History of the Festival
The Castlemaine State Festival is a biennial ten-day multi-arts celebration that draws on the distinctive culture of the central Victorian goldfields region – of old and new, of the artistic and the agricultural, and its dynamic community strengths. The Festival showcases works from the region’s finest artists and performing arts companies, alongside those by national and international artists.
The Festival began in 1976 through the vision of Berek Segan AM OBE. It has grown to become Australia’s flagship regional arts festival. The Festival preceded any other Victorian arts festivals and has been unique in its scope and diversity, and in its impact on the social and cultural fabric of the Mount Alexander Shire and environs. The Festival program has encompassed visual arts, music, theatre, opera, and dance and has been a major contributor in connecting people and developing enterprise within the regional community.
Many organisations in the community have participated; schools, sporting groups, the local aged care facility, manufacturing and agricultural workers, street rod enthusiasts, musicians, designers, gardeners, heritage specialists, and the myriad of visual artists and artisans who live and work in the district. Each has brought their interests to the Festival, treading pathways to connection, reflection and innovation.
Castlemaine is just 120km north west of Melbourne and 110 km from the Melbourne International Airport. Castlemaine is a sophisticated central Victorian community nestled between Bendigo and Ballarat. Home to the richest shallow alluvial goldfield the world has ever seen and now renowned for the arts, Castlemaine today is a relaxed 21st century city in a stately 19th century setting.
The Festival is held in autumn, a particularly beautiful season in the region, and has become synonymous with the intimacy, relaxed sophistication, vitality, and open creative spirit which so quintessentially defines the town and the Goldfields region. Broad avenues and mature European gardens fit hand in glove with the primarily Victorian and Edwardian architecture, a haven for artists, tourists and locals. This richness and diversity is evidenced by the variety of private studios and galleries that display locally produced art works. Around 400 practising artists have made the region their home.