Brisbane Baroque artistic director Leo Schofield dissects the delicate art of curating a festival.

The very word festival is freighted with interest and promise. Of course it’s applied promiscuously to all kinds of events from used tyre sales to produce. I am intrigued by the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, and the Coal Shovelling Festival in Tasmania’s Fingal Valley –  but despite ubiquitous usage the word, ‘festival’ has not lost its pulling power over centuries and is generally taken to imply stimulation of one sort or another, physical and mental.

Festivals of one sort or another, comprising dance, song, theatre, optional consumption of alcohol and general boisterousness have existed since the heyday of Dionysian revels in five hundred BC. On grounds of longevity alone, arts festivals deserve respect. They provide relief from the quotidian, satisfaction for audiences and performers alike and are embedded in our culture, meeting a human need for diversion. In its annual festival supplement, the New York Times lists over three hundred and forty festivals that take place from coast to coast in the United States over the summer, and that is by no means a comprehensive list.

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