Mine town to boom again

Art lovers to de­scend on Queen­stown for Un­con­for­mity fes­ti­val

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWSFRONT - LINDA SMITH

HO­TELS, mo­tels and B&Bs are fully booked in Queen­stown for next week­end.

Mean­while, restaurants and cafes are busily or­der­ing ex­tra stock to meet the ex­pected 180 per cent jump in trade. It’s a sim­i­lar story in other West Coast towns in­clud­ing Zee­han and Strahan, which are also ex­pected to reach ca­pac­ity.

The Un­con­for­mity arts fes­ti­val, which kicks off on Fri­day, has thrust this re­mote re­gion of Tas­ma­nia into the spot­light, cap­tur­ing the at­ten­tion of art lovers lo­cally, in­ter­state and over­seas.

Or­gan­is­ers of arts fes­ti­vals across Europe are mak­ing a bee­line for the state to check out The Un­con­for­mity’s of­fer­ings, along with artis­tic direc­tors from prom­i­nent arts or­gan­i­sa­tions within Aus­tralia.

In­ter­state vis­i­tors who at­tend the fes­ti­val typ­i­cally stay in Tas­ma­nia an av­er­age of eight days, with fes­ti­val pa­trons in­ject­ing $600,000 into the West Coast econ­omy. About 60 per cent of Tas­ma­nian fes­ti­val-goers hail from Ho­bart. Putting on the bi­en­nial fes­ti­val, in a town de­void of cul­tural in­fras­truc­ture, has proved a chal­lenge at times for artis­tic di­rec­tor Travis Tiddy.

But he says that’s ex­actly what makes the fes­ti­val unique.

In­spired by the rare ge­o­log­i­cal un­con­for­mity and re­mark­able cul­tural para­doxes of Tas­ma­nia’s West Coast min­ing com­mu­ni­ties, the fes­ti­val takes un­likely spa­ces — like an old lime­stone quarry, a scout hall, a gravel foot­ball oval, al­ley­ways, walk­ing tracks, a riverbed and shop win­dows — and trans­forms them into cul­tural hot­beds.

Mr Tiddy said the town was buzzing as The Un­con­for­mity draws closer. “With it be­ing only one week away there is an air of ex­pec­ta­tion in Queen­stown,’’ he said.

“Some busi­nesses have been try­ing to spruce up shopfronts ... just get­ting ev­ery­thing ready for this sig­nif­i­cant at­ten­tion that’s about to be put on Queen­stown. It has been a fairly slow win­ter for the re­tail sec­tor ... in Queen­stown, so a lot of busi­nesses we talk to are see­ing it as a kick­start into the tourist sea­son.’’

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