When it comes to large entertainment projects, it’s hard to imagine anyone with more experience than David Atkins OAM. Atkins was the Artistic Director and Producer of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The success of the Sydney games resulted in Atkins being appointed to further Olympic Games and many other international sporting events, garnering multiple awards along the way.
His original production of Hot Shoe Shuffle was the first Australian musical on London’s West End, for which he won an Olivier Award. Atkins is the only Australian to win an MTV award for choreography.
David Atkins OAM is also the new Artistic Director and Executive Producer for White Night. While Atkins brings a wealth of experience in producing entertainment events on a large scale, he says this one is different.
“It’s a unique project to do,” said Atkins.
Atkins has been working on White Night since July last year and he has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve.
“The two things on top of the list, in terms of deliverables, are that we make sure the crowds are managed effectively. There’s been some years where it’s been a bit difficult with crowd control – and that’s no one’s fault. No one expected the success. This started out with an expectation of, I think in 2013, they thought about 80,000 people might come and they had 300,000! It’s grown exponentially each year. So crowd management and a safe delivery, a safe and enjoyable audience experience, is top on my list from an operational point of view,” explained Atkins.
“From a creative point of view, I want to create a program that has an equal balance, and an equal focus, of engaging, entertaining pieces, but also has some social commentary. I think when you have half a million people at your attention it’s very much incumbent on you to deal with some issues. I think in the city things like homelessness, indigenous culture and ageing are three things that have jumped out in the process of things that we’re going to address,” said Atkins.
“There’s an issue in Melbourne with homelessness and I think people can easily be numbed to those sorts of things and not take them into their realm of consciousness. I think it’s important to remind people of that,” he added.
In an attempt to spread the anticipated large crowds of people who will attend White Night, Atkins has aimed to decentralise the city by putting more works in the parks, which are not congestion zones.
Atkins tip for visitors to Melbourne’s White Night?
“Start at either the northern or southern ends of the city … I think the idea of people starting their journey in the parks, where it’s not congested, and then moving through the city, and trying to make Swanston St more of an activity zone than a transit zone, has been important,” commented Atkins.
“Having things like the cinema, like the ballroom dancing, like the things in QV to try to engage people more as they travel through the city and hopefully once the get to La Trobe Street they’ll head off to the Carlton Gardens.”
The good news is, projections on Melbourne’s iconic Flinders Street Station will return this year.
If it wasn’t enough to organise a Melbourne White Night, Atkins is also producing the very first Ballarat White Night, to be held in March.
“There’s a couple of works that will be shared, but in terms of projections and the way the piece is going to be run and the streetscape itself, it’s very different,” explained Atkins.
Atkins says it’s hard to know what to expect from the first Ballarat White Night but suggested, “We’re confident we’ll end up in the vicinity of around 40,000 to 50,000 people – which is half the population of Ballarat. If we achieve that we’ll be very happy!”
White Night Melbourne runs from 7pm Saturday 18th February to 7am Sunday 19th February.
White Night Ballarat runs from 7pm Saturday 4th March to 7am Sunday 5th March,