Sydney Festival was originally conceived by the Sydney Committee, the NSW State Government and the City of Sydney with a view to attracting people into the city centre during the holiday month of January.
The first Festival took place in 1977 and it has since grown to become one of Australia's largest annual cultural celebrations with an international reputation for modern, popular and intelligent programming. In many ways it is probably still best understood as a celebration of Sydney and its style and energy reflect the confidence, diversity and vigour of one of the world's most beautiful cities.
For three weeks each January the Festival offers a rich program of around 80 events involving upwards of 500 artists from Australia and abroad covering dance, theatre, music, visual arts, cross media and forums. In any given year, it makes use of most of the main theatres across the city including Sydney Theatre, CarriageWorks, the Seymour Centre, City Recital Hall and venues at the Sydney Opera House.
Sydney Festival also presents a number of quality, free outdoor events such as the long-running Festival in The Domain with two massive free concerts, each attracting up to 100,000 people. In 2008 the Festival introduced a new opening event, Festival First Night, which sees the city streets transformed into a series of free stages and precincts. 300,000 people enjoyed Festival First Night in January 2009.
The Festival has a history of presenting Australian premieres and many of Australia's most memorable productions such as Cloudstreet have resulted from Sydney Festival's commitment to nurture local artists. It has brought many of the world's great artists to Sydney for the first time including: Ariane Mnouchkine and Thèâtre du Soleil (Flood Drummers), Robert Wilson (The Black Rider), Robert Lepage (Far Side of the Moon, The Andersen Project and Lipsynch), George Piper Dances, Netherlands Dance Theatre, James Thiérrée, Philip Glass, Ian McKellen (Dance of Death), the Batsheva Dance Company and the National Theatre of Scotland (Black Watch and Aalst).
Sydney Festival attracts a total audience of approximately 1 million people across all of its events, making it the most attended cultural event in Australia.
2010 will be Lindy Hume's first as Festival Director and Chief Executive. Previous directors were:
Fergus Linehan: 2006 - 2009
Brett Sheehy: 2002 -2005
Leo Schofield: 1998 - 2001
Anthony Steel: 1995 -1997
Stephen Hall: 1977 - 1994
Despite living very much at the leading edge of the arts in Australia, Sydney Festival carries with it a legacy from its origins as a celebration for the people of Sydney. Its connections to the City of Sydney and to the State Government are still very much at the core of the organisation. The Lord Mayor of Sydney is the Chair and the Premier of NSW the President, with other members from both local and state arms of Government sitting on the Board.
Her Excellency Prof. Marie Bashir AC CVO
Governor of New South Wales
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Hon. Kristina Keneally MP
NSW Premier & Minister for Redfern Waterloo
Clover Moore MP
Lord Mayor of Sydney
The Hon. Virginia Judge MP
Mary Darwell (for The Hon. Kristina Keneally MP)
Ann Hoban (for Monica Barone)
Councillor Marcelle Hoff (for Clover Moore MP)
Carol Mills (for The Hon. Kristina Keneally MP)
Vivienne Skinner (for The Hon. Virginia Judge MP)