Debbie Kruger
1995 Biennial logo
Nicholas Heyward had recently been appointed as Chief Executive of the Brisbane Biennial when he came down to Lismore to see NORPA's production of Metamorphosis in July 1994.
Impressed with the media coverage NORPA's season had been getting, he called me soon after and invited me to become the Biennial's publicist.
Established in 1991, the Biennial had been acclaimed but under-patronized under its previous directorship. It was imperative for the festival's survival that in 1995 the public knew about it and, most importantly, bought tickets to the events.

Single-handedly, I undertook what was widely considered to be the largest and most comprehensive publicity campaign for an Arts festival in Australia to date.

The 1995 Biennial was a 10-day festival, featuring one-off events including concert performances of Wagner's Parsifal (all six hours of it), Bernstein's Candide and Mahler's Symphony No 8 featuring 1,000 performers on stage.

Other events included an Aboriginal rock concert, a singing nun, dawn nature walks, visual sound art installations, a food and wine festival, and forums.

Highlights from the 1995 festival program guide

Debbie at her Biennial desk
Surrounded by press clippings, media releases and
trying to look cool just hours before Opening Night
Individual artists I worked with included South African singing legend Miriam Makeba... the late great jazz diva Betty Carter... eminent maestro Gunther Schuller... the gorgeous and gracious opera stars of Parsifal, including the scrumptious James Maddalena... avant garde sound artist Joan La Barbara... the four jolly chaps who sang like angels in the Hilliard Ensemble... and the great surprise star of the festival, piano and organ virtuoso, Wayne Marshall. We all fell in love with Wayne, and he with us and Australia.
Wayne Marshall with Debbie
Wayne Marshall with Debbie, Brisbane 1995
Of course there are always stories to tell about these artists. Such as Betty Carter raising the alarm when she let her bath overflow in her hotel suite. Or Miriam Makeba withdrawing from all media interviews at the last minute causing one usually calm radio producer to burst into tears.

Overall, though, the artists who came to Australia for the Biennial - and the Australian artists who participated - were fantastic people from whom I learned a lot about genres of music I had previously known little about.

I'd never worked on such a mammoth project before. There were 40 events to write individual press releases for, two major program launches, and media management of Opening Night and other special functions throughout the festival, with some 100 media representatives attending 85 performances in 25 different venues.

Staff pass
Richard Mills, Nicholas Heyward and Debbie
Richard Mills, Nicholas Heyward and Debbie
looking over another day's media coverage
Melissa Cogzell
Marketing assistant Melissa "nothing's too difficult" Cogzell
Josephine Kneipp
Josephine the Sponsorship Queen
Marie De Gregorio
Temptress of Ticketing, Marie de Gregorio, with Narelle in the background

It was at the 1995 Biennial that I began some great working relationships - and friendships - with members of the media, especially at ABC Radio.
Penny Lomax and Debbie
ABC Radio National "Music Show" producer
Penny Lomax with Debbie
Debbie with Charles Southwood
Debbie with Charles Southwood
from ABC Classic FM

Fortunately the phenomenal media coverage translated into great ticket sales and the 1995 Brisbane Biennial was deemed to be a great success, with Nicholas Heyward and artistic advisors Richard Mills and Jonathan Mills all signed on for the 1997 Biennial.

As did I...

Jonathan and Josephine
Jonathan Mills and Josephine Kneipp rest
their weary bones after a successful festival.

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