In December 2000 the Brisbane Cabaret Festival was hatched over a glass of wine between friends. It wasn’t long before the local industry jumped on board. With support from Brisbane City Council and Brisbane Powerhouse, the Brisbane Cabaret Festival launched amidst a flurry of public interest. Audiences took to the idea of watching fast and fearless entertainment accompanied by a glass of red. Performers included: The A to Z of Cabaret, Leah Cotterell and Helen Russell, Margret Roadknight, Geraldine Turner, WIT.
In March of 2002, the festival gained momentum and headed back to Brisbane Powerhouse for another three nights of crowd pleasing entertainment. Not one to miss the party, Arts Queensland combined with Brisbane City Council and funded our fabulous event. Performers included: Sandro Collarelli, Judy Connelly, Barb Fordham, Lil Fi, Michael Hibbard, Queenie Van der Zandt and Velma Vegas. 2003 was the year we transformed the City Hall Grand Ballroom into a sumptuous cabaret venue staging the A to Z of Cabaret for a Lord Mayor’s Special Concert Event. One week later Brisbane Powerhouse was lit up once again with an incomparable program of consummate performers. Performers included: Brian Cavanagh, Dilapidated Diva, Brides of Frank, Annie Lee, Jeanne Little, Lost Vegas Band, Mark McInnes and The John Rogers Show.
The 2004 Brisbane Cabaret Festival kicked off with a rocking prologue… the massive Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars concert event at the Tivoli had punters grooving away long into the wee hours of the morning, followed by two more big nights at Brisbane Powerhouse. Now in its fifth year the 2005 festival had become a must-see in the cultural calendar. Performers included: Pearly Black, Alison St Ledger, Lil Fi, Sandro Collarelli, Eddie Perfect, Ric Lau, Tyrone Noonan, Carita Farrer and headlining crooner Frank Bennett. Another highlight was the ethereal Paul Capsis and Tom Waits For No Manfeaturing four of Brisbane’s finest exponents of cabaret: Greg Bird, Pearly Black, Sandro Collarelli and Alison St Ledger. The Festival gained a strategic partnerships with HLB Mann Judd, Arts Queensland, BCC, Brisbane Powerhouse, Judith Wright Centre and West End Cabaret making it a multi-venue event over two weeks.
In October 2007, the seventh HLB Mann Judd Brisbane Cabaret Festival presented a packed program of renegade music, incisive comedy, and decadently dramatic divas. Featuring international cabaret sensation Caroline O’Connor, the award winning Tom Waits For No Man ensemble, Martin Martini and the Bone Palace Orchestra, Meret Becker and Ars Vitalis, Meow Meow, Polytoxic and The Brides of Frank, Sammy J, Liz Buchanan, the Brisbane Powerhouse rocked, cabaret style. 2008 saw the Brisbane Cabaret Festival find a new home at the top end of town. The QPAC program celebrated contemporary cabaret and all that it encompasses. Cracking comedy and political satire, exotic music from European traditions, local luminaries shining the light on the darker recesses of the soul, celebrations of song and visual delights. Kitschy and quirky. Sparkling. Sexy and sophisticated. The 2008 BCF had it all!
In 2009 the BCF took a break to regroup and rebuild after the impact of the Global Financial Crisis. The Brisbane Cabaret Festival returned to QPAC and the Judith Wright Centre in 2010 in triumphant style with an unparalleled program featuring Denise Scott, Ross Wilson, Ursula Yovich, John Waters, Bob Downe, and great entertainers from around the world such as Ennio Marchetto, Caroline Ninn and Earl Okin. It was a huge success and it seemed like the only way for the BCF was up! However in January of 2011 Brisbane experienced its worst floods since 1974 and our major venue partner QPAC, situated right on the river, was severely impacted. It was time to regroup once more for the BCF.
2012 was time for a major come-back and with the unfailing support of the Brisbane City Council and a crowd funding campaign the 2012 festival was a real one-of-a-kind. Presented over three weeks at some of Brisbane’s best established and new cabaret venues including The Judith Wright Centre, Tribal Theatre, The Old Museum and Stockholm Syndrome, theBrisbane Cabaret Festival stretched out over the city and traversed the broad church of cabaret styles from classic cabaret to contemporary, burlesque to comedy cabaret and everything in between. Festival highlights included, Tripod, The Kransky Sisters and long awaited return of Women in Voice. It was huge. So huge, in fact, that we decided to take a year off to rest up before launching our third and final come back and it was bigger than Elvis’ 1968 special!
In 2015 it was presented by Queensland Cabaret Foundation and Brisbane Powerhouse in partnership with Queensland Performing Arts Centre. The festival took place at Brisbane Powerhouse, QPAC, Queensland Conservatorium, Judith Wright Centre, and Ipswich Civic Centre’s Studio 188, and reached out to the regions with performances at the Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre and Cairns Civic Theatre.
Queensland Cabaret Festival continues its journey in 2016 with a star- studded line-up including Molly Ringwald, Megan Hilty, Harry Shearer and Judith Owen and Grammy award winning vocalist Lisa Fischer. We welcome cabaret greats Barb Jungr, Mark Nadler and Michael Griffiths, along with local legends like Carol Lloyd Warmwaters and a who's who of the Brisbane music scene giving us a show-stopping tribute to the late, great David Bowie.