The Australian Theatre Forum, run by Theatre Network Australia (TNA), is a landmark meeting place for Australian theatre industry professionals. Held in different locations around the country, this biennial event strengthens theatre as an art form by addressing current issues regarding policy and practice, sharing knowledge and view points, and cultivating fresh ideas that will, in turn, enrich Australian art, culture and society.
ATF DECONSTRUCTED 2021
TNA is pleased to announce that we are going ahead with ATF in 2021, albeit in a deconstructed, COVID responsive way. We are planning five different events: 3 in person, and 2 online, across the year. The in-person events are designed so that if borders close, the event can be hyper-local, with some online elements where appropriate.
ATF#1 – Neighbourhood Adelaide, 20 May, 2021
In partnership with APAM and DreamBIG Children’s Festival, we hosted a gathering for 150 delegates on the lands of the Kaurna people. Neighbourhood Adelaide gave space to delegates for reflection, exchange, and revitalising our connections. Neighbourhood featured the following artists: Yasmin Gurreeboo – Act Now Theatre, Sue Giles – Polyglot Theatre / ASSITEJ International, Joshua Campton – Independent Artist/Slingsby, Sasha Zahra – Windmill Theatre Company, Fez Fa’anana – Independent Artist, Michelle Ryan – Restless Dance Theatre, Nikki Ashby – Country Arts SA.
ATF#2 – Online gathering, August 2021
The two online gatherings will sit within TNA’s core annual program, addressing our key objectives of: First Nations First; Justice and Diversity; Safe Theatres & Workplaces; Access and Inclusion; Gender Equity; Growing Arts Funding; Strong Ecology; Creatives Central and Effective Networks. The July gathering will focus on leadership development for independent creatives.
ATF#3 – Neighbourhood Darwin, August, 2021
Starting with the themes from the Australia Council’s Reimagine consultation: Survival and Resilience; Centring Equity; and Public Value, Neighbourhood will challenge individual and collective action to create a new normal. This will be held during APAM’s in-person gathering at the Darwin Festival in August.
ATF#4 – Online gathering, September, 2021
The September online gathering will focus on peer learning for companies.
ATF#5 – Neighbourhood Sydney, October, 2021
TNA will partner with Performance Space’s Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art to host a final celebration and gathering of the sector, scaleable to allow as many delegates as possible.
In 2017 and 2018, as part of planning the next ATF or national gathering/s, TNA undertook a review of the ATF.
In response to sector changes and feedback from the sector, we employed consultant Andrew Bleby to do a desktop review of the ATF, including analysing the feedback from past evaluation surveys. A discussion paper was prepared, and after receiving valuable feedback to the paper from members and other stakeholders, we planned changes and refocused our priorities. Overall, we determined that we need to be very clear about who the ATF is for and what it provides them. In a nutshell we will:
- Keep the focus on artists (55% of ATF attendees are artists);
- Keep the focus on ensuring diversity – over half of the attendees identify as diverse: either First Nations, from a CaLD background, as a person with a disability, LGBTIQ+, and/or Regional/Remote;
- Continue the successful Independent EOI strategy;
- Continue to prioritise new voices – around 65% first-timers means true sector development, plus some oldies for continuity!;
- Continue to have no more than 25% producers, and 20% ‘supporters’ (presenters, peaks, govt reps, academics);
- Address problems around uneven facilitation skills;
- Restructure the model in response to sector changes.
- TNA has a new partnership with APAM, in its year-round operating model, and we will be contributing to the programming of national sector conversations. The first one happened at Asia TOPA in February 2020, and two others are planned for Adelaide and Darwin in 2021.
- COVID-19 restrictions mean that we need to build flexibility into each gathering, so that we can nimbly adapt at a day’s notice. This means working with people on the ground in each location; building a clear refund policy; making each in-person event scaleable; and looking at different online models. In 2020 we trialled a spoke-and-hub model for our Safe Theatres workshops in WA, SA and NSW, wherein small in-person groups joined a zoom meeting as a ‘room’, facilitated centrally online by our TNA program manager. This allowed national engagement with our speakers, it allowed exchange between the different ‘rooms’, and it allowed each room to work in real life on scenario workshops where nuanced intimate conversations were needed.
Stay tuned (to the TNA E-news) for more updates.