On the Couch with Ruth Mackenzie

Ruth-Mackenzie-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Ruth Mackenzie?
I am the new Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Well, as Edith Piaf so beautifully sang Je ne regrette rien and seriously, I have learnt more from my mistakes than from my successes. Samuel Beckett also got it right when he said “Fail again, Fail better” – meaning that you need to keep risking and learning from your failures. So, as I start a new life in a new country, I should learn from the new artists, colleagues and communities with whom I am now working, understand how they work, what their priorities are, what risks we need to take artistically.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I would work with inspirational artists who believe in making the world a fairer, just and more equal place, who believe that we have the power to save our planet from the urgent dangers of climate change, and that we have a responsibility to do our best to improve the lives of all in the communities for whom and with whom we work.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I have been so lucky to go to many outstanding places around the world for work and for pleasure, but my top tip is Venice: nothing beats the way your heart jumps for joy at the first sight of St Mark’s Square when the boat bus comes into the City, the light playing on the water and the architecture magically different every sunset and sunrise, the detail of the art from Byzantine and Renaissance to the provocation at each contemporary Biennale. And some of the best seafood you will ever eat.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to and why?
I’m already planning the first couple of visits of overseas friends coming to Adelaide and the first “attraction” will be Glenelg Beach, where I live. A world class sunset every day, the restoring sound and sight of the sea and the chance to see our local dolphins. And in the Adelaide Hills, nature meets art at Ukaria – which offers world class music in an intimate space surrounded by beautiful gardens and the dramatic landscape of the hills. With some Adelaide Hills Riesling or Pinot Noir, of course.

What are you currently reading?
My friends are great at giving me improving books so I have been reading, Griffiths Review 64: The New Disrupters – where great Australian thinkers and experts alternately depress and excite about the dangers and possibilities of our digital future; from Paris I have brought Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s De Purs Hommes – so beautifully written, so uncomfortable a read; and I am just starting Tamsin Omond’s Do/Earth/ Healing strategies for humankind – which offers hope in our climate emergency.

What are you currently listening to?
Last week I got my first chance to listen live to Deborah Cheetham Fraillon in a great concert at the Sydney Festival so I have been discovering more of her beautiful compositions (as I write this, I am listening to Dutala, Sky Filled Sky which is a must hear work) and at the weekend I went to the first rehearsal of Verdi’s Requiem which is the centrepiece of the 2023 Adelaide Festival, and the Adelaide Festival Chorus inspired me to return to this masterpiece, which I don’t think I have listened to since my youth singing in choirs.

Happiness is?
Simply being at the seaside.

What does the future hold for you?
The joy of working for the Adelaide Festival and living by the sea. I am so lucky.

Ruth is the new Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival – which runs 3 – 19 March 2023. For more information and full program, visit: www.adelaidefestival.com.au for details.

Image: Ruth Mackenzie – photo by Andrew Beveridge.