Melbourne International Arts Festival Appoints Next Artistic Director

Carol Schwartz, AM, President of the Melbourne International Arts Festival
announced Brett Sheehy as Artistic Director for the 2009 and 2010 Melbourne Festivals. Sheehy takes over from current Artistic Director, Kristy Edmunds who presents her final festival in 2008.

“We are very excited to welcome Brett Sheehy as the next Artistic Director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. His artistic vision and superb track record is recognised both nationally and internationally. Brett was without a doubt the standout candidate of our recruitment process, to continue to build upon Melbourne Festival’s position as one of the world’s leading contemporary international arts festivals” said Schwartz.

Sheehy is one of Australia’s most accomplished and acclaimed directors, curators and producers, and has been Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival of Arts since March 2004. He was Festival Director & Chief Executive of Sydney Festival (2002-2005), where he was also the Festival’s Deputy Director (1995-2001). Sheehy launched his 2008 (and final) Adelaide Festival in October.

Says 47 year-old Sheehy “I have always loved Melbourne and it’s festival. As the only festival in Australia that has an international pedigree (being a Spoleto festival by birth), I am acutely aware of its cultural integrity and origins and the responsibility that carries with it. I have been a Melbourne Festival-junkie for 15 years, having attended every Festival since 1992.

“Coming to Melbourne is a tremendous challenge for me - I have never worked here - and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with the city, its people and its artistic community. The depth of artistic talent in Melbourne is astonishing, and to have the opportunity to connect with those artists, to nurture, create and present new works with them, and to develop collaborations nationally and internationally, is a dream come true. My festival philosophy has always been that festivals must engage with the terrain of their cities – artistic, stylistic and topographic – and this will be our mission. As the people of Melbourne own this festival, I am especially excited at the prospect of presenting work for and with them. Melburnians’ artistic and cultural sophistication is Iegend and a gift for a festival curator.

“Melbourne is also, geographically, a great festival city. You can walk from almost every venue to venue, the whole on-going development of the cultural precinct of the south side of the river is absolutely visionary and a tremendous asset for the city.”


Sheehy’s 2006 Adelaide Festival program met with acclaim from artistic, press and public circles, nationally and internationally, breaking box office and attendance records for the Festival’s 46-year history.

In Adelaide, Sheehy helped secure with Adelaide Bank the largest arts sponsorship in the history of the State of South Australia, and one of the largest in Australia, at $3 million over three festivals with an option on a further two festivals through to 2014.

For Sydney Festival, Sheehy’s four programs saw the Festival double its box office attendances; consistently recording a substantial increase in attendances to free outdoor events; establish satellite Festival precincts in Greater Sydney; program 37 world premieres; establish a loyal audience following in the 18 to 35 age group; be voted Sydney’s Best and Most Popular Event by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce; and be named the Best Event in New South Wales in 2003 and 2005 by NSW Tourism.

Works presented as part of Sheehy’s Adelaide and Sydney Festival programs have seen a record 42 nominations for the Helpmann Awards, winning 13, including Best Opera, Best Special Event, Best Classical Concert and Best Dance Production.

Prior to joining Sydney Festival, Sheehy was Artistic Associate, Literary Manager and Deputy General Manager of the Sydney Theatre Company, Australia’s largest theatre company. He was also dramaturg of more than a dozen Sydney Theatre Company productions and workshops.

Sheehy has been a recipient of several awards including two International Society for the Performing Arts Awards (1993 and 1994), the prestigious Mobil Fellowship in Arts Administration (1991), a Qantas International Theatre Scholarship (1987), and a Brisbane Writers’ Festival Award (1981). In 1989 Brett edited (with Theresa Willsteed) the award-winning book Sydney Theatre Company 1978 to 1988.

Sheehy has also been a Script Assessor for the Australia Council (1989-1990), a Reader for the Australian National Playwrights’ Centre (1988-1989), and a member of several bodies, among them the Sydney Writers’ Festival Committee (1995-1997), the NSW Centenary of Federation Arts and Events Committee (1998-2001), the Board of the Australian Theatre for Young People (2000-2003), the Committee for Sydney (2001-2005), the Arts Advisory Group of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (2004-2006), and is currently a member of the Artists’ Advisory Panel of the Bell Shakespeare Company.

In 2005 Sheehy was named by the Australian Financial Review Magazine as one of the 20 Australians across all fields to be watched for their impact on society in the next 20 years, and in 2007 he was named by ABC’s Limelight magazine as “One of the top five most powerful people in the arts in Australia”. Most recently he was one of twelve eminent Australians appointed by the Australian Financial Review Magazine to its Power Panel.

Vivia Hickman, General Manager of Melbourne International Arts Festival welcomed him, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Brett. The depth and range of programming ideas he presented was simply outstanding.”

Victorian Minister for the Arts, Lynne Kosky congratulated Sheehy on his appointment, commenting that he brings both experience and enthusiasm to Victoria’s leading arts festival.

“Melbourne International Arts Festival reflects the Victorian Government’s commitment to bringing innovative, quality and diverse arts and cultural opportunities to Victorians, and strengthening Victoria’s reputation as a leading centre of arts and culture.”

Related Articles

In memory of Sekou Sundiata
It is with great sadness that Melbourne International Arts Festival advises of the passing of Sekou Sundiata. The eloquent and much loved poet, performer, artist activist and educator, passed away...

Most read Melbourne reviews

Waiting on You | Majella Productions

What astounds here is not only the enormous risk involved in producing a brand-new piece of...


The Hamlet Apocalypse | Danger Theatre Ensemble

The Hamlet Apocalypse is a curious event that is visually and aurally over the top and will keep...


Twelfth Night | Melbourne Theatre Company

If Shakespeare created a lot of fun for his actors with this play, Phillips has boosted the...


Sign up for our newsletter

* indicates required