02/06/2021 - 06:00

Reduced Perth Festival program provides local opportunities

02/06/2021 - 06:00


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Overall attendance increased while box office sales lagged at Perth Festival this year after border closures resulted in a smaller program of local acts.

Reduced Perth Festival program provides local opportunities
Bilya Beneath played at the City of Lights throughout the festival. Photo: Cam Campbell

Overall attendance increased while box office sales lagged at Perth Festival this year after border closures resulted in a smaller program of local acts.

According to the Perth Festival 2021 Impact Report, compiled by consultancy Culture Counts, 473,616 people attended paid and free events this year, a slight increase on attendance in 2020 (413,087), due to the success of Songlines which was shown at WA Museum Boola Bardip and visited by 238,000 people.

A total of 95,521 tickets were sold this year, opposed to 134,966 in 2020.

Festivalgoers spent $3 million at the box office, a substantial decrease from last years’ record $5.98 million.

Culture Counts estimated the direct economic impact of the festival was $32 million.

The 2021 festival had a focus on local acts as the hard border precluded international artists from participating and made it difficult for interstate artists to travel here.

About 96 per cent of the 1,041 artists were from Western Australia, up from 77 per cent last year, providing much-needed opportunities for artists after the pandemic.

A total of 44 works were commissioned or co-commissioned by the festival, 34 more than in 2020.

About 94 per cent of artists and arts organisations rated their 2021 Perth Festival experience as good or excellent, up 9 per cent from 2020.

As large-scale events like Highway to Hell and Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak were not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, the festival’s mass free event was a light and animation show projected onto the walls of the buildings in the Perth Cultural Centre each night.

The show, called Bilya Beneath, was held at the City of Lights which attracted 58,396 visitors throughout the festival.  

Support for the festival and its brand remained high in 2021, with 97 per cent of people surveyed believing it played an important role in the cultural life of the state and 95 per cent agreeing it delivered high-quality cultural experiences for the people of WA.

Perth Festival executive director Nathan Bennett said the impact report confirmed how the arts contributed public value in times of adversity.

“We were very grateful to be able to present the 2021 program, one of the few to go ahead anywhere in the world over the past year,” Mr Bennett said.

“The festival’s role in amplifying local artists’ voices, and stimulating our city’s vitality, social cohesion and economic activity seemed more critical than ever.”

The festival also announced artistic director Iain Grandage’s four-year contract had been extended for another year until 2024.

In a statement, it said it had extended his term in recognition of the excellent outcomes of his last two festivals and to give him the opportunity to build on his original festival vision, which was impacted by COVID-19.

The festival had a challenging start in 2021 after a snap COVID-19 lockdown in the Perth and Peel regions postponed its February 5 start date to February 15.


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