As Sydney Festival’s 40th anniversary draws to a close, we get inside the heads of its past artistic directors. Listen to the story of the festival’s beginnings, find out about its balancing act of popular and ‘serious’ art and remember the often media-grabbing controversies.
Meet the former Sydney Festival director who has a love/hate relationship with Sydney. Raised and schooled in Glebe, Lindy Hume is the ‘real deal’ as far as Sydneysiders come. Not one to buy into Sydney’s conceit as a glamorous place, Lindy celebrated a different kind of city – one with “crazy cockatoos and the light shimmering through the trees and the cicadas and amazing heat on your skin.” Hume was the first woman – and the first practising artist in the director’s job. This meant she could visit rehearsals without the artists thinking ‘here come the suits’.
Or, get to know her predecessor Brett Sheehy, who held the post from 2002 to 2005. Sheehy is responsible for bringing Théâtre du Soleil, one of the most highly acclaimed avant-garde theatre troupes in the world, to Australia. He says: “Richard Wherrett, who was mentoring me at Sydney Theatre Company, said to me one day “The two theatre companies in the world I insist that you see the work of are the Schaubühne in Berlin and Théâtre du Soleil in Paris” and I said “Why?” and he said “Because they’re the greatest theatre companies on the planet”.”
You can also hear from this year’s departing director Lieven Bertels, who observes the festival moving away from big corporate cheques and focusing more on creating experiences to attract visitors and donors. Says Bertels:
The idea that…you have a well-connected board member and they have a chat with somebody running a big company and they will tell the underlings to write a cheque: that’s done and gone.
Listen to full interviews, produced by the City of Sydney’s History Team.