Many music, sport, and culture events in Australia have been cancelled because of COVID-19. The Gold Coast has been able to reduce the numbers of people infected relatively early on and achieved zero infections at an early stage, while in Queensland state, restrictions on the numbers of people in gatherings have been eased one step ahead of other states, and gradually events with large gatherings have started to be held. In mid-November, a festival called Bleach Festival was held. This festival is held over 11-days with events at three locations on the Gold Coast: Burleigh Heads, Chevron Island, and the Botanic Gardens. It grew out of a small event that the organizers, a company called Placemakers*, initially ran in parallel with the Quicksilver Pro surfing competition. The Bleach Festival was launched as an event that people of all ages from the Gold Coast (and tourists of course) would enjoy and has a name that sounds like “Beach.” Live music performances, indigenous dance shows, and talk shows are held in morning and evening sessions, making for events that everyone from children to adults will enjoy. This year, popular British rock band, Bloc Party, came to Australia, and other Australian artists performed on the outdoor stage at Burleigh Heads. Burleigh Heads is immediately to the south of my home suburb, Miami Beach, so I went and had a look, partly for the walk. Although I've lived on the Gold Coast for nearly 20 years, I have actually never been to this event. Mid-November on the Gold Coast is already more like mid-summer than early summer. The temperature gets up to 30 degrees in the day, and towards the end of the month, the cool mornings and evenings have been replaced with balmy summer heat. Burleigh Heads is a place I really like, and it’s also a popular spot for tourists. The venue at Burleigh Heads is all set up outdoors in a park called Justins Park, just in front of the beach. It was relatively windy while events were going on, but the weather was good, perfect for outdoor events. In the evening, the art objects and decorations at the event venue were lit up and they opened a beachside bar, so you can order beer or cocktails, as well as snacks such as Mexican tacos and nachos, and relax while you watch the sea. There were shows by indigenous people from 7 in the morning. You don’t often get to see dances and performances by indigenous Australians, except for events like this. Even at 7:00 am on weekdays, lots of people came to see it, and people going for a walk stopped to listen and take pictures. They set out sand in a circle like a sumo ring, and the artists performed inside the ring. It was a rare thing to see a performance with an indigenous man singing a song and an indigenous didgeridoo player together with a New Zealand Maori woman. The Maori woman sang in a beautiful voice while playing a wind instrument or a crystal bowl. The indigenous man also sang in a very clear, beautiful voice, which you wouldn’t imagine from the way he looked. They burned eucalyptus leaves, which gave off smoke, but the smell of the smoke and the tones of the didgeridoo and the crystal bowl put me in very relaxed mood, like entering a meditative state. Some spectators just idly and quietly looked on, while others had their eyes closed and appeared to be doing a kind of yoga meditation. As well, they have art workshops and warm-up exercise events joined by players from the Suns, the Gold Coast’s team in the Australian Football League, commonly known as the AFL. Some events are ticketed, with a fee, but most of them are free so anyone can watch or participate if they feel like it.
The Bleach Festival was an event that brightened everyone's mood, which has tended to be somber in these COVID-19 times.
A Bleach sign at Burleigh Heads beach
Decorations designed like dreamcatchers
Beach bar on the beach at dusk
A joint performance by indigenous men and a Maori woman
The man sitting and blowing into the thing that looks like a long tube is a performer on the didgeridoo, a traditional indigenous instrument.
A New Zealand Maori woman. She sings while playing a large crystal bowl.