“Adelaide’s pretty firmly retained its position at the top of the tree as far as Australia’s festivals go, and I’d just want to see it stay there.” David Sefton talks about his hopes for the future of the Adelaide Festival as the search begins for a new Artistic Director.
Adelaide Festival is seeking “an outsanding and inspired” person to fill the Artistic Director position for 2017-2019, as David Sefton‘s contract will finish at the end of the 2016 season. “Critical to the position,” reads the Festival’s media release, “is artistic curatorial leadership, an ability to articulate and communicate a unique and distinctive vision, an understanding and appreciation of the nature of the Festival and its audiences, high-level management and team building skills, and demonstrated capabilities in advocacy and representation to a diverse range of stakeholders.” Sefton believes that whoever succeeds him will be working within a festival at the top of its game. “I feel like the general consensus is that I’ve done a reasonably good job and I’d like to see that continue,” Sefton tells The Adelaide Review. “Adelaide’s pretty firmly retained its position at the top of the tree as far as Australia’s festivals go, and I’d just want to see it stay there.” Sefton, who became Artistic Director in 2013, was the first in the position to direct four consecutive festivals. Aside from the outstanding programming, which has seen some of the world’s greatest theatre, music and dance grace South Australian stages, Sefton’s tenure will be remembered for the successful conversion of the biennial festival to an annual event. “I’ve definitely strengthened my liver since over the course of my time in Adelaide,” quips Sefton. “No, look, I’ve worked at a lot of festivals and what’s great about having taken on this and becoming the first annual director has been being that transitional director: taking the audiences and the staff and everybody involved in it onto that annual basis. I think that’s been really a pretty smooth transition, and the audiences didn’t drop, as everybody feared they would; everyone’s accepted, now, that Adelaide Festival happens every year, and so I feel pleased that that transition has gone so smoothly.” Since 2013, the Adelaide Festival has seen world-class productions, including last year’s Roman Tragedies, the Unsound music program and popular venue initiatives like Barrio and Lola’s Pergola. The quality of the Festival’s program is testament to Sefton’s direction, but he suggests that credit lies with Adelaide’s attitude towards the arts, and the exemplary staff behind the scenes of the fortnight-long experience. These, he says, are things that his successor should appreciate and relish working with. “I think one of the absolute strengths of the Festival in Adelaide is its history, and therefore what you’ve got is an incredibly well-informed audience, more so than any other city in Australia, and more so than many other festivals in the world,” explains Sefton. “Historically, Adelaide has really been at the front and pushed out the new work and the experimental work, so you’ve got a very broad-minded, very open, and a very smart audience in Adelaide, which is fantastic! You couldn’t really wish for more. “It’s also the best team I’ve ever worked with – the crew and the staff at this festival are the best I’ve ever worked with, so it’s in very good shape to be passed on now.” As for what is next for Sefton, that’s still undecided. “It’s a funny old thing,” he says, “because obviously I have to be in Adelaide until the end of the 2016 Festival – I can’t just pack up and leave now, because we’ve still got two festivals to do! So things that have come up at this point have been too soon. The window is quite a specific one. “This time next year,” Sefton says, laughing, “I’d certainly hope to know, but it’s a bit early to accept anything that’s been proposed. We really like Australia [and] we’ve had a fantastic time in Adelaide, so we’re quite open to staying in Australia.” While Sefton and the Festival are already looking ahead to 2016 and beyond, this year’s festival is still in the works. The outlook is bright, with ticket sales exceeding projected goals. “All the signs are very good, and all the new shows are coming along swimmingly,” says Sefton. “It’s going to be a very popular, very busy festival.” Applications for the Artistic Director role are open until February 20, 2015. The appointee should be named around the end of this year’s Festival, and will spend 2016 shadowing Sefton and learning the ropes. adelaidefestival.com.au/careers Photo: Jonathan van der Knaap