The annual Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards have been announced, with new music group Ensemble Offspring, director Barrie Kosky and Artshub’s National Performing Arts Editor honoured in a ceremony at Cranlana, the home of Sidney and Merlyn Myer.

Richard Watts, Claire Edwardes and Barrie Kosky, winners of this year’s Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards. Photograph © Fiona Hamilton

Ensemble Offspring was awarded the Group Award of $90,000. Over the course of the ensemble’s 25 years in the industry, Ensemble Offspring has premiered over 300 new works, with a particular focus on marginalised compositional voices including female and First Nations Australian composers.

“Given the list of past recipients as well as the esteem in which the Myer family is held in Australia for their deep commitment to the arts, it is both humbling and totally exciting to win this award,” Ensemble Offspring’s Artistic Director Claire Edwardes told Limelight. “The fact that our work over the past 25 years has been recognised this way feels pretty amazing, given how tirelessly our musicians and team work to make it all happen on a shoestring budget.”

“It can’t be underestimated how significant the addition of an unbudgeted $90,000 is,” she said. “As with all arts companies who are continually reaching and dreaming, we have several initiatives which were on the back burner and we are now able to realise in 2020/21, including several new work commissions, a new local series in Sydney fostering collaborations with touring artists, and the further development costs of a new opera by Cathy Milliken and a new dance work by Kate Neal.”

Berlin-based Australian director Barrie Kosky was named the Individual Winner, which comes with a prize of $60,000. The director’s recent successes in Australia include his productions of Saul, The Magic Flute, and The Nose, which have travelled across three continents. “It is with enormous thanks and gratitude that I accept this wonderful award,” he said. “My artistic and cultural ties to Australia are still very important to me and I would like to thank the Myer Foundation for this special honour.”

The Facilitator’s Prize of $25,000 was awarded to Richard Watts, ArtsHub’s National Performing Arts Editor and presenter for the SmartArts program on Three Triple R FM. He founded the Emerging Writers’ Festival and currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre’s Committee of Management and on the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel.

“It has been a privilege and a joy helping to nurture, interrogate and promote the Australian performing arts industry in all its forms,” Watts said. “My sincere thanks to my friends and family for their support along the way and special thanks to the Sidney Myer Foundation – not only for this generous prize, but for their significant and strategic support of the arts across Australia for so many years.”

The Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards were established in 1984 by the Trustees of the Sidney Myer Fund to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of businessman and philanthropist Sidney Myer, a passionate advocate for the arts. Since its inception, the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards has awarded close to $4 million.

This year’s judging committee included Christie Anthoney, Fraser Corfield, Shelagh Magadza, Fiona Maxwell and Brian Ritchie, and was chaired by Sidney Myer Fund Chairman Carrillo Gantner (who does not vote).