The city is unfurling like early spring blossom as I head into the Junction Arts Festival (JAF) 2011 launch.
I follow the long line of dreadlocks, fros, coifs, feathers-in-hair into the outrageously colourful big top of the Junc Room where artists, sponsors, politicians, volunteers and eager participants (like me) are rubbing shoulders; figuratively, literally. The formality is there, the speeches, the acknowledgements and thanks, but we're here to welcome in the festival, to experience the entertainment, and to feel a part of something bigger than we do in our everyday lives.
It is food and wine, music and friendships that pass the night. An artist spontaneously pins a handmade badge onto my dress, another passes me a handcrafted fan, another, yet, offers to personally guide me on their art trail through the city the next day.
As I leave the thumping vibe of the Junc Room I sense the subtle shift of anticipation that flows through the city like a familiar pulse from last year. There are people drifting through the streets. Jim Coad's video overlay spins like a neon Wheel of Fortune on the old post office building, reimagining its conservative cloak of brick and mesmerising me with its implicit message of luck and change. Mr Happy Happy shyly greets me as I wait for the traffic lights to change, unassuming in his black-and-white attire, but unmissable and whimsically delightful on the utilitarian steel of the light pole. A chance encounter with Charles Du Cane and I am the thrilled and unexpected recipient of his CD "Port and Rail!" It drives me home with its pumping funky beat as I pass Rossilli Café with its JAF poster in the window advertising the Letter Writing Service. It will be ink and paper, feelings and tears, served with the coffee here over the next four days.
JAF has only launched and already I am reminded of the generosity of the arts: in bringing community together; in entertaining, questioning, provoking, mediating, equalising, remembering; in transforming our public spaces into places of shared meaning and experience. There's something goin' on around here, growls Charles as I head home. I couldn't have said it better.