, where textiles were once created. In the back room we admire the hard work of Gemma O’Brien’s mural designs. Four flights of stairs have never been so worth it.

The Office Space
Last, but not least, we arrived to goggle at the overwhelming collection of Boris and Naomi Tosic of The Office Space, in the Paramount Building, above Golden Age Cinema. While they’re known for curating a collection of stylish, forward-thinking shared working environments, what’s really exciting is the treasures dotted over every available wall space. A favourite was the twin serigraphs by Sister Conita Kent, a sixties artist and nun, that adorn one of the walls of the conference room. Jim Morrison Was Here by Ben Quilty was also a major highlight.

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Inside A Culture Scouts Art Tour: Devonshire Street Edition

Culture Scouts was very excited this Friday to be taking a media tour group around Devonshire Street, Surry Hills on an art tour, on behalf of the historic Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre. The party of both Sydney-sider natives and visitors made their way through established businesses, up-and-comers and community projects.

Like to do something similar? Book now

Brett Whiteley Gallery
No creative trip to Surry Hills would ever be complete without a visit to this institution of Australian Art. What was once Brett Whiteley’s studio, is now run by Alec George of AGNSW in consultation to Whiteley’s widow, Wendy. Tourers were invited past the iconic burnt match, through the gallery with its luminously evocative ‘Bathroom series’ paintings, and upstairs to the celebrated artist’s studio. Preserved closely after his death in 1992, the walls were scrawled with graffiti; dumbbells and records scattered on shelves and on the floor.

Special Group
Special Group are an independent creative company, who work with such creative giants as R.M. Williams, King Living, Pet Barn and Qantas. Boasting a beautiful collection of art, they are currently hosting Pool Grant winner, Alama Holmberg’s photographic collection, Resist Laughter. A series based around the then Turkish Prime Minister’s, Bülent Arinç, comments that women should ‘resist’ laughing in public, Holmberg photographed women’s rights activists.

Bourke Street Bakery
As everyone knows, art cannot be really appreciated on an empty stomach. In the case of this tour, tourers were given a whole pastry selection. Bakers, David McGuiness & Paul Allam, started the Bourke Street Bakery in 2004, and are now running eleven shops. Known for its buttery croissants, melting pain-au-chocolats, and extraordinary ginger brulee tarts (yes, it’s a thing), Bourke Street has become a staple of Surry Hills. And David’s favourite pastry? “The classic”, he smiles, gesturing to the goodies on display: “the pain-au-chocolat, the croissant”.

The Pottery Shed
The Pottery Shed is exactly how you’d imagine a seventies California pottery workshop. It’s an oasis of calm in a busy existence (albeit a modernised one). Located on Nickson Street, just off Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, The Pottery Shed has a warm interior, with glowing tea cups, bowls and vases sited carefully on every surface. Joe Darling, the founder of the establishment, welcomes the guests inside and after an explanation of how the classes work, sits us down for a hypnotising pottery wheel throwing session. “[Pottery] draws you in,” Darling explains, “restricting other thoughts; pulling together your centred-ness and focus. It would have been the thing that would have kept me out of my possibly troubled youth.”

Our interview with Joe Darling can be read here

Village Voices
Next the group walked along to performer’s Astra Howard’s public artwork, Village Voices. Created as a work that can be changed often, Village Voices selects texts submitted by the public through a drop box at Surry Hills Library. They are then displayed at the Wiltshire Through Link off Crown Street. Through doing this, Howard hopes to tell both local and global stories to passers-by.

ACME Framing
A logo designed by the radical pop artist, Martin Sharp makes an unforgettable impression as we walk through the doors of ACME Framing. The entry room boasts an array of different frames. One wall is taken up corner frames that when put together, looks like golden dragon scales. Director, Geoff Bracken, explains that all artworks have different needs, as we admire the collection.

Read Art Pharmacy's framing tips here

The Standard Store: Nicola Reindorf
Coming to Australia almost two decades ago, Reindorf has maintained an all-encompassing love and respect for quality clothes and design. With a ‘tightly curated’ collection, Reindorf stresses that their focus is on being more than a place to buy clothes. “[Customers] get to know us,” she says. Between the tactile nature of the TSS’s fabrics, and Reindorf’s bubbly dog, Honey, we could not agree more.

