Statement from the Board of Sydney Festival

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September 27, 2022
Sydney Festival
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Sydney Festival commits to implementing key findings of independent review.

SYDNEY FESTIVAL COMMITS TO IMPLEMENTING KEY FINDINGS OF INDEPENDENT REVIEW

Calls for a broader industry discussion about sources of financial support for the arts in Australia.

Sydney Festival has today announced a range of important measures to improve the decision-making process around partnerships and sponsorships ahead of the Sydney Festival 2023 Program Launch. This includes an immediate suspension of investment from international governments and their cultural agencies.

The measures follow an independent review into the role of international government investment, which was commissioned by the Sydney Festival Board.

The review team canvassed opinions from a wide range of almost 50 stakeholders including artists, partners, employees, Sydney Festival’s leadership team and the Board, as well as other festivals and arts bodies. They have now shared their findings with the Sydney Festival Board.

The review acknowledged that arts partnerships and sponsorships are varied and complex, highlighting a need for Sydney Festival to improve policies and procedures surrounding these arrangements.

In light of the independent review, the Sydney Festival Board has decided on the following actions:

  • Suspending all funding from international governments and their cultural agencies

  • Developing a Funding and Sponsorship Charter to evaluate all future opportunities

  • Revisiting the role of international government investment once the Funding and Sponsorship Charter has been finalised and approved by the Board

  • Reviewing and updating Sydney Festival’s crisis management response policies and procedures, ensuring that they address how all stakeholders could be impacted and should be supported

  • Strengthening sources of advice for social and cultural issues, including individuals with connections to specific communities and those with expertise in navigating complexity

  • Contributing to a wider conversation with other relevant organisations and stakeholders about the sources of financial support for the arts in Australia

“Sydney Festival acknowledges that events leading up to and during the 2022 Festival could have been better managed to minimise the impact on artists, employees, partners, supporters and the wider community. We sincerely apologise to all those affected,” Sydney Festival Chair, David Kirk, said.

“We would like to thank everyone who shared their experiences as part of the review process. We have listened to what was said, and we are acting on key findings.”

Sydney Festival has a proud history of bringing people and communities together to enjoy the work of outstanding local and international artists during the last 46 years. The decisions announced today do not impact the Festival’s ability to attract world-class local and international artists, with its 2023 program due to be announced next month.

International government funding requires careful assessment across the sector, highlighting the critical role of arts funding from all levels of Australian government. It is crucial to the success of artists and performers, as well as the ongoing health of our cultural life.

“The independent review also reported broad recognition that events in January could have happened to other arts organisations,” Kirk said. “It has shown that there is appetite for a broader conversation about sources of financial support for the arts in Australia. Sydney Festival looks forward to being part of that wider discussion.”

The independent review team was led by Leigh Tabrett PSM, Deputy Chair of the Queensland Performing Arts Trust. Leigh was assisted by Cathy Hunt, Executive Director at not-for-profit organisation Of One Mind; Dr Faiza El-Higzi OAM, Chair at the Ethnic Broadcasting Association of Queensland and Radio 4EB; and Christine Castley, CEO of Multicultural Australia.

Information for the independent review was gathered under the promise of anonymity to ensure that people felt comfortable sharing their experiences. The report is confidential for this reason, but key recommendations have been summarised here to support ongoing industry conversation about sources of financial support for the arts in Australia.

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