Louise Bezzina created and launched the first incredibly successful Bleach* The Gold Coast Festival in just 6 months. As CEO and Artistic Director of Bleach*, Louise has since 2011 established the Festival’s reputation as a leading Queensland Arts organisation. Last year, this lead to Bleach* featuring as part of the Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival. Under Louise’s leadership, the productions have become more ambitious and significant in scale, with Bleach* becoming the largest employer of artists on the Gold Coast, and contributing $8.7 million to the local economy in 2018.
This year Bleach* Festival is being held 17-28 April, with an extraordinary centrepiece production of Verdi’s Requiem featuring over one hundred musicians and a chorus of more than sixty singers.
With a grounding in Queensland Arts leadership, Louise was previously Program Manager for the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Producer at Brisbane Festival and Director of the Mackay Festival. Recently appointed as Artistic Director of the Brisbane Festival, a role she commences in May 2019, Louise’s career trajectory has been heralded with multiple awards. Her work with Bleach* saw her listed as one of the 11 inspiring women of the Commonwealth Games on International Women’s Day in 2018, garnered five Helpmann Award nominations and a win in 2018, and recently she was announced winner of 2019 Gold Coast Bulletin’s inaugural Harvey Norman Gold Coast Women of the Year awards.
How did you build Bleach* Festival from an idea to now the Gold Coast’s premier Arts Festival in its 8th year?
I was very lucky to have an opportunity to start this project within an organisation, Connecting Southern Gold Coast. When I moved to the Gold Coast in 2011, there wasn’t much around in terms of professional arts positions, so I made contact with a range of organisations. Connecting Southern Gold Coast invited me in and to come up with some concepts for a Festival that showcased the Surf Culture around the launch of the World Tour, the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro. It was obvious that Surf and Beach culture made up the essence of the Gold Coast’s fabric and that this would make the perfect framework for a really unique arts Festival.
For me to create any Festival it had to be connected to the arts, so this was the artistic direction that I lay as a foundation for the Festival. The lead up to the first Festival was fast and furious journey over 6 months that included intensive community engagement, creating a brand – Bleach, meeting artists, putting a program together, fundraising, the list goes on. The first Festival happened in February 2011. Given its incredible success in that first year, there was clearly an appetite for a Festival of this kind on the Gold Coast. The rest is history as they say and it just kept growing and soon outgrew Connecting Southern Gold Coast to become its own company.
What makes Bleach* unique?
Bleach* is unique and different because the inspiration and most of the work takes place in and around the stunning natural environment of the Gold Coast. There is no where else in the world like the Gold Coast and its energy and dynamism contributes greatly to the way in which the Festival is curated and designed each year.
What are you most excited about in this year’s Bleach* program?
I am very much looking forward to our major production of Verdi’s Requiem by Opera Queensland and the Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra taking place at the HOTA outdoor stage for a one night only music extravaganza. It will be a really beautiful night, and the first time we have had the opportunity to present a work of this scale with more than 150 performers on this stage.
You commence as Artistic Director for Brisbane Festival in May 2019. How are you managing the transition between these two pivotal Arts roles?
It is a challenge but my main focus is of course Bleach* Festival until I officially start. I have moved to Brisbane now as my son started school this year and to make the transition easier for him so there is a lot of commuting back to the Gold Coast. I think the hardest time will come when I actually have to say goodbye to Bleach* and hand the baton over.
What are you most proud of?
Definitely my children, Connor and Isabella, who are without a doubt my proudest moment. They make me a better person (and a much more exhausted person). They make me want to create a better world and I believe that can happen through community and the arts and that is what I am deeply passionate about.