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Indigenous Storytelling Tour, Redfern - 3 June

Have you ever wondered at the significance of the ‘Welcome to Redfern’ mural? Or what’s happening at The Block? Join guides Randall Arvilla and Carol D’Amici for an afternoon of storytelling, art, design and history in Redfern: one of Sydney’s most culturally rich suburbs.

This tour is a unique opportunity to learn about the indigenous history of inner-city Redfern and hear how the murals and street art act as commentary on the social, political and cultural issues synonymous to the area.

Snaking along the backstreets of this transitional suburb, you will see murals and artworks by Daniel Boyd, Tracey Moffatt, Blak Douglas, Nicole Monks and Reko Rennie; artists that are part of Sydney’s contemporary Indigenous community and vibrant art scene.

Other stops on the tour include access to the Cultural Centre, the Redfern Terrace Street Art Project, Hugo Street Reserve and The Block - locations that are representative of the political, cultural and social history of the Australian Aboriginal people who populated this area.

Both practicing artists, Randall and Carol (a member of the Northern River NSW Bundajung tribe) share their knowledge of Redfern, its colourful history and insight into the artworks that canvas the suburbs brick and mortar walls. Expect to hear converging stories of the Australian indigenous people, contemporary art and culture intertwined with tales and observations from the past and how they are connected to the people and suburb of Redfern today.

Building on the Indigenous Storytelling Tour that was held earlier this year for Sydney's Art Month, this is not a tour to be missed.

So don't miss out on this exclusive tour on 3rd June. Click below:

REVIEW: Culture Scouts – Surry Hills Devonshire Street Tour

Reviewed by Olivia Lyle, Alt Media - 13th May 2017

I just had the great pleasure of going on an exclusive Surry Hills Devonshire Street tour led by the two most beautiful tour guides from Culture Scouts.

Now I must say, I wouldn’t normally drag myself to go to a museum or gallery. However, after this fantastic two hour exploration into some of the best hidden gems in Sydney, I now want to be a painter!

We first met at Bourke Street Bakery, which if you haven’t been there, I suggest you go because you will eat everything in the bakeshop. Our topnotch tour guides then showed us a few interesting galleries where I found myself lingering and asking the artists far too many questions.

Not only was my mind expanded through various painters and photographers, but my personal favourite spot was The Pottery Shed. Behind a bright red garage door, lay a world of clay pots and many dirty hands.

These and many other captivating places we went to on our tour are tucked away in the nooks and crannies of Surry Hills. This two hour journey felt like I was taken away for a decade into a land filled with mesmerising artists and their enchanting creations. I would have never discovered these landmarks if it weren’t for this well planned out tour by Culture Scouts.

Whether you are a local or someone passing through Sydney, I highly recommend going on this tour. You will be inspired and astounded at the artists that are living their dreams, just behind a red garage door.

Tickets & Info for future Walking Tours: www.culturescouts.com.au

A Darling Project: Surry Hill’s The Pottery Shed

The Pottery Shed is exactly how you’d imagine a seventies California pottery workshop. It’s an oasis of calm in a busy existence (albeit a modernised one). Located on Nickson Street, just off Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, The Pottery Shed has a warm interior, with glowing tea cups, bowls and vases sited carefully on every surface.

While visiting artists and teachers from overseas work in the back, Culture Scouts sits down to talk with Joe Darling, the founder of The Pottery Shed.

Darling is as welcoming as the establishment itself. He tells me about all the beautiful things he sees created in his class: according to him it happens, “all the time.” He spreads his hands, in excitement. “Especially when the individual has that first spark of ‘Aha!’ … a balanced adult has many inputs but some people aren’t quite balanced so those who do experience that for the first time, often it’s a shocking deep revelation and that’s what stirs me the most.”

“I guess I get more of those wonderful moments than you would imagine.”

