Q&A/Sponsored Content/Multi-arts

Showcasing performing arts in WA

13 July 2023

Offering performing arts makers, presenters and producers an invaluable opportunity to exchange ideas, there are plenty of reasons to attend WA’s biggest arts and culture conference, discovers Nina Levy.

With the theme of “interchange”, this year’s WA Showcase conference is responding to feedback from last year’s delegates… they want to talk to each other.

With that in mind CircuitWest, the organisation behind WA Showcase, has put together a program that offers West Australian artists, arts workers, presenters and producers to the chance to “connect, reconnect, question, query, find answers, be inspired and dream”, says CircuitWest’s recently appointed executive director Philippa Maughan.

In addition to keynote speakers, workshops, sessions for companies to pitch their work to presenters, and news from some of the state’s biggest arts investors, WA Showcase also includes the Pinnacle Awards, honouring outstanding achievement in the performing arts sector. Ahead of close of registrations, Philippa Maughan filled Nina Levy in on all the details.

Nina Levy: Give me the lowdown on WA Showcase – what’s it all about?

Philippa Maughan. Photo: supplied

Philippa Maughan: WA Showcase is great! It brings together the Western Australian performing arts sector to connect, reconnect, question, query, find answers, be inspired, dream – all the things we come to the performing arts for always, but focused on the programming and development horizons.

Showcase provides practical tools for producers and presenters to take away with them to make change in their organisation and their community. It introduces or reintroduces producers and presenters to each other and it sets the focus for the performing arts sector for the year ahead. It is like your favourite book series, you can attend one WA Showcase and it is a great standalone event, or you can attend them over subsequent years and be a part of the unfolding story of WA’s performing arts sector.

And importantly, it is a room where producers can talk about their beautiful work with presenters and together they can plan more creative outcomes for more audiences and more Western Australian communities.

NL: What can participants expect from this year’s WA Showcase?

PM: CircuitWest members have clearly said to us, this year, they want to talk to each other. We have sessions where we will tap into the experience and hard-won wisdom of our colleagues, when we will hear about creating something greater than the sum of their parts.

Additionally, our members have charged us with responsibilities. At last year’s Showcase, we heard from audience members with a range of accessibility requirements they need addressed to make their experience of attending and participating in the performing arts as immersive and entrancing as it can be. We will be reporting back on The Accessibility Audit we commissioned DADAA to do with four regional venues. We will also expand on this conversation when we hear from a range of artists about how their experience of the world influences their creative processes.

Elfie Shiosaki, Eva Grace Mullaley and Bruce Denny presenting at last year’s WA Showcase. Photo supplied

Last year, Eva Grace Mullaley, Elfie Shiosaki and Bruce Denny presented a series of questions to the WA Showcase to focus thinking on the pathways, priorities and solutions for venues and presenters to improve engagement with the First People of their community.

The questions can be a tool by which an organisation can prepare for a single event, and they can be a tool by which the sector as a whole makes its way to being more responsive and safe for First Nations performers. Jayde Conway, a Whadjuk Balladong woman and the Cultural Immersion Facilitator at Curtin University, will take a more detailed look at two of the questions posed.

And as always, we will hear about what WA producers have been working on and what is available to tour to outer metro and regional WA.

NL: Jayde Conway is one of your keynote speakers – can you tell me more about her?

PM: Jayde is Whadjuk, Ballardong and was born and raised on Whadjuk country (Perth), with extended family and her siblings. Her mother is a Whadjuk, Ballardong woman and her father is Banjima. She has strong kin connections to Badimaya and Wongatha country through her grandparents.

Jayde is the lead of the Cultural Capability team at Curtin University, where she helps to design cultural immersion experiences and education that are delivered to staff, students and the wider community.

Jayde has been awarded the Excellence in Reconciliation award, with the Carrolup Exhibition and Engagement Team, for the amazing work around the Carrolup Art Collection, the Excellence in Curtin Experience award, with the Cultural Capability team, for the experiences provided and the Excellence in Reconciliation award, with the Dandjoo Kaatijin Team, for the designing and implementation of a suite of modules targeted at students.

NL: At this year’s Showcase there’s a strong focus on the theme of recovery from the impact of the pandemic on the arts. Firstly, what kinds of challenges are artists and companies facing in this post-lockdown phase of the pandemic?

PM: The primary effect we have seen is that a noticeable proportion of audiences, volunteers and staff found different things to do with their time!

‘The solution is in relationships.’ Pictured is Fiona de Garis asking a question at last year’s WA Showcase. Photo supplied

NL: And how might the Showcase theme of “interchange” be helpful in relation to recovery or facing these challenges?

PM: As Shona Erskine’s Creative Leadership program tells us, the solution is in relationships. We will hear from Louise Giles from Volunteering WA about how to re-engage with volunteers, recruit more of these enthusiastic helpers and retain all of them!

Similarly, we will look at how marketing and community engagement can be maximised to remind people that a really special connection happens through the performing arts.

NL: The Pinnacle Awards are presented annually at Showcase – tell me about the awards and why they are they are so important.

PM: The awards are a moment to stop and tell hardworking people their hard work is seen and valued. It is often the point at which an awardee also understands how much their work means to others. As a past recipient of the People’s Pinnacle, I hadn’t clocked how the work I had done had had an impact on the sector until my peers told me so. The award is proudly displayed on my desk.

NL: What are you, personally, looking forward to most at Showcase?

PM: Often we can experience these relationships as dichotomies, presenter or producer, regional or metro. I’m looking forward to being in a room full of smart, involved, caring people talking together about what comes next for their art, their organisation, their community and our state.

WA Showcase takes place 31 July – 3 August 2023 at Subiaco Arts Centre.

Registrations close 21 July 2023.

Pictured top: Aunty Lynette Narkle at 2022 Showcase. Photo: supplied

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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