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Prepare for bright, shiny and bold surprises at Brisbane Festival 2024

Brisbane Festival

Brisbane Festival artistic director Louise Bezzina has handed down a report on how the annual arts celebration is going gangbusters – with promises of an even bigger and better festival planned for 2024

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What has Brisbane Festival artistic director Louise Bezzina got in store for us next year?

It’s a question she can’t answer just yet, but she gave some tantalising hints when I sat down with her recently to chat about the festival.

“Expect some beautiful big surprises,” Bezzina says. What kind of surprises?

“Well, we had Boy Swallows Universe last year, Bananaland this year and next year … dot dot dot,” she says without filling in those dots.

“I can say that there will be one piece of work next year, a theatrical production, that is bright and shiny and bold. It’s another incredible local story brought to life.”

She leaves it there for us to figure out.

Boy Swallows Universe was the stage version of Trent Dalton’s best-selling novel and Bananaland, from award winning duo Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, was a heart-warming, funny, smart and hugely entertaining musical set in Queensland.

Once upon a time we relied on importing work, but Brisbane Festival now creates its own and exports them to the world.

The centrepiece production this year was Salamander, a large-scale dance theatre work by internationally renowned British choreographer and artist and designer Es Devlin. It captivated audiences in a vast shed at Northshore Hamilton and received widespread acclaim.

“Now there is global interest in Salamander,” Bezzina says as we sip coffee in a café a stone’s throw from the festival’s Fortitude Valley office.

“People in Europe, Asia and New York are now talking about this amazing piece of art created here in Brisbane.”

Bezzina travelled to the Netherlands shortly after this year’s festival to chat to arts companies there. She says they had heard about what Brisbane Festival was doing.

“I was having a meeting with this extraordinary dance company and they knew all about Salamander. That was amazing,” she says.

So, we’re getting some work from the Netherlands? I suggest this and she nods and indicates if it’s not for 2024 it will be for 2025.

“We’ll be making some big announcements in the new year,” she adds.

Bezzina is thrilled with how this year’s festival went. Sometimes it’s hard to quantify success in the arts but at a recent lunch for Brisbane Festival partners she handed down an extensive report, Brisbane Festival 2023: In Review, which gets very specific about what that success looks like, by numbers.

For a start, the festival grossed $7.8 million at the box office and had a total audience of 1.7 million. It attracted 112,803 visitors to Brisbane.

There were 1295 performances, 129 of them sold out, 18 world premieres, 32 new works and, overall, the festival contributed $46 million to the Brisbane economy.

This year’s festival also achieved a record in philanthropic income of about $1.8 million, with a 54 per cent increase in donors. The festival has 77 partners.

A recent partners lunch at Portside was bursting at the seams with people who want to stay involved. Brisbane singer Sahara Beck entertained them on the day. Bezzina and her CEO Charlie Cush were beaming, as they should be.

And Bezzina is particularly happy because she knows what she has up her sleeve for 2024, even if we don’t. Yet. But she does confirm that Riverfire by Australian Retirement Trust will be back as an opening event and that the drone and light show Nieergoo: Spirit of the Whale  is returning.

That three-dimensional multicolour drone show that spread out above the city skyline was made possible by presenting partner The Star Entertainment Group.

Star has had its problems this past year or two but its commitment to the arts has been unwavering. Nieergoo was beyond spectacular, a beautiful, poetic show celebrating Turrbal and Yuggera dreamtime stories about the creation of the Moreton Bay Islands. It featured music by Guy Webster and was directed by storyteller and co-chair of Brisbane Festival’s Indigenous Advisory group, Shannon Ruska.

It was magic. In fact, the whole festival was. Bring on 2024.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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