How to evolve an arts festival

From Four Winds in regional NSW to Tasmania's Ten Days on the Island, artistic directors are taking the opportunity to re-imagine what their festivals can be.

Image: Four Winds Easter Festival. Photo credit: Ben Marden.

Every new festival director makes small changes to the festival they inherit, such as recalibrating programming to emphasise the avant-garde or reinforce the traditional – though even small changes can sometimes produce howls of outrage.

More drastically reimagining the festival model – such as moving from a biennial event to an annual presentation or even cancelling the festival outright – is less common, but certainly not unheard of. Adelaide Fringe made the shift to an annual event in 2007, followed by Adelaide Festival in 2013. Adelaide Film Festival makes the same change this year, with the next iteration of the festival to be held this October instead of in 2019.

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Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts