‘ IN a way, I see the ABC arts slate as a kind of year-round festival and what I’m trying to do in the programming, commissions and in the acquisitions I make is to try and get a balance across art forms, across tone, across a kind of geography and across demographics.’’ This is Katrina Sedgwick talking, Aunty’s head of arts, who’s been in the job a little more than a year. And she’s certainly continued the changes and rejuvenation brought about by her predecessor Amanda Duthie, as well as authoritatively making the position her own. (Interestingly, they actually exchanged jobs, Duthie taking over Sedgwick’s curatorial role as director of the Adelaide Film Festival.)
Sedgwick has extended the functions of the ABC’s famous but rarely read charter. Aunty is now firmly committed to the full depth and breadth of arts practice and activities in Australia, including in the digital sphere, with the terrific ABC arts online, which really has become another channel. It’s a space where the best of ABC arts content text, audio and video is curated, as well as creating its own content, and it engages innovatively with the particularities of place and region.
The ABC no longer simply reflects and promotes the Australian performing arts, as its charter suggests; it’s also in the business of creating art across the genres — art that has many broadcasting lives built into it.
A radical spirit of co-operation was begun under Duthie and continues under Sedgwick’s canny stewardship.
And the ABC has become an effective partner of all sorts of arts organisations, some of which don’t have the infrastructure, intellectual property, knowledge or the archives of the national broadcaster. It’s a new way to serve the public interest — the ABC is creating a stake in its own output, part of a broader ecology made up of small producers.
I’ve been taken this year with Sunday Arts Up Late, presented by the energetic playwright and director Wesley Enoch, which began last summer and quietly sneaked up on us. Enoch presents high-end, cutting-edge arts content from Australia and around the world, including feature-length documentaries, biographies, short-run series and one-off events. And this week there are two quite special new local documentary features, On Borrowed Time, David Bradbury’s study of filmmaker Paul Cox, narrated by David Wenham, and William Yang: My Generation, directed by Martin Cox with Bridget Ikin as executive producer, both of which would never have been shot without the ABC’s commissioning clout.
The two movies are oddly like obituaries, nostalgic and respectful and, like the best obits, certainly not without their moments of humour, even though both subjects happily are still with us. On Borrowed Time is Bradbury’s