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5 August, 2021

Blockbuster program for Cairns Festival return

Cairns Festival returns this year with a blockbuster 10-day program bookended by the traditional Grand Parade on the Cairns Esplanade and Carnival on Collins at the Cairns Botanic Gardens.

With a fresh new look and a host of live events, multiple venues across the city will be activated, including the Court House, Munro Martin Parklands (MMP), Esplanade, Cairns Performing Arts Centre (CPAC), Tanks Arts Centre, and the Botanic Gardens.

The program kicks-off on Friday 27 August with “INTRODUCING…” – a collection of live performances by the next generation of local musicians and songwriters on the Esplanade Festival Stage, headlined by Jaguar Jonze and local songstress Amber Farnan.

In a change this year, the Grand Parade, which is on Saturday 28 August, will be going in the reverse direction, starting at Fogarty Park, heading along the Esplanade and finishing at Minnie Street.

Music lovers are in for a treat with headline performances by Missy Higgins (at MMP on 29 August), Tim Rogers (at Tanks on 2 September) and RocKwiz Live (at MMP on 4 September), with tickets available through Ticketlink

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said it was great to see the return the annual event following last year’s cancellation due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and encouraged the community to come out and celebrate.

“I know we will all be looking forward to Festival favourites like the Grand Parade, Carnival on Collins and of course the Fireworks Spectacular on the Esplanade, which always attract thousands of attendees,” Cr Manning said.

“This year’s program is highly diverse and there is an emphasis on community engagement, with live performances, family film nights and art exhibitions.”

In a first, the Court House will play a starring role in this year’s festival as it is transformed into Festival HQ, a one-stop information hub with live music every day from 5.30pm (except 1 September), a licenced bar, special guests and one-off immersive experiences.

“Cairns Festival is one of the key events on the Cairns calendar, and it’s a great way for people to enjoy the relaxed and welcoming part of the world we live in by visiting the city’s numerous entertainment venues,” Cr Manning said. “Council is also proud of its festival program that celebrates our region and provides wonderful opportunities for local artists and performers.”

Cairns-based artist Hayley Gillespie will bring her hilarious roving puppet show Tropical Punch to Carnival on Collins as part of Cairns Festival.

“Cairns Festival encapsulates everything I feel joyful about Cairns and I am so lucky to be a part it some years and I am really looking forward to doing workshops and performances with people of all ages,” Ms Gillespie said.

“We will be roving up and down the street at Carnival on Collins and we will be performing three times on the day.

“We will be set up in an area that is all about local produce and Amber Grossmann (playwright) is performing and has written a special puppet show about local produce.”

Ms Gillespie will also be running free puppet making workshops throughout the day.

Today’s launch coincides with the release of a special Cairns Festival edition of Vibrance, featuring details about all the events taking place.

Download the free Vibrance app on any Apple or android device via Google Play or the App store. It is best used with notifications turned on to ensure you don’t miss exclusive app-only offers. Or pick up a printed copy from Tanks, CPAC or the Court House and selected Tropic magazine stands through the region.

Vibrance can also be read online here:

Cairns Festival 2021 runs from Friday 27 August to Sunday 5 September, with an array of free and ticketed events at a range of locations across the Cairns region.

Visit for event details.


Cairns Festival highlights

Neon Reef, Cairns Esplanade – Friday 27 August to Sunday 5 September

From the creator of Neon Dog Park, which was immensely popular at Cairns Festival 2019, Carla O’Brien’s Neon Reef is an imagined seascape featuring brightly coloured sea creatures who have come out of the ocean and ventured onto the Festival streets. Festival goers are welcome to walk among the creations for a unique sea neon experience.


City Lights, City Library – Friday 27 August to Sunday 5 September

Cairns City Library will be the canvas for Spirit Ark, a new large-scale light projection artwork created by AGB Events in collaboration with renowned local artist, the late Arone Meeks. Spirit Ark is based on Arone’s personal story. A Kuku Midigi man who was raised in Yarrabah and El Arish, Mission Beach, Far North Queensland, Arone’s country was the area around Laura, Cape York.


Grand Parade and Fireworks Spectacular, Cairns Esplanade – Saturday 28 August, 5.30pm to 7.30pm

The popular Grand Parade is arguably the biggest community event on the city’s calendar. This year, the parade will start at Fogarty Park and make its way down the Esplanade to Minnie St. Head to the waterfront at 7.30pm for the Fireworks Spectacular.


Missy Higgins, Munro martin Parklands – Sunday 29 August, from 5pm

Australian Missy Higgins headlines an array of live music performances scheduled for this year’s Festival. The singer/songwriter has enjoyed phenomenal success with her irresistible melodies and ‘arrow through the heart’ lyrics. With a long list of hits, including The Special Two, Ten Days, Where I Stood and Steer, she is a five-time chart-topper and nine-time ARIA Award winner.

The Future Begins Now by Circa, Cairns Esplanade – Friday 3 September, 7pm to 8pm

Created by Benjamin Knapton and Circa, The Future Begins Now brings together a vast cast of eclectic artists and Cairns locals to imagine and enact their visions of the future. A hundred performers, from acrobats to dancers, will collide, collapse and ascend in a free performance that is designed to be experienced with a smartphone and headphones.


Carnival on Collins, Tanks Arts Centre & Cairns Botanic Gardens – Sunday 5 September, 9am to 3pm

Carnival on Collins is a Father’s Day tradition and the finale to Cairns Festival that attracts thousands of visitors. Wander through a garden of tropical delights, surprise street performers, market stalls and free live music.


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