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Changing leadership at Adelaide Festival Centre Foundation


The Adelaide Festival Centre is about to embark on a new era of philanthropy with the current foundation chair and manager both set to leave their roles in the coming month.

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Adelaide Festival Centre Foundation manager, philanthropy Robyn Brown and foundation chair Legh Davis will hand the responsibility of the centre’s fundraising stream to Abbie Taylor, who previously helped lead the Westminster School Foundation, and Miranda Starke, Council of the Ageing SA’s General Manager.

Brown told InDaily she would step away from her role on November 25 to manage her husband’s children’s theatre company Paperboats while Davis, the State Liberal Party President and a share-broking consultant, is due to finish his second three-year tenure as chair on December 20.

The foundation aims to “enrich the lives of generations to come” through fundraising initiatives, which provide discounted tickets and transport subsidies for disadvantaged and regional schools.

It also seeks to engage young people in the arts through donations to support youth workshops and professional development.

Brown, who has overseen the foundation’s philanthropic efforts for the past seven years, said she felt it was time for a new position having completed the Her Majesty’s Theatre fundraising project earlier this year.

Collectively, Brown and Davis raised $5.5 million to assist with the $66 million upgrade and renewal of the Grote Street theatre over the past six years.

The renovated 1913 theatre officially reopened in June after undergoing redevelopment since 2018.

Brown said she felt the pair left the foundation with a “strong donor community”, which was developed in part during the Her Majesty Theatre revamp.

“I’m leaving a legacy having finished the Her Majesty’s Theatre project and the fundraising campaign,” She said.

“This was a specific project which resonated with the South Australian community and they wanted it to be successful.”

Brown said, despite a turbulent year for the performing arts industry overall, she expected the next 12 months to look up for the foundation’s next generation of leaders.

“They’ve got a far more positive outlook, because events will be happening in the first half of 2021, which we haven’t been able to do for most of this year,” Brown said.

“People are desperate to see shows and support the arts – and we are going to need support.

“The programs for kids are vitally important and we need people to support that. We usually hold fundraising events, which are very successful, but we haven’t been able to hold those this year.”

Davis said it would be important the community continued to get behind the foundation to ensure the performing arts remained accessible to those from low-socio-economic backgrounds.

“There aren’t a lot of fearless fundraisers around – they’re a rare breed – and Robyn and I happen to be in the same nest with the same ideas of raising money,” Davis said.

“From the small list of donors, we got to know people who were generous and loved the theatre.”

Incoming manager Abbie Taylor said the vitality of theatre in creating community would be particularly necessary as the arts sector looked to recover from the pandemic.

“We want to do as much as we can by engaging as many people as we can,” she said.

“It’s going to be a lot of talking to people and connecting with people and listening and supporting people’s mental health by getting them out and giving them some opportunities.”

Taylor and Starke previously worked together at Westminster, Starke as director and Taylor as an executive officer of philanthropy.

Starke, who joined the foundation board in April, said the pair were a “very strong team”.

She said in leading the foundation, the pair had “an opportunity to think about the role of a foundation in a performing arts centre”.

“This is a new era for the foundation. I’m the first woman to be the chair of the Foundation Board.

“It will look a little different to how it has looked before.

“It’s time to switch gears and we’ll be doing things a little differently and looking at what else deserves a bit of extra special support and attention.”

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