Darwin Blog


Festival of Darwin
Sunday, 2 September, 2007, 1:24 am
Filed under: Observations

The Festival of Darwin has recently come to a close.

As a strong supporter of the arts, I have to be honest and admit that there was very little in the Festival of Darwin program this year that interested me.  This is the first time in 20 plus years that has happened.  It has shocked me to admit this and many others that I decided to be honest about it with.

What disappoints me is that the Festival is fast becoming a very Indigenous based arts and cultural event to the deteriment of the many other talented artists and quality arts product that is available locally, nationally and internationally.  I am not saying that there isn’t a place for Indiginous visual and performing arts with the Festival program.  What I am alluding to, is that there a numerous avenues and widely publicised ones that Indigenous arts flourishes within.  Indigenous visual and performing arts does not lack the exposure that conventional artists do in the main arena.  The Festival of Darwin, in its marketing, is heavily promoting the Indigenous content, overiding everything else.

There was some comment in the NT News with regard to how well some events sold and in particular, sold out although there was some difficulty in selling seats for Indigenous events.  It is then inferred that people should take a risk in attending one of the events that had not sold particularly well because they may be surprised. As a side note, the NT News covered the Festival widely, but for a paper that doesn’t not actively publish much regarding Aboriginal people (aside from the Federal invention guff, as the mouthpiece for the NT Government), Aboriginal arts certainly had a profile.  At least it is a positive news story in these instances.

Did the organisers of the Festival of Darwin think for a minute, that there is a large portion of the population of Darwin who have absolutely no desire to sit and watch an Aboriginal band belt out their tunes? Do we really what to engage to Aboriginal dancers and how many Aboriginal art shows were there on at the time – I mean give us a break and give us something we want to see.

The Festival organisers were in the paper last week skiting at how successful the Festival was.  This I do not doubt, but what is lacking is any type of evaluation of the audience with regard to the fact if the performance they were attending was their first Festival event, how many events they have attended and where they are from – and I think it is fair in a town this size, that the evaluation can drill down to the suburb.  This in itself maybe an eye opener as to the tastes and want for a certain type of product, which would also assist in the programming of the coming year’s program.  I know for events that sell their tickets through the Entertainment Centre, that the Centre’s ticketing system allows for this type of evaluation.

There are many people who attend many events of the Festival – if you attended 10 events, it is considered as 10 people attending, rather than one person attending 10 events – you can see now how the figures become skewed.  I think the Festival is grown up enough now to start evaluating what they do and how they do it and to start giving people what they want to see.

One of the issues that those working in the arts keep forgetting is that their success is also based on how many people they can attract and convert to attending an arts event on a regular basis, due to experiencing and enjoying their first exposure to the arts.  For the arts to survive in any community it is about having the “bread and butter” attractions as well as introducing new content to stimulate and encourage discussion, debate and new experiences.

I might be out there is saying this, but I think the Festival needs to remember its roots and to grow with community and stop trying to force us to actively engage with visual and performing elements that have we have no real interest in.

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