North Queensland’s premier arts festival PUNQ unveils 2021 program!

UFO sightings, natural disasters and the plight of the Great Barrier Reef are just some of the inspirations behind this year’s Pop Up North Queensland (PUNQ) festival, which will see Far North Queensland’s natural environments awash with boundary-pushing art and culture from 30 July.

From sugar-cane fields to island beaches, the 10-day festival will take place in some of the world’s most beautiful natural locations, inviting attendees to explore what lies beneath the surface of these seemingly sleepy sites.

The biennial PUNQ festival aims to disrupt perceptions of North Queensland and this year expands from its roots in Wulgurukaba and Bindal Country (Townsville) to include Yunbenun (Magnetic Island), Gudjal Country (Charters Towers) and Warrgamay, Nywaigi & Bandjin Country (Hinchinbrook), partnering with local arts and cultural organisations across the four locations.

In its third iteration, PUNQ 2021 will debut new initiatives including a regional art trail experience and a site-specific artwork commissions program to engage people in surprising ways, guided by established local and interstate artists.

Among the 11 commissioned creators is celebrated Townsville-based visual artist Alison McDonald, whose installation After repurposes reclaimed and restored domestic debris to meditate on the devastating 2019 Townsville floods.

In ephemeral work Preserve/Conserve – Invocation #3: Openness – Going with the Flow, North Queensland artist and environmentalist Jill Chism uses the Shelly Cove shoreline as her canvas to prompt contemplation on the importance of the preservation of marine life and their habitats.

Internationally acclaimed Townsville-based contemporary dance company Dancenorth Australia also features, premiering compelling new work World Interior at a secret CBD location – to be revealed when audiences least expect it.



Outdoor installation Site #272 by Queensland artist David Rowe centres the folklore surrounding UFO sightings, contacts and abductions in regional communities, set on a ground-zero crop circle inside an actual cane field.

Both Ways by Tony Albert, Gail Mabo, Libby Harward and Jupiter Mosman repurposes the humble billboard to illuminate First Nations histories and voices that are often unheard and invisible in mainstream forums.

Inspired by the arrival of shipboard diseases in Australia in the late 1800s, sculptural artist Jenny Mulcahy’s The Mark links past pandemics with the current COVID-19 crisis in a site-specific experience in the grounds of the Magnetic Island History Museum and Craft Centre.

PUNQ Artistic Director Kate O’Hara said the PUNQ 2021 program broadens the festival’s reach and relevance while remaining true to its origins to invigorate the Townsville CBD through artist activations in empty shopfronts.

“Beyond the pop-up and new site-specific commissions, PUNQ will host regional art trails with creative partners in Charters Towers, Ingham and Magnetic Island, taking audiences further into the heart of North Queensland,” Ms O’Hara said.

“We will also run festival bus tours to Charters Towers and Ingham, introduce an emerging First Nations artist program and celebrate our connection to place via First Nations placenames in the program guide.”

Admist ongoing border disruptions, O’Hara said PUNQ provided intrastate visitors an opportunity to experience a unique part of the state in a new light.

“The expansion of the festival program and vision is designed to entice national audiences to experience new commissions by recognised artists and organisations and allow them to have a ‘deep local’ experience with North Queensland creatives and artisans in the pop-up spaces and activations,” O’Hara said.

Townsville Mayor Cr Jenny Hill said there was no better time to visit the region.

“Like artists across Australia, Townsville and North Queensland’s arts communities have been knocked by COVID’s impact and PUNQ is just one way to throw our support behind our hard-working artists,” Cr Hill said.

“The festival is also a boom for Townsville’s economy, especially hotels, restaurants and local shops, and a way to boost numbers across our hospitality sector, which needs the support following the initial impact of COVID-19.

“PUNQ 2021 is a great way to celebrate artists from across the country as well as creatives who have honed their craft right here in North Queensland,” she said.

PUNQ 2021 is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and Tourism and Events Queensland, and Townsville City Council under its Community Grants Program.

PUNQ 2021 is on from Friday 30 July to Sunday 8 August 2021 at various locations around North Queensland. View the full PUNQ 2021 program at

All PUNQ events comply with Queensland Health’s COVID Safe Events framework and health authority directions.

PUNQ 2021
30 July – 8 August 2021
Various locations in North Queensland