Connecting people with creativity across the nation

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September 14, 2021
Sydney Festival

Since 1977 Sydney Festival has loved to lure folks from far and wide into Sydney to celebrate creativity and live performance. But when the people can’t come to the show, why not bring the show to the people?

Enter nbn, Sydney Festival’s first ever Regional Partner. Throughout May and June this year, nbn helped bring connectivity and creativity together, taking Sydney Festival on a ‘regional tour’ through pop-up community events across Australia.

A screening of Bangarra Dance Theatre’s performance Spirit: a retrospective 2021 was the main spectacle, with nbn taking it to Stradbroke Island in Queensland, Batemans Bay and Bangalow in New South Wales (NSW), Santa Teresa in the Northern Territory, and Launceston in Tasmania – in effect, travelling the Festival more than 6,000 kilometres.

Syd Fest and nbn worked together closely to enable the screenings of that dynamic performance, connecting with local Indigenous and arts groups to host the events. Linking city with country and an opportunity to help artists and their audiences stay connected was what this partnership was all about.

Our community knows all too well the significant impact COVID-19 has had on the arts sector and events industry, so the partnership was particularly timely to help our festival to reach and reinvigorate even more Australians in new ways, after 30,000 people attended Sydney Festival At Home – the first time streaming had been included in our program offering.

Taking arts to the people

With the pandemic limiting capacity for events and causing widespread cancellations across the country, we knew had to innovate and evolve.

One of the Festival’s headline performances offered the opportunity to do just that.

Spirit: a Retrospective 2021 by the Bangarra Dance Theatre was performed and recorded at The Headland upon the Gadigal Land of Barangaroo, NSW, in January.

Unsurprisingly, the limited capacity event quickly sold out, making it the perfect candidate to reach a much wider audience through one-off digital screenings in five regional locations.

Celebrating the unbroken connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the land, Spirit: a Retrospective 2021 invites audiences to connect with stories and songlines from across the nation with a collection of work from the Bangarra Dance Theatre’s rich history.

A special connection

According to nbn, its partnership with Sydney Festival reflects a broader commitment to support the digital capability of regional Australia, and to collaborate with the arts sector to showcase content and cultural performances.

“We’re proud that we are helping to digitize the arts and enable collaboration,” says nbn’s Chief Regional and Remote Development Officer, Gavin Williams. “At nbn, we have an integral role to play to engage and collaborate with the arts sector to develop innovative concepts and business models that take advantage of digital platforms. I am looking forward to helping more people connect with our nation’s incredible artists through the power of our network.”

Our own Executive Director Chris Tooher agrees that digital presents a huge opportunity for artists. “The more exciting opportunity, and where I think there is real areas for growth, is throwing this medium back to our artists and saying, actually, create work specifically for this medium.”

“That’s where exciting opportunities are yet to be realised…what would you as an artist do with this format? How do you make this new format come to life in a new way? I‘m really keen to see what our artists will do with that."


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