30 June 2021

Graduate Behind the Curtain at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Jana Drummond

Jana Drummond

Producer, Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Bachelor of Communication & Media

The city has been abuzz this past month with the sights and sounds of the 2021 Adelaide Cabaret Festival (ACF) – the largest cabaret festival in the world, since 2001.

The annual festival commencing on the Queen's Birthday long weekend each June has garnered a reputation of highlighting the best local, national and international artists. This year’s star-studded program, included 180 artists in 105 performances over 12 days and nights, featuring performances from Eddie Perfect, The Sisters of Invention, Kim David Smith, Dan Sultan, Young Talent Time, and international Artistic Director and Tony Award-winning cabaret performer, Alan Cumming.

Alongside these stars, ambitious and hard-working Communication and Media graduate, Jana Drummond has been working away diligently to deliver the eclectic program of classic and contemporary cabaret performances for audiences across the city.

Jana’s untraditional tertiary education path – a seven-year gap between study – has been a great help to her adaptability and nurtured her passion for this career path.  This was clear when, a few weeks ago, Jana was promoted to Producer of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, recognising her leadership within the festival's organisation and cementing her place in Adelaide’s arts industry. 

Speaking to fellow Communications and Media student, Rochelle Smith, Jana shared her humble beginnings, the challenges of juggling university and work experience, and love for her role at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival (ACF), demonstrating that finding one’s dream job is often a journey.

Deadly Hearts is one of Jana’s highlights of the 2021 ACF, featuring performers Dan Sultan, Tia Gostelow, Kee’ahn and Aodhan.
Deadly Hearts is one of Jana’s highlights of the 2021 ACF, featuring performers Dan Sultan, Tia Gostelow, Kee’ahn and Aodhan

Jana’s passion for the arts began as a child, where Jana had dreams of becoming an actor.

“That was short lived when I realised I didn’t like being the centre of attention,” Jana laughs.

So, in pursuit of other career options and time away from study, Jana took seven gap years after finishing high school and in 2015 finally settled on a UniSA degree – enrolling in a Bachelor of Communication and Media, with a sub-major in Film and Television.

Jana’s interests began to grow in 2016 in her second year of university, where she signed up to a year-long volunteer program at the Adelaide Festival Centre called the ‘Green Room Advocacy Program’.

Not only was the program beneficial to Jana’s skills growth, but it also enabled her to gain a strong grip on different aspects of the Centre – something which would eventually turn into her full-time job.

During the program, Jana was asked to work as the assistant for the ACF Artistic Director on the opening weekend. From this opportunity, Jana was able to work for the ACF as Festival Assistant, then subsequently as Program Coordinator and Assistant Producer.

Artistic Director Alan Cumming (left), Executive Director Alex Sinclair (centre), and comedian, actor, writer, musician, and songwriter, Tim Minchin (right).
Artistic Director Alan Cumming (left), Executive Director Alex Sinclair (centre), and comedian, actor, writer, musician, and songwriter, Tim Minchin (right)

“I immediately cleared my schedule and took the opportunity,” she says excitedly.

“I’ve been lucky to start at the bottom of an organisation and work my way up. It enabled me to fully understand the organisation and my job which is something I always wanted,” Jana reflects.

Jana’s role as Producer arose partly due to COVID-19 and its effect on her team at the ACF.

“The freeing up of the producer role meant that I had to step up and do more than the average assistant producer would do,” she expresses.

“I would describe it as a baptism by fire but also a blessing in disguise.”

Jana’s work involves researching the success of the ACF, working as the glue between different departments, and balancing the artistic outcome of the festival with realistic elements such as budget.

One part of this research is making the ACF more appealing to younger audiences, as the current demographic are adults in their mid-50s.

“I love the research part of my job at the end of the festival, it allows us to dream big and envision new festival inclusions for next time,” Jana says.

This year’s highlights for Jana included: Deadly Hearts – a festival-style event celebrating music and culture by leading Australian First Nation artists; Max Savage’s ERN – a painter and composer joining forces to bring to life a controversial event in Australian history; Kim David Smith’s Mostly Marlene – an intimate look at 1920s Berlin through the celebration of Marlene Dietrich, famous actress and singer; and Selina Jenkins’ BOOBS – a comedic look at one woman and her two boobs’ experience.

Another one of Jana’s 2021 ACF highlights, Selina Jenkins’ BOOBS.
Another one of Jana’s 2021 ACF highlights, Selina Jenkins’ BOOBS

Having just completed her degree last year in 2020, Jana is grateful for her time at UniSA and its assistance in her career trajectory.

“During my degree I was able to change to part-time study, so I could balance my university commitments whilst working five days a week at the festival,” Jana says.

“UniSA also really prepared me with the practical focus of our assignments, as well as the professional connections I made whilst studying.”

Jana is certainly an inspiration to current UniSA students, recent graduates, and those looking to change career paths, leaving one last piece of advice with them.

“One thing I can’t recommend enough is volunteering. It’s a great way to learn, and you’re not going to feel the pressure or expectations of a paid job,” she says.

In Jana’s case, volunteering at the Adelaide Festival Centre led to her permanent position at the ACF, proving that you never know when things can lead to bigger opportunities.

For more information on the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Jana’s work, visit the website here.

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