11/11/2010 - 00:00

Festival leads the field

11/11/2010 - 00:00


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A commitment to its original vision paired with a conservative budget has kept the Perth Festival in business.

Festival leads the field

ORGANISERS of the 2011 Perth International Arts Festival are predicting ticket sales will reach at least 220,000 at next year’s event, furthering the festival’s standing as the longest running annual international multi-arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere.

At the launch of the 2011 program last week, artistic director Shelagh Magadza spoke highly of the upcoming event, saying it “had an air of celebration about it”.

Ms Magadza, who will end her four-year tenure at the completion of the festival, says it “brings some of the world’s most distinguished artists to Perth, but also recognises the tremendous talent within our own community.

“We are so lucky to have this festival in Perth; it is a precious opportunity to connect to the world and to come together as a community. I urge [the public] to take full advantage of what is on offer in this program – their lives will be richer for it,” Ms Magadza says.

Since its inception in 1953, the festival has remained a significant contributor to the Western Australian arts sector, generating more than $14 million in revenue in the past year from a program that includes theatre, dance, film, music, art and literature.

The festival’s general manager, Julian Donaldson, expects the film season and writers’ festival in particular will drive the expected growth in ticket sales.

“Perth people buy into their festival in huge numbers and that’s because it’s is still true to the vision of its inaugural leader, Fred Alexander, who said it was to be a festival with bold thinking and a bold vision,” Mr Donaldson says.

Mr Donaldson believes Perth’s isolation was the reason the festival started, primarily as a way to stimulate an interest in the arts and enrich the community.

“So while Perth is not as isolated as it once was when we started, the relevance is just as acute; our program encompasses all of the genres, we still have at the core of what we do, the vision to bring bold, challenging and exciting work to Perth,” he says.

Mr Donaldson says the festival operates with 22 full-time staff, which swells to about 100 when the festival runs during February and March. He says the festival’s founding body, the University of Western Australia, along with Lotterywest and the City of Perth, support such operating costs.

“Our funding is best characterised as one third, one third, one third. Our core funders are UWA, Lotterywest and City of Perth. The remaining thirds are from cash sponsorship and donations, and then ticket sales – it’s quite evenly spread,” Mr Donaldson told Business Class.

“We get virtually all of our cash sponsorship from WA companies; generally speaking, they are companies who believe in the power of the arts and want to be associated with WA’s pre-eminent arts experience.”

Mr Donaldson also says the festival’s near 60-year run can be attributed to a “reasonably conservative” budget – despite forecasting ticket sales of 220,000, the budget has been set at 201,000.

“We often sell more tickets than our budget and it’s interesting to note that we have the highest local participation rate per capita than any other festival in Australia – and we hope to do a lot better,” he says.



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