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About the guest

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Rob Brookman AM

"I think that you should come out of theatres, concert halls, and galleries - buzzing with ideas .. whether they're ideas about the way in which that art was constructed and the perfection or the beauty of it .. or whether it's about the social ideas or political ideas that are contained within those works."

The Adelaide Festival has always felt like a second home to Rob Brookman. It’s a place where he spent formative early years, left, returned – and is now farewelling professionally, but in no way personally.

Having been a spectator from the age of six, a performer, Artistic Director and – for the past three years – its Executive Director – Rob will exit the Adelaide Festival’s stage after this year’s diamond anniversary program.

In this episode, Rob reflects on his 45 year arts career and the changing cultural landscape in Adelaide he’s had to navigate, and shares his views on why culture – in the same way as education and health – is so important to creating a strong, liveable and truly extraordinary community.

Resources

The 2020 Adelaide Festival runs from 28 February to 15 March.

Visit the Adelaide Festival website for more information about the 2020 program – which can also be accessed in multiple formats via their General Access page.

Meet the Adelaide Festival's incoming (from April 2020) Executive Director - Elaine Chia.

Transcript

The transcript has been automatically transcribed for accessibility purposes; we apologise for any inconsistencies with the recording.

Voiceover (00:07):

Welcome to the Adelaide Living podcast where we share the stories of the city. Adelaide is a city shaped by stories, those of the traditional owners of the land and of our increasingly diverse community. Each story is unique, but what links them is the place of Adelaide, a city designed for life. So join us as we uncover inspiring stories of the people of Adelaide.

Christina Hagger (00:38):
Rob Brookman AM is the Executive Director of the celebrated Adelaide Festival and they effectively grew up in tandem. As a child he experienced its debut, and he's dedicated much of his arts career to helping build the Festival into a creative force. In the year of its 60th anniversary, we look back at triumphs and scandals that shaped the Adelaide Festival. But first, Rob reminds us how far Adelaide has come - how we've transformed from an outpost of the British Empire into an exhilarating festival hub with an international sphere of influence.

Rob Brookman (01:18):
When I first started working in the arts in the early '70s, pretty much every cultural institution was headed up by an English man. There were very few Australians who had aspired to those positions or been given the development to believe that they could aspire to those positions. So our new opera company, our theatre company, our dance company, they were all run by English men.

Christina Hagger (01:47):
Even our first Festival was run by John Bishop, wasn't it?

Rob Brookman (01:51):
Who was English by birth, and Adelaide was his adopted city. The beginnings of the Festival were utterly inspired by Edinburgh, and very, very self consciously modelled and indeed Sir Ian Hunter who was the Artistic Adviser to the Adelaide Festival in '60 and '62 had been the Director of the Edinburgh Festival. He was the person that the new board sought out as an inspiration.

Christina Hagger (02:20):
So I hadn't realised we were modelled on the Edinburgh Festival, I actually just remember the excitement of driving down King William Street, and seeing some windows lit with green neon light. It was pretty exciting. But more importantly, when did we develop our own wings? When did we, if we were born as a clone of Edinburgh in the colonies, when do we start to take flight?

Rob Brookman (02:44):
I would say it was a very (Don) Dunstan thing. And-

Christina Hagger (02:51):
And Dunstan, of course was?

Rob Brookman (02:53):
He was Premier of South Australia.

Christina Hagger (02:54):
In the '70s?

Rob Brookman (02:56):
In the '70s. I'm not going to be able to give you chapter and verse on the date.

Christina Hagger (03:00):
'70s is perfect.

Rob Brookman (03:01):
Yeah. But he was in an interesting position at the end of the '72 Festival, which had run into a good deal of strife financially - and the Festivals had the odd accident with money over its years.

Christina Hagger (03:18):
Some spectacular as I recall.

Rob Brookman (03:20):
Some utterly spectacular. So in '72, the Festival was really on its knees and the Board of Governors was having to ask the government whether they would very kindly be of assistance in seeing them through. And this was really in the early days of arts funding, that the government's involvement in supporting the Festival at that time was much lower than it is these days. So Dunstan had a wonderful lever with the board - he felt that the Festival really needed to find an identity that was more separate to that of Britain and less self consciously modelled on something like Edinburgh. So he was interested in a person who would take it to a different place. And at the same time, he was recruiting for someone to be General Manager of the Adelaide Festival Centre and stumbled across Anthony Steele who at that time was programming the South Bank in London. And Anthony pretty much pulled up to him and said, 'If you want me to come and be General Manager of the Adelaide Festival Centre, then offer me the job as Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival as well, and you'll have your man.' Because while he was interested in running a building like the Festival Centre, he was probably more interested in programming. And Don was therefore in a position to pretty much say to the Festival, 'I've got a new Artistic Director for you and you better take him on'.

