Forte’s guide to WinterWild Festival

Forte’s guide to WinterWild Festival

Far from your average festival, WinterWild is the festival embracing winter head-on. Taking place across August 16 – 18 and August 30 – September 1, WinterWild is embracing themes of ‘visions and ecstasies’, igniting Apollo Bay with flames, music, and dance for audiences in search of adventure and unforgettable experiences.


Festival-goers will be able to groove into darkness at this year’s WinterWild festival with an eclectic music line-up taking over Apollo Bay. Here are a few of the highlights we’d recommend checking out.

First up, a highlight will be when WinterWild presents ‘In From The Storm’ on Saturday, August 17, a 50-year anniversary tribute to Jimi Hendrix’s infamous closing set at Woodstock in 1969. Settle in at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse for an exploration of the music of Hendrix, curated by Michelle Fillmore and the WinterWild Apollo Bay gang and featuring a cast of talented locals and WinterWild artists including The Fillmore Brothers, Alister Turrill Music, The Vacant Smiles, The Refuge, The Passage, The Other Band and Vini Melzac.
Across the second weekend, WinterWild will also celebrate the music of David Bowie with a Width of a Circle at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse. Curated by Michelle Fillmore and featuring a cast of talented locals, this is the perfect excuse to laze away for a few hours.

You’ll also want to bathe in the ethereal, spine-tingling voice of countertenor Max Riebl, who combines his mastery as a baroque musician with the vocal power and presence of a true pop artist. Max Riebl’s Apollo Bay debut includes sacred songs from Handel, Purcell and Bach contrasted with some more profane works from the 20th Century. This one goes down on August 17 from 8pm.

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One of Australia’s most popular rappers, Mantra, will flex his vocals as he entwines soul with a social conscience to explore the power of the word and its universality on August 30. Dubbed the “rapper’s rapper”, Mantra will show why he’s carved out his place on the scene over the last eight years.

If you’re after dosing of local tunes, Apollo Bay’s The Refuge will put on a cracking show. Often compared with bands like Nirvana, The Doors and Silverchair, their signature sound is emitted through their stellar stage presence, which is powerful vocals, staggering guitar riffs, explosive drumming, and killer bass playing. They’ll be playing at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse on August 30 – for free!

That’s not even the half of it though. Music is a big part of this year’s WinterWild so make sure you suss it all out.


Central to the festival this year is DogWatch, a series of events that take place each Friday and Saturday as the days turn into night to symbolise the short watch stood by sailors in the early evening, normally between 6pm and 8pm. Each evening features free outdoor performances leading up to the lighting of a huge bonfire on the foreshore in these same hours, teasing out the themes of the festival.

The highlight will be The Redemption Parts One and Two (Saturdays August 17 & 31), a large-scale parade and performance that tells the story of a strange sea creature hauled up from the ocean depths that changes the town forever. Created by Roderick Poole (founder of Strange Fruit and international street performance veteran) and local artists Eloise Wood and WildHoney, it features mythical fishers and townsfolk in the search for their lost children. For the final part of the story, the Great Ocean Road will be closed as anarchic Melbourne troupe Snuff Puppets join the street party with a bonfire and fireworks. The DogWatch is a free outdoor program and promises to be an event that will change the way you think about the creative heart and mind of rural Victoria.

The festival’s opening on Friday August 16 will be one to get to which sees a Welcome to Country by the bonfire, followed by Indigenous dance troupe Djirri Djirri, while Friday, August 30 will feature rapper and spoken word guru Mantra, along with Indigenous artist Sheree Stewart’s ironic take on white Australia titled Advance Australia Fair.


A highlight of the vivid program focused on the idea of peering into the darkness for inspiration, revelations and surprises is, of course, the projection art, dance and mindful experiences.

A standout event in this vain includes Visions of Excess, which combines kaleidoscopic visions and mind-altering reverberation with a curation of some of Melbourne’s finest psychedelic face-melters and shoegazers including The Black Heart Death Cult and Flyying Colours. Held at Apollo Bay’s oldest venue ‘The Mech’, the night (Saturday, August 17) will be further filled with vintage light projection from Electric Light Brigade and will host a side room of performances and obscurities curated by Samaan Fieck, in what promises to be an immersive blend of projections, lights and sounds.

Bordering falling under the music category, guests are encouraged to enter the dark and blissful Moon Garden for a dance party that celebrates the end of winter and bloom with the birth of spring on Saturday, August 31. Held by the water at the Apollo Bay Sailing Club and curated by Mythology, Moon Garden features Otologic (Animals Dancing), DJ Kiti, Salvador Darling, Post Percy and DJ Sarah (Interstellar Fugitives) who will keep you moving throughout the night, allowing a gateway to ecstatic visions. The fires will be lit and the bar will be open, but dress warm and be prepared. The giant vagina returns as well, this time drawing us into the sensual pleasures of the moon garden… you’ll have to dive in and move your body to see what we mean.

If you’re looking for an immersive experience in a more mindful way, we’d suggest looking into Shinrin Yoku (Forest Bathing), on Sunday, August 18. Here, visitors will join a guided Forest Bathing, or Shinrin Yoku experience – taking in and “bathing” in the forest energy, documented for its restorative, therapeutic and revitalising properties. More than bushwalking, this is a mindfulness and wellness practice that will expand your awareness and offer you a myriad of health benefits, like reducing stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, whilst boosting your immune system.

If you’re after something a little more educational, Walking on Country is the event to get to on Sunday, September 1. Facilitated by Richard Cornish, John Clarke, Jack Pascoe, and an all-Indigenous panel looks at how we move ahead on Country; and questions how we restore a sense of optimism, meaning and connection given all that has been lost, and all that has been taken.

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For the absolute feast of the year, WinterWild are hosting a ‘Feastiality’ on Saturday 31 August at 8pm as esteemed Ballarat chef Peter Ford pays homage to the pig in this Chinese Year of the Pig through a glorious three-course offering of spit roast, sausages, ham, porchetta, charcuterie, roasted vegetables and local eel in celebration of the ancient river traps of nearby Budj Bim. Sounds pretty mouth-watering huh? Festival goer can expect nothing less than the fruits of a well-loved pig once heavily spoilt in the rolling verdant hills of Wongarra, with a diet of local fruit, vegetables, eggs and acorns from its neighbouring truffiere. To finish sweet lips will be treated to Dooleys specially crafted bacon and honey ice-cream complete with golden syrup dumplings and baked quince… just yum.

Senses will be indulged beyond the belly with a sumptuous spread of entertainment featuring Melbourne’s Snuff Puppets and the risqué burlesque of Ms Janelle Da Silva and Mx. Tonié Field at the urging of MC Richard Cornish who will add the final spice to what promises to be an excessive and memorable evening.

For those seeking a culinary adventure of the plant kind, sister feast Vegetariality will simultaneously take place at Masala Bay Restaurant on Saturday 31 August at 8pm for an eight-course Indian banquet-style feast that’s vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

Festival-goers looking to tuck into something earlier can let their tastebuds loose with The Delicious Bond, for an exploration through the five basic tastes known as ‘Umami’ with leading Australian food writer, author and raconteur Richard Cornish at Great Ocean Road Brewhouse on Saturday 31 August at 3pm.

You’ll want to pre-book for these events; we’d hate to see you and your tastebuds miss out on these succulent offerings!

Death burns #1 SACRIFICE

WinterWild will run across two weekends, Death from August 10–12 and Birth from August 24–26. To see the full lineup and purchase tickets to take a plunge into the sacred and the profane, head to