Olivia Ansell, a valued alumna and Dance of Champions event host of Sydney Eisteddfod, has in recent months been announced as the new Sydney Festival Director from 2022!
As a young dancer, Olivia performed many times in our annual Festival in her formative years and we are proud to have played a part in these earlier days of her career.
We caught up with Olivia last week to congratulate her on being selected for this very exciting position and to hear all about how she’s tracking.
What are you most looking forward to when you officially take up this position?
Now more than ever, we must get behind the Australian cultural sector and help to restore our industry.
I am looking forward to joining the Sydney Festival team, and together playing our part in supporting a broad range of artists and companies across the performing and visual arts.
Hopefully 2022 will mean the return of innovative and meaningful collaboration and exchange between Australian and International artists, with people attending theatres again.
I am looking forward to attending Wesley Enoch’s final Sydney Festival this January and enjoying Sydney in Summer, albeit it socially distanced.
You were offered this role in the middle of a world pandemic – how has COVID-19 affected you and your plans before you step into this role.
The instinct for any festival director commencing a new role, is to get out there and see as much work as possible, travelling nationally and internationally, whilst also holding multiple conversations over email/ zoom.
Travel is impossible at the moment; hence, I have become quite disciplined with watching work online. The global arts industry has demonstrated its responsiveness and agility, with some festivals moving entirely online, dance companies are premiering new commissions digitally and museums and galleries have launched virtual online exhibitions.
Whilst many organisations were already digitally savvy before COVID, the pandemic has certainly accelerated this area of the business for others. It’s very exciting to see and definitely a great resource for how we can research new work in the future.
Any advice for our entrants who dream of performing in Sydney Festival or of taking up a prominent position in the entertainment industry like yourself one day?
Young artists are incredibly disciplined and focused. I believe this trait is one of the most valuable tools you can possess.
It never leaves you regardless of what career you might pursue. Performance experience during your student years is incredibly valuable.
I have seen many young opera graduates from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music journey on to perform with some of the world’s best opera companies, as a result of the experiences awarded to them from the Aria challenge.
[Photo: Olivia Ansell hosting Sydney Eisteddfod Dance of Champions 2018. Header Photo: Sydney Morning Herald - pictured by Louise Kennerley]
Did you learn any valuable career lessons from your time performing and competing in the Sydney Eisteddfod Festival in the past?
Having an opportunity to perform, I remember enjoying this aspect of my training... A performance date is like a deadline, you need to train up to it, motivating you to be the best that you can.
Opportunity as a student allows you to practice and make mistakes, learn the craft in front of an audience. Even as a professional this never ceases to be nerve-racking!
What are some of your hopes and visions for Sydney Festival as you transition into your new role?
Wesley Enoch has curated an extraordinary body of new Australian work, championing First Nation and diverse voices through deep collaboration with some of Australia’s most exciting theatre companies.
His Black Out program will undoubtedly be his legacy and I look forward to continuing this commitment to First Nation programming in the festival.
Younger demographics will be looking for that cool contemporary music act or edgy urban story and family audiences will seek interactive public art and entertaining circus and physical theatre events.
It’s fair to say that anyone who remembers Sydney before lock-out laws is searching for the live music program. I can’t wait to restore this aspect of the festival.