All Creatures Great and Small


We acknowledge that we gathered for the G20 Cultural Celebrations on the
Traditional Homelands of Aboriginal peoples of the Brisbane area.

The G20 Cultural Celebrations

During October and November of 2014 the people of Brisbane were treated to an extraordinary once in a generation program of arts and cultural celebrations, commissioned by the Queensland Government as part of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

The G20 Leaders’ Summit is a controversial and high profile annual global event. The meeting of the world’s twenty leading economies brings up to 4,000 delegates and a huge international media contingent to the host city each year. For the State Government, the G20 Leaders’ Summit presented a unique opportunity showcase and promote the city on the international stage.

The G20 Cultural Celebrations played an important role in showcasing and promoting Brisbane, but that was not its only purpose.

In hosting the G20 Cultural Celebrations, the Queensland Government also aimed to address the possible negative reaction the community may have over a potentially disruptive event in their city, while showcasing Brisbane as a creative and culturally inclusive city.

All things bright and beautiful…

For 24 days and nights in the lead up to the G20 Leaders’ Summit, Brisbane came to life in ways not seen since Expo 88.

The city was buzzing with street performers, musicians, dancers and circus acts. By night the cityscape became a canvas for colourful projections controlled by just a finger on a touchscreen. Cathedrals, swimming pools and sleepy suburban bowls clubs transformed into venues for a huge and incredibly diverse music program. Queensland ballet performed under the stars to an audience that looked and sounded more like a footy crowd. Opera boomed out from the balconies of the Treasury Hotel as projected animations told stories of Brisbane. Statues, trees and light poles were adorned with knitted creations contributed by people from across the state. Street artists transformed huge concrete rail pillars into a unique outdoor art gallery. A metal dinosaur and its two children covered in crochet squares magically appeared overnight in Queens Park. A Hollywood-style Brisbane sign popped up in the Cultural Forecourt, South Bank Parklands and a street parade complete with tap-dancing lamingtons, girl guides and drag queens, performed to thousands as it wound its way through South Bank Parklands culminating in a fiesta of incredible Latin food, music and dance.

There was quite literally something for everyone in the G20 Cultural Celebrations, and everything was free!

Opening Night - The Courier Mail Piazza, South Bank Parklands - image Atmosphere Photography

Brisbane found itself in the midst of something pretty special.

As word spread, more and more people were tempted out on the balmy spring nights to check out the lights, watch the performances and soak up the atmosphere. Some described the experience as like being a tourist in their own city – there were surprises at every turn.

By the end of the celebrations, hundreds of performances and events had been delivered by thousands of artists and performers, with tens of thousands of participants. In total over two hundred thousand people were engaged in the program.

Like the 1982 Commonwealth Games and Expo 88, the success of the G20 Cultural Celebrations was now indelibly etched in Brisbane’s collective memory as a watershed moment with a lasting legacy in the history of the city.

“There is so much talent in Queensland and in Brisbane that to see it all in one go like this over a couple of weeks – it’s just surprising. We think it’s all about showing the rest of the world but I think actually people who live here are going – ‘that’s cool, I didn’t think we had that.’”

James Morrison – Artistic Director, Queensland Music Festival

The G20 Cultural Celebrations were unique in many respects. Whilst arts and cultural events have played a role in previous G20 Leaders’ Summits, this was the first time a program was produced for the host city itself, rather than just the delegates. From the outset the celebrations were in unchartered territory.

The festivities were officially launched in Cairns in September 2014 with Tropical Jam, a star-studded community concert delivered by the Queensland Music Festival and celebrating the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The G20 Leaders’ Summit presented a unique opportunity to showcase Brisbane, its culture and talents on the world stage. The cultural celebrations program was incredibly diverse, with hundreds of events spread right across the city and suburbs. The vast majority of artists and organisations involved in delivering the program lived and worked in southeast Queensland. The celebrations actively reflected the diversity of the city, and helped to create a strong sense of inclusiveness and promote a positive identity for Brisbane locally, nationally and internationally.

In the words of the Creative Director Athol Young, the G20 Cultural Celebrations was “a festival by Brisbane, about Brisbane and for Brisbane”.

The G20 Program actively engaged with just about every conceivable arts organisation and artform in one way or another, asking them to be part of the larger vision of city-wide participation and celebration. Access and participation was the mantra and opportunities for people to get actively involved in the celebrations were fundamental for every event and production.

The program built on the legacy of previous major cultural events, particularly Expo 88, and cleverly leveraged the special strengths of the Brisbane arts sector in key areas of music, circus, street performance, community arts and traditional and contemporary dance.

The G20 Cultural Celebrations went way beyond the usual forms of acknowledgement and recognition of traditional cultures. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture were a fundamental core of the celebrations and a source of artistic innovation and excellence.

The Creative Directors

When Creative Directors Jono Perry and Athol Young took up the challenge of engaging a whole city in a world-class arts and cultural celebration they could scarcely have imagined the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.

The decision to engage both Perry and Young as Creative Directors was unconventional, but it paid handsome dividends. It made it clear right from the outset that the delivery of the celebrations would be based on collaboration.

For Perry, the challenge of delivering a city-wide interactive projection and lighting installation was huge. Colour Me Brisbane and its main interactive component, Paint your City, were world firsts that pushed the boundaries of technical innovation and storytelling. Perry assembled an outstanding team of artists, producers and technical staff, headed up by technical producer Paul Bearne.

For Young, the challenge of producing the broader arts and cultural and community engagement program was all about activating his extensive networks in the arts and community sectors in Brisbane. His production team, headed up by senior producer Jeremy Wellard all bought extensive industry networks.

“The program was so big that we had to split it down the middle. Lighting’s my game, community engagement is Athol’s game, and so that’s why the two came together”.

Jono Perry – Creative Director, G20 Cultural Celebrations

The two halves of the program came together seamlessly on the streets. The city of Brisbane – its people and its places – provided the inspiration and the canvas through which the respective programs were able to connect and interact so powerfully.

Time was always going to be an enemy but it also simplified some things. It was too late to fit into the programming cycle of the major arts companies and for the most part it was too late to develop new work specifically for the G20 Cultural Celebrations. It meant consulting and collaborating extensively across the whole arts and cultural sector to come up options – just the kind of challenge in which Young excels.

That the G20 Cultural Celebrations were able to capture the imagination of the city at a time in which much of the media was focused on the negative impact of the G20 Leaders’ Summit is a credit to the whole Program Team. As detailed in the stories that follow, providing opportunities for active community participation was one secrets to success.

all creatures great and small

This website tells the story of the 2014 G20 Cultural Celebrations from the perspective of the artists, producers, community organisations, who made it all happen. It’s a behind the scenes look at how the program came together and what it means for the arts and cultural sector, and for the city as a whole.

In documenting the artistic and community outcomes the aim has been to capture and distil learnings for future large-scale arts and cultural programs, particularly those run in conjunction with major events. 

The stories are organised in six artform essays, exploring the program in terms of dance, music, public art, visual arts, performance and celebration. The twenty projects featured are just a sample of the incredible breadth and diversity of the celebrations as a whole. The program could not have been delivered without the active involvement of the whole arts and cultural sector – all creatures great and small.