NORPA’s Next Chapter

NORPA's Next Chapter

Congratulations to NORPA in securing four year funding from the Australia Council. In our latest Q&A series, we catch up with Artistic Director and CEO Julian Louis to discuss what the funding will bring to NORPA’s next chapter and how the theatre is responding to the COVID-19 crisis.


Congratulations on securing multi-year funding from Australia Council for the Arts. What will this funding enable NORPA to create over the next four years?

This new funding means NORPA will be better resourced than ever to; create new theatre annually, continue to support local artists through our associate artist program and artist residencies, and to launch more activities and opportunities for young people interested in performing and theatre production.

Up until now we have had to apply for and rely on one off grants in a heavily competitive process to make new theatre. The funding with the Australia Council means we can have an idea or concept and go for it, it will allow us to be more spontaneous and responsive to the region and to local artists. It will also help us secure other partnerships to help realise these ideas – it may also mean that our original works can tour to other regional areas, across Australia or overseas.


The announcement has been considered a bittersweet result with a number of established marquee companies losing their funding, while those who were successful facing a 30% reduction in their first year of allocated funding – what are your thoughts on this?

It’s been a devastating time for the 49 unsuccessful companies, I really feel for these organisations, the decisions are not a reflection of their worth or of their work. There are simply not enough funds to support the number of high caliber companies and organisations nationally.

Some will struggle in these times – but one thing we know about arts organisations is they are resilient and these knockbacks make you stronger. We were unsuccessful four years ago and that experience pushed us to work even harder to develop our body of work, and to tell our story and vision as a company. I feel this is just the beginning of an exciting new chapter for NORPA, we intend to make the most of this opportunity.


How is the NORPA team managing with the current unprecedentedchanges and cancellations to your planned programming for 2020? 

Ultimately we will be fine – but it has been a disruptive and shocking period for our industry. We were hit first and hard, with cancellations and restrictions. Not being able to present the 2020 Season is incredibly disappointing. We’ve been told by many people, and ticket sales reinforced this, that 2020 was one of our strongest and most exciting seasons yet.

The Jobkeeper is enabling NORPA to keep 18 staff employed (full time and permanent part time staff, as well as our casual tech team) which is great. We’ll be using this time to begin creative developments for three new works. This quieter period also allows us to review our programming plans for the venue, and to do maintenance and improvements to the venue – there are some exciting things being installed that we can’t wait to reveal when we’re able to reopen for the community.

We’re looking at digital programming, watching the space and working out how we will contribute. With such great content coming out from our peers, we’re taking our time to think and plan our approach. Our focus these past few weeks has been on managing cancellations and postponements, changes to our operations and making sure NORPA comes out the other side of this.


These changes will have long-term effects on our community – what challenges and opportunities do you hope to see emerging when life returns to somewhatnormal (whenever that may be)?

I think this is making us all slow down and take time to reflect, spend quality time with family and look out for our neighbours, more so than ever. Creativity is continuing in the home environment, and I’m really enjoying these changes – I’ve even got back to a yoga practice. So, on a personal and professional level there are really interesting, positive changes and growth since we’ve been forced out of our usual daily patterns. But, I am conscious the economy is taking a serious hit – and that businesses are under huge strain.

NORPA understands we’ll be a major part of the recovery of Lismore and we’re making sure we’ll be ready to respond by working with the community and within our partnerships to bring us back together, tell stories and to connect again in a physical, shared space.

Image from ‘O, How I Dreamt Of Things Impossible‘, a Sprung!! Integrated Dance Theatre production (Image by Andrew Christie). This and ‘Flow‘, a NORPA production, are two shows from the 2020 season which may still proceed if restrictions are lifted in time. We are crossing our fingers!