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Sun. May 19th, 2024

The Winter Blooming Festival will be bringing a whole lot of sparkle and sass to Armidale when it kicks off its program of events celebrating LGBTIQA+, First Nations and multicultural arts, culture, communities, and allies on August 18.

An impressive line-up of events and workshops will be held in and around the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) including a queer prom, express drag makeup sessions, a dumpling and beers event, a queer brunch, art workshops, health talks and an art exhibition by queer and non-binary artists. 

The inaugural festival was held in 2019 and made a triumphant return in 2022 after COVID19 cancellations. 

The event was conceived in 2019 by coproducers, University of New England sociologist Christina Kenny and NERAM director Rachael Parsons and aimed to address the then total lack of visibility, events, spaces and services for the New England Region’s LGBTIQA+ community.

“The inaugural Winter Blooming Festival held in that same year was a celebration of diversity, community, and culture and established the festival’s focus on LGBTIQA+, First Nations and multicultural arts, culture, communities, and allies,” said Ms Parsons.

“Winter Blooming has been shown massive support from the local community with hundreds of people participating in 2021 across the various talks, workshops and always popular After Dark event. The event is produced in partnership with UNE, ACON and Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council. This year’s festival has also been supported with funding from Create NSW, Aurora, Give Out Day, sponsorship from Comfort Inn and Flirt as well as community contributions.” 

Ms Parsons said Winter Blooming was the only major local intersectional event that provided a platform to LGBTIQ+, First Nations and multicultural people and communities to come together and share their lived experiences, work, creativity and culture. 

“The festival creates a unique and safe space that supports and celebrates diversity, social connection and cultural exchange,” she said. “The festival includes important, challenging, and enlightening discussions that share a diverse range of lived experiences and knowledge from migrant diaspora, Indigenous, queer, and gender-diverse people, creative workshops, the sharing of multicultural food and opportunities for people to come together, socialise and find community. It’s also fun!”

According to the Australian organisation Pride and Diversity, visible signs of LGBTQ inclusion are significantly lower in regional Australia. Only 57 percent of respondents from regional areas said that there were visible signs of LGBTQ inclusion, compared to 71 percent of metropolitan respondents. 

“LGBTQ allies are not as visible in regional areas when compared to city locations,” said Ms Parsons.

“Events like Winter Blooming are especially important in regional communities where there is limited access to services, events and spaces that are safe and supportive of diverse communities. Lack of visibility, community awareness and peer support in the regions can have significant impacts on people’s mental health, social connection, and experiences at work, study and home. 

“Winter Blooming addresses the need for more visibility of LGBTIQA+, multicultural, and Aboriginal voices.”   

The Winter Blooming Festival will run from August 18-20. Visit www.neram.com.au/event/winter-blooming-festival/ for a full list of events and to book tickets.

Top image: participants from last year’s Winter Blooming Festival having a great time (supplied)

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