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Perth Festival

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Perth Festival
Logo of the Festival
Crowd at the Perth International Arts Festival Beck's Music Box, 2008
Crowd at the Perth International Arts Festival Beck's Music Box, 2008
GenreArts festival
Location(s)Perth, Western Australia
Years active70–71
Inaugurated1953 (1953)
FounderFred Alexander
Most recent2023
  • Iain Grandage
  • (Artistic Director)
  • Nathan Bennett
  • (Executive Director)
WebsitePerth Festival

Perth Festival, named Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) between 2000 and 2017, and sometimes referred to as the Festival of Perth, is Australia's longest-running cultural festival, held annually in Western Australia. The program features contemporary and classical music, dance, theatre, performance, literature and ideas, visual arts, large-scale public works. The main events of the festival take place every year, from February to March and the film program now known as Lotterywest Films runs from November to April, as part of the Perth Festival.

Perth Festival takes place and various indoor and outdoor venues across Perth. The festival is run by UWA in partnership with the state government and the Perth City Council. From 2004, the Festival carried Lotterywest branding, and Lotterywest was acknowledged as the Festival's "principal partner".

The artistic director for 2020 to 2023 is Iain Grandage.


Street performers, Quidams, walking through the crowd at the Perth International Arts Festival, South Perth Foreshore, March 2007

The festival was created in 1953 by the University of Western Australia, making it the oldest international arts festival in Australia,[1] and the oldest annual international multi-arts festival in the southern hemisphere.[2][3]

The founder of the festival was a then UWA professor, Fred Alexander, Director of Adult Education, who was inspired by attending the Edinburgh Festival in 1951. Alexander's aim was "to offer the best cultural events that are available from British, European, American, Asian and Australian sources". The first festival, held in 1953, showcased theatre, ballet and film, drawing an audience of 42,000 people despite little publicity.[3] It was held over the summer school holidays in January, for Summer School students, arranged by John Birman as a more formal extension of his previous summer school programmes.[4] The drama students would create outdoor productions starting in 1953 and continuing to 1969 directed by Jeana Bradley.[5]

In 1964, the Shakespeare's 400th anniversary, the New Fortune Theatre opened in the Arts Building with a production of Hamlet directed by Jeanna Bradley.[5] The theatre was (then) the only replica of the 1599 London Fortune Playhouse. Another notable anniversary for the festival were its 21st anniversary coinciding with the opening of the Perth Concert Hall, and in 1979 festival it celebrated the 150th anniversary of the founding of the colony in 1829. In 1987 the festival opened at the same time as the final races of the America's Cup yacht race.[3]

The festival expanded off-campus citywide in the 1960s, and by 1980 had hugely increased its audience, with an increase of 300 percent in paid attendances between 1976 and 1980.[3][6] Some sources refer to it as the Festival of Perth in the 1980s.[4] The festival broadened its appeal, in 1999 the newly-appointed artistic director, Séan Doran, announced a change of name to the Perth International Arts Festival, leading up to its 50th anniversary in 2003.[3][6]

In 2004, the festival started carrying the Lotterywest branding, and Lotterywest was referred to as its "principal partner" in all communications. With new artistic director Lindy Hume and a new four-year strategic plan, there was a significant shift in direction for the festival: towards increased community involvement, and developing stronger partnerships with local arts organisations and regional centres.[7]

The branding was changed to simply "Perth Festival" by then director Wendy Martin and the board in 2018,[8] although the registered company name was as of July 2020 still Perth International Arts Festival, as "the organiser of Perth Festival".[9]

Artistic directors


Executive directors


As of 2017 the executive director is Nathan Bennett.[12]



Activities across the state include theatre, dance, music, film, visual arts and literature. Artists from around the world have participated in the festival.[3]

Writers Festival


Earlier Perth Festivals had poetry and literature as a component of the larger festival. By the 1990s the Perth Writers Festival was titled and marketed separately, for some time known as the Alcoa Perth Writers Festival (named after its sponsor, Alcoa).[13][14]

By the 2000s the Writers Festival was well recognised by publishers from interstate and overseas.[15] Keynote speakers and featured authors since then have included notable writers from Australia and overseas, such as Germaine Greer, Hilary Mantel,[16][17] Ahdaf Soueif (2013 opener),[18] Ben Okri, Esi Edugyan and Chloe Hooper.[19]

It retained the branding as Perth Writers Festival, taking place for three days over a weekend,[20] until it was extended to a run for a full week in 2018, when it changed to Perth Writers Week. It took place not only at the University Club of Western Australia, but also in public libraries, in bars and on the streets of the city.[21] This continued in 2019.[22]

In 2020 the programme was pared back to a weekend, and marketed as the Perth Festival's Literature & Ideas Weekend.[23] The Literature & Ideas curator was author Sisonke Msimang.[24][25]

Film programs




Films formed part of the Perth Festival's offerings since its inception in January 1953, being shown at the Somerville Auditorium at UWA. The first artistic director, John Birman, introduced many foreign films, and there was resistance at first[citation needed]. In 1957 a French film festival was held, and in 1959 the festival became for Birman "the establishment of an international film festival within the festival".

