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Events & Festivals

Wardarnji indigenous cultural festival|Blessing of the Fleet procession|Kraken at Bathers Beach

Fremantle invites you to come to the fire

Fremantle Festival returns this year with a series of events bringing people together in a celebration of community. Immerse yourself in the colour and pageantry of the Blessing of the Fleet, discover the beauty of Australian Indigenous culture at Wardarnji or bring the family down to a blaze on the beach with the return of Kraken.

Wardarnji is a dynamic experience of Nyoongar storytelling and dance.

For the first time, the City of Fremantle presents Karla-k Koorling, Come to the Fire, inviting audiences to gather around many fires to enjoy intimate performances, including song, spoken word, puppetry and dance. This is a taste of what’s to come, with the Fremantle Festival set to move to the depths of winter in 2019, with a ten-day immersive experience of wild art and hidden treasures. Intimate spaces, port history and cosy corners make Fremantle an ideal place for a winter festival.  This year’s three-day festival format will pave the way for the transition to an expanded ten-day format in winter in 2019. 

Now in its 113th year, Fremantle Festival is Australia’s longest running festival and continues to evolve as a celebration of one of the most unique cities in the world and its extraordinary community. 

Wardarnji26 October, 6.30 pm (gates open 5.30 pm), Fremantle Arts Centre

Let the beauty of the oldest songs, dances and language in the world transport you to another place, as fires burn long into the evening and people come together to celebrate Indigenous Australian culture. Wardarnji is a dynamic experience of Nyoongar storytelling and dance.

Blessing of the Fleet28 October, from 2 pm, procession begins at St Patrick’s Basilica

Watch the pageantry and splendour of the Blessing of the Fleet as this annual procession makes its way from St Patrick’s Basilica to Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display at 8 pm. The Blessing of the Fleet is a tradition that began centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities to ensure a safe and bountiful fishing season. First celebrated in WA by an Italian migrant fisherman, the historical port of Fremantle has been the backdrop to the tradition for 70 years.

Kraken3 November, from 1 pm, Bathers Beach & Arthur Head

Kraken is a blaze on Bather’s Beach centered around the Kraken effigy – a sea monster emerging from the sands. Kraken is a free community event that delivers a small taste of the Blazing Swan Festival presented by the Fremantle based Blazing Swan Inc. Each year this not-for-profit organisation produces the regional Burning Man in Kulin, Western Australia. Surrounding Bather’s Beach the Blazing Swan theme camps offer entertainment and food. 

You are invited to wander the fires enjoying the elements and the voices of Fremantle.

Karla-k Koorling, Come to the Fire3 November, from 6 pm, Maritime Tafe Carpark, Fleet Street

As the sun sets over the Indian Ocean we will light fires to bring together the people of Fremantle. Between the river and sea we will gather, the fires will light the way, keep us warm and centre our community stories. Each fire will host a performance of song, spoken word, puppetry or dance. You are invited to wander the fires enjoying the elements and the voices of Fremantle.

The 2018 Fremantle Festival will run on 26 October, 28 October and 3 November, with a series of free community events. For more information, visit –

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Hidden Treasures Winter Music Series|The Tram|Feels|Jamilla|Your Girl Pho

Hidden Treasures

If it’s Thursday night and it’s July, you might feel a strong pull towards one of Freo’s quirky West End venues.

It could be the joyful vibe coming out of the Navy Club, say, or some pop brilliance spilling from the Buffalo Club or the National Hotel. Maybe there’s a catchy acoustic tune trailing from a tram headed for the lighthouse, carrying a happy mix of Millennials, hipsters and old rockers.

Curious? That’ll be Hidden Treasures, the festival that’s been warming up winter in Freo for eight years running.

The whole of the West End comes alive with people walking between off-beat venues on a single $20 ticket, listening to everything from hot new local bands to established national treasures.”

Hidden Treasures Winter Music Series is like no other music event,” says curator Bruna Chiovitti. “It has a special feel to it. The whole of the West End comes alive with people walking between off-beat venues on a single $20 ticket, listening to everything from hot new local bands to established national treasures.”

One highlight of this year’s festival is Abbe May, who will headline an evening dedicated to the launch of a new book, Freo Groove. Written by local writers and musos Bill Lawrie and Claire Moody, it features a raft of much loved Fremantle musicians who have prevailed through many decades. Jim Fisher, Lucky Oceans, Dave Johnston – expect to see some familiar faces around the festival. Maybe some world famous ones as well.

