In December 1996 the first AWESOME International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things (AWESOME Festival) launched into the world in Subiaco, Western Australia by Barking Gecko Theatre Company.
The vision for this new event came from the creative team at Barking Gecko when in the course of touring Barking Gecko’s work internationally, Grahame Gavin and Lou Westbury encountered a broad array of outstanding work being made for young audiences overseas. Just as international audiences were able to experience Western Australian work through Barking Gecko’s touring, they wondered how young audiences in Western Australia might respond to wonderful artistry of their international counterparts. The idea for an international children’s festival was born!
When opportunity knocked and some funding became available, the team at Barking Gecko wasted no time. They staged the first AWESOME Festival in 1996 at the Subiaco Arts Centre. The event was a big success and paved the way for the formation of a new company. In November 1996, AWESOME became incorporated as a company; “AWESOME Perth International Children’s Festival” (now known as AWESOME Arts Australia Ltd) was established under the stewardship of Barking Gecko. Barking Gecko’s Chair, Tony Wilson moved across to Chair the new company and Gary Chard was engaged as its Creative Director.
2010 saw a major re-brand of the AWESOME Festival with a renewed focus on its pre-teen audience. The inclusion of the 0-5 years age group has made the event more welcoming for families and lined up well with the shift to the October school holiday timeslot. The partnership base of the festival has dramatically expanded during this time to include cultural institutions such as the State Library of WA, The Western Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of WA; sector peers such as DADAA and the State Theatre Centre; and community organisations like Playgroup WA, The Autism Association of WA, Foodbank and Anglicare WA.
Over the years the AWESOME Festival has firmly established itself as the premier event for families and schools on Western Australia’s cultural calendar, has been lovingly crafted and shaped by many dedicated and wise hands along the way and is recognised by an international festival monitoring organisation as one of the top 25 events in the world for young people.
The Creative Challenge program continues to lead the way in creative learning in Western Australia, arguably delivering the most in-school contact hours of any arts company in the state and empowering thousands of students to research, imagine, create, learn, present, problem-solve and evaluate their own projects.
AWESOME Connect has been established in response to the increasing demand for AWESOME to deliver year-round programming with a multitude of partners who are committed to raising the bar on the quality of creative programming for young audiences.
True to the vision of its creators, AWESOME Arts continues to be a dynamic platform through which children, their families and their educators connect with the arts and creative learning; be it via the international festival, at a community event, or in a school.