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February 6, 2020
Wesley Enoch
A message from Festival Director Wesley Enoch
This January we were reminded of the changing world around us and the role artists play in telling the stories that help explain our surroundings. The national and international attention of the bushfires brought a lens through which we experienced Sydney Festival 2020. We had nationally significant and internationally relevant voices that demonstrated our diversity and helped create a cultural vocabulary for understanding our differences. The sell out successes of the shows with Indigenous artists and content were a testament to the generations of storytelling of First Nations artists, highlighting the acceptance of Indigenous knowledges of land management and connection to Land, whilst projects like Proclamation, Procession and The Vigil shone a light on 25 January and added to the discussion around our national day.
From the intimate to the spectacular, Sydney Festival delivers throughout Sydney from Opera Australia’s Bran Nue Dae to the amazing Justene Williams’ She Conjured the Clouds; works in Blacktown, Campbelltown, Mosman, Parramatta and Sydney CBD wowed audiences. Outdoor parades and concerts, Architects of Air and their massive inflatable installation at Darling Harbour, intimate concerts in the Vestibule at Sydney Town Hall and the Seidler Penthouse, Ensemble Offspring at the Quarantine Station and close up magic at the QT Hotel – Sydney Festival brings audiences closer to artists and to each other.
New works are the clearest way artists talk to their communities and in 2020 Sydney Festival had 45 commissioned works in collaboration with partners from around the world, the nation and within Sydney. This cultural courage brought incredible success to the Festival, with critically acclaimed sold out shows throughout the program, starting conversations that will last the next 12 months. The list is huge and includes works from across artforms - Anthem, Betty Blokk-Buster Reimagined, Two Crews, POOF! Secrets of a Magician, Double Delicious, ENCOUNTER, The Rivoli, Lady Tabouli, Night parade of one hundred goblins, Steve Kilbey’s Sydney Rococo, and visual art exhibitions Vernon Ah Kee, Wansolwara, Jumaadi, Three Views and Fiona Foley – just to name a few.
Though some international artists chose not to attend, the overwhelming majority of our international visitors rose to the occasion showing their support and helping bring Sydney together in solidarity. From plays of big ideas like Joan Didion’s The White Album, Forget Me Not, I’m a Phoenix, Bitch!, Frontera, Romances inciertos un autre Orlando through to the joys of Tenebrae, Triple Threat, Air Play and Dodecalis Luminarium, each visiting company expressed their sense of purpose and honour to be performing for Sydneysiders and Australia.
The Blak Out program helped showcase an incredible collection of First Nations talents including works like BLACK TIES, The Visitors, Buŋgul, Black Drop Effect, Tell Me Why and Black Cockatoo (all world premieres) which played to critical acclaim and were amongst the highest attended events in the program. Proclamation was beamed around the country with over 200,000 people tuning in on Facebook Live to see The Procession and The Vigil. The UTS Big Thinking talks were insightful and exciting and did so much to position us in the centre of crucial cultural debates.
We were heartened by the generosity of the Sydney Festival artists, workers, supporters and audiences who helped raise over $115,000 towards bushfire relief. Artists from Regurgitator, Dan Sultan, Custard and many more helped organise a fundraising concert, volunteers shook buckets throughout the theatres and outdoor sites, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra staff and players donated their wages for the Sydney Symphony Under the Stars Concert at the Crescent, attended by thousands despite the threat of heavy rain.
From our amazingly dedicated volunteers who give their time and energy, to the many expert staff whose skills help realise one of the most complex cultural undertakings in the country, through to the 1000 plus artists from around the world who share their artistry and vision with us, and of course the people of Sydney and our visitors who turn up in their hundreds of thousands to partake in Sydney Festival – Thank You.

We couldn’t do this without the ongoing generous support and investment of our government partners – Create NSW, Destination NSW, Infrastructure NSW, City of Sydney and City of Parramatta, and a huge range of venue partners including Sydney Opera House, Carriageworks, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Bankstown Arts Centre, Sydney Town Hall, Hyde Park, and many, many more. Together with our major partner China Southern Airlines and our corporate partners and private donors, our supporters allow us to share the Festival with a broad range of people across the city.

A huge thank you. We are thinking about the future and we will see you in 2021 for my final Sydney Festival.


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