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13 August 2015

2015 Art Music Awards: John Davis's speech

John Davis Image: John Davis  
© APRA AMCOS / Tony Mott

AMC's CEO John Davis's speech at the 2015 Art Music Awards ceremony at Sydney's City Recital Hall on 11 August 2015.

Good evening and welcome to this excellent celebration.

It's indeed a celebration, not only of the excellent work you see on display here tonight, but across the art music sector, across the broad range of activity represented in the more than 200 excellent nominations lodged for these awards.

One feature that is evident in many of the finalists tonight, and indeed, in many of the nominations lodged, is a recognition of milestones, which remind us yet again of the resilience over time that drives much of the activity in our community. People and organisations who in 2014 celebrated their 20th, or even 40th anniversaries. And of course one particular 80th-birthday milestone, in the case of the Distinguished Services Award recipient.

Such milestones are an indicator of long-term activity, finding a relevance and place amongst the diverse stakeholders that are served and answered to, from funders through to audiences.
The AMC is celebrating our own milestone as well, we've been turning 40 since August last year - the anniversary of the registering of our Articles of Association in 1974 - through to February next year, the anniversary of our public opening at 80 George Street in The Rocks in 1976. Earlier this year we celebrated a milestone with the completion of a significant digitisation project supported by the Federal Ministry of Education that saw the substantial part of AMC's library collection being made available online, enabling a dramatic expansion of our digital library loan service to our members. There'll be more to celebrate as we head towards February.

Another feature of what is on display tonight is the fact that, represented across all the nominations lodged for these awards, and well-evident in the finalists featured tonight, and the winners of the National and the State awards, there are individuals, institutions, and organisations both from the small to medium sector, AND from major performing arts organisations. Collectively, these represent an ecosystem that is the Australian art music community, participants working in contexts across the local, the regional, the national, and the international. It is a complex, interlinked, and interdependent network, a network of networks, networks within networks, and the recognition of this, and an understanding of the need for holistic thinking, the need for unity, is paramount.

Yet another feature on display tonight, and amongst the nominations received, is the Australia Council brand, either directly or indirectly, and it's ubiquitous. It's there in supporting the creation, development or commissioning of work, and its presentation; it's there in support of organisations; and it's there in support of individual artists, across Australia.

The capacity for longevity, the marking of milestones; the health and viability of the small-to-medium end of the ecosystem, particularly for individual artists; and indeed the capacity of the Australia Council to support a diversity of activity - these are all under threat.

As AMC has stated in its submission to the Senate Inquiry into the effects of the recent budget changes, the establishment of any program supporting excellence in the arts is an excellent idea - the Australia Council has been struggling with 'unfunded excellence' for some time, where activities highly worthy of support fall below their budgetary capacities. However, to establish such a program without bringing in new funding, merely reallocating existing funding, removing funding from the sector that is most fragile, least financially secure, from those least able to afford it, is doing critical damage to the entire sector.

Less support to the organisations and individuals of the small-to-medium sector potentially means:

• less Australian content, as this is the part of the cultural sector where the majority of Australian content is generated, where an Australian voice is most heard;
• less innovation and artistic vibrancy, as this sector is the crucible where most innovation and experimentation is generated;
• less regional activity, as the small-to-medium sector represents organisations and individuals serving communities across geography;
• less mobility for Australian artists, and less visibility internationally.

In international arenas, the small-to-medium organisations and individuals are amongst the most agile, the most highly lauded, and the most consistently present voices promoting Australian creative practice. And in common amongst these, the Australia Council brand is ubiquitous, either directly or indirectly.

This is NOT about partisan politics; it's not about only those having anything to fear being the mediocre; it's not about a 'closed club' being favoured by the Australia Council over time. What's all the fuss about? It's about making visible and audible what we believe all the fuss should be about, and articulating it in a clear, and reasonable, and rational way.

For us in this community, the fuss is in particular about the survival of artists and organisations creating and presenting Australian content; the telling of Australian stories; seeing the Australian perspective; hearing the Australian voice. And hearing it across the sector, across audiences, across gender, across culture, across geography, and so on.
So it's up to us, individually and collectively, to express this, to engage with the process in whatever ways we can think of - write to the Minister, talk to your local member, engage, tell them the story of your values and your connection - don't do it just once, do it often, make it audible!

Make it audible so we can continue into the future to celebrate excellence represented in the outstanding achievements and successes across the Australian art music community.
I won't keep you too much longer, but I must express my appreciation to various people. Thank you -

• to all those who participated on the assessment panels this year, I express my deep appreciation for their hard work, and in particular I thank the Chair of the panels, Siobhan Lenihan;
• to the Australia Council for their current core support to the AMC under a 3-year Market Development initiative;
• to APRA AMCOS for supplying the framework that keeps AMC alive, and for all the work APRA AMCOS does on behalf of Australian Art Music - there's another brand that is ubiquitous across the sector, supporting creators;.
• to ArtsNSW for their contribution to AMC's NSW activities;
• to APRA AMCOS's Events Manager Narelle Butterworth and her fantastic team, that bring you this event - it's a pleasure to work with them on this;
• to the AMC's amazing staff, for the passion that they bring to the work they do on behalf of the sector - I am always so proud of them.

> 2015 Art Music Awards - winners (Resonate 11 August 2015) - see also the APRA AMCOS website
> 2015 Art Music Awards - Distinguished Services Award to Larry Sitsky (Resonate 4 August 2015)
> 2015 Art Music Awards - performers and presenters (Resonate 4 August 2015)
> 2015 Art Music Awards - finalists announced (Resonate 20 July 2015)


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