Because The Night Belongs to Lovers is another must-see. Musical couples will take to the stage in an ode to love, performing their own songs, favourite love songs, songs that were playing when they met, or songs that remind them of their love. See Jeff and Kirri Strong, Joe Kapiteyn and Rachel Dease, Jill Birt and Alsy McDonald, Lee Sappho and Wayne Green, Daniel and Sarah Durack, and Gemma and Myles Durham. If you’re not feeling the love by the end, maybe check your pulse.

Fans of new local music are spoilt for choice by the lineup. WAMI Award winners Feels are on the bill, along with Nerve Quakes, Downsyde and Leopard Lake. There’s punk stylings from The Bible Bashers, The Debbie Downers, Last Quokka and Axe Girl. Heart stirring stuff comes courtesy of Emlyn Johnson, the Koondarm Choir, the HeebieJeebies and the Norfolk Pines. Terrible Signal released one of the most beautiful albums this year, and their Hidden Treasures performance is much anticipated.

As always at Hidden Treasures, the combination of venue and music creates an undeniable magic.

There’s also a new secret venue in this year’s event. Even long time Freo locals are likely to find this alluring – a rare chance to see inside an old institution. As always at Hidden Treasures, the combination of venue and music creates an undeniable magic.

For the full lineup go to

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Declan O'Rourke|Fiona Rea|Rob Zielinski|The last convict ship sent to Australia, the Hougoumont

Fenians Fremantle and Freedom Festival 2018

Music lovers are in for a veritable feast throughout the ten days of the Fenians Fremantle and Freedom Festival. International acts and local artists will converge on our port city in a program put together by Fremantle’s own music legend, the double Grammy award-winning Lucky Oceans, and fellow musician Donough O’Donovan.

Headliners Martin Hayes and Declan O’Rourke both accepted invitations to perform because of the historical importance of the event - celebrating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the last convict ship to Australia, the Hougoumont, carrying 62 Irish Fenians.

Internationally renowned Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, one of the finest guitarists in traditional Irish music, are considered one of Irish music's most acclaimed duos of all time. Their adventurous, soulful interpretations of traditional tunes fittingly open the Festival at the John Curtin Auditorium on Friday 5 January. It’s a rare opportunity to hear traditional Irish music performed by masters of the genre. Aria award winner, songbird and folkloric explorer Kavisha Mazella returns home to support Hayes and Cahill in concert.


Irish folk sensation Declan O’Rourke, will play songs from across his career in his two concert performances, including a selection from his latest album, ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’. He will pen a song in commemoration of the of the arrival of the military Fenians in 1868.

There are plenty of quotes about Martin and Dennis for example:  "Martin Hayes is one of the best fiddlers on the planet. Dennis Cahill is a subtle guitar master. Put aside your notion of Irish music...and just listen." NPR.

Declan is supported in his concert at the WA maritime Museum on 11 January by Fiona Rea whose songs are influenced by her Irish heritage and a lifelong love of music and its power to reach people. Rob Zielinski, supports Declan on 13 January at the John Curtin College of the Arts Theatre. Rob is a Perth based traditional Irish musician who will feature some lively jigs, reels, hornpipes, strathspeys and haunting slow airs.

Singer Aminah Hughes returns home from Ireland to share with us a collection of enchanting songs, both new and old, written during her time there along with some of her favourite songs from the Emerald Isle.  Award winning poet and storyteller Jaya Penelope- a descendant of Fenian, James Kearney, transported to Fremantle in 1867 on board the Hougoumont joins Aminah in performance on 7 January at Kidogo Arthouse.

The next day ‘The Last Convict Ship’, a selection of stories and songs by one of Perth’s leading experts on Australian Fenian history, renowned Irish musician Brendan Woods will be performed at the Hougoumont Hotel in Bannister Street.


The Lucky Oceans and his Gaelic Gumbo Band will explore new creations mixing Irish and Louisiana sounds. Be the first to hear the world premiere of a band and repertoire made exclusively for the festival at Kidogo Arthouse on 12 January. Kidogo’s Kelp Bar will be running throughout the festival and will be home to spontaneous musical performances featuring Festival acts and local musicians.

The closing event and street party ‘The Feast of The Wild Goose’ features entertainment by the Freo’s own Rogues, playing their very own brand of Pogues magic to celebrate the end of an incredible ten days of Irish music.

Festival Program  

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Wardarnji Festival - photo Rachael Barrett|Rapunzel by Holly Story|Crucial Rockers

It's Fremantle festival time

Expect a lot from the Fremantle Festival (27 October to 5 November). It’s not just a celebration of Fremantle–place, people and culture. The 10-day boutique festival also features festivals within the festival.