Although he is now running a successful pottery business, it has not always been smooth sailing for Darling. “My story is born out of tragedy”, he acknowledges as we sit in the sun dappled entrance room, “My parents passed away when I was a teenager. My life was completely ripped apart and in high school, the people that looked after me in that emotional sense were my teachers.” But the best was craft, “[They] had a focus on [it] and the teachers that took care of me and the parts of craft and art that I most associated with or most loved was silver smithing, wood smithing, pottery, metal shop and automobile work”.

So, what came after school for Joe? “I started doing professional pottery immediately after high school [1976] and I started a range of wares that were popular amongst a sub set of the culture but then decided against continuing a professional career in pottery and wanted to study at university, which I couldn’t afford and I took advantage of [an education] programme in the military.”

Afterwards, he started teaching. Was it about being for another student, what his craft teachers were for him? “I wanted to set that seed and yes that’s what happened.”

“I believe my police and military training I have gathered that strict clarity in teaching that I find was the real answer to bring Pottery Shed to people.”

Pottery is an extremely tactile craft, with palpable emotions emerging from the kneading of clay. “[Pottery] absolutely draws you in, restricting other thoughts; pulling together your centred-ness and focus,” says Darling, “It would have been the thing that would have kept me out of my possibly troubled youth.”

Darling has also achieved significant goals when it comes to The Pottery Shed’s influence on people. “I am affecting a great deal of people with this seed also letting them experience a little bit of this in their life,” he says cheerfully, “A lot of people don’t have a focus or they are misguided through so many distractions in life and it’s never clear until you find or do you see what the opposite really is. So that clarity comes to people often with this experience but they don’t necessarily have to take it up.”

And his rule on Ghost re-enactments? Darling has a strict policy, plus a ready at hand lecture and a ‘demonstration piece’: “There is a $5 penalty for that word and then we have to clarify exactly what the reason behind Ghost is that has been society’s fascination.”

“It’s not pottery. It’s female orgasm and you see we have to talk about this because it’s an issue that’s been left behind with my clan for far too long.”

If you’d like to take part in one of the classes, buy some pottery, or even see the mysterious Ghost “demonstration piece”, visit The Pottery Shed website. Pottery is for sale there or at Glebe Point Road Markets.

You can book a tour of Darlinghurst and Surry Hills here

Interview With Jimmy Saruchera from Surry Hills Creative Precinct

In the build up to Mother’s Day we sat down with creatives, business owners and curators from selection of some of our favourite spots in Sydney to get their tips for a cliche free, thoroughly unique Mother’s Day!

Filled to the brim with contemporary galleries, cafes. Bars and ultra chic boutiques, Surry Hills is a culture lover’s dream! With so many wonderful places to treat your mum, we spoke to the President of the Surry Hills Creative Precinct, Jimmy Saruchera to discuss some of his favourite spots.

Can you tell us a bit about the Surry Hills Creative Precinct?
The mission of the Surry Hills Creative Precinct is to make Surry Hills a great place to do business and the location of choice for skilled creative people to live, work and visit. We collaborate with a broad range of partners that range from small local businesses, international companies, city and state government, community groups and major events to promote local businesses, develop infrastructure, increase visitor attraction and create a sense of community amongst business owners based in Surry Hills.

Why is Surry Hills a good place to spend Mother's Day?
In Surry Hills you are almost guaranteed to give mum a unique experience she won't get in many places in Australia. Whether it’s Australia's first space-themed cat cafe, a sensational hairdo from internationally acclaimed hairdressers, chic fashion you won't get in a mass market mall or just great meal from Michelin starred restaurant, it’s all here and in easy walking distance.

What are some of your favourite lunch/brunch spots in Surry Hills?
I have many! But in particular I love Gratia especially because of the little gallery they have upstairs. I also really like the charming Kawa on Crown street.

What activities are there on offer in someone who is looking to do something outside the box for Mother's Day? Are there any galleries/boutiques etc that you would recommend?
For art you can't look past the Ray Hughes Gallery on Devonshire, they always show consistently inspiring contemporary art. I love Titles the record/book shop - it’s a tall order to fail to find something you like in there with lots of great gift options. I also particularly like the little boutique called "unique" that does simple remarkably well.

You can book one of our Darlinghurst and Surry Hills tours here.

