Thriving Australian arts scene is in part due to the influence of a former Aucklander.

He is an Australian success story, except he's really a Kiwi. Meet Richard Evans, you've heard of him – haven't you?

You should have. Evans, a major influencer for over 20 years in the Australian arts scene is currently head of the Australian Chamber Orchestra but has held many other high-powered executive roles in that country's cultural landscape.

Yet his career literally began backstage sweeping floors at home in New Zealand: "I never knew it (working in theatres) was a job until somebody paid me, until then I'd thought of it as a hobby."

Evans is now a major player in a thriving Australian arts scene and his story creates a Kiwi link as New Zealand businesses increasingly cast an eye over the array of Australian arts-based events and activities as places to take high-performing staff on incentive trips or reward for jobs well done.


Although Aussie tourist spots and major sporting events have traditionally been incentive destinations, many of their cultural events - like the annual Vivid Festival in Sydney - are now seen in the same light.

Evans says Australia is an ideal place for business incentive visits from New Zealand: "It is a short trip and in Sydney especially there is a real crackle in the air, a sense of excitement. It is truly a global city and a hub for contemporary and classic performance."

With the CV he has amassed, he should know. Before taking up the chamber orchestra job two years ago he held a number of key positions in Australian art circles including stints as CEO of the Sydney Opera House, executive director of The Australian Ballet, managing director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a director of Orchestra Victoria and secretary of the Australian Major Performing Arts Group.

Richard Evans
Richard Evans

Evans was born in Palmerston North, went to school at Christ's College in Christchurch and was good enough to sing in the New Zealand Youth Choir.

Yet a career in the arts was not something he ever thought about, even during the years he was at school and singing: " I remember looking at one of my colleagues in the choir one day and thinking 'all this guy's got to do is open his mouth and out it comes'.

"I recognised very early it was going to be better for me to work on the other side of the stage."

Even so, his career path was not clear-cut. After leaving school, and not knowing what he wanted to do with his life, he headed overseas, living in Italy for a year.

But he was soon back in New Zealand, living for several years in Auckland after his father suggested he study Italian at the University of Auckland. It was during this time the arts became part of his life.

"I was going out with a girl who was into the arts and I got a few jobs working backstage in places like the Maidment Theatre (the university's theatre which closed permanently in 2016)," he says. "My start came through assorted backstage jobs; it is a classic 'sweeping the floors' kind of story."

After various jobs working as a set builder and stage and production manager, in 1991 he took over the running of the New Zealand Puppet Theatre. In 1993 he moved to Australia to head up Australia's flagship puppetry company, the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle and his career was up and running.

Of his present position with the Australian Chamber Orchestra Evans says: "The role of the managing director really is to create an environment where the artists in the company can create their best work. That is the job."

Although Australia offers a plethora of arts and cultural events one of the major attractions for business events visitors is the annual Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour.

Located at Mrs Macquaries Point at the tip of the Royal Botanic Garden, it is held every March-April on a floating stage, right next door to the Sydney Opera House.

First held in 2012, it has quickly become one of the most highly anticipated events on Australia's cultural calendar which also includes other strong contenders for business events such as Vivid Sydney, TedX, the Sydney Festival and WOMADelaide to name a few.