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ISPA CONFERENCE FOR PLAYHOUSE (article first published : 2006-04-25)

In a major coup for South Africa, The Playhouse Company, Durban’s foremost theatre and arts establishment, has been chosen to host the 22nd international congress of the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) in 2008. “Being awarded the opportunity to host ISPA raises our profile to compete on an international platform,” said Playhouse Managing Artistic Director, Linda Bukhosini.

A non-profit organization, ISPA has been in existence for nearly 60 years; its mission being to “support innovation, collaboration and best practices in the creation, management and presentation of the performing arts in an international context.” Its 600-plus members comprise the “Who’s-Who” of the international arts community, representing all art disciplines.

Two conferences are held each year as a platform for the exchange of information and controversial discussion. The Annual Congress is always held in New York and the venue of the International Congress changes each year.

Previous hosts include The Sage Gateshead in the United Kingdom in 2005 and The Singapore Arts Festival in 2004. This year, ISPA finds a home at the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in Hong Kong.

A major criterion when choosing a congress site is that the location must rotate between three regions, the Americas, Europe/Africa and Asia/Pacific. The year 2008 marks the first time that the Congress will come to Africa!

“We are so proud to be involved in an event that helps to put the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, as well as South Africa on the map,” adds Linda Bukhosini. “This is a huge opportunity for our very own arts practitioners to network in an international forum and to showcase their skills.”

Following a formal invitation to bid by ISPA, The Playhouse Company had to fulfil a number of criteria before it was chosen as a host. It had to show an availability of a broad spectrum of high quality, multi-disciplinary arts performances that would appeal to the diverse and global membership of ISPA which includes artists, venue and artist managers, architects, consultants, public relations professionals, acousticians, theatre directors, journalists and festival directors.

Another deciding factor was the ease of access to appropriate hotel venues and a solid infrastructure for delegate travel. “The final decision as to who would host the 2008 congress was a strong contest between South Africa and Brazil! We are delighted that The Playhouse came out on top!” said Playhouse Council member, Duma Ndlovu.

Immediately preceding the conference is a two-day academy session designed as a forum for arts managers. The Congress usually extends over four days and has three primary elements: Programmatic sessions including a mix of lecture, discussion, open forum, demonstration and performance; social and cultural events reflecting the unique resources that are available at the specific congress location; and ongoing education of ISPA members in order to strengthen the capacity of their leadership.

The Playhouse Company has a rich history in South Africa, and this partnership with ISPA signals the start of an exciting new era filled with new challenges and opportunities as the city of Durban goes forward to 2010!




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