Frog Fest: A retrospective

This week marks two years since Frog Fest at The Living Pavilion – a family-friendly event on the Parkville campus of the University of Melbourne. As well as providing froggy fun for all ages, Frog Fest aimed to connect participants with nature in the city by re-imagining the frog biodiversity that would have occurred on site prior to the construction of the university campus. In keeping with the broader aim of The Living Pavilion, it also highlighted the campus as an Indigenous place: Wurundjeri Country.

I created a sound installation, Frog Soundscape at The Living Pavilion, to showcase the four seasons of frogs in Melbourne and the amazing variety of frog calls. This was arranged along the course of the Bouverie Creek, a stream that persists below the surface of a paved brick path: hidden but not forgotten, still traversed by native short-finned eels. Through guided tours and program notes, I also connected the four frog seasons with the Wurundjeri seasonal calendar:

Frog spring: Poorneet (Tadpole season)
Poorneet (September to October) is a busy time for Melbourne’s frogs, and five species are featured in this component of the soundscape – the spotted marsh frog (click), the southern brown tree frog (weep weep weep), the common eastern froglet (ker-rick ker-rick ker-rick), the pobblebonk or banjo frog (bonk) and the quieter striped marsh frog (tock).

A taste of frog spring

Frog summer: Buath Gurru (Grass flowering season) and Garrawang (Kangaroo apple season)
The southern brown treefrog and pobblebonk are still calling, but faster now as the weather is warmer. Summer brings the calls of two additional species – the distinctive growling of the growling grass frog (now an endangered species) and the maniacal cackle of the emerald-spotted tree frog. A boobook owl can sometimes be heard.

A taste of frog summer

Frog autumn: Waring (Wombat season)
A light rain is falling and the autumn-breeding frogs are calling in April and May. The southern brood frog (squelch) and the Victorian smooth froglet (arruk-pip-pip-pip-pip-pip-pip-pip-pip) both lay their eggs in moist nests on land, where they develop partially before being washed by rain into a stream or wetland.

A taste of frog autumn

Frog winter: Waring (Wombat season)
Only two species of frogs are braving the winter weather in June and July: the southern brown tree frog and the common eastern froglet. Both are calling slowly – as ectotherms (or cold-blooded animals), the body temperature of frogs drops in winter and all their metabolic processes slow down. Don’t miss the thunderstorm!

A taste of frog winter

Other activities at Frog Fest included frog craft, frog face-painting and frog choir. A frog dress-up box on the main stage provided frog costumes for all ages: popular with children and adults alike. Frog craft included an activity for children to explore the life cycle of the frog through clay, making first an egg, then a tadpole, then a frog. Plans for Frog Fest 2 in spring 2020 were interrupted by COVID, but I hope we’ll be back in spring 2022!

A clay frog with tadpole and egg
Life cycle of the frog in clay

The Living Pavilion was a co-production and collaboration with the NESP Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, THRIVE Hub, the New Student Precinct of the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus, and CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 Festival. Its co-producers were Zena Cumpston (Barkandji), Cathy Oke and Tanja Beer. I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where The Living Pavilion took place, the Wurundjeri peoples of the Woi Wurrung language group, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.

A stylised green frog: artwork by Dixon Patten of Bayila Creative
Artwork by Dixon Patten, Director at Bayila Creative