Undercover Artist Festival launches this week

Artists and arts workers from across Australia will gather in Brisbane this September for the Undercover Artist Festival; Australia’s premier performing arts and disability-led festival.

Presented by Access Arts as a highlight event within this year’s Brisbane Festival, the three-day ground-breaking festival at Queensland Theatre showcases bold and daring works from disabled performing artists alongside a dynamic program of forums, workshops, and events.

As Australia’s only disability-led arts festival, Undercover Artist Festival features bold, trailblazing performances from a mixture of local and national artists that will leave you coming back for more!

Festival Director Madeleine Little said the festival sought to redefine ‘artistic excellence’ placing the performances among Australia’s finest.

“Through this festival, we’re not only challenging notions of excellence but creating a legacy that will last far beyond the four-day event,” Little said.

Giving depth to the 2021 program, the festival offering is divided into three tracks: Creative, Career and Community—each offering a unique experience for festival goers.

From within the disability-led, professional performing arts works that make up the Creative track, almost half are world premieres and hand-picked to showcase the breadth of quality disability-led work being made across the country.

Gold Coast-based aerialist and wheelchair user Lauren Watson pushes the limits to what the physical body can do in world premiere Nerve.

Happy-Go-Wrong by Andi Snelling is a roller-coaster recollection of the greatest accident of Snelling’s life – a tiny tick bite that plunged her into dangerously ill health and forever changed her life.

In Brown Church, proud queer Indian performer Naavikaran uses spoken word, song, and dance to share their poignant journey to liberation.

Emerging Queensland artist Oliver Hetherington-Page premieres original comedy cabaret The No Bang Theory in his quest to educate the world that a person with autism does not look like The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper.

Forming the Community track is contemporary dance theatre work Je Suis Toi (I Am You), artists Timothy Orton, Mitchell Runcie and Allycia Staples from The Sunshine Troupe spotlight our collective difference as a means of moving toward more positive and respectful futures for all.

The three-day festival also includes a range of intimate music performances, including Australian indie favourite Aspy Jones.

The festivals Career track encompasses workshops, panel conversations and professional development opportunities with industry leaders.

Highlights include variety nights Poetry & Prose and Comedy Club, handing over the mic to some of Australia’s most prolific poets, spoken word artists and comedians, including Wongaibon writer Gayle Kennedy and comedian/writer Alistair Baldwin.

In a first for Queensland, the 2021 Undercover Artist Festival also includes Meeting Place: Australia’s annual forum on arts, culture, and accessibility. Hosted by Arts Access Australia, the disability-led Meeting Place forum will run throughout the festival and include a dynamic mix of workshops, panel discussions, and networking opportunities.

Arts Access Australia CEO Matthew Hall said, “In 2021, we will draw from the direct experiences and vast knowledge of our disabled community to reflect, reimagine, and recreate what it means to be truly inclusive and accessible in the arts.”

Hall said platforms like Undercover Artist Festival provided artists with disability the space to present the most authentic version of their artist selves.

“It’s about creating a platform where we can work in the ways that are best for us.

“Hopefully emerging artists can look to us and see themselves represented, and see an opportunity that’s for them,” Hall said.

Emphasising the significance of a disability-led project, Hall said “The festival puts artists with disability at the forefront in the public sphere, ensuring full ownership lies with them, creating works that are authentic, powerful and meaningful.

“It’s by us and for us, and for everyone else as well.”

“It’s not just about putting on great art or challenging excellence or providing performance opportunities for artists with disability— it’s a ‘coming home’ of sorts, where d/Deaf and disabled performing artists are welcome, and welcomed into a space that’s accessible to them.

Undercover Artist Festival takes place Thursday 16 to Saturday 18 September 2021 at Queensland Theatre, South Brisbane.

Visit Novotel Brisbane South Bank to save 10% on best available accommodation rate for any rooms booked during Undercover Artist Festival.

Undercover Artist Festival is presented by Access Arts Proudly sponsored by Brisbane City Council.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

This project is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and the Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships.

Andi Snelling in a shoulder stand with her feel up above her