Interview With Shari Knott from The Old Clare Hotel, Chippendale

In the build up to Mother’s Day we sat down with creatives, business owners and curators from selection of some of our favourite spots in Sydney to get their tips for a cliche free, thoroughly unique Mother’s Day!

It’s easy to see why the Old Clare has rapidly become central to Chippendale’s recent renaissance. Combining luxury, with history and beguiling design, the hotel has quickly become the residence of choice for some of Sydney’s most fascinating visitors. But it’s appeal extends beyond its role as a traditional hotel. With a buzzing bar located in the lobby, and relationships with Sydney’s most innovative restaurants, Kensington Street Social and Automata, the venue has become a fast favourite for Sydney locals.

We sat down the Shari Knott from the Old Clare to get her tips for a stylish, and thoroughly original Mother’s Day.

Can you tell us a bit about the relationship between The Old Clare, Kensington Street Social and Automata?
The Old Clare Hotel and the two restaurants live under the same roof, and although they are separate businesses we still work together and share resources to offer great experience to our guests.

Is there anything special (or more special than usual!) happening at any of the venues for Mother's Day?
Yes, indeed! We’re putting on quite the feast for all the amazing and inspiring women out there.

The hotel will host a morning yoga and meditation class with instructor Kristy da Silva. We are also collaborating with Lauren Hung from The Black Line to host a calligraphy class as the perfect workshop for mothers and daughters.

Since it’s also a festive day we’ve arranged a rosé and champagne bar with Kensington Street Social and make your own mini pavlova stand within the main linkway (foyer). Additionally, Thomas Puttick will be showcasing his new line ahead of MBFWA, also in our linkway, open to everyone.

Basically, we’ve got your afternoon covered, just leave it up to Old Clare to keep you entertained.

All details: http://www.theoldclarehotel.com.au/whats-on/?event=mother-s-day

What are some of your favourite items on the menu at Kensington Street Social and Automata?
At Kensington Street Social you can’t go wrong with their brunch, now available both Saturday and Sunday (also on Mother’s Day of course). The Tataki Hiramasa kingfish will always be my favourite, and for something larger, currently the Swordfish or Wagyu tri-tip are delicious!

http://kensingtonstreetsocial.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/KSS-ALC-30.03.2017.pdf

As for Automata, just eat whatever Clayton puts in front of you, it’s bound to blow your mind. The 5-course menu is updated every week, so we tend to find excuses to go there as often as possible.

I also recommend the 3-course lunch menu available Fridays and Saturdays, it’s a fun way to end the week and entertain clients with great food!

After enjoying a meal at Kensington Street Social, or Automata, or a drink at the Clare Bar, what are some activities around Chippendale that you would recommend for Mothers Day?

Aside from the drinks and pavlova in our linkway?
White Rabbit Gallery always has great exhibitions, currently they’re showcasing “The Dark Matters”.

And if you’re still up for more drinks, Handpicked Wines has great cheese to accompany your wine tasting. Let’s face it, cheese is always a good option.

You can book our Chippendale and Redfern tour here.

Interview With David Williams from White Rabbit Gallery

In the build up to Mother’s Day we sat down with creatives, business owners and curators from selection of some of our favourite spots in Sydney to get their tips for a cliche free, thoroughly unique Mother’s Day!

Chippendale’s White Rabbit Gallery is one of our favourite spots on our Chippendale walking tour. The gallery has earned international acclaim for its dazzling collection of Contemporary Asian Art. Unlike other galleries, it does not have a permanent collection, instead housing a constantly changing, cutting edge exhibitions, each more fascinating than the last.

If that wasn’t enough, the Gallery also houses an utterly charming tea room, and design boutique, making it the perfect place to take a creatively inclined mother. We sat down with curator David Williams to discuss their latest exhibition, his favourite things about the tea room, boutique and his favourite spots in Redfern.

