However much I talk about youth issues in Adelaide, it is in many ways a city where it is great to be a young maker of things – because the generation above us is missing. They’re living in Sydney or Melbourne. It’s much easier to find yourself noticed or to raise your voice above the din when there isn’t much of a crowd which needs to be broken through. But how is this impacting on the younger and emerging generations of artists? Is the cultural drain, coupled with a lack of venues where independent artists can present – and where audiences interested in independent work can attend – and Adelaide’s insularity having a negative impact on the quality of art produced?
In both Brisbane and Sydney this year, I saw work by people who were once based in Adelaide, but now these writers, directors, actors, and stage managers, live and create work in other cities for other audiences. This work ran the gauntlet from among the best (The Seagull) to among the worst (Woyzeck) I saw this year, but the point is I couldn’t have seen it at home. I don’t blame them – I’m not planning on sticking around forever – but this has a two-fold effect on the cultural ecology of Adelaide. Not only are we losing these artists and these voices, we’re also losing the effect these artists can have on the generation who follows them: the knowledge base and the talent which can be shared is lost.
It is, of course, a self-perpetuating cycle. The “brain-drain” creates its own pull, the more creative people that leave, the more others feel they need to leave, too, to find new opportunities, be them creative, employment, or creative employment orientated. Then, particularly in the case of arts administrators, as people start to return to Adelaide to raise their families, having worked interstate almost becomes a prerequisite for many higher level jobs. There is, it seems, even the perception that you must leave in order to advance in a career in Adelaide.
It is not only the artists who leave, it is the other people interested in punctuating their lives with arts and culture outside of the festival context. The more these people leave, the harder it is for artists to find audiences, and the more artists leave to move interstate.
The pull of the Adelaide artists in Sydney or Melbourne grows ever stronger, the pull of Adelaide grows ever weaker.