Season Preview: Your guide to the arts in 2024

When it was built in the 1880s, the Eveleigh Railway Workshops was a hive of human activity. In 2007, when the site was renovated and rebadged as Carriageworks, it was envisaged that the sprawling site – repurposed as a hub for contemporary arts and performance – would be no less active in Sydney’s post-industrial economy.

For a while, it seemed that promise would be realised. It was a major venue for the Sydney Festival events, Australian Fashion Week, Sydney Writers’ Festival and the Biennale of Sydney. It hosted large and medium scale concerts and productions from local and international artists.

But by the late 2010s, however, the venue seemed to be slipping off the cultural map. In May 2020, Carriageworks entered into voluntary administration citing “irreparable” loss of income due to the COVID shutdowns.

Four years later, the venue, though still far from dormant and being used for commercial purposes and a weekly farmers’ market, has yet to regain its vibrancy.

With the appointment last year of Fergus Linehan as Executive Director in 2023, came the hope that Carriageworks would begin to reassert itself as one of Sydney’s culture hotspots. Now, after a five-month review of its operations, Carriageworks has released a program of events and performances that aims to revive the venue’s reputation and fortunes.

The program, from May 2024 into 2025, is divided into seven streams: Sounds, Stages, Moves, Makers, Food, Creative Marketplace and Major Events seasons.

“If Carriageworks is to truly thrive, it needs to be more than a building, it needs to be an idea that is built on an alliance of not just a single community but multiple communities of interest,” Linehan said. “We want to build a community that is big enough and diverse enough to match this beautiful epic building.”

Electric Fields. Photo supplied

Through the Carriageworks Sounds program, it is envisaged that Carriageworks will become a more regular destination for a wider spectrum music fans. Announced shows include a mini residency with hip-hop artist Yasiin Bey (former known as Mos Def), and performances by Electric Fields, Yves Tumor, Emma Donovan and West Australian psychedelic rock band Pond. All will play under the Vivid banner.

Later in the year, for the first time, resident company Sydney Chamber Opera and Opera Australia will join forces, to present the world premiere of a new full-length Australian opera, Gilgamesh by composer Jack Symonds, from 26 September–5 October.

Carriageworks Stages, a program of storytelling and spoken word, opens with Collaborator – A Work In Progress, by the British comedian, theatremaker and semi-regular visitor to Australia Daniel Kitson (30 May–8 June) and a revival season of Belvoir’s award-winning Counting and Cracking (28 June–21 July).

Belvoir’s Counting and Cracking. Photo © Brett Boardman

Griffin Theatre, temporarily without a home venue due to renovations of its Kings Cross base, will present the premiere of Mununjali poet Ellen van Neerven’s swim from 10–27 July.

Cut the Sky, a collision of dance, video, poetry, and song presented by resident company Marrugeku plays from 4–13 July.

Carriageworks Moves marks the beginning of summer with a collection of dance, cirque and cabaret throughout November and December. From mid-November, a Secret Garden will take root within the precinct with an ornate Speigeltent as its centrepiece. The full details and program for the Secret Garden will be announced later in the year.

Physical theatre and circus company Gravity & Other Myths will present A Simple Space from 5–9 November. Brisbane’s Circa will target family audiences with its whimsical Carnival of the Animals from 20–31 December.

In dance, First Nations dance company Jannawi Dance Clan will present the female-led immersive performance Garrigarrang Badu, the first-ever full-length dance work in Dharug language, in a co-presentation with Sydney Festival in January 2025.

Australian choreographer Nick Power will pay tribute to hip hop’s origins with Deejay x Dancer from 14–16 November, NAISDA’s remarkable showcase of young First Nations talent will take to the stage from 21-24 November, and Sydney Dance Company return with their emerging choreographer program New Breed from 4-14 December.

In the Major Events stream will be Australian Fashion Week (13–17 May), Sydney Writers Festival (22–26 May), the Festival of Dangerous Ideas (24–25 August) and Sydney Contemporary (5–8 September).

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