David Blenkinsop, taking over the reins of the Perth Festival in 1977, had a bigger budget to work with, and along with Sherry Hopkins, brought in a system whereby a committee would preview all films before deciding whether to include them in the film festival. Audiences rose from 21,000 in 1977 to 65,000 in 1985, but the festival was no longer bringing new films into the country, leaving that to Sydney and Melbourne. It did, however, make the Festival of Perth unique, being the only arts festival that had a successful film component attached to it.[4]

1986 to present


With the Lotterywest rebranding and its acknowledgement as "principal partner" of PIAF in 2004,[7] it was in this year that the film component took on the title of Lotterywest Films, and variants.[26][27][28]

In 2010, Madeleine Bates, was appointed to the role of Program Manager: Film, after being head of film screenings at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.[29][28]

As of 2020 and for some years previously, the film festival part of the Perth Festival is known as Lotterywest Films.[30][31] The film manager is Tom Vincent.[32][33]



The festival was founded by and has operated from the University of Western Australia Nedlands campus since 1953. The University of Western Australia further supports the festival through the provision of services and resources. Lotterywest has supported the festival financially since 1992.

The festival also relies on corporate sponsors and partnerships for funding, with new organisations becoming involved each year.[34]

Corporate partners

La Fura dels Baus display at the 2010 opening night
Driving into Walls dress-rehearsal, February 2012
Royal de Luxe: The Incredible and Phenomenal Journey of the Giants to the Streets of Perth, 2015

The array of corporate partners changes each year, however some partners have committed to long term sponsorship of the festival. The partners are separated into six distinct groups:

  1. Partners
  2. Leadership partners
  3. Major Partners
  4. Public Funding Partners
  5. Trusts
  6. International Partners

Significant long term partners include Lotterywest and Wesfarmers.[35]

Festival venues


Venues for festival events have included:[36]

Selected festivals


2012 festival


The 2012 festival was the 60th Perth International Arts Festival.[37] This year attracted 194,522 paid audience members and a total attendance figure of over 700,000.[38] The opening of the festival featured a 'DAWN:DUSK' opening, where hundreds of people gathered on Cottesloe Beach to watch vocalists and musicians.[39] The festival was held from 10 February to 4 March, and was the first year led by new artistic director, Jonathan Holloway.[40] A number of events sold out during this year's festival, including tickets to Bon Iver.[41]

2013 festival


The 2013 festival was held from 8 February to 2 March. With 750 artists, 820 events and 250 film screenings, it is the biggest yet.[42] This year marked the announcement of a new significant partner, Chevron Corporation. This partnership was recognised through the renaming of the Festival Gardens to Chevron Festival Gardens.[43]

At the 2012/2013 Lotterywest Films, 26 films were screened, with the winner of the BHP Billiton audience award being The First Grader, directed by Justin Chadwick.[44] This year also featured sold-out event, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who played at the Chevron City Gardens.

2014 festival


The 2014 festival was the 62nd Perth International Arts Festival held from 7 February until 1 March 2014.[45]

Live @ The Watershed


2001 Festival


The festival had an outdoor concert series that featured an elaborate venue that transformed a common area of the city into a water themed futuristic type atmosphere. It was held over the pond area outside of the Art Gallery Of Western Australia and the Perth Cultural Centre. The festival spanned 26 days and headlined by acts such as the Black Eyed Peas and Proton, both of which sold out the venue.[46][47]


