Heart and Soul of the Flinders Performance Centre

November 2016 / 17/11/2016

The Flinders Performance Centre is the busiest hub at Flinders, with students, staff and parents constantly transiting across foyers and the popular Quarterdeck Cafe. Sarah Sullivan is the driving force behind the Centre, always ensuring that everyone will have a wonderful experience, on and off-stage.

Firstly, tell us about yourself, your career and how you came to Flinders?
I started my adult life as an opera singer. After leaving school, I studied a Bachelor of Music, Graduate Diploma in Opera Performance and a Master of Music Studies at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. This took me to London after winning the Covent Garden Royal Opera Scholarship. After returning to Australia to finish my Masters, I gained a position at the Conservatorium as Front of House Manager for their theatre. This led to the Venue and Events Manager position and, eventually, to Flinders!

Describe your role in the Performance Centre?
I am the Performance Centre and Facilities Manager. It is a many faceted role, which ensures I am never searching for the next interesting situation! I look after the Performance Centre and all of the facilities, which can be hired throughout the College including the Sports Centre and Primary Pavilion. The demand for the external hire of our excellent facilities has really gained momentum since I first started in 2013. The Performance Centre has over 60 hire days this year and the Sports Centre has regular hires as well as season hires, like Basketball at present.

What is the thing that you love the most about your job?
In the Performance Centre, I look after clients from their initial inquiry right through to the completion of their event. We meet to discuss technical requirements, what they need in foyers if they need catering, dressing rooms and lots more. It is wonderful to get to the end of an event and see a happy client whose vision has been realised.

Can you describe the infrastructure of the Performance Centre?
World class and state of the art. It is a very versatile, modern space, which can accommodate almost anything! We have the infrastructure to accommodate large dance schools with needs for lots of dressing room space, intimate performances where we close the curtain and raise the stage, huge concerts on our massive stage and even formal dinners for up to 500.

How many staff work at the PC?
There are just two full-time, PC specific staff, myself and Adam Knight. We deal with the nitty gritty of all bookings. Then we have a Food & Beverage team, led by Darren Frankling, which includes four coffee shop staff, two chefs and the wonderful tuckshop staff. In addition to this, on an event day, we may have two bars open, which is another six casual staff, a Box Office Manager and a Duty Manager. On big events, there may be as many as 20 staff working in the Performance Centre.

What has been the most challenging situation you have faced in your role?
Don’t know if I should answer this one! I think that it is really just juggling the sheer number of activities that can happen here on any given day. Making sure that we have enough room to park cars, the facilities are clean and ready to use and that all equipment and set-up requests are met. We try to accommodate every request, but sometimes we are just too popular!

What advice would you give to young people considering a career in the performing arts, on and off-stage?
Arts or Arts Administration is a very rewarding career. However, jobs are limited and you really need to decide that you are willing to not lead a typical 9 to 5 life! 17 hour days are not unusual, but knowing that you are often helping people fulfil their dreams is worth it.

After three years in your role, what was the most special moment experienced at the PC?
Without a doubt “A Taste of Opera”, produced to celebrate the College’s 25th Anniversary. This was a true team effort; our kids on stage in the choir and orchestra, the Year 11 students who helped to organise and manage the logistical side of the concert, the 90 minute interval with our Spanish Fiesta and Italian Marketplace with the wonderful food and theming by Beedazzled. This was an example of the satisfaction found in doing a job like mine!

What are the plans for the future of the PC?
The PC will continue to cater for the needs of the College, first and foremost. As a school facility, we are very committed to ensuring that our students are always first to benefit from the opportunities the PC provides. We will continue to grow our external hire market and it is my hope to introduce concerts by outside groups produced by the PC.