PACT 50 Years on the Edge

(7pm, Saturday 18 October 2014, PACT Erskineville)

Thank you Carly, Jackson and Ryan [three young artist MCs]

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Tonight it is my privilege to help celebrate an important anniversary for the PACT Centre for emerging artists.

Thank you Uncle Ray Davison for your welcome to country.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have contributed to the success of PACT including:

  • Members of the Board and Chair Andrew Symes;
  • CEO and Artistic Director - Katrina Douglas;
  • General Manager Tija Lodins and the rest of the PACT'S staff
  • Current and past members of PACT;
  • Representatives from the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts NSW.
  • And acknowledge my colleague Deputy Lord Mayor, Cr Robyn Kemmis.

PACT's primary mission has changed over its history, but its importance to the performing arts hasn't.

The Companion to Australian Theatre tells us PACT initially stood for Producers, Authors, Composers and Talent. It was founded in 1964 by Robert Allnutt, Jack Mannix and Patrick Milligan as a tryout company for new Australian work. This was during the lull after the excitement and success of the Summer of the 17th Doll and before a new wave of Australian drama emerged a few years later.

And it involved people who would make a major contribution to Australian theatre, film and television. People like Peter Weir, Jack Thompson, Leonard Teale, Grahame Bond, Alex Buzo and Dorothy Hewett.

By the early 1970s theatres such Jane Street and Nimrod in Sydney and La Mama and the Pram Factory in Melbourne were providing platforms for Australian playwrights to tell our stories. And we could hear them told with Australian accents. The Australian Playwrights Conference was trying out new work and television stations had to meet an Australian drama quota. The Australian voice was being heard loudly and clearly!

By 1974, PACT recognised it had to evolve and recreated itself as PACT Youth Theatre. By taking on this role, it helped ensure that new generations would continue to enrich our cultural life. The fundamentals didn't change. You continued to provide a space where people could experiment, try out new ideas, challenge themselves and stretch their talents. And the commitment to new Australian work remained. Just one example is presenting the stage adaption of Melina Marchetta's novel Looking for Alibrandi, five years before it became a popular Australian movie.

And you built close relationships with the local community.

This became a strong feature of your work when you moved to Erskineville from your original home in the Corn Exchange Building in January 1988. I remember supporting PACT during its time at the Corn Exchange when I was City Alderman in the early and mid-1980s.

One of your current projects is an illustration of this. Your festival 'Tiny Stadiums' brings Erskineville Village to life. It gives everyone a chance to be involved, connect with PACT's artists and performers and even become performers themselves!

This same commitment to giving people the chance to be part of the process drives your involvement with the Sydney Fringe Festival to the iconic Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Encouraging people to become involved in cultural activities of all kinds is a core principle of our Creative City Policy. Increasing the opportunities for people to do this is the focus of many of the actions within the Policy and our Live Music and Performance Action Plan. This includes making it easier for people to use and adapt non-traditional spaces for live performances. Being able to do this in the past has been the foundation of many of our major theatre companies. We want to see more of this.

Nurturing imagination and creativity is vital for great cities to thrive. PACT has been instrumental in guiding and developing artists of all kinds, helping to bring our city to life, shaping its identity and giving it depth of experience.

I am proud to lead a council that recognises the importance of live performance to our cultural life. I am proud that we can demonstrate out support in practical ways, whether its through the refurbishment of the Burton Street Tabernacle as the Eternity Playhouse, or providing a home for the award winning Hayes Theatre Co and Australian music theatre, and through our support and providing a home for PACT, now evolved into the PACT Centre for Emerging Artists.

I congratulate your 50 years of working on the edge. Your artistic innovation, excellence and commitment, has helped maintain Sydney's position as one of the world's leading creative cities.

Your success is our success.