30/10/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: Hands-on role for Spare Parts

30/10/2007 - 22:00

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Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is aiming to boost its international profile as it prepares to host the puppetry equivalent of the Olympic Games next year.

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is aiming to boost its international profile as it prepares to host the puppetry equivalent of the Olympic Games next year.

 

The Fremantle-based company has been selected as the host for the 2008 Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA) festival, which is expected to bring more than 1,000 people to Perth during April.

 

The festival, to be held over 10 days, will feature 35 puppetry productions at venues throughout Perth’s CBD.

 

Spare Parts general manager Cathcart Weatherly said the festival would give the company some valuable international exposure.

 

“No-one around the puppetry world will not have heard about Spare Parts after this,” he said.

 

The UNIMA festival is held every four years, with the most recent in Croatia in 2004.

 

It includes a formal congress for the 65 member countries of UNIMA, including about 120 delegates.

 

The festival is expected to generate about $3 million in turnover, of which $1.3 million will be earned income through ticket sales and other sources.

 

A further $1.4 million is being donated by various government agencies and Lotterywest, while the remainder will be sourced from corporate sponsorship.

 

Mr Weatherly said while sponsorship had not been a high priority for Spare Parts in the past, the scale of the festival required additional financial support.

 

“We’ve never had a strong sponsorship component to our funding, but we haven’t really tried before,” he told WA Business News.

 

“UNIMA has changed all that; certainly sponsorship remains a big issue for us. We’re yet to secure enough sponsorship for the event, but we’re confident we will.”

 

Spare Parts had a turnover of $1 million last financial year, representing a 25 per cent increase over the past few years.

 

Mr Weatherly said he hoped the festival would provide a longer-term boost for the company.

 

“Our ambition, out of UNIMA and other things in future, is to take puppetry from something Australians see as nice for kids, that isn’t really relevant to adults, to something that is seen as a really strong art form,” he said.

 

Mr Weatherly said UNIMA, which is based in France, rarely held its festival in non-European countries.

 

“Traditionally, UNIMA has been very Euro-centric. There’s only been a congress and festival outside Europe twice before,” he said.

 

“One of the issues for us all along has been that in Europe, you’ve got several hundred million people that can be there in an hour on a plane, while Perth is the most isolated city in the world.”

 

Spare Parts, which initially bid for the festival after it was suggested by the Perth Convention Bureau, beat a competing bid from Melbourne, where the Australian branch of UNIMA is based.

 

In preparation for the festival, the company has grown from five full-time staff members in January this year, to 22 at present, plus part-time and contractor staff.

 

The festival will also require several hundred additional paid and volunteer staff.

 

It will be entirely based at venues in the CBD, aside from a few shows at Spare Parts’ venue in Fremantle, and will include shows at the Playhouse, town hall, Blue Room, Subiaco Arts Centre and Perth College.

 

The festival will also include a display of one million puppets in the WA Museum.

 

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