The First One

Tasmania has cemented its place in the Winter Festival stakes, a  new way to celebrate winter has arrived. There’s a Festival menue for all, make a recipe with all the ingredients that suit your taste. Fine food, beer, Cider and wine are a major part of all the Mid Winter Festivals in Tasmania, although the themes and subject matter vary. The first one is DarkMofo, the winter version of MONAFOMA an acronym for  [The Museum of Old and New Art-Festival Of Music and Art] is probably the most well known. When it first arrived in 2013, traditional Hobart sensed something a little different.

The headline act was a 15km high light installation called ‘The Spectra’ along with the ‘Zee’ a psychedelic light installation that  caused controversy after several people suffered seizures and the installation was briefly shutting down while authorities investigated. There was a mauve coloured Ferris wheel, fire, food, beer and wine. Of course then there was the large Rabbit.

This was different, David Walsh the enigmatic businessman and gambler had just achieved something politicians and businessman had been trying to do for years. Put us on the map, the map of Tassie!

The event continues to court controversy in 2018 after authorities received petitions from the Christian lobby to remove a series of inverted crosses placed around the Hobart waterfront and environs.

The Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival comes a close second to DarkMoFo. The Festival is held at Willie Smiths Apple Shed and is located in the Tasmania’s Huon Valley, an area renowned for its apple and Cider production.

The event is framed around ancient mythology, the ‘Wassailling’, a ceremony performed to scare of bad spirits from the orchards cider trees and ensure a bumper crop.

The Huon Valley Festival provokes traditional themes where the punters dress in colourful regalia, enjoy bonfires, Morris dancers, music, fine wine and Cider. The Wassail Ceremony and it’s incantation stretches back to pagan times, It fits in with the cider and the way the seasons work. This is basically the end of the winter season, the dark season and the beginning of spring.

This is all part of bringing together centuries old traditions surrounding cider making and resurrecting many of the apples varieties which have started to enjoy new popularity in Australia.

The event is held over the Mid July weekend and dovetails the old with the new and all Willie Smith a traditional grower and producer have to offer to the new Cider Makers and growers of the Huon Valley, Tasmania.

Mike Briggs, Hobart TAS | July 2018