The 2018 Darwin Festival (9-26 August) has drawn to a close following 18 glorious hot August nights. The stellar program of shows has seen a second, consecutive record-breaking year, with the 2018 event the most successful season in Darwin Festival’s 39-year history.
The 2018 Darwin Festival smashed all previous ticket sales records with over 44,000 tickets sold, representing 6,800 more tickets sold than 2017 and 22,567 more tickets sold than 2016. The 2018 Festival achieved its highest gross box office since its inception in 1979.
The 2018 program featured 703 performers, including 400 local NT artists, in 228 free and ticketed performances across 31 Darwin venues.
55% of ticketed shows sold out – a total of 93 sold-out performances – with the Festival scheduling additional theatre, comedy and cabaret shows to meet demand.
The Festival enjoyed 15 straight weeks of the highest tickets sales on record, with a record 10,160 tickets sold in the first week of the Festival alone, demonstrating audiences’ eager anticipation and great affection for Darwin Festival.
“Our opening weekend celebrating the best in contemporary Indigenous arts practice was huge, with record attendances at the National Indigenous Music Awards, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and the NATSIAAs,” said Artistic Director Felix Preval.
“Darwin continues to be enamoured with incredible Spiegeltent shows. The Aurora Spiegeltent, home to the awe-inspiring cabaret show LIMBO, was a smash-hit with 22 performances playing to 11,300 ticket holders.
“We were on our feet for Baker Boy in The Lighthouse, who kicked off our stunning live music program. It will be impossible to forget Rob Ruha and Ria Hall’s dynamic performance, or the amazing sell-out shows by Electric Fields, The Teskey Brothers, Gawurra and the Mission Songs Project.
“We delivered sold-out runs of the best contemporary theatre including Biladarung, The Bookbinder, Prize Fighter, Letters to Lindy, Pathetic Fallacy, Personal, The Talk and Omar Musa.
“Audiences enjoyed staggering works of dance and circus, with Chasing Smoke, Split, Cockfight, Australian Dance Theatre and the Australian Ballet. It was inspiring to see Darwin’s own Tracks Dance Company sell out their entire run of In Your Blood.
“Can Darwin get enough of cabaret? We don’t think so! Betty Grumble delivered six sold-out shows, and Mother’s Ruin, Paul McDermott & Steven Gates, Gillian Cosgriff and Otto & Astrid dazzled audiences with beautiful, bawdy artistry at their sell-out shows.
“And, boy, did we laugh! Every comedian in the program this year played to packed houses: Dave Thornton, Ross Noble, Joel Creasey, Urzila Carlson, Sharul Channa, Zoe Coombs Marr and Sam Simmons.
“Our free family events were a highlight: the City of Darwin’s Teddy Bear’s Picnic remained a firm family favourite, attracting 3,500 people, while our free mini Festival for kids, emBARK!, enjoyed a surge in visitation, proving you’re never too young to catch Festival fever.
“The heart of Darwin Festival is, of course, Festival Park, where families, friends and Festival-goers gathered each night to relax in the vibrant atmosphere and enjoy the free entertainment and fine food. An estimated 25,000 visitors enjoyed Festival Park across 18 days this year,” said Preval.
The Festival secured the highest number of sponsors yet, with 64 corporate and foundation partners in 2018.
The Volunteers Program, proudly supported by Power and Water, set a new record of 120 volunteers contributing to the event. The Friends of the Festival loyalty program saw another record broken, with 286 people signing on to receive ticket discounts, priority access, free shows and Festival extras.
“The Board and staff thank the Northern Territory Government for its strong support, as well as our wonderful funders, sponsors, partners, suppliers, artists, volunteers and Friends for their contribution to the Festival’s success this year,” said Chair Ian Kew.
“We are delighted with this year’s achievements, and the results speak to the hard work and dedication of the wider Festival team under the leadership of CEO Emily Mann and artistic direction of Felix Preval,” said Kew.
Preliminary research data reveals that 32% of 2018 Darwin Festival visitors originated from outside Darwin, with 25% of visitors from interstate and 7% from overseas. One in three interstate visitors travelled to Darwin specifically to attend Darwin Festival.
“We are pleased to have the support of local audiences. However, growing interstate and international audiences is critical not only to the future success of Darwin Festival, but to the tourism and cultural economies of the Northern Territory under the Turbocharging Tourism stimulus package,” said Chief Executive Officer Emily Mann.
“This year, Darwin Festival implemented a seven-week targeted national digital marketing campaign that has yielded fantastic results. In the past month, the digital campaign has been served more than 8.7 million times to online consumers, resulting in over 14,500 click-throughs to the Darwin Festival website that have converted into 258 ticket booking confirmations to consumers in southern states.
“Our “hot August nights” tagline has had enormous positive response from consumers and social media users, as has the marketing of Darwin Festival as Australia’s “best tropical winter festival”.
“We welcomed more than 20 journalists from China, Japan, England, Singapore, Hong Kong, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria to the Festival this year, who have shared Darwin Festival with hundreds of millions of readers and viewers worldwide.
“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to our amazing team of staff, suppliers, artists and volunteers for their fearless dedication and tireless work they have put in to deliver a truly world-class Festival for Darwin,” said Mann.
“Finally, Darwin Festival would not be the success it is without our wonderful audiences, particularly the local Darwin community. Thank you for coming out to the Festival, enjoying our many events and savouring these wonderful hot August nights. We look forward to welcoming you back next year when Darwin Festival celebrates its 40th birthday across the 2019 hot August nights, 8-25 August”.