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Adelaide Festival Board announces new senior leadership team

12 April 2017

The Adelaide Festival Board has announced respected arts leaders Rob Brookman and Torben Brookman will join the senior leadership team of the Adelaide Festival as Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director.

The pair will work alongside co-Artistic Directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy from May, replacing interim CEO Sandy Verschoor.

Rob Brookman AM is one of Australia’s most experienced arts administrators, having led a number of Australasia’s foremost arts organisations and events including the Adelaide Festival Centre, WOMADelaide, National Festival of Australian Theatre, New Zealand International Festival of Arts, Sydney Theatre Company and most recently the State Theatre Company of South Australia.

He has a long and notable history with the Adelaide Festival, having worked in a variety of roles from security guard for an inflatable dome installation in 1972 through to Artistic Director in 1992, having also served as Administrative Assistant, Operations Coordinator, Theatre Program Coordinator, Administrator and Associate Director in between. He founded WOMADelaide as part of the 1992 Adelaide Festival program and remained as its Artistic Director or Artistic Advisor until 2007.

Torben Brookman is a highly regarded theatrical producer and arts leader, most recently General Manager and Executive Producer with the Ambassador Theatre Group Asia Pacific, the Asian regional arm of the largest live theatre company in the world. Torben’s most recent role in Adelaide was as Producer of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and commercial projects manager for the Adelaide Festival Centre. He has also held senior roles with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company, the Adelaide Festival and the Come Out Festival as well as leading a number of private production companies including most recently GWB Entertainment and Asia Theatricals.

Adelaide Festival Chair Judy Potter described the new appointments as “a coup” for the Festival.

“The Adelaide Festival Board is absolutely delighted to have secured the unique and dynamic team of Rob and Torben Brookman to work alongside Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy to build upon the outstanding success of the 2017 Festival over the coming years. This is a coup for the Festival and for South Australia,” she said.

Adelaide Festival Artistic Directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy said: “We have both known Rob and Torben for many years and our theatrical paths have crossed from time to time, most recently working together with Rob to make The Secret River happen at the Anstey Hill Quarry. As individuals they bring a wealth of experience, passionate commitment and great strategic acumen to the Festival. As a team, the synergy between them and ourselves should yield wonderful outcomes for Adelaide.”

The partnership between Rob and his eldest son Torben Brookman follows in the footsteps of Rob’s partnership with second son Geordie Brookman as Executive Director and Artistic Director of State Theatre Company of South Australia, which has seen the transformation of SA’s leading theatre company into a national powerhouse of new work, with dramatically increased output and audiences along with national and international co-productions and touring.

Incoming Executive Director Rob Brookman said he relishes the prospect of returning to the Festival after 25 years.

“This is the best kind of Groundhog Day for me. I attended the very first Adelaide Festival as a six year old, performed in one as a child chorister at 12 years old and was lucky enough to work on nine Festivals from 1976 to 1992, eventually as Artistic Director. I could not be happier to return to my first great love affair with the arts in company with Torben, Neil and Rachel,” he said.

Torben Brookman, who will return from Sydney to his home town of Adelaide to take up his new role, said he was looking forward to the new opportunity.

“The Adelaide Festival is in my blood. I’m told that I participated in my first Festival in a pram aged one month, being part of an exotic and slightly infamous ‘flower parade’ by Spanish artist Antoni Miralda. It has been a constant for me ever since and I relish the opportunity to join such an eminent team in leading it into its next exciting phase,” he said.

Minister for the Arts, the Hon Jack Snelling congratulated the Brookmans on their dual appointments.

“Following on from their respective successes at the State Theatre Company of South Australia and Ambassador Theatre Group, it is very exciting for Rob and Torben to be appointed to executive director roles at the Adelaide Festival. The Brookman name is synonymous with producing successful art in South Australia, and I am sure they will provide a strong support to Rachel and Neil as they continue to make the Adelaide Festival Australia’s pre-eminent arts festival,” Mr Snelling said.

Adelaide Festival Chair Judy Potter also paid tribute to outgoing CEO Sandy Verschoor, who oversaw record box office takings at the 2017 Adelaide Festival, the largest in the event’s 57-year history.

“I would like to acknowledge and thank Sandy Verschoor for her significant contribution as interim CEO to the success of the 2017 Festival; without her leadership it wouldn’t have been possible. Sandy stepped in to take up the reins at the Festival in an interim capacity a little under a year ago and has managed a period of enormous change and growth. Her contribution has been outstanding and we owe her a huge debt of thanks,” she said.

Outgoing Adelaide Festival CEO Sandy Verschoor welcomed the new appointments.

“After 12 months as interim Adelaide Festival CEO I am absolutely delighted to hand over the reins to Rob and Torben, who will without a doubt continue to take the Festival from strength to strength,” she said.

“It has been a privilege to work with such a prestigious and internationally acclaimed organisation over the past year and I am so incredibly proud of what we have achieved.”

Rob and Torben Brookman will start with the Adelaide Festival in early May. The 2018 Adelaide Festival will run from March 2 to 18, 2018.