Christina Hagger (04:45):
And you of course came in because that was your entrée, wasn't it? You'd finished university and you came in sort of junior-ing to him, is that right?

Rob Brookman (04:54):
Yeah, pretty shortly thereafter. So Anthony, I think would have come out to Adelaide in about '73 and I joined the Festival Centre and the Festival, which was then sort of merged within administratively, in late '74. And it was Anthony, who delivered the shock of the new, if you like, to the Festival - and really pushed the idea that the identity of the Festival could be one where people would be looking at the latest cultural trends from all over, but in such a way that it would be not just interesting to our population to see what was going on from elsewhere, but where people from elsewhere would pay attention.

Christina Hagger (05:43):
Because that's one of the things that you want to do with the Festival, isn't it? Is that it reflects what's going on around the world and also demonstrates what's coming out from Australia? It's a two-way mirror in a sense, is it not?

Rob Brookman (05:55):
Absolutely. So, Australian work is pivotal within the program, but it's placing international work within an Australian context and it's placing Australian work within an international context, if you like.

Christina Hagger (06:11):
So we've managed to demonstrate through the Festival to the world, what we're capable of, I think with some of the things like The Mahabharata in particular I think and some others you've said, it turned theatre, it turned dance on its head around the world.

Rob Brookman (06:27):
Yeah, I think one of the things that I feel most passionately about in relation to the Festival is the fact that it has created a series of watershed moments that have been deeply influential, particularly in our country. So you could see the ripple effect of Peter Brook's work from both the seasons that he did in 1980 and 1988 through into the theatre- making that the young and emerging and mid-career theatre directors were making. And the creative process is one of absorbing influence and then transforming it into something original and authentic and very much of oneself. But you need that richness of influence, I suppose. I mean, there are a few artists who sort of seem to spring fully formed out of absolutely nowhere, but the vast majority collect influences like magpies for years and years, and then gradually that unique voice of their own begins to emerge.

Christina Hagger (07:33):
And that's how you get diamonds, isn't it? You compress layers and layers, and then you form the diamond under pressure.

Rob Brookman (07:40):
Yeah. So that opportunity to bring things that you can see the influence of in future years is a really important thing the Festival can do.

Christina Hagger (07:51):
So with all of this happening away throughout the Festival, how did that really, when did that really start to permeate into Adelaide's culture - instead of something that was a fascinating aside or supplementary part of us?

Rob Brookman (08:08):
Yeah, look, I think the '70s were when we began to see the shape of what we have now emerge. And I think it's the point where there was some kind of attention to the two-way flow that goes on between that which is brought in, and that which is already here. But then the other thing that has to be remembered is that, up until the '70s, there was really virtually no professional performing arts scene in Adelaide at all. You had the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, a fantastic group of professional musicians. But the theatre company, it was a project of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, it didn't really find its true form until 1972. The State Opera Company was created in the '70s, the Australian Dance Theatre got going in the late '60s, But sort of became much more professionalised in the '70s. So, that was the time when there was a real flowering and a lot of that was again down to Dunstan's investment.

Christina Hagger (09:14):
So how much of it was Dunstan and how much of it was the city? I mean, if you're trying to look at - could this same festival have happened in another city? Did it have to have the political, the social landscape that Adelaide did to make it fly, as you say the way it did? Did it almost need the connectivity of a small city to make it work?

Rob Brookman (09:32):
Yeah, look, I would say ripe environment, but you need the catalysts to then make the possibility turn into something. Yeah, I think individuals can have an incredible influence, sometimes where something simply wouldn't happen at all or alternatively, where what they do is they advance the rate of progress really significantly. So things happen faster and they happen earlier, and at that point. You know from Adelaide's point of view, I suppose what happened was we got ahead of the game nationally, the fact that it was the in truth not quite the first multi-arts festival in Australia because the Festival in Perth actually beat us to the punch by a couple of years. But it's fair to say that the first Perth Festivals were very, very small and tentative affairs strictly confined to the campus of the University of Western Australia. So, Adelaide already had that thing of it's the city that's got an international festival before anyone else did really. And then when it took that big leap in the '70s, it transformed beyond simply being the first and the most interesting in Australia to being one of the most interesting in the world.

