April 26 | By Joyce DiMascio
Talking to Anthony Bastic is like going to a spa for your imagination. His voice is confident and evocative as he tells the story of why events matter. And why nurturing Australia’s cultural life through events matters even more.
It’s a message that he often takes to his government clients around the country – Bastic and his team are the creators of major public events whose impacts are measured by KPIs much more than ticket sales or attendance.
Bastic is the founder and creative director of AGB Events, one of Australia’s most prolific events agencies.
He’s doing possibly some of his best work now, igniting new opportunities to drive economic and community development through Australian-inspired “story-telling and experiences” in regional and remote Australia.
His name is in the credits for some of this country’s most acclaimed national and international events, including Australia Day celebrations, Vivid Sydney, the Lights of Christmas in Sydney and the more recently, Halo in Townsville and the central Australian epic, Parrtjima – A Festival in Light.
Bastic has been a creative powerhouse for decades. Before establishing the agency, he held many high-profile roles, including with the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Live Sites, the Rugby World Cup 2003, Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games and with the City of Sydney.
He’s also an ambassador for Australia’s creative capability and is currently working for World Expo in Dubai, which is rescheduled to run from October 1 2021 to March 31 2022.
At the start of the pandemic, when all events were stopped, Bastic had the option of closing down his company and waiting out the pandemic.
But this isn’t the road that Bastic and his team opted for. Instead, they dug more deeply to come up with ways to keep events going by doing things differently. The question was – how they could rethink the production of public events and keep people safe?
He ticked that off and delivered the spectacular Parrtjima in outback central Australia in September 2020 and again this month. It is a major driver for tourism and economic development for the Northern Territory. The festival is steeped in storytelling about the land and the ancient stories of the first peoples. Those stories are told using familiar outback landscapes peppered with installations of technical and creative originality. In the middle of COVID-19, Alice Springs was booked out because of Parrtjima.
Visitors experienced something extraordinary under a blanket of outback night skies. Blackness not from drapes, but the majesty of Australia’s big, remote, isolation. The beating heart of the country was ignited to bring joy at a time when sadness had engulfed the community on so many levels. Light and stories on an extraordinary scale.
That’s what drives Anthony Bastic. His “mantra” – my words, not his, is to be the “first” to create something new and special.
He is committed to creating experiences and telling stories that are accessible to people of all walks of life. He is no elitist cultural snob – he is a man of the people. He grew up in a family that was committed to ordinary Australians and the concept of a “fair go”.
Bastic says that the Queensland and Northern Territory Governments are emerging as real leaders with their positivity and appetite for change and embracing new ideas.
“My experience is that they recognise that events have a social and economic impact and there is a role for positivity in driving this,” he said.
The corporate sector could leverage these events more but at present it is taking more time for this to filter through. He is optimistic on this front.
The operators of The Ghan, the epic train that traverses the country from Darwin to Adelaide could see the potential, he says. They got right behind Parrtjima and with outstanding results. The Festival in Light experience was incorporated into the rail journey not just in the external livery, but also in what happened aboard. There is enormous potential for the incentive and corporate market to embrace this type of opportunity, he says.
Given the power of public events, Bastic wants to ensure governments in states that have been endured the most during COVID are encouraged to be confident about getting back into the events saddle.
In relation to Victoria, the state impacted most by the pandemic, his advice to the state government is: “Events can be created safely, they are an essential part of the creative life of a city and essential to its recovery.”
So what’s his message to the events industry over the next six to 12 months? He says there are four things. First, remain positive; second, it’s a time “to let creativity lead”; third, he asks that governments and corporates listen and trust event creators; and finally, to remember that the impact of a good idea, and their positive effect on the community is immeasurable.
As we proceed into a future where people really want to be together face to face, he sees that technology will play an increasingly important role – not to replace the live event, but to enhance the live experience even more.
Bastic says he aims to create experiences where the power of technology enables the “memory” of the events to live on in people’s hearts and minds.
What’s next for Anthony Bastic? More amazing projects, no doubt. He’ll be dreaming up ideas that really do “deliver to the word creative”. I think we can be assured that Australia and the world will be better off for it.
He is imbued with energy, imagination and inspirational ideas. Stay tuned for the magic he creates next.