Allison Russell

I love being able to work with community organisations to share their passions, interests and stories with a wider audience.

Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?

I have worked in museums for more than 20 years, and have always had a strong interest in community engagement. I completed a Churchill Fellowship in 2010, which allowed me to explore audience-centred museum programs in the UK.

I took over the management of South Australia's History Festival about 5 years ago. The History Festival is a community festival rather than a curated festival, but we have now started working closely with our event organisers to create a more inclusive and accessible festival. This is an area that we are very keen to develop further.

What do you love about what you do?

I love everything about the work that I do. In particular, I love being able to work with community organisations to share their passions, interests and stories with a wider audience. The growth of the History Festival in the last couple of years has helped to put us on the cultural map, and through my residency I am looking forward to exploring new ways of blending history, storytelling, creative practices and audiences.

In other areas of my work, I derive great satisfaction when programs create value for their audiences and provide interesting and unexpected experiences.

Where do you derive your inspiration from?

I'm a bit of a bowerbird, collecting ideas and inspiration from the world around me. I subscribe to a number of blogs and read widely, too.

The opportunity to see the inner workings of the George Town Festival - a terrific amalgam of heritage, the arts and local communities - is a gift. The multicultural nature of the local community and the grounding of the GTF within that community is a huge inspiration.

I have spent a few days in Sarawak, taking in some of the Rainforest Fringe Festival (also produced by Mr Joe Sidek and his team from GTF) and was inspired by the strong focus on local cultural and identity. The clever programming, which wove local and international practices together through exploration of common themes, gave multiple perspectives to audiences and context practitioners.

How has your practice changed over time?

In terms of event management, I would say that I have become more willing to take risks, and to cede power to audiences and participants. For example, a couple of years ago we co-curated an exhibition with 4 year olds as part of the History Festival, and we are soon to embark on some social-media co-curation projects, where the outcomes will be guided by the audience.

  • Allison Russell

    Arts Management