Sydney Festival introduces Noonuccal Nuugi man Wesley Enoch’s inaugural program, which features a renewed focus on theatre and dance, with a strong commitment to support new Australian work.
By
Nancia Guivarra, Laura Morelli

26 Oct 2016 - 1:24 PM  UPDATED 26 Oct 2016 - 1:42 PM

While Sydney Festival has always had Indigenous work featured throughout the event, this is the first time ever, that it has seen an Indigenous person appointed as an artistic director. 

This year there are over 150 shows featuring in the Sydney Festival. The major difference between this festival and previous ones is the fact that Noonucal Nuugi man Wesley Enoch has selected them. 

In an exclusive interview with NITV News Sydney Festival Director Wesley Enoch says he’s brought a sense of politics, celebration and says to audiences have a good time but challenge and expand yourself too. 

“Enrich your lives through culture - to mark the beginning of  a new year, January is the time to do it!”

"I'm keen on Indigenous storytelling. This year experience Bayala, an Indigenous language project where you can come and learn different languages of Sydney and experience how language connects to landscape."

Other projects Enoch is very proud of consist of Nathan Maynard's work The Season, which s having its world premiere and Blood on the Dancefloor by Jacob Boheme. A Koorie dance artist who talks about the heritage in his blood, his Aboriginal bloodline but also the fact that he’s HIV positive. 

The biannual Yellamundie Aboriginal theatre community this year will present new works by emerging and established Aboriginal playwrights at Carriageworks. These new plays come together, are workshopped and given support by experienced professionals in the industry.

Indigenous and local Australian work is strongly represented in 2017 with the world premiere performance of The Season, written by Aboriginal playwright Nathan Maynard and performed by an all-Indigenous cast.

In a special Sydney Opera House performance to mark the 50th anniversary of Australia’s 1967 Indigenous rights referendum - which saw 90.77% of Australian’s vote ‘Yes’ - 1967 Music in the Key of Yes is a concert of remembrance and gratitude to those who fought for civil rights.

Also responding to the anniversary of the referendum, Australian visual artist Vernon Ah Kee presents a thought-provoking portrait of black and white political issues, attitudes and ideologies in the exhibition Vernon Ah Kee – Not An Animal Or A Plant.

Together with Belvoir, Sydney Festival will present the much lauded, four-time Helpmann Award nominated play Prize Fighter from Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company & Brisbane Festival and Which Way Home by Aboriginal writer-performer Katie Beckett and Australia’s longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre company, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company.

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In a celebration of the Indigenous heritage of Sydney and the growing movement to reawaken local language, Sydney Festival will present Bayala – Let’s Speak Sydney Language. Working with Eora and Darug community leaders and language experts – classes, talks, an installation and a mass choral performance have been developed to celebrate the local language of the Sydney area.

Queensland Theatre’s Helpmann award winning musical Ladies in Black comes to Sydney Festival in January. Based on Madeleine St John’s novel, the toe-tapping production is adapted by Carolyn Burns, directed by Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Love Never Dies), with original music from Tim Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House).

Lord Mayor Clover Moore says it's great to see an Indigenous focus on the festival program. 

“Fifty years on from the ‘67 Indigenous rights referendum, this year’s festival will mark the historic decision with 1967 Music in the Key of Yes – and another strong piece of Indigenous programming, Bayala, is shaping up to be a summer highlight."

Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts, Troy Grant, says Sydney Festival champions artistic and cultural excellence, with a diverse program and range of free and ticketed events that everyone can access.

"Each year Sydney Festival showcases Australian and international artists across a range of art forms, presenting world, Australian and Sydney-only exclusive performances that attract visitors to our city. 

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