High Tide, for example. Fremantle’s inaugural visual arts biennale leads the charge in the programming of high quality, thought provoking events–around 60 in all. Music, comedy, performance, visual arts and talks are all in the mix of free and ticketed offerings.

...immerse yourself in visual art, absorb some of the best Australian music or bring your family to Fremantle for a day of fun, the 2017 Fremantle Festival really does offer something for everyone...

Ports have always been places of transition–the exchange of goods and ideas; the ebb and flow of people. High Tide emerges from this context, and the brand new visual arts biennale will include an impressive range of site–responsive works from both local and international artists.

Forget small canvases; the buildings along Fremantle’s High Street will be the backdrop for Swiss artist Felice Varini as he brings his internationally–renowned ‘optical illusion’ art to this year’s festival. Varini will create a large scale exterior artwork spanning 800 metres of High Street.

In addition to a stellar visual arts program, the Fremantle Festival boasts an impressive line–up of Australian musicians including The Jezabels and local favourites Koi Child, while Justin Townes Earle (USA) will bring an international flair, with support from Joshua Hedley and Ruby Boots.

The beauty of the oldest songs, dances and language in the world will transport audiences to another place, as fires burn long into the evening and people come together to celebrate Indigenous Australian culture. The Wardarnji Festival opens the Fremantle Festival once again with a dynamic display of Nyoongar music, dance and storytelling on the South Lawn of Fremantle Arts Centre.

Representing good, honest and quirky Australian humour, Frank Woodley and Sam Simmons will each stage stand–up comedy shows to tickle the funny bones of attending audiences.


City of Fremantle Festivals Coordinator, Kathryn Taylor, says the combination of over 60 events and experiences, and Fremantle’s unflagging appetite for the arts, conspire to make this year’s event program one of the most impressive.

“We’re very proud to bring to life a Festival that will provide a platform for so many levels of creativity. Whether you want to immerse yourself in visual art, absorb some of the best Australian music or bring your family to Fremantle for a day of fun, the 2017 Fremantle Festival really does offer something for everyone,” she says.

Alongside the huge range of performances, Kings Square will host community events such as The Great Fremantle Race, with a pop-up bar that will run all festival long.

A full program of events can be found at

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Hell's Cockies perform at FISAF 2017|Romantic Botanic (UK)|Boucherie Bacul (Belgium)|Te Odiero|What's Next (Canada)

Fremantle International Street Arts Festival 2017

The Fremantle International Street Arts Festival (FISAF), held over the Easter long weekend every year, offers locals and visitors alike an up close and personal experience of the world’s best street theatre in the most iconic and unusual of settings.

It’s all that we love about Freo, amplified by 100–the alfresco dining and relaxed atmosphere, the arts and culture, local characters and live performance in the streets.

In its 19th year, FISAF continues its evolution as Australia’s only dedicated street theatre festival, bringing artists from the Netherlands, Spain, Hungary, New Zealand, the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Lithuania, Belgium and Japan to be a part of the action.

For the first time this year, the festival will be running a full program of entertainment at the Esplanade Reserve and surrounding areas on Good Friday. The fabulous interactive tour, Romantic Botanic will lead people from the Fremantle Prison to the Esplanade Reserve on a journey through the love life of our local natural fauna. Specially commissioned for FISAF, the tour will run on Friday and every day throughout the festival.

The entertainment continues after dark on Saturday and Sunday evenings. As the sun goes down each day, the street heats up with lively bands, spectacular fire shows and crazy roving antics making their way among diners and revellers to create a carnival vibe.

Making a comeback to FISAF 2017 is the much-loved Busker’s Cabaret, featuring all your favourite street performers doing the salacious bits they aren’t allowed to do on the streets. Hosted by the outrageous duo, Daredevil Chicken and held in the beautiful Fremantle Town Hall with a full bar, it’s sure to be an over-18s highlight.

Possibly one of the most daring and hilarious acts of this year’s festival is the Belgian butchers, Boucherie Bacul. From their unassuming mobile food van, they will be carving up tasty treats without a joint of meat in sight. Spanish dancers HURyCAN will be pushing the line between love and exasperation in their piece Te Odiero and Witty Look present their Guinness World Record-holding cartoon comedy.

Quatour Stomp will be bringing their acrobatic skills all the way from Canada for the ultimate audience participation show, What’s Next? The roll of a dice decides which tricks form part of the show, meaning even the performers won’t know how it will play out.

