2021 Perth Festival amplified local artists’ voices and boosted economy

The Perth Festival 2021 Impact Report confirms the public value in supporting local artists and arts organisations.

Despite being disrupted by COVID-19, the 2021 Perth Festival played a vital role in supporting local artists and rebuilding community connections, according to a new report.

The Perth Festival 2021 Impact Report conducted by Culture Counts has highlighted the important role international arts festivals play in supporting the local arts community – now more than ever given the challenges faced by the arts community in 2020.

‘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,’ said Executive Director Nathan Bennett.

‘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,’ he added.

Read: How Melbourne’s latest restrictions leave the arts exposed

Against all odds

Despite a sudden COVID-19 lockdown forcing the entire festival program to be rescheduled on the eve of its opening, and restrictions on venue capacities and gatherings, against all odds the festival went ahead and drew big numbers.

Led by the success of Songlines at WA Museum Bool Bardip – which had nearly 238,000 visitors – the Perth Festival 2021 Impact Report records an impressive attendance of 473,616 at the Festival as a whole.

The report’s key cultural and social impact scores reflect the Festival’s positive role in boosting community confidence and pride of place.

‘This 2021 Impact Report confirms that a Festival like ours helps turn groups of people into a community,’ said Bennett.

‘It affirms how human rituals of creation and participation contribute significant public value in times of adversity.’

Read: Digital is here to stay: how funders can support artists in the post-COVID landscape


Based on extensive surveys of Festival participants and financial data, the Perth Festival 2021 Impact Report demonstrates the significant economic influence of supporting local artists. Almost all 1,041 participating artists at the 2021 Festival were from Western Australia and the Festival paid $11.28 million into the pockets of local artists, workers, supplies and contractors.

The direct economic impact of spending by audiences, artists, and the Festival itself was $32 million, providing a flow-on-total economic value to the state of $90.3 million, an increase from $84.7 million in 2020.

Additionally, despite unpredictable border restrictions, the total tourism expenditure was $5.7 million (about half of the $11 million spent in 2020) with 11% of out-of-state visitors saying the Festival was the main reason they travelled to Perth. According to those surveyed:

  • 95% backed the Festival’s support of the local creative sector
  • 86% of artists said participating in the Festival raised their profile
  • Festival visitors spent $48 each on meals, drink and other activities besides tickets

‘None of this would have been possible without the astonishing support of our donors and partners,’ said Bennett, ‘including our Founding Partner the University of Western Australia and Principal Partner Lotterywest, whose Covid-19 Relief Fund has kept the arts afloat.

‘With such strong partners working with us, we are deep in the dreaming and planning for next year and look forward to seeing everyone come together to celebrate our creativity as a community once again for Festival 2022,’ he concluded.

Read the Perth Festival 2021 Impact Report in full. Perth Festival will return in February 2022.

Giselle Bueti
About the Author
Giselle Bueti is a staff writer for ArtsHub.