Christina Hagger (10:52):
How have you managed to maintain that position because there would be people jostling, festivals jostling for that crown and for something turning 60 (in 2020)? How do you do it?

Rob Brookman (11:04):
I think it's fair to say that the progress of the Festival has not simply been one long, perfect uninterrupted ascent.

Christina Hagger (11:17):
Oh, really? I could have sworn that it would have been just a smooth linear line.

Rob Brookman (11:20):
There have been plenty of stumbles along the way, and there have probably been periods in which we sort of dropped back to the pack, if you like, and we weren't necessarily particularly distinguished relative to some of the other festivals in Australia and around the world. But in terms of keeping it fresh and in terms of refining that mojo, if it's lost at particular times, it's really down to two things. One is that you need the right board, you need the environment in which a terrific Artistic Director or in our case currently, brace of  Artistic Directors, can make their work. So you need those two things, you can have a terrific Artistic Director and if they're not given the opportunity, and the support, and the resources, then they will simply become frustrated people and not deliver to the potential. On the other hand, you can have the best governance in the world and if you don't have great artistic direction then you're nothing.

Christina Hagger (12:25):
So governance, and artistic, and reputation? Because is it not the Festival's reputation that is attractive to the Artistic Directors as well as the acts themselves?

Rob Brookman (12:39):
Sure, it's like any virtuous circle, if you've got the reputation of being great, then you're more attractive to great people. And that includes both the Artistic Directors and the artists, so from our point of view, the longevity of the Festival and its reputation are great door openers when it comes to inviting people to come to our country.

Christina Hagger (13:06):
Do you have people tapping you on the shoulder and saying, 'just to let you know I'm available'?

Rob Brookman (13:12):
Yeah. No, there's certainly a steady stream of proposals we receive, although, it's fair to say that the vast majority of the programs are usually assembled more through the pursuit of the Artistic Directors than by people putting their hand up.

Christina Hagger (13:30):
Now, they are the ones who not only keep the Festival fresh, but they keep it questioning and challenging. How much sometimes is that questioning and challenging program a headache for the board?

Rob Brookman (13:44):
Oh it's created all kinds of trouble over time. But then I think that provoking not for the sake of provocation, but because that is the nature of art that questions. It's part of the role. And I think most of the boards understand that, at least by the time they leave the board if they didn't understand when they first caught on to it. So now we've got a little collection of banner posters from The Advertiser that hang in the office and the ones that you collect and that you keep are always the ones that are sort of sporting outrage of one form or another. So I think back to the sort of insane controversy spawned by Robyn Archer, putting an accordion in the hands of the Virgin Mary on the poster of her Festival. I must say, I was just absolutely gobsmacked by the sort of hail of condemnation that came down upon her for daring to take a lighthearted view in some way of religious iconography.

Christina Hagger (14:56):
Hail is the right word. When was that, just remind us? Not chapter and verse.

Rob Brookman (15:02):
Well, Robyn did the '98 and 2000 Festivals and I cannot quite tell you which one had the accordion.

Christina Hagger (15:07):
But it was between those?

Rob Brookman (15:08):
Yeah.

Christina Hagger (15:09):
So we've grown up a lot since then. And how has the Festival helped us grow up?

Rob Brookman (15:17):
Look, I think that apart from anything else - things happen that initially people may question and be surprised about, and in some cases object to violently. And then afterwards they go, oh, that wasn't so bad after all.

Christina Hagger (15:32):
We lived. The sun came up the next morning.

Rob Brookman (15:35):
Yeah. In some cases we even got the law changed. I think to the Festival that I directed in '92. We brought a fantastic French street company called ilotopie - and they had a number of different projects that they worked on, but one in particular was this project in which four of them stripped down to g-strings and then painted themselves with this kind of incredibly thick and bright paint of primary colours. So there was one red person, one green person, one blue person, one yellow person. And then they just walked through the streets and it's kind of quite an extraordinary thing to look at - and it predated any of those buskers who paint themselves silver and pretend to be statues. And there's something about the image of this absolutely red human being and this absolutely blue human being, walking through Rundle Mall very slowly or wherever. And I was hurtling along, as was my want from the Festival Centre to the Elder Hall to go to a lunchtime concert and saw a bunch of squad cars pulled over on North Terrace with lights flashing and so on.

