MIAF: Edmunds scores another year ~ theatre notes

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

MIAF: Edmunds scores another year

It's official. After much speculation, it was announced today that Kristy Edmunds, Artistic Director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, is staying on for another year. This will take her directorship up to 2008, an unprecedented four-year term.

Carol Schwartz, President of the MIAF Board, said the extension of Edmunds' term recognises the Melbourne Festival's growing international reputation. She said the decision reflects the State Government's desire for the festival to take a leading role in Victorian culture, and to diversify its audience base.

And some new audience figures came with the announcement. Total ticket sales for MIAF 2006 were 57,000 - not the 34,000 reported just after the festival - and grew by 3000 this year. The Visual Arts Program alone attracted 128,000 people. This doesn't look so bad beside the fabled years of the mid-90s (the Schofield era), which was avowedly populist and reportedly had ticket sales of around 60,000.

The new policy of extended AD terms is part of a "strategic plan" recently approved by the Board, which will offer all future artistic directors a three-year contract with an option on a further year. Schwartz said this decision recognises the long-term planning required to commission significant work, and permits the AD to develop relationships between the local artistic community and international arts networks.

Also, it brings Melbourne slightly more in line with general practice. Internationally, festival directors tend to have considerably longer lifespans, and this continuity permits them to exercise an influence on the culture around them, and to evolve and refine their programming and policies. Jean Vilar, for example, the famous French actor and director, founded the Avignon Festival - one of the biggest in Europe - in 1947, and ran it until his death in 1971.

Of course, limited terms prevent ossification, always a clear and present danger in Melbourne culture. But four years is a decent term. Perhaps most interesting is the emphasis Edmunds places on MIAF's place within what she calls the local "arts ecology". She doesn't just import headline international acts: this festival is conceived as a dynamic stimulus within our culture.

For TN, this is excellent news: we approve of Kristy Edmunds here, not only for the quality of the work she's programmed but also because of the enriching of local arts practice and dialogue that ensues. We're ready for the ride. But watch the Bolters howl.


Alison Croggon said...

TQ - just moving your comment to the geek post - I hope you can see it!!

Ben Ellis said...

The Bolters will howl, but I have a new found strategy for minimising the pain and maximising the humour: this post here. Could Bolt have lost himself a generation or five?

Anonymous said...

This is excellent official news indeed. These 'new audience figures' are interesting, given the discussion surrounding poor attendance that immediately proceeded the festival this year. I don't feel nearly half as mad as I thought I may have been, defending my observations of repeatedly close-to-full houses, et cetera.

Alison Croggon said...

Gosh. Is the word "fulminate"? Mr Bolt really has problems with irony...

Hi Ming-Zhu - those original figures came from MIAF; it wasn't the journalists reporting them wrong. They were simply incomplete; it took a while to collate final audience figures.

I agree, they're heartening, and more in line with my own experiences there.