This year’s Brisbane Festival, returning from September 2 to 24, is all about setting the city alight with art and performances – from floating installations to ’80s rooftop parties across the city’s sky-high bars.

Brisbane-born artist Lindy Lee’s The Spheres will shimmer majestically on the floating Art Boat, where you can also catch performances from Alice Ivy and sparkling duo The Huxleys, or a fashion showcase from Gail Sorronda. There’ll be an ’80s fiesta complete with shoulder pads and wet-look mermaids at Iris Rooftop as part of a series of Raise the Roof shows, and British artist Luke Jerram’s floating orbs, representing the Moon, Mars and Gaia, will take over the West Village.

It’s artistic director Louise Bezzina’s third program, and she’s brought together a thrilling line-up of almost 600 performances over the three-week program, 230 of which will be free to attend.

“Now more than ever, we must amplify the stories of artists and honour the power of the arts as a unifying force,” said Bezzina in a statement. That uniting force includes an opening concert headlined by Jessica Mauboy, new play Fourteen (an adaptation of the coming-of-age memoir by Shannon Molloy) and a new collaboration between Dead Puppet Society and Legs on the Wall in a story about Greek hero Achilles.

There’s also Queensland premieres of blockbuster shows, including the seven-time Tony Award-nominated Girl From the North Country and Sunshine Super Girl, the story of Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s rise to tennis superstar.

At Queensland Theatre, there’s a trilingual (Kala Lagaw Ya, Yumpla Tok and English) production of Shakespeare’s Othello. And at Roundhouse Theatre, La Boite, there’s a world-premiere adaptation of the Anita Heiss novel, Tiddas.

BOQ Festival Gardens is where you’ll find food, booze and entertainment throughout the festival. It’s also where you can join in the festival’s opening smoking ceremony, Jumoo, a moment to cleanse and connect ahead of the festivities.

Brisbane Festival runs from September 2 to 24. Tickets are on sale from 9am on Wednesday July 6.