Rob Brookman (16:45):
I thought, 'Hello, something's going on here'. And then I saw one of our bright red people and thought 'uh-oh' and sure enough, the police were in the process of arresting the French street theatre group that we had brought in. So I jumped out of the car and went over, and at this point, the policeman was trying to grab the female member of the group, and one of the male members of the group was really kind of outraged that the policeman was laying his hands on her. And so he grabbed the policeman by the shoulder, of course, in the process, putting a massive blue hand print onto the soldier's uniform, which did not go down well. And before you knew it, there was this kind of frenzy of policemen and red hand prints and yellow hand prints and blue hand prints all over uniform. And I'm saying, 'Please, everybody stop this. I'm the Artistic Director of the Festival. These people have been invited to our country. Sergeant, just please stand down for a moment.' And he said to me, 'Get out of the way mate, otherwise you're in the back of the paddy wagon too'.

Rob Brookman (17:53):
And they were all bundled into the back of paddy wagons. So I chased them to police headquarters down on Angas Street, got out of the car, and the Sergeant walked up to me and you know, pretty much chested me and said, 'If you walk over that yellow line mate you are going into a cell'.

Christina Hagger (18:13):
Not the blue line, the red line, the yellow line?

Rob Brookman (18:15):
Whichever it was. And I said, 'Look, this is just going to turn into a public relations disaster for the South Australian police force. I don't want to see that happen'. And he said, 'Back off, get out of here'. And I said 'okay', ran in next door and said, 'Can I please speak to the media department of the police force, something really bad is going down here.' Eventually managed to find the right person, but by that time they'd been charged and due process had to be followed. It did turn into a scandal, the French Ambassador flew from Canberra, sat with the group in solidarity at a performance by a French dance company the following night - after they'd been bailed. The great thing about it is, long story short, is that the law in South Australia was changed as a result. And you could go nude for art in Adelaide, thanks to ilotopie and the Adelaide Festival.

Christina Hagger (19:07):
And thanks to the Artistic Director. So it's not just boardroom meetings, and budgets, and programming, is it?

Rob Brookman (19:15):
No.

Christina Hagger (19:15):
Clearly you have to be multi-skilled as you learned from your early days with Anthony Steele, I think you were finding one of the biggest beds in town in certain act?

Rob Brookman (19:26):
Yeah, my eyes were like sauces sometimes when I worked on the first Festival. I was incredibly naive and had no idea I suppose of the demands or - temperament I think is an overused word in terms of artists because most artists they're not temperamental per se. But they have many interesting demands, and in the case of Hans Werner Henze, who was a major German composer who we brought to the Festival, his was for a particularly large bed because he preferred to share it with a number of people.

Christina Hagger (20:02):
So you learned from your very first stint of how to be flexible fast and problem solve all the way?

Rob Brookman (20:09):
Absolutely, when I delivered a rental car to the amazing South African actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona, who did Athol Fugard's plays Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island and won Tony Awards for it. So I went round to their hotel and I brought this hire car because they'd said they really ... we'd said, you don't need one in Adelaide, you can walk around, but it was in the contract. So brought the car around and I just got hell from them. They said, 'You expect us to drive this? We don't like this car. It's a horrible car.' So I said, 'Okay, well what kind of a car do you want?' And they said, 'Well, what kind of a car do you have?' I said, 'Well, we can get all kinds' and so eventually I said, 'Would you like to come down to the car rental company with me and we can pick one out for you?', which they did. And they were so happy as they drove out of this place in a bright yellow Mini Moke.

Christina Hagger (21:08):
That's style. That's style, it may not be comfortable, but who cares? It's got style.

Rob Brookman (21:14):
Yeah.

Christina Hagger (21:14):
And moving from that, could you perhaps share with us your thoughts on the arts offerings in Adelaide right now, and also perhaps where we're headed?

