Frank Madrid moves on - Canberra to Sydney with an office in Melbourne

Frank Madrid moves on - Canberra to Sydney with an office in Melbourne

Arts promoter Frank Madrid is leaving Canberra after a decade, partly because he believes his skills were not used to their full potential during the city's centenary and his lobbying for an international arts festival has come to nothing.

He also believes Canberra does not have a big enough pool of professionals schooled in arts marketing and management so he will operate his arts promotion business from Sydney and open another office in Melbourne.

Arts personality Frank Madrid is leaving the Canberra scene.

Arts personality Frank Madrid is leaving the Canberra scene.Credit:Katherine Griffiths

Mr Madrid said he had mixed feelings about the success of the centenary celebrations and admitted they had tested his 15-year friendship with Centenary of Canberra creative director Robyn Archer. He did not apply for the creative director's job but did apply for a programming role for the centenary.

''I respect the approach that Robyn took to the celebrations, making it Canberra-centric,'' he said. ''I perhaps would have tried more in giving it an international flavour and putting Canberra on the national and international map. It was a unique opportunity for positive branding for the city.''


Mr Madrid said he originally accepted a job offer in Sydney in 2009 but decided to stay in Canberra partly because he believed he could contribute to the centenary celebrations leading to 2013.

''The centenary took a different approach to the celebration and I didn't get a chance to be that involved,'' he said. ''I have mixed feelings about it. It's been a very busy year of activities. Will it be memorable for everybody? I'm not sure.''

Mr Madrid said he did try to pilot a festival of physical theatre and dance, Flip Art, for the centenary celebrations, wanting it to start with events in public spaces in 2010 and build to a ''crescendo'' in 2013. But he said he faced ''constant intervention from the centenary team'' and abandoned the project after its debut in 2010.

''It was difficult to implement the vision with the micromanagement we had to endure,'' he said.

''I had to concede a lot in the decision-making process. I have to admit Robyn is incredibly respected in Australia and around the world, it's not easy to argue with or contradict her. Most people will tend to agree with someone of that stature.

''I'm a great admirer of her work in general and we've had a friendship of 15 years. Our friendship has probably been tested by the centenary. But friends are allowed to disagree.''

Ms Archer released only a short statement in response.

"Frank delivered a very successful Flip Art in 2010 but chose not to continue in 2011. His company FAMA is currently contracted by the Centenary as the producer of the Brasilia-Canberra Exchange,'' she said.

"As with Frank, dozens of other local producers have been engaged to deliver the Centenary celebrations.

"We congratulate him on his appointment as program manager of the National Multicultural Festival in 2014, and wish him the best for the future."

Mr Madrid said he was also disappointed that Canberra did not have an international arts festival saying it ''deserved and needed it''.

By contrast, his recent visit to that other planned city, Brasilia, showed it had a a vibrant arts festival.

''There is this incredible dialogue within the city and people feel connected with what's happening in the arts across the world.

''The other reason I have to go is my business is growing very fast and unfortunately here in Canberra, there is not the workforce in the areas like arts management, publicity, marketing. The skills are not abundant. Very often people move on to Melbourne or Sydney,'' he said.

Yet for all that, Mr Madrid says he will always look fondly on his time in Canberra, bringing acts from around the world to the national capital, broadcasting on ArtSound FM and DJing including at after-work drinks on a Friday night at Old Parliament House when 1000 people would turn up. He would continue an association with the national capital, including through his Rhythms of the World event for the National Multicultural Festival in February.

A farewell will be held for him at The Street Theatre on Friday and he is expected to leave Canberra before the end of the year.

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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