Perth Festival is a huge boost to WA society and economy

Perth Festival is an annual boost to our State’s social wellbeing, economy and hospitality industry, a new report reveals.

This year’s Festival attracted new audiences and extended its vital role in assisting local artists, workers and companies, the Perth Festival 2020 Impact Report shows.

Bunggul performers at Perth Concert Hall
Photo by Jessica Wyld

Based on extensive Festival participant surveys and financial data, the 2020 report demonstrates the Festival’s significant public value and capacity to help kick-start community confidence in the State’s post-pandemic recovery.

Like so many sectors, our State’s arts and culture industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 shutdown. Artists, venues, workers and companies have endured severe job losses, show cancellations and crippled income streams since March.

Perth Festival is well placed, as a ready-made cultural stimulus package, to help re-invigorate our State’s vital arts sector for the benefit of the entire WA community.

Festival 2020 – the first of four under Artistic Director Iain Grandage – was a success on every social, cultural, civic, economic and tourism measure assessed by analysts Culture Counts.

Survey respondents rated the Festival an outstanding platform for Indigenous culture, authentic local stories and exciting collaborations between WA and international artists.

The opening week of Indigenous performance, a first for any major Australian international arts festival, was particularly celebrated.

Many respondents said the Festival enhanced social harmony, made them feel proud of Perth and better connected to their community.

Away from the stage, the Festival received high marks for its arts sector support, creative learning, accessibility and community engagement programs.

The Festival’s direct economic impact from spending by audiences, artists and the Festival was $30.3 million, up 60% from 2019. This provided flow-on total economic value to the State of $84.7 million.

Hecate Opening Night
Photo by Dana Weeks

The Festival invested in significant local commissions and international collaborations involving WA artists. More than 75% of the 2,286 participating artists were from WA and the Festival put $10.8 million into the pockets of local artists, workers, suppliers and contractors.

Ticket sales were at a record high of almost $6 million, even with the cancellation of the final three weeks of the Lotterywest Films season due to COVID-19. Nearly a quarter (23%) of our 413,076 total attendances were Festival first-timers.

Of the 144,850 people at Highway to Hell, 42% of them were attending their first Festival event. The 10km-long Canning Highway community Bon-fest doubled trade for local businesses, made a direct economic impact of $6.1 million and had a flow-on economic benefit to the tune of $17.2 million.

Total tourism expenditure was $11 million (up 8% from 2019) and 28% of the 3,978 interstate and overseas visitors said the Festival was the main reason they had come to Perth at all.

Other 2020 results included:

– 97% said Perth Festival plays an important role in the cultural life of the State

– 95% said Perth Festival delivers high quality cultural experiences for the people of WA

– 92% of people rated their Perth Festival 2020 experience as good or excellent

– 93% of the public backed the Festival’s support of the local creative sector through its Connect community development and Creative Learning initiatives

– 89% of participating artists said the Festival opened up new opportunities for them

– 99% of students and teachers from 56 participating schools rated their Creative Learning experience as good or excellent

– Lotterywest Films attracted a younger audience to UWA Somerville and reached many people for the first time, while retaining a loyal return audience

– The new-look Literature & Ideas program diversified its audience, with more than 25% attending for the first time and 92% rating their experience as good or excellent

– 38% of Chevron Lighthouse audiences at the new City of Lights precinct at Perth Concert Hall were attending the contemporary music program for the first time in 2020

– The 207 free and ticketed events included 10 new commissions, 12 world premieres, seven Australian premieres and 30 WA premieres

– Festival-goers spent $54 each on meals, drink and other activities apart from tickets

Celebrating 67 years as Australia’s longest-running annual curated arts event, Perth Festival’s success in tandem with Fringe World proudly confirms Perth as one of the world’s great festival cities.

The capacity to come together and share stories and experiences at a Festival like ours will be more important than ever as we rebuild community confidence after a vulnerable time for so many people, Festival Executive Director Nathan Bennett said.

‘Western Australians will be looking for creative ways to relax and relate to one another after a period of great stress on our financial, mental and social wellbeing,’ Mr Bennett said.

Photo by Jess Wyld

‘The Festival is committed to maximising opportunities for our innovative and energetic world-class artists and cultural organisations as we bounce back after COVID-19. This report reminds us of the rich cultural vitality expressed through the Festival, and of its value to the people of our State.

‘Perth Festival was founded by the University of Western Australia in the wave of economic and social renewal after World War II. Now, more than at any time since then, we must continue to be a Festival for the people of WA.

‘In presenting this report, we thank all our audiences, volunteers, sponsors and donors, artists and participating companies and co-presenters. Your insights, investment and continuing support will shape the Festival for the future and improve our contribution to this wonderful State we call home.

‘We certainly can’t wait for the opportunity to get together as a community once again for Festival 2021.’

The Culture Counts report combined ticketing data with wider expenditure analysis and a survey of 5,435 people.


Read the full report here

Peter J Snee

Peter is a British born creative, working in the live entertainment industry. He holds an honours degree in Performing Arts and has over 12 years combined work experience in producing, directing and managing artistic programs & events. Peter has traversed the UK, Europe and Australia pursuing his interest in theatre. He is inspired by great stories and passionately driven by pursuing opportunities to tell them.

Peter J Snee

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