On the Couch with Kirsten Siddle

Kirsten Siddle oncWho is Kirsten Siddle?
I’m a bit Australian and a bit British, a musician and musicologist and lover of the arts, travel, people and thinking. I program the incredible Melbourne Recital Centre and direct the SummerSalt Outdoor Arts Festival, which is a unique collaboration between the fabulous arts companies that call the Melbourne Arts Precinct home.

What would you do differently to what you do now?   
Not much, I really love my life. But there is always more room for extensive day-dreaming and spending time with friends and family.

Who inspires you and why?
The artists that I have the privilege to work with, and who give us such wonderfully enriching, surprising and challenging artistic experiences.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I really believe in the power of the arts in making the world a more tolerant, generous and joyous place. I feel that I am already helping to facilitate this ideal, especially through my work at Melbourne Recital Centre and SummerSalt Outdoor Arts Festival. For the Festival, we are seeking to surprise and delight people with unexpected and fairly kooky ‘happenings’ – coming across art installations such as our incredible Festival creatures designed by Felipe Reynolds and Ed Boyle at Airena can disrupt your sight morning walk to work, cause you to wonder in awe and delight and can change the course of your day from unremarkable to magical – I love the positive affect art can have on people.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
It’s a tussle between Sri Lanka and Mexico. I visited Sri Lanka soon after the devastating Tsunami had hit. The people were so inspiring in their resilience. It is such a beautiful country, the coastline is beautiful, the cool hills are such a welcome respite and the cultural heritage is rich and rewarding. Fabulous food and warm and generous people made it an unforgettable holiday. I also love the colour, warmth and diversity of Mexico, being in Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead celebrations was one of my favourite experiences ever. The food and people are also fabulous… there is a theme emerging here!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
Naturally, my friends are all treated to an experience at Melbourne Recital Centre – its concert halls are amongst the best in the world and we present such a diverse mix of fabulous music. But, I also take them along to as many artistic events as possible – Melbourne has such a wealth of creative talent and it is exciting to be in amongst it.

What are you currently reading?
A Pure Drop: The Life of Jeff Buckley by Australian author Jeff Apter. It has some fascinating accounts from Jeff Buckley’s friends, peers and collaborators and really affords some insight into Jeff’s relationship with writing, stardom and his father, Tim.

What are you currently listening to?
Right at this minute… Lake Street Dive are blaring from my office speakers. We have them playing live for SummerSalt Outdoor Arts Festival. They are brilliant! Totally infectious, groove-driven, jazz and soul-influenced, indie-pop. Rachel Price has such a versatile voice and the band are all superb musicians. We love them!

Happiness is?
A day where I can fit in a run with my gorgeous pup, Rumo, good coffee (I am a Melbournian now!), a rewarding day at work discussing and facilitating forthcoming exciting productions and an evening with great food, wine and conversation with loved ones and an exhilarating evening in the theatre, concert hall or bandroom.

What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully many days like I’ve just described above! I love that I am able to work in an area that I am so passionate about and feel really fortunate that I get to work with so many amazingly generous and passionate colleagues around the world. Every day is different – challenging, inspiring and for the most part incredibly rewarding.

Kirsten Siddle is the Director of SummerSalt Outdoor Arts Festival and Director of Programming & Presenter Services at Melbourne Recital Centre. Kirsten completed a Bachelor of Music (honours) in musicology and French Horn at the University of Queensland.

Prior to joining Melbourne Recital Centre, Kirsten has held positions with a number of Australian organisations, including Musica Viva, the Australian Youth Choir and Opera Australia, as well as work as a freelance production and stage manager for a variety of events including the Sydney Paralympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies and Corroboree 2000.

British by birth, Kirsten also worked for 5 years at London’s Barbican Centre working as a production manager, including managing performances for leading international orchestras and artists such as the London Symphony Orchestra, The Royal Opera, English National Opera, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, the English and Scottish Chamber Orchestras and jazz and world music presenters.

Kirsten returned to Australia in July 2007 to take up the position of Manager Presenter Services with Melbourne Recital Centre, her remit being expanded to include programming from late 2009 onwards as well as a period as Acting Chief Executive in 2010.

The SummerSalt Outdoor Arts Festival runs 23 January to 21 February 2015. For more information, visit: www.summersaltfestival.com.au for details.

Image: Kirsten Siddle