Kicking off the entire festival is the ever-popular opening night at Fremantle Arts Centre. Select performers and musicians will be giving a sneak peak of what to expect over the weekend in the relaxed party atmosphere of the courtyard. It’s the perfect way to start four days of FISAF fun!

Fremantle International Street Arts Festival 13–17 April 2017. Check out this year's performers and download a copy of the program here

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Fremantle's cappuccino strip during the street arts festival|Opening night at Fremantle Arts Centre|Fremantle Visitor Centre, Kings Square|Sunset at Bathers Beach|Rub shoulders with performers at Esplanade Hotel Fremantle|West End Weekender|Bread in Common (image Jarrad Seng)

Spend the Easter weekend in Freo

Fremantle International Street Arts Festival (FISAF), held over the Easter long weekend (13-17 April 2017), offers an up close and personal experience of the world’s best street theatre in one of Australia’s most iconic port cities.

Performers, hand-picked and direct from festivals around the world, descend on Fremantle, Western Australia, to present a rip roaring weekend of entertainment, mayhem, comedy, satire and lots of laughs.

It’s a long weekend of awe-inspiring shows from the outrageous and boisterous in front of captivated crowds right through to intimate performances for a few.

Between the two you’ll encounter roving acts that pop up anywhere and anytime; punk rock cockatoos in biker jackets cheekily vying for drinks, a plastic green army man come to life and giant sniffer dogs sniffing out trouble…

But absolutely the best thing about this Easter weekend is the vibe, and the only way to get that is to come and experience it for yourself.

The festival kicks off officially on Thursday 13 April with an opening night at Fremantle Arts Centre. It’ll give you a bit of a taster of what’s to come. For the first time there will be performances on Good Friday (14 April) at Cicerello’s Pitch and Esplanade Reserve.

With flights a plenty to Western Australia all you need to do is book accommodation on your doorstep to the festival. The team at Fremantle’s Visitor Centre know all the best places, or stay at the official festival hotel, Esplanade Hotel Fremantle–by Rydges, where you’ll rub shoulders with the FISAF performers. Use promo code PROMO17 for a special offer of $199 per night for the FISAF weekend.

There’ll be plenty happening every day and into the evenings but make time for an Indian Ocean sunset at Western Australia’s only beach bar, Bathers Beach House on Bathers Beach, explore the amazing street art (work) around Fremantle with a self–guided walking tour or hang out in the heritage listed West End Precinct at the West End Weekender with chill out zones, activities for kids, live music and the Easter Food Market.

Fremantle is a hip foodie destination and the variety of places to eat is mouth watering and eclectic. Take your pick from small bars offering delicious shared plates, restaurants & cafés serving up taste sensations with the freshest local ingredients like Strange CompanyRaw Kitchen, Moore & Moore Café, Bread in Common & Kazoomies on Victoria Quay and there’s plenty more to try. Have a look at our eat & drink pages for some more suggestions.

Not sold yet? Look out for our latest FISAF blog post for the heads up on must see acts or check the special events page for a full list of performers and download the official FISAF program. It’s going to be an awesome festival.

See you in Freo!

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Songs of the Suburbs, Songs of the Sea|Race Against Time|The Secret in the Wings|Songs, Travel and Journeys|Mbira Masters of Zimbabwe

Hidden gems of Fremantle Festival

Okay, so you’ve booked your tickets to the big names at this year’s festival, the likes of Bernard Fanning, Waleed Aly or Dan Sultan but in true Freo style you only need to scratch the surface and there’s way more to discover.

Fremantle Festival is moving to be a fully curated arts festival where all shows are selected to resonate with this place. In some cases the Fremantle Festival is the only place you can catch these quirky and unique performances.

With that in mind we’ve found five hidden gems at stunning Fremantle venues that we think you need to see...

The Secret in the Wings | 26 October–29 October

Funny, fierce and fantastical, The Secret in the Wings is filled with stories of love, cruelty and transformation. Fusing drama, puppetry and live music into a highly visual performance framed by the classic story Beauty and the Beast, this visually-intriguing performance explores the most profound lesson of fairy tales: that you must love a thing before it is lovable.

Race Against Time | Sunday 30 October

Race Against Time presents the poignant times and moving music of a little known Great War soldier composer: Australian Frederick Septimus Kelly. A gold medal Olympian rower, awarded soldier, renowned pianist and brilliant composer–this performance will tell the story of how Kelly persisted with his composing before meeting his demise on the Somme.

Letters and diaries sensitively woven with the sublime music Kelly composed at war will be presented at the Fremantle Town Hall at this Western Australian exclusive event.