Rob Brookman (21:24):
I think that we... put it this way, we probably punch above the level of support that is offered. But we also significantly live off reputation. And just at the moment, we've got a Premier who is marvellously supportive towards the arts in terms of the way in which he comes along and attends things, he is incredibly supportive in terms of fundraising efforts and so on- that he has arrived at a time when historically the support that the State provides to the arts has sunk to a significant low. And it's proving to be very difficult to shift that. And at the moment, given the problems that we have with funding to the Australia Council as well, the richness and the diversity of art being made in Adelaide is under really severe threat, and I think has diminished over the last decade. So I think it's terribly important that we don't just say, 'Well, we've got some beautiful venues and we've got a great Festival that happens every year and the Fringe is incredible, and WOMADelaide is great' - we can't live in an event culture and regard ourselves as a cultured city.

Rob Brookman (22:54):
There has to be an incredible bed of artists and work that is from here, and that needs support. And we can't call ourselves a creative community, we can call ourselves a consuming community. And I think it's one of the things that Adelaide can be good at.

Christina Hagger (23:17):
How can we do it better because, how can we assess the importance of culture and equally - is there any way we can measure that as a precursor to say, 'Look, this is how we measure it, this is what we need to fund it'?

Rob Brookman (23:35):
There's been some great work done on this out of Flinders University by Julian Meyrick and Tully Barnett recently, and there's a really significant paper that was released called, I think, Value in Culture, which sought to do exactly that - because I think we've been caught in the trap of economic impact as being a measure of the importance of the arts for too long. When I -

Christina Hagger (24:03):
Number of programs sold, number of bums on seats ..

Rob Brookman (24:05):
Absolutely, it's all 'show us the numbers', - KPIs should be made of numbers they can't be made of anything else. When I first started working in the arts in the '70s, no one had... the word, the term KPI hadn't been invented. It wasn't about numbers. It was about it was about the importance of culture to the community in the way in which education is important to the community, or the way in which health is important to the community. The arts are not a pathway to somewhere else, they are an end in themselves. And I believe that is the way in which we can continue to transform ourselves as a community and make ourselves an extremely interesting and potentially extraordinary place. Because that's something that other cities don't do, don't take seriously.

Christina Hagger (24:59):
So, with all the focus on wellbeing, the focus on culture as our sense of who we are, how we learn, how we develop - that sort of comes in in a Venn diagram, would it not - with that wellbeing?

Rob Brookman (25:14):
Absolutely. Absolutely. But it is something that ultimately will then drive the economy. But I think that a lot of people have trouble joining up the dots between the two. And I go back to the visionary that Dunstan was, and every now and again, people say, 'everyone talks about Dunstan in the '70s'. Well, that's because this was an extraordinary person who did extraordinary things. And a couple of the things that he pushed, amongst many... and this is putting aside the incredible work that he did in social justice and making us a better community to live in, two things that he loved and that he really wanted to say transform were the arts and the other one was food. And when I talk about (Adelaide) being 'a dull flat white bread city' (in the '70's) - I mean, white bread describes the cuisine of the day. British stodge basically, with a few Mediterranean influences coming in from postwar migration, but really, food was something that was basically to just keep you going.

Christina Hagger (26:22):
It was fuel.

Rob Brookman (26:25):
Yeah. And I think he's significantly responsible for the food culture of Adelaide and maybe because food is something that everybody does one way or another, the people have developed a greater pride about the gastronomic side of what Adelaide does, the fresh produce and-

Christina Hagger (26:45):
Tasting events, Tasting Australia, tasting everything.

Rob Brookman (26:48):
Because food is for everybody, and it's easy, and I'm not knocking it, I love it.

Christina Hagger (26:53):
Can I ask about your sense of the value of culture. I gather that you feel it's important to society - not just to develop our thinking, but also to challenge our identity.

Rob Brookman (27:07):
Yeah, I think that you should come out of theatres and concert halls, and galleries - buzzing with ideas. And whether they're ideas about the way in which that art was constructed and the perfection of it or the beauty of it, its pure aesthetic qualities - or whether it's about the social ideas or political ideas that are contained within the sort of the debate that might exist within those works. That's where it should take you. Every piece of art should in some way be advancing a dialogue within... whether it's within people themselves, whether it's between just a couple of people, or whether it spills out into the community in a wider way. There are so many times when I guess when I've seen a fantastic work of art when I felt I could never have understood the ideas within this piece by reading a well constructed essay about it. That the impact that a piece of performance, or a piece of visual art, or a piece of music can have on you in delivering the punch of that idea is beyond, I think, often the kind of the rationale of a dialectic that someone might set up.

