Director responds to criticism of Parramasala

The artistic director of Parramasala denies criticism it has failed to connect with the local South Asian community.
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What’s a festival without a firecracker?

Whilst I’m sure there are a number of ways one could critique the Parramasala Festival, it is useful to at least know a bit about some of the facts before trying. Gary Paramanathan’s comments in Not as Asian as it Sounds are a little too self-serving to be taken seriously. He picks out certain artists to make his point, but manages to ignore others that would damage his confusing case. He refers to his involvement in early consultations when the festival was in research phase, but makes no mention of the fact that his offerings were fairly mild and his follow-up non-existent. I guess he must have been simmering away waiting for a phone call or something. He also manages to announce the results of the third festival before it has even started.


The Parramasala Festival is now a fixture after three and a half years of hard work by a whole lot of people, me included. We expect it will have a bright future. We don’t expect it will be to everyone’s liking, but that said, we’d hope to listen and learn and benefit from constructive criticism.


My tenure as artistic director is coming to a happy finish. The job was publicly advertised months ago and the announcement of the new artistic director is imminent. In my time we’ve produced three festivals and attracted well in excess of 100,000 people. We’ve presented many artists, companies and films from around the world – all reflective of the dynamic arts and cultures originating in South Asia. We’ve also commissioned a number of new works with local and international artists. The latest of these is Maru Tarang involving Bobby Singh, Jeff Lang and Rajasthani artists Asin and Bhurga Khan and it opened last night to rapturous applause.


Yesterday I noticed Gary Paramanathan in the full house for the world premiere of Ana Tiwary’s important documentary on the plight of Indian students in Australia called Sunshine and Shade. It was partly shot in Western Sydney and it opened our Film in Focus program, curated by Ravi Kambhoj. Gary graciously accepted his comp ticket and I hope he was impressed. I don’t think he ever saw the beautiful production of Shakthi Sivanathan’s The Other Journey which gave eighteen performances on the Parramatta River in the 2011 festival.


To be fair, Gary, you forgot to ask me how many local artists are involved this year. Pity, because the number is well over 400. You are also inaccurate about our staffing and whilst you are right in saying we do currently have many workers of non-South Asian background, I’m pleased to report that everyone involved is entirely professional and doing a great job.

Philip Rolfe
About the Author
Philip Rolfe is retiring Artistic Director of Parramasala, the Australian Festival of South Asian Arts