In September 2021, I delivered my second Brisbane Festival as Artistic Director. Curated under the theme of Brightly Brisbane, the Festival ran over 23 days, it presented 17 new works, 16 world premieres, delivered 654 performances and presented events in 222 locations across the city including major hubs of activity at BOQ Festival Garden, South Bank and Hamilton Northshore and at major venues including Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane Powerhouse and The Tivoli. We reached our box office target within the first week of opening and our major commission, Boy Swallows Universe was the highest selling production in Brisbane Festival’s history.
The program engaged 43 Queensland companies and employed more than 1100 local artists and art workers. Most importantly, this year’s Festival delivered the largest First Nations program yet.
2020, my first program in partnership with CEO Charlie Cush, defied all the odds and delivered one of the only live performing arts events to take place globally in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Brisbane Festival program was curated under the banner of Boldly Brisbane and saw the commissioning of 28 new works, a record number of local artists employed and a Festival that reached all 190 suburbs of Brisbane.
The responsibility of an Artistic Director for a major city Festival is to understand the city well enough to know ‘how to turn the city on’, how to inspire audiences with new ideas and deliver experiences that leave life-long impressions. This vision to create a Festival that is truly grounded in the city is at the heart of its success, however it must also and always be a Festival that engages with the world. The latter has been more challenging given the times we are in and so the past two Brisbane Festivals have embraced the local in new creative ways, ensuring solid foundations when we reopen to the world.