The Australian Theatre Forum is an unincorporated, biennial forum for the professional theatre industry in Australia.
The first forum, in May 2009, was organised by the Australia Council for the Arts, largely to address key issues that the sector was facing, as articulated in the report Love Your Work, by Jackie Bailey for the Major Performing Arts Board and the Theatre Board (2008). The two issues articulated in the paper are:
• Creative workforce succession: where are the directors, artistic directors, designers and other key creatives of the future going to come from and what can the sector do to support their development now?
• Interconnections: how can the theatre sector’s connections be strengthened to support and manage risk-taking, address issues of talent development and succession, and provide benefit for both the small to medium and large companies?
The forum was overseen by a national committee: Wesley Enoch, Tom Gutteridge, Alice Nash and Andrew Upton, and curated by Angharad Wynne-Jones. The forum was three days, “Chock-full of challenges, provocations and potential ways forward” (Chris Mead, 2010), and delegates expressed a keen interest for a second forum. (See 2009 section ATF 2009 for details of the forum program).
With the lack of a national theatre peak body to take the forum forward, the newly established [Theatre Network Victoria] (http://tnv.net.au) approached the Australia Council to offer its services in scoping the next forum. An agreement was made, and TNV secured an offer and funding from Arts Queensland to bring the forum to Brisbane in 2011. TNV pulled together a national steering committee, secured Brisbane Powerhouse and Brisbane Festival as key partners, and secured Brisbane City Council funding to complement funding committed by the Australia Council. TNV approached Metro Arts to take on the auspicing of the project, as a key local organisation with local contacts and a strategic overview of the state’s sector.
The steering committee wrote a comprehensive curatorial brief, and then recruited Fiona Winning as Curator in late 2010. Fiona is now fully on board, pulling together the 2011 program, alongside colleagues Diat Alferink (Associate Curator) and Rebecca Meston (Project Manager), with guidance from the committee.
TNV will continue to take stewardship of the forum in 2011 and beyond, supported by the Australia Council’s Theatre Board, until there is a national body or other mechanism for overseeing the forum.
There are already plans for a forum in 2013, with an offer from Robyn Archer to host the forum in Canberra during the Centenary celebrations. Watch this space!