The Australian Theatre Forum, run by TNA,is a landmark meeting place for Australian theatre industry professionals. Held in different locations around the country, this biennial event strengthens theatre as an art form by addressing current issues regarding policy and practice, sharing knowledge and view points, and cultivating fresh ideas that will, in turn, enrich Australian art, culture and society.
ATF 2021: Deconstructed
ATF in 2021 went ahead in a deconstructed, COVID responsive way. We planned five different events: 3 in person, and 2 online, across the year. The in-person events were designed so that if borders closed, the event can be hyper-local, with some online elements where appropriate. As 2021 has progressed, we feel lucky to have had a large in person gathering in Adelaide in May. The Darwin gathering was shifted online, and the Sydney in person gathering was sadly cancelled.
On May 14th-16th in Melbourne’s Arts House Meat Market there was a unique gathering of Australia’s theatre practitioners, producers, presenters and commentators to explore the urgent issues of our time and imagine possible futures for the Australian theatre sector. This forum was the first time the theatre sector got together in this way for over 20 years and it was hoped that this would be the first of a regular biennale forum hosted by different cities and towns across Australia.
In 2017 and 2018, as part of planning the next ATF or national gathering/s, TNA undertook a review of the ATF.
In response to sector changes and feedback from the sector, we employed consultant Andrew Bleby to do a desktop review of the ATF, including analysing the feedback from past evaluation surveys. A discussion paper was prepared, and after receiving valuable feedback to the paper from members and other stakeholders, we planned changes and refocused our priorities. Overall, we determined that we need to be very clear about who the ATF is for and what it provides them. In a nutshell we will:
Keep the focus on artists (55% of ATF attendees are artists);
Keep the focus on ensuring diversity – over half of the attendees identify as diverse: either First Nations, from a CaLD background, as a person with a disability, LGBTIQ+, and/or Regional/Remote;
Continue the successful Independent EOI strategy;
Continue to prioritise new voices – around 65% first-timers means true sector development, plus some oldies for continuity!;
Continue to have no more than 25% producers, and 20% ‘supporters’ (presenters, peaks, govt reps, academics);
Address problems around uneven facilitation skills;
Restructure the model in response to sector changes.
TNA has a new partnership with APAM, in its year-round operating model, and we will be contributing to the programming of national sector conversations. The first one happened at Asia TOPA in February 2020, and two others are planned for Adelaide and Darwin in 2021.
COVID-19 restrictions mean that we need to build flexibility into each gathering, so that we can nimbly adapt at a day’s notice. This means working with people on the ground in each location; building a clear refund policy; making each in-person event scaleable; and looking at different online models. In 2020 we trialled a spoke-and-hub model for our Safe Theatres workshops in WA, SA and NSW, wherein small in-person groups joined a zoom meeting as a ‘room’, facilitated centrally online by our TNA program manager. This allowed national engagement with our speakers, it allowed exchange between the different ‘rooms’, and it allowed each room to work in real life on scenario workshops where nuanced intimate conversations were needed.
Last updated: 15 September 2021
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