  1. ^ Hunter, Tim. "Perth Festival". Citysearch. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  2. ^ Wells, Kathryn. "Festivals in Australia". Australian Government. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Eggleston, Alan (12 April 2000). "Matters of Public Interest: Festival of Perth". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b c O'Regan, Tom (1985). Tom O'Regan; Brian Shoesmith (eds.). "Film Societies and Festivals in WA". The Moving Image: The History of Film and Television in WA 1895-1985. Murdoch University: Culture & Communication Reading Room. Retrieved 13 July 2020. Published in 1985 and edited by Tom O'Regan and Brian Shoesmith to coincide with an exhibition on Film and Television in Western Australia at the Alexander Library in Perth (WA) Series page
  5. ^ a b Dunstone, Bill, "Jean Isobel (Jeana) Bradley (1906–1991)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 10 November 2023
  6. ^ a b "WA arts festival pursues international profile". PM Archive. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 24 December 1999. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  7. ^ a b Lotterywest. "Annual Report 2004" (PDF). Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  8. ^ Litson, Jo (9 November 2017). "Perth Festival reveals its 2018 line-up". Limelight. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  9. ^ "Privacy Policy". Perth Festival. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  10. ^ Bolton, G. C. (2007). "John Birman". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 13 July 2020 – via Australian National University. This article was in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007
  11. ^ Office of Hon David Templeman (10 May 2018). "Acclaimed artist to take Perth Festival helm". Government of Western Australia. Media Statements. Archived from the original on 15 February 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  12. ^ UWA Forward (6 July 2017). "Making arts happen". University of Western Australia. University News. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  13. ^ Writers Festival (Perth, W.A.) (1990), Writers Festival programme, The Festival], retrieved 24 February 2019
  14. ^ Alcoa Perth Writers Festival (Perth, W.A.) (1990), Free programme, The Festival, retrieved 24 February 2019
  15. ^ "Perth Writers' Festival 2009", Bookseller + Publisher Magazine, 88 (5): 58, 2008, ISSN 1833-5403
  16. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Radio National (24 February 2012), Germaine Greer opens Perth Writers' Festival, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, retrieved 24 February 2019
  17. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Radio National (25 February 2015), Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel at the 2015 Perth Writers Festival, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, retrieved 24 February 2019
  18. ^ McHugh, Jillian (8 November 2012). "Perth International Arts Festival brings buzz for 2013". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  19. ^ "Perth Festival Writers Week announces 2019 Program". Australian Arts Review. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  20. ^ "Perth Writers Festival". Perth Festival. 22 February 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  21. ^ "Perth Festival 2018 Programme Announced". scenestr. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  22. ^ "Full program announced for 2019 Perth Writers Week". Books + Publishing. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  23. ^ "Full program announced for2020 Perth Festival Literature & Ideas Weekend". Books + Publishing. 20 January 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  24. ^ "A Word From Sisonke". Perth Festival. 16 January 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  25. ^ "Perth Festival: Love Money Sex: Literature & Ideas" (PDF). Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  26. ^ State Library of Western Australia. "Festival of Perth Programmes (From 2000 known as Perth International Arts Festival)" (PDF). Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  27. ^ "2010 Film exhibitions and advertisements: Ephemera PR11094" (PDF). State Library of Western Australia. 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  28. ^ a b "Q&A: Madeline Bates, Lotterywest Film Festival". The Write Business. 30 November 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  29. ^ "Perth International Arts Festival appoints new film program manager". The University Of Western Australia: University News. 28 May 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  30. ^ "Summer of Cinema". Lotterywest. 15 July 2020. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  31. ^ "Perth Festival Lotterywest Films at UWA Somerville". X-Press Magazine - Entertainment in Perth. 13 August 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  32. ^ The West Australian (20 November 2018). "World films for Perth Festival". The West Australian. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  33. ^ "Meet the 2020 Programming Team!". Perth Festival. 8 April 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  34. ^ "Corporate Partnerships". Perth International Arts Festival. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  35. ^ "Corporate Partners". Perth International Arts Festival. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  36. ^ "Venues". Perth International Arts Festival. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  37. ^ Holloway, Jonathan. "2012 Perth Festival". Perth International Arts Festival. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  38. ^ "Events 2012 Western Australia" (PDF). Tourism WA. Retrieved 21 June 2014.[permanent dead link]
  39. ^ "Lotterywest Festival Opening". Perth International Arts Festival. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  40. ^ "2012 Perth Arts Festival". Perth International Arts Festival. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  41. ^ "Selling fast/ sold out". Perth International Arts Festival. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  42. ^ "Perth Festival Wrap Release". Perth International Arts Festival. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  43. ^ "Chevron International Partner Perth Festival 2013". Festivals Australia. Archived from the original on 2 March 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  44. ^ Brown, Miranda. "News". Perth International Arts Festival. Archived from the original on 16 July 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  45. ^ "Perth Festival Launch" (PDF) (Press release). Perth Festival. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  46. ^ Watershed Festival Program 2001
  47. ^ low, Catie (19 December 2000). "Watershed Rises Again For Festival". Business News Australia.

Media related to Perth International Arts Festival at Wikimedia Commons