No two cultural events are ever the same but Jonathan Holloway, the Artistic Director of the Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) has a clear and singular vision – celebrate the extraordinary, which is why he has chosen The Phenomenal Journey of the Giants as his one of his standout swansongs at this year’s festival.
“It sounds flippant but when I first came here as Artistic Director four years ago I was somewhat comforted by the fact that if the Festival did disappoint I didn’t really know anyone.
The pressure has increased now I’ve got to know Perth a lot better and I feel a great sense of duty to deliver on a big scale.”
“The Giants, a modern-day fable that will be played out on the streets of Perth, is a big part of that. It’s full of energy and passion and we just knew we had to do it!”
This will be Jonathan’s fourth and final Festival and, when it all began in 2012, he expressed a desire to ‘disrupt’ the city with the art of the unexpected. And now, looking back?
“I’m really happy with the journey we’ve been on, given that you never really know where you’ll end up until the celebrations have played themselves out. The aftershocks of a Festival take time to develop. Ideally, they mature with time and live in the memory as much as in the moment.”
“Phillip Glass composed and played those amazing Etudes last year and they’re now about to be recorded as a major new release. That concert is now part of history and it’s left the musical world slightly changed. You just never know how far the ripples will run!”
Perth, by international standards, is a remote and somewhat isolated city. Jonathan reflects on the ideal geographical space for a celebration of all-things cultural.
“I think a festival changes according to the actual scale of a city. A city such as London, for example, tends to shape the particular events within a program. As a director you need to have an appropriate focus, find an audience and play to them.”
“My sense with Perth, and any city with a population of around 1.5 million people, is that you can engage the entire city and utilise the full gamut of artistic expression.
Some cities need a big cultural event and Perth really benefits from having a world class international arts festival, both geographically and in terms of year-round coverage.”
“If PIAF didn’t exist someone would have to invent it!”
Jonathan is something of a peripatetic artistic gypsy and another relatively short-term tenure is rapidly drawing to a close. Does he ever get used to saying goodbye?
“I’ve literally got nothing lined up for next year and, I have to admit, it’s more difficult to say farewell when you don’t know to whom you’re saying hello. Our two children have spent more than half their lives in Perth. It’s been home for them and they love it.”
“When you come to a new city you don’t give a thought about leaving and then suddenly it hits you. It’s certainly an interesting way to live a life, and a slightly strange one.”
• PIAF 2015, February 13 to March 7
After publication of this story in Medical Forum, Johnathon Holloway was announced as the Artisitc Director of the Melbourne Festival