09 SEP 2020

A message from Kris Stewart, Artistic Director

It only took a few days for the world to change.

In March, Brisbane Powerhouse buzzed with the energy of thousands of Brisbane Comedy Festival visitors, staff and volunteers before COVID-19 hit home.

Within days we’d gone from sold-out shows, to reduced capacity, to a cancelled festival to complete venue closure.

Four months, several ideas and many sleepless nights later, all eyes were on Brisbane Powerhouse when we became Brisbane’s first major arts venue to reopen, testing the post-COVID waters with our ground-breaking Lights On program.

Over five weekends in July and August, we flicked on our lights, invited the cream of Queensland’s performing arts talent to the stage and welcomed hundreds of visitors to a new-look theatre space.

Much that occurred since March was out of our control so we held fast to the one thing we could control – our version of reopening, of getting back to some sense of “normal” and reminding ourselves, our community and our city who we are and what we can do.

Brisbane Powerhouse is more than just a venue, it’s an arts incubator and a community hub and the success of our recovery is measured by how we keep people socially connected during this time of social distancing.

We wanted to reopen deliberately, with care and attention, while presenting the same exceptional experiences we’ve spent 21 years perfecting.

It was natural to lean into the “Brisbane” in Brisbane Powerhouse and reopen with performances from some of this city’s most iconic companies and artists: Circa, Queensland Ballet, Briefs Factory International, Queensland Symphony Orchestra and QMusic.

This Brisbane-centric programming felt authentic and true to this city and amplified its wealth of talent.

Lights On demonstrated, during a time of national and international border closures, that Brisbane’s arts industry is flourishing and capable of delivering world-class productions that unite and resonate with audiences.

We reconfigured our theatre into a cabaret space that made each performance feel intimate and special rather than socially distant.

There was a palpable sense of hope when we reopened; that the act of going out, having a meal, sitting among an audience and seeing someone perform was a strong indicator that things were going to be OK, that we would come through this.

From our perspective, Lights On reinforced the trust placed in us by our audiences to keep them not just entertained and engaged, but secure and safe.

This is a responsibility we take seriously and rigorously and our efforts were validated when a survey of Lights On attendees found 95 per cent felt comfortable and safe during their visit and rated our COVID Safe measures as above average or excellent.

Brisbane Powerhouse’s eccentric building is beautiful in its oddness, it’s authentic to Brisbane, represents the personality of this city and, as Lights On demonstrated, is an incredibly versatile space.

Lights On sparked our own lightbulb moment and spurred us to investigate new ways to use Brisbane Powerhouse’s spaces to present innovative experiences.

How can we bring in the Brisbane River and use New Farm Park?

Already, we’re working with Brisbane Festival and Polytoxic to stage the live-action, multimedia installation Snapshot on the building’s façade from 10 – 12 September.

Lights On marked the welcome return of live performance in Brisbane and a creative avenue for artists and audiences to reconnect and share something special.

Our fervent hope is to see this momentum continue, not just at Brisbane Powerhouse but at arts venues across the city and state.