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Bell Shakespeare 25th Anniversary Gala

E & OE

Thank you so much. You've laid out a great temptation for me in that introduction, and that is to belt out 'Gold' by Spandau Ballet. And I think this night, I can tell, it is going to kick on. That is clear. 

I've been the Arts Minister for ten weeks. So as Arts Minister I am in my infancy. But there could not be a more important place for me to be tonight than here, acknowledging 25 years of Bell Shakespeare.

Can I start, however, by acknowledging a few people who are very significant to the life of the company, and who are very important tonight. Firstly, Auntie Norma. Thank you so much for your very warm welcome to us all here. Ilana Atlas, the Chair of the Board of Bell Shakespeare. And can I acknowledge through you, the Board of the company. The blood, sweat and tears that you put in, because you care so much. Could I also acknowledge Gill Perkins, the General Manager who we know does such a sensational job. And Peter Evans, the Co-Artistic Director, who is on the eve of taking the Artistic Director's helm. And tonight, in a sense, is a collective laying on of hands of Peter, commissioning him for the great work that he is to preside over in his new role.

And of course the great John Bell. Co-Artistic Director. Founder. The life. The soul. The passion. The love that has seen Bell Shakespeare become what it is today. And obviously we are celebrating John and his incredible contribution. But through John we are also celebrating and acknowledging everyone who has worked for and with and supported Bell Shakespeare over 25 years.

I think the highest tribute that I can pay to John is a statement of simple fact. And that is, when Australians think of Shakespeare, they think of John Bell. And when Australians think of John Bell, they think of Shakespeare. I think it's probably difficult for any of us to think of another person whose name is as synonymous with such an important body of work as is John's. John, that is a mark of your incredible achievement for this country.

I really tonight want to acknowledge three profound contributions of John. The first, is what John has done to help keep the classics alive in Australia. The second, is the fact that John and all the people he has worked with have helped to established what is a truly national theatre company. And the third contribution is both the breadth and the generosity of John's vision. And what I mean by the generosity is yes, obviously, sharing Shakespeare on stage with the nation. But importantly there is also the sharing of Shakespeare with so many students throughout the country. And also, very importantly, John's generosity in sharing his skills and his insights with fellow actors and other artists. I don't think we can overestimate the significance of that which John has done in that regard.

So on behalf of the Government, on behalf of the Parliament and on behalf of a grateful nation, can I simply say: John, thank you.