After a scaled back event in 2020 due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Festival was organised with a full program of over 350 shows. The first event on the festival calendar was scheduled for Wednesday 30th June. On Tuesday 29th it was announced that Townsville would go into a 3-day COVID lockdown starting at 6pm that day through to 6pm Friday 2nd July.

With no guarantee of the lockdown lifting and uncertainty around what restrictions QLD health would implement post lockdown, the prospect of having to cancel the entire festival was a possibility.

With lockdown lifted but new restrictions in place, the NAFA team were ready to commence full steam ahead for Saturday 3rd July. However, this was not the case with COVID outbreaks across the country resulting in 97 shows being cancelled.

The team was able to regroup though and still deliver 243 shows with festival attendance numbers just falling short of 27,000!

Dungarri Nya Nya Ngarri Binya

The Wulgurukaba, Bindal, Gugu Badhun and Nywaigi peoples have nurtured a deep and respectful relationship with the land and sea in our region for millennia. Six local First Nations groups – the Wulgurukaba Walabouts, Bug Eye Theatre Dancers, Kmet Dancers, Ibery Sambo, Meriam Dances and Bindal Dancers – came together for the first time in decades to connect, collaborate and co-create a new performance work alongside Dancenorth Australia.

dungarri nya nya ngarri bi nya / now we have arrived

This NAFA commissioned piece was the PAC Australia - APAX 2022 Impact Award Winner in 2022 at the Sydney Opera House.

Messengers of Townsville

Giant Gouldian Finches flew into Townsville to spread messages of hope in July! Created by internationally renowned artist Florentijn Hofman and brought to life by Brisbane’s Urban Art Projects, these spectacularly coloured birds invite you to look up and smile.


A celebration of Wearable Art!!! Featuring Wearable Art Creatives, a performance event highlighting the extraordinary talents of over 30 wearable art artists from across Australia, supported by specialist hair, makeup, lighting an vision artists, and local dance company, Ulysses Dancers.

Also introduced was People, Culture and Country a showcase of cultural storytelling through contemporary, collaborative wearable artworks by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from North Queensland state schools, supported by Big Eye Theatre performers.


Commissioned by NAFA and Umbrella Studios, the Yana Gair Le exhibition brought together contemporary visual art by First nations artists from Countries and Seas across Australia who reside in north Queensland. In the language of the Gurambilbarra Wulgurkaba people, Traditional Owners of Townsville, ‘yana’ means ‘walk’. In Meriam Mer, the language of Mer (Murray Island) people, ‘gair e’ means together. In this exhibition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island artists ‘yana gair le’ – walk together.


Evaluation Report 2021