Just because it’s January doesn’t mean you need to spend your sun-soaked days drinking in the garden, or swimming in tranquil places – but definitely do those things. You’re already less inclined to be sitting inside feeding your inner binge monster, but let’s push it a step further. Your summer doesn’t have to be centred on booze and blow-outs.

Here’s ten things to get amongst this January around Australia that’ll a) give you primo date/dinner conversation that makes you seem really, painfully cool and b) get you in and around some highbrow stuff you might have missed if it wasn’t for us. It’s the summer sesh for your big ol’ brain.

1. FILM: Flickerfest (Sydney)

Sydney beachside film festival institution Flickerfest returns for its 28th year own in Bondi this month, featuring almost 200 shorts from both Aussie and international filmmakers. Comedian Paul McDermott‘s animation Ghost Bear premieres on the programme, as does Desert Dash from writer/director Gracie Otto, who also stars in the flick that turns life in the bush into a kind of twisted game. A short from Norway, called To Plant a Flag, featuring Jason Schwartzman, also opens in Australia at the festival.

WHEN: January 11 to 20, Bondi Pavilion

2. LIT: Fox 8

George Saunders returns after winning the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2017 for his first novel Lincoln in the Bardo with Fox 8, an illustrated work about a fox who learns to speak ‘yuman’ by listening to kids’ bedtime stories. It’s the kinda fantastical realism we’ve come to expect from Saunders, except it sounds sweet as hell, the suburban fox using his newfound skills to save himself and his foxy friends from a ‘danjur’ on the horizon.

3. THEATRE: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Melbourne)

Image source: Manuel Harlan.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child‘s Aussie debut is arguably the theatrical event of the whole of 2019. People are going to be heading to Melbourne just to watch the two-part, five-hour production, featuring an Aussie cast playing Harry Potter and his friends as adults. The production introduces us to both the adults – Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Draco – and to their children, whose turn it is now to experience Hogwarts, and try to live up to the legacy of their parents.

WHEN: January 18 to December 1, Princess Theatre

4. FESTIVAL: Adelaide French Festival (Adelaide)

It’s summer – it’s a festival-heavy time. If you’re a Francophile in Adelaide, you’re going to want to get around the events the Festival Centre are putting on – everything from music fest So Frenchy So Chic to opportunities to feast on French food, to a collection of French films and visual art. On top of a singles night – flirting exclusively in the language of love – they’ve even got a number of events dedicated to perfume, which is so quintessentially French, like croissants or a croque monsieur.

WHEN: January 11 to 13, Adelaide Festival Centre

5. FRINGE: Fringe World (Perth)

Oooft, Fringe World is massive again this year – it’s the third-largest Fringe festival in the world, after Edinburgh and Adelaide – and boasts a raft of artists from overseas and closer to home, like Rhys Nicholson and Tom Ballard. If you’ve never fully immersed yourself in a Fringe festival before a good place to start is to wander into The Woodside Pleasure Garden, grab a beer, and see what’s on right there and then – whether it’s street performers, a cabaret show, or a comic.

WHEN: January 18 to February 17, various venues

6. ART: The Clock (Melbourne)

Image source: White Cube / Ben Westoby.

Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image will be screening Christian Marclay‘s 24-hour award-winning film The Clock every day from January 23 until early March. It’s the most popular work of video art ever, moving in real time, and created from literally thousands of mashed-together film and TV shots of clocks, watches and other measurements of time. At 12.01pm on the day you’re watching, it’ll be 12.01pm on the screen, all the images forming a fascinating collage of cinematic/televisual history.

WHEN: January 23 to March 10, ACMI

7. FESTIVAL: Sydney Festival (Sydney)

Image source: Cat Stevens.

Sydney Festival returns to liven up the summer, featuring works from all areas of the arts – from theatre to music to visual art to circus, and some things indefinable. The music program is strong as always, featuring US art-rock muso Julia Holter and Swedish mother of hip hop and R&B Neneh Cherry. The theatre program boasts Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s first musical, In the Heights, while Nick Cave is one of many standout visual artists on display, with his immersive installation Until showing at Carriageworks for free.

WHEN: January 9 to 27, various venues

8. ART: Power to the Pixel (Brisbane)

Image source: Paul Robertson.

Brisbane Powerhouse are hosting a showcase of pixel art, as inspired by retro games and tech. The vintage style definitely stands in stark contrast to the kind of high-definition art that’s possible now. A Brissie local, Wren Brier, a games artist who’s worked on projects such as Fruit Ninja, has co-curated the free exhibition, which features works from artists like Paul Robertson and more, interrogating the ways we tell personal stories using games and technology.

WHEN: January 15 to February 17, Brisbane Powerhouse

9. FESTIVAL: Mona Foma (Launceston)

Mona Foma moves up to Launceston from Hobart this year for a week-long summer party, first established by the folks at MONA (art collector and gambler David Walsh) and the Violent FemmesBrian Ritchie. This year the festival features legendary UK electro artists Underworld, Ethiopian jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke and our very own Courtney Barnett on the music line-up. In terms of visual arts, the bright Rosie Deacon and AV artist Robin Fox are our top picks.

WHEN: January 13 to 20, various venues

10. LIT: Say Hello

Carly Findlay‘s debut memoir drops at the end of the month – the story of a vocal advocate for people living with disability, and a writer who has been vilified for a long time because of the way that she looks. Findlay lives with a rare skin condition, Ichthyosis, and is now telling her story. You probably know her writing work: from the ABC, Daily Life and SBS, and last year, she even organised a Melbourne Fashion Week event featuring disabled models.

Image: Zan Wimberley