On the Couch with Emily Sexton

Emily Sexton oncWho is Emily Sexton? 
I’m the Artistic Director and co-CEO of Next Wave. Next Wave is Australia’s leading contemporary arts organisation for young and emerging artists, and we’ve just opened our biennial Festival for 2014.

What would you do differently to what you do now?   
Not a lot, to be honest. This is the job of a lifetime. My grandfather told my mother when he was dying that you only regret the things you don’t do. You have to try everything.

Who inspires you and why?
Every time I see Aunty Dianne Kerr do a Welcome to Country, I find it incredibly inspiring. We were very fortunate to have Aunty at our opening event and launch of Blak Wave on Wednesday 16 April. She is so inclusive, generous and warm – and so bracingly smart; she sets up a beautifully positive and strong energy that lifts everyone up. I’m inspired by our artists; they are so hard working and brave. I’m inspired by my colleagues; their rigour and passion.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I think Next Wave does make a difference in the world! This show, The Club 3.0, asks audiences to fight for a better tomorrow. Literally, fist to fist. Our 2014 Festival theme is New Grand Narrative; we asked artists to imagine a new way for the world to be. Their responses are diverse, wise and inspiring. They articulate in heartfelt, tragic and funny ways how idealism is rebellion. Against cynicism, exhaustion and despair, artists create.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Japan – I have been there four times now, it just gets better each time. It’s highly addictive. Every city, every town you visit has its own unique traditions, food and culture; it’s endlessly fascinating and consistently surprising.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?  
Mostly I take them to Melbourne’s various cafes and restaurants; City Wine Shop on Spring St, or Gerald’s Bar in Carlton. It’s also good to take people a bit further out of the city and show them some of the gorgeous landscapes and bushwalks; the Dandenongs (especially around this time of year) are absolutely beautiful. So is Mt Macedon.

What are you currently reading?  
The Saturday Paper, Real Time Magazine, a New Yorker, the Next Wave Magazine, emails. I’m very guilty of starting books, and then starting another book… at the moment I’m partway through Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism and E.H Gombrich’s A Little History of the World.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m always listening to Triple R. I love radio; it’s liveness creates a powerful intimacy and the potential for surprise and new thoughts. I love the constant introduction to new music.

Happiness is?
Maybe not the most important thing. Whose happiness comes first? How does a pursuit of ‘happiness’ compare to health, or the value of listening, or learning something new? Sometimes learning can be painful, because it’s about change. Maybe ‘happiness’ is a question.

What does the future hold for you?
Right now all I can think about it the gorgeousness of our upcoming Festival!  40 new commissions, across visual arts, dance, theatre, live art, sound art and a diverse talks program. I am particularly excited about Blak Wave – our keynote initiative: seven new contemporary art projects, a talks series and a new publication exploring what’s personally, politically and artistically next for Australia’s Indigenous peoples. I’m also pumped that our Festival Club is at Shebeen this year. I love that place!

Emily Sexton is the Artistic Director of the Next Wave Festival – Australia’s leading contemporary arts organisation for young and emerging artists. From 2008 – 2010, Emily was Melbourne Fringe’s Creative Producer. In this role Emily undertook a targeted exploration of art in the public realm, culminating in the 2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival’s keynote project Visible City.

In 2010, Emily co-founded the New Leaders Network with Josh Wright (Malthouse Theatre), a peer-to-peer learning environment for leaders of small-medium Melbourne cultural organisations. Prior to Melbourne Fringe, Emily worked as an independent producer, in cultural development with City of Frankston, and produced major events and festivals for Sydney University.

Emily is currently a board member for Theatre Network Victoria, and a former Board Member of Snuff Puppets. She regularly acts in a curatorial advisory capacity for festivals, government and private funding bodies across Australia. In 2011, Emily  was a participant in the Australia Council’s inaugural Emerging Leaders Development Program.

The Next Wave Festival runs to 11 May 2014. For more information, visit: www.nextwave.org.au for details.

Image: Emily Sexton

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