Christina Hagger (28:32):
Culture so to speak, it doesn't just work on the impact on the individual as you said - how have you seen how it brings communities together?

Rob Brookman (28:41):
In so many different ways. I mean, one moment. I guess, one of those galvanizing moments that I would say well, 'here's an example of what I've just been talking about', was we brought an extraordinary company in '92, from South Africa, doing a piece called Sarafina which was about the apartheid regime in South Africa. And it was performed to a significant degree by children. And it dealt with a moment in South African history when the school children basically went on strike against the regime, the black school children. It was at the particular point where the South African government was voting to determine whether it would go to a referendum on apartheid. And the news came through, halfway through the opening performance of this show. And at the end of the performance, for 2,000 people in the Festival Theatre, the leader of the company was able to come out on stage and say, 'The vote has just been taken, and our country is moving away from apartheid'. And that sort of sense of confluence of, the amazing impact of the performance and then the real world entering into it - it was not only sort of devastating in an emotional sense, but I guess the sense of elation for people, the sense of the world turning, and feeling the earth turn - was quite remarkable. And I love those moments when, whether it's politics or social issues coincide with art, and people can feel like there's a sort of a tipping point that they've been part of.

Christina Hagger (30:30):
Clearly, the Festival has had its share of landmark moments through its 60 years history. Could you perhaps tell us about your experience with the former Artistic Director, George Lascelles, the Earl of Harewood and Queen's cousin, and of course, his wife Patricia who I believe you recall as being 'wickedly hilarious'.

Rob Brookman (30:54):
To go to George and Patricia, you know I've got to say when George's appointment was announced in '86 - so I guess I was 32 at the time, so still 'full of it' basically. Already Administrator of the Festival, and had been for four years by then, surprisingly. And I just thought, 'Wow, the board have appointed the Queen's cousin to run the Festival in our Bicentennial year', and I was kind of-

Christina Hagger (31:24):
What were they thinking?

Rob Brookman (31:25):
Yeah, I was kind of horrified and in so doing... fortunately I didn't express that opinion to anyone because I would have just paraded my own ignorance in relation to Lord Harewood's accomplishments. I had not really clocked that he had been the driving force behind the English National Opera, that his depth of musical knowledge was utterly extraordinary, that the relationships that he had with great musicians, great opera singers from around the world, his knowledge of theatre, dance and song were utterly amazing and there's a very good reason why he directed the Leeds Festival, and the Edinburgh Festival. And in the end he kind of chucked any of my residual objections out the window by saying to me when we first met, 'I've heard some good things about you, and you seem good, so would you like to be the Associate Director and would you like to put together the Australian end of the program?' 'Okay'.

Christina Hagger (32:30):
So I think you said he'd researched you even more than you'd researched him?

Rob Brookman (32:33):
Absolutely. I felt like a complete nincompoop, really.

Christina Hagger (32:37):
Well you didn't need to, because you hadn't mentioned it to anyone. So we won't tell anyone.

Rob Brookman (32:41):
That's right. But I then had the pleasure of meeting Patricia who was an Australian, and their relationship had been scandalous in that they met while George was still married. And members of the Royal Family did not divorce and George did, and he was pretty much excommunicated from the palace for many, many years as a result of that. And Patricia was, I imagine, regarded significantly askance for many years. So they'd lived through this period of public scandal, and opprobrium, and had come out on the other side with the most incredibly generous spirits, and yet, if you got Patricia on a good day and she decided to get stuck in on any particular subject, she had the most incredibly sharp, razor sharp, sense of humour. And they left I think, sort of an indelible impression on us, certainly on me.

Christina Hagger (33:52):
As they all have and they all became lifelong friends. But I believe that you have two particular old friends who were also excellent motivational tools. You refer to your old friends 'white knuckle terror and blind optimism'.

Rob Brookman (34:08):
Yeah.

Christina Hagger (34:08):
How have they served you?

Rob Brookman (34:10):
Extremely well. Hopefully, the 'white knuckle terror' doesn't show itself too much because - when you wind up in a leadership role, your job is to remain outwardly calm and to look as though you're reasonably in control of what's going on and capable of dealing (with) whatever comes up. So you do, but it doesn't mean that you're not absolutely churning inside and frequently with the Festival because it makes demands of you. And it's one of the exciting things about it is, find a way to make this happen, this thing that hasn't happened before.

