Next Wave is a biennial arts event which is Australia’s leading festival for young artists, arts workers and young audiences. The festival features works from artists aged 16 to 30 including dance, theatre, visual arts, performance, new media and literature. I first came across it when I volunteered in 2006 as a gallery guard at the Containers Village, which presented the work of Commonwealth artist-groups in shipping containers in Docklands.

Next Wave recently launched its full program for the 2010 festival and today’s HOT Chat is with Fiona Maxwell, Executive Director of Next Wave.  Thanks Fiona!

Fiona3v1Fiona, tell me a bit more about your background and your role at Next Wave?

I’m from Queensland originally and steadily made my way down the East coast, working in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne (with a side trip to LA). I’ve been at Next Wave for 7 years, and this is my 4th Festival. My role is Executive Director, so I’m joint CEO with the Artistic Director, and I get to handle all the un-sexy stuff – finance, operations, logistics, even insurance and legals, while the AD selects and works with the artists.

What’s a typical work day for you?

Bike ride in from Footscray to our offices in North Melbourne. Meetings, emails, wrangling cows, herding cats… last week I met with the Minister for the Arts, last night I was in a stinky alleyway in the dark waiting to see a dance show in development for the Festival.

What do you enjoy most about working at Next Wave?

We’re making a genuine difference in the artistic lives of the young people we work with. That’s got to count for something! I also like the people I work with, the flexibility and spontaneity of my role and the organisation. We can do what we like (we might not have much money for it), but we can set our own direction!

What are some of the most interesting or challenging projects that you’ve worked on in your years at Next Wave?

Forty-five shipping containers stacked up in a big shed in Docklands for the Commonwealth Games – that was pretty epic, especially when the scaffolding guy cancelled on the first day of installation!

Venues ranging from strip clubs to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to an old (and cold) jail.

Dealing with our increasingly conservative society and balancing artist’s ambitious ideas… nudity, OH&S, and safe care of animals.

The theme for 2010’s festival is ‘No Risk Too Great’ – so what can audiences expect?

Each festival is so very different from the one before. 2010 has so much site-specific, temporal work, its great.

There’s also unlikely venues – like the Victorian Science Education Centre, and new venues for Next Wave, like Donkey Wheel House. There will be small intimate experiences (I’m Fine), you’ll stumble upon things in unlikely places (Doomsday Vanitas), and spectacles like never before (Dachshund U.N.).

(Image courtesy of Bennett Miller)

Look out for The Chicken Stampede to hear the story of the stampede of 500 live chickens down Smith Street that didn’t happen!

What are your must-see recommendations from this year’s festival?

Can you love any one child more than the other…??

There is a great dance program at Donkey Wheel House, both inhabiting the space in completely different ways – The Oak’s Bride and The Lost Living.

I’m also excited about two performance shows at Docklands – not so far away really when the tram runs all the way through and you can get tickets to both shows for $30 – And then something fell on my head and YOUTH vs PHYSICS .

(Image by James Brown)

Finally, what are your tips for what’s HOT in Melbourne?

Cafe Lalibela (91 Irving St, Footscray +61 3 9687 0300‎) – amazing Ethiopian food, eat with your hands and enjoy the warm and generous service.

Little Saigon Market (63 Nicholson St, Footscray +61 3 9687 9698) – nowhere else can you get avocadoes for $5 a kilo! You think Melbourne markets are cheap – you haven’t seen anything until you’ve experienced Little Saigon.

And of course, 1000 £ Bend, which will be transformed into the Next Wave Festival Club from 13-30 May…I’m heading to their cafe for lunch today – their baguettes are super.

The 2010 Next Wave Festival will run from 13 to 30 May 2010. For full program details, go to

For other HOT chats with interesting Melburnians, click here.