Can you tell us a bit about the current exhibition at White Rabbit?
“The Dark Matters” explores the ways contemporary Chinese artists are using the classical Chinese palette of grey, black and white in their practice. The ancient Chinese got their ink from smoky oil lamps, brushing away deposited soot and mixing it into a paste that hardened into “stones”. This black was pure, indelible and did not fade, and they fell in love with it. They used it not only for writing but for painting, which they saw as just another way to express their thoughts. By adjusting the ink’s dilution and the density of their brushstrokes, painters could create a multitude of shades, from deepest blue-black to palest dove grey. Black had always been the colour of mystery, night, the void. The better the artists got to know black ink, the more superficial, even gaudy, colour seemed. As the Daoist philosopher Laozi declared: “Colours cause the eye to go blind.” Black—utterly simple yet infinitely subtle—allowed one to see the truth.

Chinese artists no longer live in a simple, natural, orderly world. They get their blacks not just from ink stones but from printer cartridges, spray cans, propane torches, X-ray film, newsprint, polyester, computer bits and steel. And they use blacks to convey realities the classical masters never dreamed of: oil spills, air pollution, megacities, mass production and political machinations. The artists in this show don’t shun light or colour, but in using them they follow Laozi’s advice: “Know the white, but hold to the black.” Containing more than ever, the dark also conceals more than ever. And it matters more than ever that we see.

What are some of your favourite items on the menu at the White Rabbit Tea House?
I can’t get enough of the Chicken and Coriander Dumplings with a pot of Ginseng Oolong tea. Delicious.  Although our new gluten-free Organic Tofu and Coriander dumplings with a Lychee Iced Tea comes a very close second.

Other than coming to the exhibition, what are some other ways people can incorporate the White Rabbit into a Mother’s Day gift? Do you have any favourite items in the White Rabbit shop?
A trip to the Gallery and a treat for Mum in the Tea House has become a tradition for many of our visitors, it’s a great way to spend some quality time with your Mum and then have a chat about the exhibition in the Tea House. We have quite a few gifts that are unique to our Gallery Shop, such as ornamental plates and silk scarves from the artist Bu Hua. Late last year we sourced the really terrific Lumio lights and they have proven to be really popular gifts, I couldn’t resist buying one for my house. The great thing about the shop is that all budgets are covered, from $1 to over $1000. It’s going to be too late for Mother’s Day, but we will are waiting for a delivery of limited edition works by the artist Xu Zhen, they will only be available at eh White Rabbit in Australia so I can’t wait to show them off!

What are some of your favourite things to do in Redfern and Chippendale after a visit to the gallery?
There is so much to do in the area now. Terrific cafes and bars and Spice Alley is a definite must. It’s always great to visit the local Chippendale Galleries like Pom Pom, Ambush and The Commercial. And having Carriageworks so close to us makes it a great place to visit after seeing the White Rabbit.

You can book your tour of Chippendale and Redfern here.

Artist: Yang Mushi

Artist: Yang Mushi

Outdoors Art: Nature Edition - Sculpture At Scenic World

By now, you’ve probably all seen the gorgeous images of deep, crisp snow coming out from the Snowy Mountains and in Victoria’s Highlands, and experienced serious winter FOMO.

Although snow may be rare up in Sydney that same feeling of chilled relaxation isn’t. The sixth annual Sculpture at Scenic World has opened in the Blue Mountains; showcasing a stunning display of  immersive, nature-based artworks.

Artists such as Elyssa Sykes Smith, Marta Ferracin, Chris Bennie, and Elin & Keino are displaying their stunning ability to create art that complements, yet is at odds with its natural surroundings. Pale strings are stretched translucently between trees, while coloured glass reflects gaudy light through the trees.

As the weather gets colder, it is the perfect time to escape the hustle of the city and experience the natural beauty Sydney’s surrounding bushlands.

Remember: art is everywhere! If you’d like to be tipped off about more art out and about, book one of our tours.

Chris Bennie

Chris Bennie

Elin & Keino

Elin & Keino

Emily Kaar

Emily Kaar

Harrie Fasher

Harrie Fasher

Jody Graham

Jody Graham

Kevina Jo-Smith

Kevina Jo-Smith

Louis Pratt

Louis Pratt

Louisa Magrics

Louisa Magrics

Mark Surtees

Mark Surtees

Claire Becker

Claire Becker

Marta Ferracin

Marta Ferracin

Sally Kidall

Sally Kidall

Sally Simpson

Sally Simpson

Selena Seifert & Chris Wellwood

Selena Seifert & Chris Wellwood

Interview With Kristina Karasula

We sat down with Cultural Development Officer at Redfern Community Centre, and longtime Redfern local, Kristina Karasula.

