Game Changers: The future of festivals

This event has already taken place.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Join us for the final Game Changers conversation for 2015, brought to you by Victoria University in partnership with Maribyrnong City Council.

How do you justify your festival? Why does it matter? Why should it continue?

For the final Game Changer of 2015, we are thrilled to bring you a panel of the leading creative thinkers behind Victoria’s premier festivals. Facilitated by the ever entertaining Ian Pidd, the artistic directors of Next Wave, Fringe, Castlemaine, and Melbourne Festival(s) will join our very own Westie leaders to argue the case, the purpose and the rationale for their festival.

In the heart of Footscray, at the mid-point of the 2015 Big West Festival, our go-getting panel will share their quests and obsessions about creating cultural celebration. Advocating for arts patronage, creative inclusion and community access is a multi-faced beast that has many masters. At this event, we will attempt to unlock the rules and tools, and distinguish the boundaries from the horizons. Exploring the ramifications of federal funding control (#freethearts) and perceptions of artist control, we will try to understand our motivations for social festivities and the principles behind creative assignment.

The evening promises to be a juicy and confronting conversation!



Ian Pidd, freelance Melbourne-based director of theatre and festivals.


  • Simon Abrahams, Creative Director & CEO – Melbourne Fringe Festival
  • Marcia Ferguson, Artistic Director – Big West Festival
  • Jonathan Holloway, Artistic Director – Melbourne Festival
  • Georgie Meagher, Artistic Director & CEO – Next Wave Festival
  • Martin Paten, Director – Castlemaine State Festival
  • Hai Pham, Festival Coordinator, East Meets West Lunar New Year Festival.

About the panel

Ian Pidd

Ian Pidd’s work is routinely seen throughout Australia and internationally. He has led or worked in key roles with organisations as diverse as Moomba, Melbourne Fringe, The Village, Falls Festival, Back To Back, and Snuff Puppets. He has recently directed work for Men of Steel, Polyglot Theatre, and Terrapin. His work is known for being participatory, highly playful and created across genres and media.

Simon Abrahams

Simon Abrahams is Creative Director & CEO of Melbourne Fringe, and Chair of Theatre Network (Vic), an organisation he co-founded in 2009. He has held senior roles in leading organisations, including the Wheeler Centre, Arts Centre Melbourne, Polyglot Theatre and Gasworks Arts Park. Simon sits on the Theatre Panel for the Helpmann Awards and the Contemporary & Experimental Performance Panel for the Green Room Awards.

Marcia Ferguson

Artistic Director of the Big West Festival, Marcia Ferguson, is a director, writer, deviser and curator of contemporary performance with a particular interest in experimental, hybrid and community arts. Marcia has worked at Back to Back Theatre since 2000 as a freelance director, and as Artistic Associate since 2007 collaborating with artists, schools, communities of all ages and abilities, and the ensemble, on numerous productions and projects such as Ganesh versus the Third Reich. Marcia’s work has toured widely and over the last four years she has directed works in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, England and USA.

Jonathan Holloway

Having just completed four successful years as Artistic Director of the Perth International Arts Festival, Jonathan Holloway is now Artistic Director Designate of the Melbourne Festival. His time in Perth culminated with Royal de Luxe’s “The Giants”, playing to audiences of 1.4 million people over three days. It received Helpmann Best Special Event Award 2015.

Jonathan spent six years as Artistic Director & CEO of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, and from 1997–2004 established and headed the National Theatre’s events department, where he was the founding artistic director of Watch This Space Festival and co-wrote/directed Robin Hood in the National’s Loft Theatre. In July 2003 he was Creative Director of Elemental, a large-scale theatre, music and spectacle event at Chalon-sur-Saône festival in France. He serves the Executive of the British Arts Festivals Association and is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts.

Martin Paten

As Director of the Castlemaine State Festival, Martin has taken the 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 Festivals to unprecedented levels of creative and financial success. Prior to this, Martin directed the Moonee Valley Festival, oversaw the strategic direction of Melbourne Moomba Festival and managed funding relationships with many of Melbourne’s major international festivals including Melbourne’s Arts, Fringe, Comedy, Film, Jazz, Midsumma and Next Wave Festivals. Martin left the City of Melbourne in December 2007 after a 10 year career managing a team delivering Melbourne’s Public Art and Laneway Commissions, Melbourne Conversations, City Music and Art and Heritage Collection.

Georgie Meagher

Georgie Meagher, Artistic Director/CEO of Next Wave is a curator, writer and organiser with an interest in live and visual art. Georgie led the public programs team at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia as Public Engagement Manager and was the recipient of a 2012 Cultural Leadership grant from Australia Council for the Arts. In 2010-11, she was a Co-Director of Firstdraft, where she co-convened, in partnership with the National Association for the Visual Arts, the first national symposium of artist-led self-organisation in Australia. Georgie holds an MCA in Performance from the University of Wollongong, NSW (2008) and has performed at ANTI Festival in Finland and You and Your Work Festival at Arnolfini, Bristol.

Hai Pham

Since 2007, Hai Pham has coordinated the East Meets West Lunar New Year Festival, attracting over 60,000 patrons into the heart of Footscray. Hai also manages the Philippine Fiesta at the Melbourne Showground, the Diwali and Holi Indian Festivals at Sandown, the Springvale and Sandown night markets and the Footscray and Sunshine Lantern Festivals. In addition to managing festivals Hai also owns a marquee and staging company that provides infrastructure to over 56 festivals a year.


This is a free event.

Register to attend

About the Game Changers series

The Game Changers Conversation series presents pivotal ideas, personalities and moments in Australia’s evolving story for public discussion and debate.

It is a project of the Footscray University Town initiative. Victoria University and the Maribyrnong City Council have embarked on a long term journey to revitalise Footscray as a university town; harnessing the strengths of the University and the City for the benefit for local communities and VU staff and students; in a way that contributes to a vibrant social and economic future for Footscray.

The events are free and open to the whole community.

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This event has already taken place.

25 November 2015, 6:30pm to 7:45pm