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Our Creative Territory

On a hot and sweaty Wet season evening of December 2019, the inaugural Northern Territory Performing Arts Awards (NTPAA) were held within the air-conditioned walls of Brown’s Mart Theatre. Six creative Territorians were recognised, for the first time on a Territory level, for their contribution to the Performing Arts industry in the NT.

Now, for its third year, the awards are back. With gusto.

By Tierney Seccull

The rich diversity of the Northern Territory’s Performing Arts industry sees works created and presented in varying Territory landscapes, from the middle of the Red Centre’s dry, vast desert to the lush surrounds of tropical gardensin the Top End.

This sense of place also transports audiences from purposely lit bricks and mortar theatre spaces to the outback, down the highway, and into the incredible imaginations of Territory playwrights. Kids on community get the opportunity to flex their creative muscles on Country, their teachers making tracks to bring creativity to them.

Considerable amounts of energy and work go into putting on these creative events, both on stage and behind the scenes. But appreciation on a Territory level of this hardworking creative industry had gone without formal recognition, until the inaugural awards were established in 2019.

Identifying this lack of acknowledgement of the hard work of Territorians involved in the NT Performing Arts space, We3 – a strategic alliance made up of Brown’s Mart, Tracks Dance Company and Corrugated Iron Youth Arts – took matters into their own hands “to publicly recognise and celebrate the value and achievement of the individuals who contribute to the Performing Arts in the Northern Territory.”

Outgoing Brown’s Mart Theatre Artistic Director, Sean Pardy – also a performance artist of almost three decades with 14 years’ experience in the NT – says it’s been a long time coming.

“It’s a pretty big part of our community and economy, and yet for years and years, there’s been no recognition and no celebration of the amazing achievements of performing artists,” he says.

“The Territory punches well above its weight with Performing Arts on the national stage – every other state jurisdiction has its own awards, and we felt that was deeply missing.

“[Former Corrugated Iron Executive Producer] Jane Tonkin and I said enough is enough! So, we hatched a plan to create the awards, approached Tracks Dance to see if they’d like to join our initiative, now We3, and self-produced the first awards in 2019.”

Pardy’s not lying when he says the contribution to the economy is a hefty one.

Findings in the first ever Creative Industries Strategy, launched just last year, noted the Performing Arts industry contributed a whopping $735.4 million per annum to the Territory’s economy. That’s almost three times that of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, for comparison.

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Chansey Paech says the Performing Arts industry is an important thread in the fabric of the Territory.

“The performing arts sector has a key role in our community, sharing our unique stories and cultural practices as well as contributing to the vibrancy and liveability across the Territory’s urban, regional and remote regions. The Northern Territory is geographically and culturally diverse and this is reflected in our performing arts and other genres. There are loads of fascinating stories to be told and the Territory’s stage is the perfect platform to bring them to life,” Minister Paech says.

“While audiences usually only see the performers, it takes dedicated teamwork and a huge talent pool to pull a show together and it is important to recognise the valuable work that happens in the background. We value our creative industries and acknowledge the important economic contribution and job creating opportunities they generate.”

Nominations for the 2021 NTPAA are open until October across a range of categories, both on stage and behind the scenes, the awards night set for November.

With a view to hold the awards annually, each presentation night will alternate between Darwin and Alice Springs – because let’s face it, the broad spectrum of artistic expression reaches the far corners of the NT.

With the Performing Arts industry still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, and without the recognition it so genuinely deserves, there’s never been a more important time to give our resilient Performing Arts mob kudos for their efforts.

Pardy says the awards are a movement that’s fast-gaining momentum, well deserving of its time under the spotlight.

“They’ve grown in popularity, and I’m pleased to say in reputation. Hopefully it can get bigger! We can approach with the same energy as other industry awards like sports awards, tourism awards, and even chef awards. We’ve been missing out for far too long.”

NT Performing Arts Awards
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Header & thumbnail: Value for Money, promotional image, GUTS Dance, Central Australia. Photo: Jonny Rowden
Top: The Final Front Ear, Brown's Mart Theatre. Photo: Paz Tassone
Middle: Kelly Beneforti and Jess Devereux, Tracks Dance Company. Photo: Duane Preston
Bottom: I've Been Meaning To Ask You, Corrugated Iron Youth Arts. Photo: Tony Lewis for Darwin Festival

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