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Adelaide Festival Artistic Directors discuss why 36th Adelaide Festival is special

Adelaide Festival Artistic Directors discuss why 36th Adelaide Festival is special
December 3, 2020

Adelaide Festival Artistic Directors Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield have shared why they consider the 36th Adelaide Festival - launched today, at the Adelaide Festival Theatre – to be a special event. The 36th Adelaide Festival offers a total of 70 events in theatre, music, opera, dance, film, food and visual arts – including local programs - Adelaide Writers’ Week, Chamber Landscapes at UKARIA and WOMADelaide – over 17 days from 26th February to 14th March 2021.

10 world premieres, 14 Australian premieres, 18 events will be offered, while developing technologies and new program delivery methods will offer unprecedented audience experiences.

Healy and Armfield observed “For us the ‘old normal’ was spending a third of our lives in an utterly abnormal way: racing from airport to airport, from theatre or concert hall to hotel, from hotel to airport, on repeat.

“A period of enforced stillness has caused us to reflect on how easy it is to take for granted those precious tenets of arts festivals: that bringing people together to experience something new – whether beautiful, troubling, funny or challenging – is essential nourishment for society. The connection forged between performer and audience, and indeed audiences witnessing human creativity together, is a primal experience. We are longing to bring it back to everyone’s lives.

“Since March, the question we have been consistently asked is ‘how do you plan a festival in a pandemic?’ Admittedly, it has not been easy: an enforced hiatus for companies across the world; artists and performers losing months of employment overnight and some leaving the industry in order to secure jobs in other fields; mental health impacts among art workers; a reduction in the number of new productions being created; insurance cover all but disappearing, border closures, reduced flight routes, quarantining requirements; new costs of developing and implementing specialised COVID-management plans, and the severe reduction in venue capacities and therefore box office income and ticket stock.

“So we focused on finding solutions. We wanted to ensure Adelaide Festival remained true to a 60-year tradition of bringing great international artists and events to our city while simultaneously supporting Adelaide companies and others from throughout Australia. We have always had a very strong presence of local work but in 2021 we supported a number of artists and companies to use this year of enforced isolation to develop new work at a scale and ambition that hadn’t been possible before. The 2021 Adelaide Festival has a record number of Australian premieres and we also backed new creative collaborations and made early investments in artists and projects that will bear fruit in 2022 and beyond.

“We’ve also found ways of giving Adelaide audiences ‘international’ experiences so they remain connected to the thrilling and urgent creative voices of artists beyond our shores. Some of the works in our program were first created in other parts of the world with artists from the USA, UK and Europe, and these will be staged live in Adelaide featuring leading Australian artists and ensembles. These events include our major opera presentation, a significant theatre event, and a series of fine-music recitals.

“There will also be three live international events at the 2021 Adelaide Festival, including two extraordinary new installations from the US and UK – both free to the public – and a classical music concert.

“Finally, we’re particularly excited by the potential of the four-part Live from Europe program, which will enable Adelaide audiences to attend live international performances in theatre, music and dance, from Russia, UK, Germany and the Netherlands. The only difference is that they are all happening, in real time, on the other side of the world. Just like in any other Adelaide Festival, the artists and audience can see and hear each other but the difference is that this time the audience-performer connection is mediated through high resolution cameras and the latest in streaming technology”

“And a beautiful thing about streaming is that performances, even our centrepiece opera, can be simultaneously appreciated throughout regional SA, from the South-east through the Riverland to the Iron Triangle. Coronavirus or not, we feel this is a very special innovation.”

“It feels like the Festivals in 2020 and 2021 could be the bookends of the COVID-era. The first round of lockdowns started just two hours after our final 2020 event finished and with the expectation of a vaccine in the first quarter of 2021, we are seeing this period as a time when the indispensable aspects of our lives fell into sharp focus. We know that people will look back on the 2021 Festival as one to remember; we hope that it will also offer opportunities for renewal and restoration and a boost of energy, optimism and joy that comes with each Adelaide Festival’s abundance of creative imagination.”

For information on the 36th Adelaide Festival events and performances go to

Related Articles

19th November 2020 - South Australian COVID-19 circuit breaker sees Adelaide Festival Centre cancel all performances

20th October 2020 - Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Talks focus on cultural engagement between Australia and Asia

14th October 2020 - Adelaide Festival Centre reports 77 shows cancelled during Coronavirus shutdown

13th October 2020 - Plan for Adelaide Festival 2021 to be held in outdoor event spaces

12th August 2020 - Adelaide Festival Centre welcomes audiences to newly developed Her Majesty’s Theatre

20th June 2020 - Adelaide Festival Centre trust announces new appointments 

7th August 2019 - Adelaide Festival Centre releases its 2019 OzAsia Festival program

16th March 2018 - 2018 Adelaide Festival announces biggest ever box office takings

6th September 2016 - Adelaide Festival Theatre to close for five months next year due to renovations

25th January 2016 - South Australian Government reveals Adelaide Festival Plaza plans

10th November 2015 - Adelaide Festival Centre launches 2016 season

24th April 2012 - Adelaide Festival Centre wants to revamp River Torrens precinct

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