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Spotlight on Territory Talent

In 2019, the Northern Territory Performing Arts Awards were established to celebrate the achievements, courage and excellence of hardworking creatives who make up the Territory’s performing arts landscape. 

This month, you’re invited to nominate a local performer, show or artist that has contributed to the vibrant industry. 

By Kate Conway

If you've ever sat in an audience and been blown away by a performance, marvelled at a set design or costumes, or left with lyrics and lines echoing in your head, now is your chance to show your appreciation and give some of the NT’s brightest stars the recognition they deserve. 

The awards were born out of happenstance, when Artistic Director of Brown’s Mart at the time Sean Pardy, and former Corrugated Iron Youth Arts Executive Producer Jane Tonkin, found themselves with a spare 20 minutes after a third party didn’t show up for a meeting. 

“We started talking about how the NT was the only jurisdiction not to have a celebration of performing arts and how there was no opportunity for artists to be celebrated,” Pardy says. 

“Yet the flipside was they were doing this incredible work. So, we decided to just start something.” 

Joining forces with Tracks Dance, the three powerhouse organisations formed a strategic alliance coined We3 and set out to showcase the incredible talent and diversity of the community. 

Officially recognising the significant contribution of the performing arts to the NT’s economy and liveability, the dream was a flagship, Territory-wide celebration. 

“Our three-year plan was to present the awards ourselves. We had limited resources and just wanted to kick start them. Our hope was that they would gain enough momentum and become akin to other industry awards like the NT Sports Awards or The Brolgas for the tourism industry,” Pardy says. 

This year, the vision is well on the way to becoming a reality with the performing arts sector handing over the awards to the NT Government to take the awards to the next level. 

Northern Territory Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Chansey Paech says Darwin and its surrounding regions produce diverse, unique and impressive performing arts works. 

“The Territory’s performing arts sector is integral to the unique social fabric of our communities, weaving together our stories, creativity and culture with warmth, colour and emotion,” he says. 

“These Awards recognise the important contribution made by the performing arts – its creatives and the arts workers who make it all possible.” 

Red Centre project the Olive Pink Opera is a shining example of the resilience of the Territory’s performing arts industry. Three years in the making, the project overcame multiple obstacles, including being postponed twice before premiering last year under a starlit desert sky. 

A collaboration between composer Anne Boyd, Desert Song Festival, Olive Pink Botanic Gardens and the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir, the contemporary work featured open-sourced stories from Alice Springs residents and a children’s choir made up of local school students. It doesn’t get much more Territorian than that. 

Performer, physical theatre practitioner, and theatre maker Nicky Fearn took home an accolade in 2021 and says the awards fill an important gap by providing artists with tangible evidence of recognition for their work. 

“I was totally delighted that it happened, and I knew I could use that award in future grant applications,” she says. 

“When you’re applying for national grants, many people can quote noted papers or people but, in the NT, we don’t have anybody doing that form of reviewing anymore … it’s quite detrimental when we’re going up against the national applicants.” 

It’s a sentiment echoed by Pardy. 

“The struggle for NT artists is that we compete on a national stage yet it’s difficult to have national assessors understand the work that we’re doing and the great work that’s being created here because we’re four thousand kilometres away. Having these awards helps validate the great work that NT artists are already doing,” he says. 

On almost any day of the year, Territorians and visitors can take their pick from a bounty of performances bursting with talent and creativity. The awards are an opportunity to champion members of the performing arts community – both on and off the stage – who give their all to an industry powered by heart and passion, often for little return. 

“It’s a simple thing you can do to recognise a peer, colleague or friend, who you know is striving hard and doing great work. The life of an artist is not easy, and a nomination is something you can do that’s not going to cost you anything but will go a long way to supporting these artists,” Pardy says. 

Nominations are now open, with the awards night set for November. If you know of someone who deserves a shout out, nominating is a meaningful way to show your support. 

NT Performing Arts Awards 

Thumbnail & header: Central Australian Aboriginal Woman's Choir Perform at Olive Pink Opera. Photo: Emma Murray 
Inset top: 2021 NT Performing Arts Awards winners. Photo: Duane Preston
Inset bottom: Olive Pink Opera 2022. Photo: Chloe Erlich, courtesy of Olive Pink Botanical Garden. 

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