The 2013 Melbourne Festival
There's an electric atmosphere in Melbourne Festival HQ, which sits perched within Federation Square overlooking the Yarra. It's mere days before the 2013 Melbourne Festival kicks off, the first with Josephine Ridge at the helm as Creative Director following Brett Sheehy's departure to the Melbourne Theatre Company, and it's impossible not to be immersed within her excitement as she beams with pride flicking through the 2013 program.
"I've just come from Sydney Festival - I worked there for ten years, most recently as the Executive Director," she notes. Indeed, her curriculum vitae is impressive - and with prior roles at The Australian Ballet, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Opera Australia and Playbox Theatre Company to name a few, alongside being a member on the Board of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the Tarrawarra Museum of Art, Ridge is arguably the perfect candidate to lead Melbourne Festival through the next stage of its evolution. "I've always worked with different art forms," explains Ridge. "And of course what Melbourne Festival does is bring all of those together, alongside adding that fantastic international layout."
Featuring a host of both international, national and local artists spanning throughout all forms of the arts, the 2013 Melbourne Festival program is a testament to Ridge's ethos for the festival. From the Nature Theater of Oklahoma's four part marathon Life and Times, Sadler's Wells London and Sylvie Guillem's stunning triptych of dance 6000 Miles Away alongside an extremely diverse music program - Ridge is deservedly proud with what she's collected for the 2013 festival. "One of the reasons that I was extremely keen and excited when I got this role is because I can see so much opportunity for Melbourne Festival to become even more engaged and broader," she details passionately. "The cultural landscape in Melbourne is so incredibly rich and diverse. With so much going on it's the right time to look back at the festival and say 'with all of these incredible international artists coming in all over the year alongside our amazing local artists then what is it that we are contributing, what are we offering and how can we make a difference?' For me, with the opportunity to do that now, it's really to reinforce the point that we all need our festivals. We need the opportunity to come together and to celebrate. Give people a reason and they will. That's something that a festival does.
"In terms of classical music, I had been working with Richard Tognetti at the Australian Chamber Orchestra for the past five years," details Ridge as we begin to discuss the extremely diverse 2013 program. "He is one of the most accomplished, interesting and inspiring music programmers. I asked if he would come and work with us as an adviser to give us ideas and help us shape the classical program. For contemporary music we brought Declan Forde [who most recently worked as a promoter for Harvest] into the team. In that role, he was also given the brief to broaden the acts that we bring into the festival.
"In terms of collaboration and partnering we've commissioned quite a lot of new work from local artists," notes Ridge of the theatre program. "In the independent scene that's with Daniel Schlusser and The Rabble. They're creating works that are much more ambitious than their previous works, something that the partnership and the support of the festival is then able to bring that dream to life. There are also some international co-commissions as well. It's an important part of being an international arts festival to not just be bringing work over, but to be an active contributor to what is happening around the world."
The most important co-commission of the festival this year is with the Hofesh Shechter Company for SUN notes Ridge - an explosive contemporary dance piece. "That's a piece of work that has half a dozen international collaborators. Melbourne has seen his [Hofesh Shechter's] two previous works and loved them. This will be an opportunity for Melbourne to be the first in the world to see his new work."
Another highlight of the 2013 festival will be the triumphant return of the Foxtel Festival Hub after last year's resplendent debut. A collaboration with design wunderkinds Bluebottle, the hub which acts as a pop-up performance space, supper spot and late-night club experience all in one.
As we reach the end of the 2013 program, Ridge re-enthuses what she believes will be one of the defining highlights of the festival - the opening weekend. "One of the things that we've been really keen to convey this year is that when the festival opens this year we're talking about a festival weekend rather than an opening night. The first very first event, as it needs to be, is TANDERRUM, which then leads into Archie Roach performing a free concert in Federation Square. Across that whole weekend we have an extraordinary range of work in what is a microcosm of the festival is trying to do which reflects the diversity and the scale of the range of genres and artists. We have Gurrumul with Sarah Blasko, all weekend we have the visual arts trail, talks, the two major dance commissions will be opening and we also have Brief Encounter which is a very important piece of mainstream theatre. There's so much more happening that weekend. That concept of an opening weekend is really important to us. In everything we're talking about we really just want to convey the idea of excitement, diversity and the bringing together of different people and ideas."
BY TYSON WRAY
Melbourne Festival will be hosted throughout Melbourne from Friday October 11 – Sunday October 27. Visit melbournefestival.com.au for tickets, a full program and more information.