Current Issue #488

At home with the arts

Adelaide Fringe / Peter Thurmer
Yabarra – Gathering of Light

As Adelaide leaps into its now-legendary Mad March, there is one local company that may not be on the minds of festival-goers but without which, so many of our favourite festivals and performances wouldn’t happen.

Novatech, founded by brothers Leko and Milenko Novakovic back in 2001, is the enabler of most of our leading arts brands – Australian Dance Theatre, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Festival, Fringe, State Theatre Company, Holden St Theatre and a host of smaller performance-based venues and festivals.

According to Leko, he and his brother grew up in the northern suburbs as children of immigrant parents from the former Yugoslavia. When Leko was in his mid-teens, the brothers lost their father and had to step up to help their mother who at that stage still had limited English and didn’t drive. They pulled together and their mum supported them at home while they grew a business around providing permanent hire of audio, lighting and staging equipment for pubs and clubs hosting live music. The weekly rental returns were poured back into the business and growth came quickly. The brothers bought a property on Holbrooks Road and threw everything they had at the opportunities that came their way.

“We’re innovative,” says Leko. “All our solutions are custom-made to suit what the client wants.”

This means that Novatech has been part of the journey as their long-term clients grew their companies.

“We helped with the fit-out of the Wonderland Ballroom for ADT and eventually did the full fit-out at the Odeon,” Leko says.

Novatech were also partners with Fringe from the earliest days and despite a short hiatus, the relationship is going stronger than ever with Novatech instrumental in presenting the Yabarra – Gathering of Light outdoor spectacular on the banks of the Torrens in 2019, an event that Leko says will be ‘even bigger’ this year.

Despite also working on some of SA’s biggest sporting events, Novatech’s close relationship with the arts sector in South Australia is something the founders are particularly proud of. Whether it is bringing in cutting edge technology, such as the immersive sound system used for the first time ever in the Southern hemisphere for the ASO’s Harry Potter concert, or presenting the signature public event for the Adelaide Festival each year, the brothers relish the spirit of collaboration and joint development that they have with the sector.

Adelaide Festival's 2019 opening concert
Rosina Possingham
Adelaide Festival’s 2019 opening concert

“We look at it with a view of ‘what can we do?’ and ‘how can we do it?’,” says Leko.

All this can’t happen without a dedicated and highly trained crew and Novatech employ 65 full time staff and countless contractors with the numbers surging during festival season. Surprisingly, Leko says technical skills are not on the top of his list when searching for a new employee.

“We look at attitude first. Skills can be learned if the passion and commitment is there so we focus on training, running an intensive over the winter to make sure we have the expertise ready to go when festival season starts,” he says.

And although competition from larger interstate and international firms is always stiff, Novatech’s deep understanding of Adelaide at the local level is one asset others can’t offer.

“We love supporting our state and our local arts community.”

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