What is it like being Redfern community manager?
It's a wonderful diverse role that allows me the privilege to create meaningful engagement opportunities between people, communities and organisation

Who are some of your favourite artists? What attracts you to their work?
Tony Albert - for his quirky and poignant use of pop iconic items that play into history Adam Hill - local original political insightful Del Kathryn Barton colourful - reflect family - life - ongoing process never complete Dorothy Napangardi - deep emotive and meaningful, love the use of blacks whites greys subtle but powerful.

What top 3 things would you recommend to a visitor in Redfern?
The community street murals; the community centre; 107 Projects; and the quirky bars and cafes.

Interview With Justin Johnstone (MONA)

We caught up with MONA’s Front of House Manager, Justin Johnstone to get a behind the scenes look at MONA and Dark MOFO. Justin regaled us with stories of debaucherous parties, fabulous exhibitions, and his tips for a first time trip to Dark MOFO.

Can you tell us a bit about your role at MONA/ Dark MOFO?
My job title is Front of House manager however it has entailed far more than I'd ever imagined before I started seven or so years ago.

Basically I'm responsible for the Front of House team that includes both the Ticketing and Gallery Attendant teams and for the Visitor experience at Mona and for the Festivals Mofo and Dark Mofo (120 or so staff at Mona and an additional 60 or so during the festivals).  However I also host VIPs, coordinate with the F&B team for Functions and Events on site and off.

The most memorable moments have included the Marina Abramovic exhibition opening at Mona (4,500 or so visitors) and the Mike Parr exhibition ‘Asylum’ that was held in an old mental asylum in New Norfolk that required our team to work during the 72 hour performance in the middle of winter in a remote location (it rained, hailed and snowed).

I've also co ordinated Nude tours of the museum (curated by Stuart Ringholt), fed Cloaca professional (the shit machine) and worked on the door at the Festival after parties Faux Mo and Black List until 4am (looking out for David Walsh, David Burn and local politician David O’Bynre all of whom were on the guest list) before heading down to Sandy Bay to help with the Solstice Nude swim.  Fortunately we've developed a great team of experienced and generally unflappable supervisors and front of house staff.  I am very much in the habit of calling in plenty of favours from staff at all times of the day and night during the festivals.

The Dark MOFO festivities seem to be in conversation with the unique environment in Hobart. What do you think the relationship is between the festival and its location?
Dark Mofo exploded the myth that you can't succeed with getting the locals out in winter or attracting visitors in winter.

With a range of large scale public artworks, performances and events based around the themes of the Winter Solstice, lightness and dark and a range of free programming it has allowed festival goers to experience the waterfront and historic Salamanca areas in winter (regardless of the weather) and shone a light on previously unexplored areas such as Dark Park at Macquarie Point (adjacent to the Art School), the catacombs under Battery Point park and under the Town Hall used as exhibition spaces or the Detached Gallery in the basement of the Old Mercury Building for the Patricia Piccinini show.

Is there anything in particular that you're looking forward to at the festival this year?
The program hasn't been made public yet (and even I haven't been given any specific insights yet) however Winter Feast is on and a highlight for a high standard of food, drinks and performances (Moo Brew, Moorilla Wine and cocktails, Tassie whiskies and food vendors such as Get Shucked oysters and Lady Hester donuts).

Black List Nightclub is likely to be on again and in addition there is always a special event highlight in the program.  Last year it was the Funeral Party - a gothic costume ball evening of cocktails, music and debauchery (a live embalming, performances from TSO choir and then DJ Chelsea Wolf and live band, Itchy ) that was held in a genuine funeral parlour.  Dark Park will be re worked and in a sense is the festival hub.

What is your advice to someone attending Dark MOFO for the first time?
Download the app and rest before you get here as you're not likely to get much sleep while you're here ... and maybe bring a puffer jacket.

BOOK HERE to come on our trip to Dark MOFO