Powerhouse party: 21st birthday bash a walk down memory lane

The Brisbane Powerhouse has unveiled the lineup for its 21st birthday bash, a 10 day multi-arts festival including performances by Kate Miller-Heidke, george, and a retrospective of 1994 arts festival Tranceplant.

Apr 06, 2021, updated Apr 06, 2021
Tranceplant 1994. (Image: Brisbane Powerhouse)

Tranceplant 1994. (Image: Brisbane Powerhouse)

The 10 day spectacular will include exhibitions, music, and comedy culminating in a 21st Birthday Concert running on closing night.

The headline birthday concert will be hosted by Brisbane comedian Mel Buttle, and feature performances from alt-pop singer Kate-Miller Heidke, ARIA-winner Clare Bowditch, comedian Tom Gleeson, as well as performances from Briefs Factory, William Barton with Camerata, CIRCA, Benjin Maza, Alinta McGrady, and more.

The 21st celebration honours Brisbane Powerhouse’s natural instinct to carve their own path as one of Brisbane’s premier arts precincts.

Artistic Director Kris Stewart said the 21st birthday celebration was a natural fit, especially following the cancellation of their 20th anniversary in 2020 because of COVID-19.

“We’re certainly a glass-half-full bunch at Brisbane Powerhouse, and while a venue might traditionally celebrate its milestones in decades, a 21st celebration feels more appropriate for us,” Stewart said.

“Since it reopened its doors as a celebrated cultural precinct in May 2000, Brisbane Powerhouse has supercharged the careers of thousands of artists.”

Stewart said the celebration will see the return of Brisbane legends who have passed through the doors of the iconic riverside venue over the past two decades.

“We’re extremely proud that so many of them will return as part of our big birthday bash, including alt-pop princess Kate Miller-Heidke, who made her mainstage debut at Brisbane Powerhouse at 18, and legendary Brisbane band george who were the first band ever to play on the Powerhouse Theatre stage.”

george will return to the Powerhouse to perform their 2002 double-platinum album Polyserena in four shows from 6 to 8 May.

“It’s a beautiful full-circle moment to celebrate dual milestones: Brisbane Powerhouse’s 21st birthday and the 20th anniversary of Polyserena’s creation,” Stewart said.

Historical image of the Brisbane Powerhouse (Image: Brisbane Powerhouse)

The celebration will include a retrospective on the first festival held at the then-disused Powerhouse in 1994, Tranceplant.

Tranceplant was a 10 day multi-arts festival held by the directors of Omniscient Gallery, including experimental visual arts from all backgrounds, and providing a legacy the Powerhouse honours to this day.

Brisbane Powerhouse CEO Fiona Maxwell said the event was an important catalyst in the venue’s long history.

Tranceplant was one of those city-defining cultural moments when Australia’s most innovative and experimental visual, installation and performance artists took over the then-abandoned power station and provided a glimpse of what might be possible for the iconic building,” Maxwell said.

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“As the first official ‘festival’ at the precinct – one that inadvertently influenced the flair and flavour of today’s much-loved festivals in the venue and indeed the contemporary, local and often avant-garde programming we are renowned for – it’s important for us to pay homage to Tranceplant with a very special event.”

A digital archive of Tranceplant, the Tranceplant History Project, will be launched during a Writers+Ideas event, moderated by ABC Radio host and InQueensland columnist Rebecca Levingston, who will speak to the original producers and participants Andy Forbes, Jay Younger, and Kiley Gaffney.

The Powerhouse’s history will also be on display with Regenerate, a history exhibition which showcases the building’s 90-year history, taking place from 21 April.

“The story of Brisbane Powerhouse spans much longer than our 21 years as a performance space,” Maxwell said.

“This special exhibition exposes the building’s foundations as a coal-fired power station and reveals its transformation from a derelict industrial space to a cultural icon.

“The final ‘act’ celebrates the thousands of extraordinary Brisbane, Australian and international artists and audiences who have been an integral part of the last 21 years,” Maxwell said.

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said that the Brisbane Powerhouse was a key landmark in Brisbane’s cultural fabric, with over 1200 performances per year.

“We traditionally celebrate 21st birthdays as a coming of age, but the Brisbane Powerhouse has well and truly come of age as our city’s home of contemporary arts,’’ he said.

“Delivering a diverse range of art exhibitions, shows, festivals and performances, it really is a powerhouse of creativity; a powerhouse of culture and the arts; and a powerhouse of community.”

Brisbane Powerhouse’s 21st celebration takes place from 6–15 May, 2021. Tickets go on sale this Thursday, 8 April. For more information, visit the Brisbane Powerhouse website. 

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