Songs, Travel and Journeys | Sunday 30 October

Mezzo Soprano Linda Barcan and pianist Chris van Tuinen interlock poetry and music in a deeply moving song cycle of discovery, loss and redemption. Beautifully backgrounded by the resonant acoustics of St John’s Anglican Church, Songs, Travels and Journeys is a suite of classical music fit for a port town.

Songs of the Suburbs, Songs of the Sea | Wednesday 2 November

Kav Temperley (Eskimo Joe) fetches together some of Perth and Fremantle’s most distinguished tunesmiths and storytellers – amongst them MC Empty, the succulent Lucy Peach and legend Steve Parkin – for a profound and intimate night that weaves our streets, landscapes and lives together in a revealing musical portrait of a city.

Mbira Masters of Zimbabwe | Friday 4 November

Garikayi Tirikoti is a renowned master and innovator of the Zimbabwean thumb piano, the 'mbira'. Born into a family of traditional Shona healers in Zimbabwe, he began learning at a young age the cultural significance and application of the mbira through participating in all night 'bira' ceremonies with his elders. You can see Garikayi and his son Reason at the beautiful St John’s Anglican Church.


Fremantle Festival is on from 28 October through to 6 November. View a full program here.

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|Bernard Fanning - image Cybele Malinowski|Clementine Ford|C.W. Stoneking|St Georges Cathedral Consort

Fremantle Festival essay

A foghorn betrays the silence. There are things moving out there, beyond the roily black frontier. Living things. A ship pulls in, its souls hungry for wine and song. And another ship pulls out with its cargo and secrets bound tight, back to the immunity of the sea.

Such is the ordinance of a port city–a place of eternal transaction and ferment. A confluence of ideation and imagination. A reservoir of stories from both within and from the furthest known realms. For what are we but parables and potboilers? Civilisations rise and, without exception, civilisations crumble. And all we have left to pick over, amidst the hysterical gulls, are the ruins...ruins and, of course, stories. Stories both long and tall. Stories so pungent even the stubborn Freo Doctor couldn’t chase them to cure.

Fremantle is trussed together with such stories–a gritty epoxy, made up of one part limestone, two parts water, three parts ramblin’. It comes with the territory of being a frontier place at the extremities of land, water and imagination. Like Ptolemy’s Alexandria and Jonah’s Jaffa, Fremantle is–by default of this frontier status–a place where time begins and time ends. A city eternally betrothed to mystery and chimera–a pedigree that traces back to time immemorial. To Walyalup, the everlasting ganglion of song and ritual. Of lore and diffusion.

Gone are the days of searching out borrowed myths and second-hand applause–as those that came before. There is gold and bone dust enough strewn here amidst the sonorous streets to fuel an eternity of dreams–and songs plenty enough to rouse us from our reverie. For these streets wear their shadows like skin. Every pockmarked brick the bearer of a secret, every half-drawn curtain witness to an extraordinary tale. The old merchant manors groan heavy with knowing that our time is now.

Art, too, resides at life’s very frontiers–frantically searching out hairline cracks in the grandiose illusion. Panning for ultimate truths in that brackish creek of gold dust that eternally leads to no place in particular. Art dares to stare down the loaded barrel of a burning sun–the blinding utopian illusion, the perennial trick of the light–to remind us that salt stings, sun burns, silence deafens and ennui beseeches revolt.

And it’s here and now where we find ourselves, at a milepost in this narrative–a moment of reflection, revelry and re-imagination. It’s a thrilling proposition indeed, and fittingly the Fremantle Festival brings us to the cultural precipice with its most ambitious and germane program yet. We invite you to stay a while. To explore and consider. To holler and dance. But, more so, we invite you to join us here upon the spirituous communal stage that is Freo–and be a part of the story.

Julian Tompkin

Tickets on sale for Fremantle Festival 2016, view the full program here.

Julian Tompkin
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Related image for LIVE - Fremantle Winter Festival

LIVE - Fremantle Winter Festival

Tune in here on Thursday 30 June  at 3.30pm for Fremantle story's LIVE stream at the Fremantle Winter Festival ice rink on Esplanade Reserve. Watch the graceful and not so graceful moves of Fremantle and Perth’s best amateur ice skaters, as they waltz, ballet, donut, pancake, corkscrew, leg split and slide their way across the ice. Be amazed by the miniature skating penguins as they tow kids and adults around the rink. 

Tune in to our LIVE stream

Thursday, 30 June 2016 3:30 to 4:30 pm AWST


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