Christina Hagger (34:58):
It's your canvas, you make it happen.

Rob Brookman (35:01):
Go and find a place to do it, go and assemble the forces that you need, try this thing that on the surface of it looks as though it's really most unlikely to succeed. That is inevitably exhilarating on one level, but also terrifying. But I do find great motivation in not wanting to screw up, like most people. But I find that that anxiety about things like that can be crippling and can actually block you. I find actually it acts as an amazing spur.

Christina Hagger (35:40):
You've successfully pursued your artistic ambitions from Adelaide, based in Adelaide. Was that a conscious choice? Did you ever perhaps feel that there might have been a need to leave?

Rob Brookman (35:53):
Um, there's kind of a bit of ordinariness there. From pretty early on, because you connect with a lot of people from outside your own community, whether it's around the country or in other parts of the world - and I would just get really sick of people from other places saying 'You're going to have to move. You're never going to be able to stay in a city like Adelaide and pursue what you want to do. You've got a bit of talent, you've got to get out' and I'd just get... 'no, I actually would prefer to stay here, thanks very much'. I love this city in many ways, it also irritates and frustrates me enormously, but if you boil it down, there is something about sense of place. It is somehow 'deep home' for me. Perhaps that's partly due to the fact that my family has been remarkably sedentary and very few of our mob who came out from Scotland in the late '30s of the 19th century, have ever struck out of South Australia or Adelaide.

Rob Brookman (37:08):
So part of it I think was simply a kind of a stodgy Adelaide response to say, 'I like it here I want to stay'. And another bit was-

Christina Hagger (37:16):
Well, recognition of place is a very honest and real thing.

Rob Brookman (37:19):
Yeah. But another part was also... it was slightly 'up you', I will pursue this and I'll do it here where I want to, and I want to make the thing that's here that I'm working on good, rather than going somewhere else and trying to make someone else's thing good. Because this is - I suppose the Festival and the arts community within Adelaide for me have felt... it's felt like my thing, it's felt like the thing that I wanted to pursue one way or another and be part of, and to assist in whatever way I can.

Christina Hagger (37:54):
I think you've assisted and contributed in an enormous way. This is your last Festival?

Rob Brookman (38:00):
Yeah. Well as an organiser, I look forward to my next as consumer.

Christina Hagger (38:05):
Absolutely. How does that feel or have you not had a chance to think about - is there a potential gaping void? What next for Rob Brookman?

Rob Brookman (38:15):
I had to finish with the Festival once before back in '92, after I'd sort of worked my way from the janitor's room up to directing the Festival. So, this has always felt like kind of a beautiful coda to that, and I've known that it was going to have a limited arc to it. So I guess there's not so much a sense of - it's all over - because I've been there before. And in terms of what's next-

Christina Hagger (38:49):
Almost a dress rehearsal.

Rob Brookman (38:49):
Pretty much. In terms of what's next, I don't know - I've been doing this for 45 years and I've got a big section of garden to build at that communal farm and I'll probably undertake a few individual producing projects here and there as-

Christina Hagger (39:06):
Spawning anything new? Because I mean, one thing I should have mentioned is, of course, the Festival mother-ship spawned Come Out Youth Festival, the Fringe, Writers' Week and WOMAD.

Rob Brookman (39:16):
Yeah. And I love that fact that those other festivals have become so important in their own right and - in the case of Writers' Week it stayed within the ambit of the mother-ship, although it very much runs its own race within the Festival. But with WOMADelaide, the Fringe and Come Out - they're completely different organisations these days. They've got their own setups, and they've built their own separate identities that are incredibly important for this city. So, there's nothing like that on the horizon, I can assure you. One thing that I kind of swore that I would do is not decide what I would do until I'd actually got out. But I can't imagine just gardening. Well, no - I can imagine just gardening, but it probably won't happen.

Christina Hagger (40:08):
Rob, thank you. That has been wonderful.

Rob Brookman (40:10):
Thank you. Great pleasure.

Voiceover (40:13):
We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Adelaide Living podcast, which is brought to you by the City of Adelaide. Discover more stories about people, places and projects having a meaningful impact on our city, by subscribing to this podcast, or visiting the Adelaide Living website at living.cityofadelaide.com.au

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Dr Christina Hagger combines her radio presenter, writing and researcher skills to help people tell, and share, their stories. She understands the power of voice and narrative to inform, build community, and influence change.

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