Wesley Enoch from Sydney Festival in conversation with Simon Burke

A wonderful and insightful conversation with Wesley Enoch at the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s office on Monday 18th, April, 2016, interviewed by Simon Burke (A.O.).

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Wesley Enoch (born 1969) is an Australian playwright and was artistic director of Murri descent from Stradbroke Island (Minjeribah) and he’s a proud Noonuccal Nuugi man and is currently the Artistic Director of Sydney Festival. Wesley joked that he started in the arts “as a dancer 25 kilograms ago!” Simon Burke asked him about his travels and he replied, “I’ve been around the world four times. On my last trip I saw 30 shows!” He explained that he can see a current trend and a pattern at the moment; the use of sensory specificity, for example the blind folded sensory. He also says that he can sense that artists are feeling a sense of disconnection, as our government focuses on “economy” and the importance of it, rather than the arts. He goes on to explain that when he grew up he had a free education, there was a bridge for him to cross into the arts and there was a support system in place for artists. He said, “40 000 people call themselves artists. But is it now sustainable? Not paying artists enough is returning to the bad old days of it being a hobby.” He believes artists working full time should be looked after. If we keep demoting artists, the desperation to work will lead to an unsustainable system. The Brandis cuts were 27 million taken out of our arts ecology and it is going to have a half a billion dollars effect over the next few years due to a bad policy.

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Simon asked him how much freedom of a blank canvas does he have for the Sydney Festival? Wesley replied that as long as he can raise 800 thousand dollars needed each year! He expressed the importance of having the festival in January because at this time of the year everyone’s mindset is ready for change. People are ready to engage culturally and socially – projecting forward.

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Simon asked Wesley about his thoughts on diversity. “I don’t believe in colour blind casting.” He believes that one’s talent and skill should take precedent. No focus should be placed on how a person looks but how good and talented an artist is. When he was asked about the importance of “gender” Wesley said it all comes down to numbers. “Put women in the centre of decision making.” He stresses the importance of being “good artists” and being good communicators and to “win over people through persuasion and being articulate about it. Be robust artists.”

When Wesley was asked about his own process for self reflection he replied, “I’m built to serve!” And he benefits by talking to people and by communicating with people. He enjoys looking after people. He reflects on various times when he hosted dinner parties for cast and calls them his “ingredients” to make a great dinner party.

This was an inspiring event thanks to MEAA and the Equity Foundation.

For more information on the Sydney Festival 2017, click on http://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/info/

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