The Australian | 27th July 2018
It is the cultural heart that reveals the Darling Downs’ community spirit.
Southern Queensland’s arts and cultural scene is said to punch above its weight, including picnic performances attracting thousands to see opera, emerging public art and open-air rock concerts.
Building on a tradition of music groups in Toowoomba and performances for more than a century, new festivals are planned to bring tourists and locals to the blue-sky surrounds.
University of Southern Queensland professor and head of the arts and communication school, Rhoderick McNeill, says the region has long been an arts hub with a creative culture, pointing to its enduring local classical music groups and its innovative festivals.
Western Downs’ historic Jimbour Station hosts one of Australia’s biggest music events, Opera at Jimbour, that brings up to 10,000 guests to the sandstone property to watch the performance from their picnic blankets.
Planning for the biennial performance — which last year featured David Hobson and Emily Burke in The Merry Widow — is under way as part of the Queensland Music Festival for July 2019. Burke also starred in Fledermaus in 2015.
“[Arts] brings the city a sense of identity and wellbeing,” he says. “The cultural activities in the place are a good barometer of how happy and content a place is.”
And after May’s biggest rock concert west of the Great Dividing Range — the Western Downs’ Day on the Plains, part of the 10-day Blue Skies Festival — the region will soon display its contemporary arts bona fides with a light-installation festival.