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An arts festival for all voices: Perth Festival Artistic Director Iain Grandage

The Governor sat down with one of Australia’s most highly regarded and acclaimed collaborative artists and programmers, Mr Iain Grandage – Perth Festival’s Artistic Director – for the final installment of Conversations at Government House for 2020.

Conversation centered around Iain’s reflections on the success of his first Perth Festival (2020) and the challenges of COVID-19, the importance of incorporating a strong Aboriginal voice into each Festival, what Iain hopes audiences will take away from next year’s uniquely West Australian program and why our capital city is a constant source of inspiration for him.

Perth Festival 2021, launching on the 5th February, will be the second of four Perth Festivals that Iain will oversee. Iain is the first West Australian to hold the position of Artistic Director for Perth Festival, which is now one of the oldest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Perth Festival 2020 was a success on every social, cultural, civic, economic and tourism measure, as reported in the Festival’s 2020 Impact Report released in June. In October, it was announced that Highway to Hell, the free, family-friendly finale to Perth Festival 2020 honouring lead AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott, was judged the best cultural, arts or music event in Australia.

When asked by the Governor what made this event work so well, Iain said,

“[Bon Scott] feels like an accessible human to everybody and my hope is – inside the Perth Festival – that we are accessible to everyone, we are answerable to everyone.

We are the recipient of public money and from that point of view we want to be answerable to every single one of those people who wants an experience which bonds them to this place – be it through stories or be it through something that moves them to tears, or just makes them cuddle their mates and go, “That’s the song I love!”, as the band goes screaming past on a semi-trailer.”

And of what Perth Festival 2021 will offer audiences, Iain said there will be something for everyone,

“What’s interesting in a year of COVID is that there seems to be two responses…one is people having found an appreciation of quietude of the fact that it required everyone to slow down. So there are things inside this program like ‘Witness Stand’ which is about slowing down, sitting down, and listening to histories… then the other side is “We’ve been apart for so long, we can’t hug, we can’t do all of those things, just get me into a big sweaty room to jump and dance!”

So we are trying to be…answerable to both of those things. Clearly – moments of solitude, quietude, philosophical introspection, all of those moments are inside the program; but also these moments of what it is to celebrate ‘coming together again’ and what a community is…”

About Perth Festival 2021

Perth Festival 2021 will run for 22 nights, from Friday 5th February – Sunday 28th February.

The theme is Bilya – the Noongar word for river, a word also linked to umbilical cord.

Headlining the Festival is Tim Minchin’s world premiere live performance of his new album Apart Together, at Kings Park alongside the WA Symphony Orchestra.

Three Perth Festival shows will be held at Government House in 2021:

  • Koort (Heart) – A musical story told in Noongar and English by Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse with the Government House Foundation of Western Australia. Saturday 13th Feb in the Government House Gardens
  • The Jazz Line – a journey through Jazz history in the Government House gardens, with guests encouraged to BYO picnic. Sunday 14th Feb in the Government House Gardens
  • The Little Mermaid – Production by Freeze Frame Opera and the Government House Foundation of Western Australia Sat 20 and Sun 21 Feb in the Government House Ballroom

The Governor is proud to be Patron of Perth Festival

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