University of Western Australia: Perth Festival a boost for WA people and culture

A review of Perth Festival’s Covid-struck 2022 program has found the event provided a big social, cultural and economic boost for the Western Australian community.

Based on participant surveys and financial data analysis by Culture Counts, the 2022 Impact Report confirms the not-for-profit Perth Festival’s significant public value as an investment in community wellbeing.

In a financial lift for the arts sector, the Festival paid $10.9 million into the pockets of local artists, workers, suppliers, and contractors. And a range of social, cultural and community impact scores were the highest in five years of Culture Counts measuring the Festival’s impact.

As expected after Covid-enforced cancellations and venue restrictions, audiences and economic impact results were down. Attendances were 143,665 and direct economic impact was $20 million, with a multiplied flow-on impact of $55 million.

The Festival still managed to exceed its box-office target, with overall ticket sales of $3.22 million, and its 125 events featured 630 artists.

With closed borders, there was a reduced tourism impact from past years and almost all the artists were from WA.

The behind-the-scenes community engagement program Festival Connect received strong public support (96%) and the inaugural Touring WA program also rated highly for bringing new arts experiences to people around our vast State.

Artistic Director Iain Grandage’s third Festival – programmed under the Noongar theme of Wardan (ocean) – scored highly for relevance, authenticity and for showcasing Perth’s cultural depth. Survey respondents also said the Festival improved social cohesion, making them feel proud of Perth and better connected to their community.

Other 2022 Impact Report results included:
• 97% of respondents said Perth Festival plays a key role in WA’s cultural life.
• 96% agreed Perth Festival delivers high-quality cultural experiences.
• 95% of artists said the Festival opened new opportunities and 100% rated their experience as good or excellent.
• Aboriginal-led works Noongar Wonderland and Panawathi Girl rated well above the Festival average across key metrics including Local Impact, Authenticity, Relevance and Belonging.
• 30 schools and 1429 students engaged with 116 free educational programs.
• 92% of students and teachers rated their Creative Learning experience as good or excellent.
• Almost one-third (31%) of Literature & Ideas audience were attending Perth Festival for the first time.
• Contemporary Music had 23% new audience and an above-average spend of $73 besides tickets.
• Festival visitors each spent $51 each on meals, drink, and other activities besides tickets.
• The average ticket price in 2022 was $28.36 ($30 in 2021).

Festival Executive Director Nathan Bennett said It has been a privilege to be able to present Perth Festival in 2022 and to have achieved these strong results.

“For the second year running, we navigated a pandemic to safely share the bonds of culture and community,” Mr Bennett said.

“We are immensely grateful to our audiences, artists, funding partners, donors, volunteers, and other supporters for making the Festival possible in the face of the serious challenges thrown our way. This report shows the Festival made a positive impact to honour their faith and investment in us. All our supporters have nourished our community through the Festival’s activities, working towards our shared goal of a flourishing society and a dynamic culture here on Noongar Boodjar.”

Perth Festival is Australia’s longest-running cultural festival, founded by The University of Western Australia and supported through the State Government through Principal Partner Lotterywest.

The Culture Counts report analysed ticketing data, expenditure analysis and a survey of 4,966 people.