Jono Perry, creative director, G20 Cultural Celebrations

We’ve got a once-in-a-generation opportunity to show off Brisbane, so why not do it!

As Brisbane braces for the rush of international visitors and worldwide attention ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit this November, the city has chosen to turn the spotlight on itself, launching a massive three-week program of free music and art experiences stretching from the inner city to the suburbs. Kicking off tomorrow, Friday October 24 and running until Sunday November 16, the Queensland Government’s G20 Cultural Celebrations have been placed in the capable hands of creative directors Jono Perry and Athol Young. Brisbane boy and QUT graduate Jono has planned a spectacular interactive lighting installation, which will see Brisbane’s iconic buildings and signature landmarks awash with lights and effects created by artists, musicians and the residents of Brisbane. The Weekend Edition put in a call to Jono this week to talk culture, community and Colour Me Brisbane.

Did you always dream of working in this field?
I was one of those very lucky people who, at the age of six, knew what I wanted to do.

Was there something in particular that inspired that?
My mum took me to every single stage show that ever came to Brisbane – so when QPAC and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre opened in the 1980s, we went to everything. Shows like Starlight Express, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar – all of those big, amazing, flashy productions in the 1980s just grabbed me. But we also went to the ballet and opera and smaller theatre shows, so I got a lot of culture at an early age. But I’d actually just sit there and count the lights, and work out what colours they were using – and not even watch the show!

What can we expect to see and experience during the G20 Cultural Celebrations?
The program will offer something for everyone, and it will get people feeling proud that we can do this stuff in Brisbane as well as anyone. We’ve got a once-in-a-generation opportunity to show off Brisbane, so why not do it!

You’re responsible for the Colour Me Brisbane program, what will that involve?
Colour Me Brisbane is mainly based within the CBD and is an interactive lighting display that runs from 6:00–11:00 pm every night until Sunday November 9, so you’ll get the same experience at 7:00 pm on a Tuesday night as you will at 10:00 pm on a Friday night. It’s projection, it’s lighting, it’s lasers and there are a lot of interactive elements. Across the CBD, there are 32 sights and buildings involved, which we’ll be lighting up or projecting on to.

There are many different events comprising Colour Me Brisbane – what’s the must-see?
The main part is called Paint Your City, which involves a 50-inch touchscreen in the Cultural Forecourt of South Bank, where you can paint 13 buildings across the Brisbane City skyline. You touch on a building and then on a colour palette, and once you’ve decided what your city painting is going to be, you can send it and it will light up across the facades of the buildings. That’s the thing I’m most excited about, because people get to play with their city.

What are you most excited about in fellow creative director Athol Young’s portion of the program?
We’ve got a series of free concerts at the Riverstage, so that will probably be my highlight. There are also quirky events like Busby Marou playing at a bowls club – how cool is that!

What’s next for you once the celebrations are over?
I traditionally do Christmas lighting in Brisbane City each year, so I’m already talking about a few projects, but I’m also looking forward to a bit of a break!

You were previously the technical director of Brisbane Festival for six years, meaning you were the man responsible for Sunsuper Riverfire. How did you feel watching those fireworks light up Brisbane each year – terrified, elated or both?
It was pretty nerve-wracking! I watched it this year and it was the first time in seven years that I’ve actually watched it without working; it was really nice to just sit down and enjoy it, without worrying about all the things that can go wrong. We’re very fortunate that Riverfire is such a smooth-running event, but it’s because everyone in Brisbane gets behind it.

You’ve worked on many community projects like the QUT Festival Theatre and the Gasometer lighting and sound displays – which has been your personal favourite so far?
I think the G20 Cultural Celebrations might eclipse everything … But Santos GLNG City of Lights 2012 would probably be my other favourite – it was when we put a big barge in the middle of the river, that was incredible!

What would be your dream project to work on – are there any favourite buildings around the world you’d like to project lights on to, or shoot fireworks from?
I think being the creative director of an Olympic Games opening ceremony would be the pick – that’s when you get to spend serious, serious dollars.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt so far?
The lesson that I take away from most projects is that you get out of anything what you put into it. So if you throw yourself into something and you’re passionate about it, and you work hard, you’ll succeed. If you listen, volunteer, put your hand up and aren’t afraid to take a risk, you’ll be rewarded.

What’s your definition of success?
I think for me one of the most enjoyable things about working in this industry is when you see people smiling and enjoying an experience, or they put a great photo on social media and say how much they loved a show – that for me is when you succeed, when people are being entertained. My world is live entertainment, so you get that instant reaction and know straight away from an audience that they’ve enjoyed themselves.

Perk up … Tall Short Espresso, Paddington.
Relax … Sunshine Beach, Sunshine Coast.
Dine … Tartufo, Fortitude Valley.
Catch up … Breakfast Creek Hotel, Breakfast Creek.
Be inspired … New York City.


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