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February 13, 2020

The guy who helped create Barrio is setting up shop at Uni of Adelaide

The (also) former Tasting Australia creative director Ross Ganf wants you to help him develop a program of cultural collaborations at the University of Adelaide for 2021.

  • Words and pictures: Jess Bassano

Event maker Ross Ganf began seriously flexing his creative muscles while studying theatre directing at Flinders University during the late ’90s.

At the time, the airwaves were dominated by post-grunge, the streets were awash with double denim and low-rise jeans, and stalking was considered a serious criminal offence – not, as it is today, a necessary pre-first-date social media activity.


If you’d like to pitch an event idea for the Uni of Adelaide to consider – get in touch via the following email:

Because social media did not yet exist, university students connected on campus rather than through Facebook groups. As a result, educational institutions were alive.

This is the spirit Ross hopes to breathe back into the University of Adelaide in his role as director of cultural and campus events. The newly created position is part of the university’s quest to become, “the beating heart of Adelaide.”

In a bid to entice more people on campus, the university is also reducing the number of fences and trying to better connect with Kaurna culture by establishing a Kaurna learning circle, Kaurna walk and heritage walk.

In Ross’s role, he hopes to help grow the creative industries sector in particular.

“The remit is essentially to bring more events onto campus and to engage with both the student population, the alumni, the staff and, really broadly, the people of Adelaide,” Ross says.

“I think what’s really special about the [North Terrace] campus is it’s bang in the middle of the city. Like, right in the middle, and there’s not many universities that have that footprint.

“From an events-maker perspective, we’ve got power, we’ve got toilets, we’ve got fencing, we’ve got assets, and you don’t want to pay for those things. It’s something the audience assumes you have. Audiences don’t really care that you’ve put the power on or that you can go to the bathroom, but that’s a genuine cost and all of those things destroy budgets.

“What I think this [initiative] is going to do is really shift the parameters, where [event makers] are going to be able to spend their money on the entertainment, where the people can see it. I think that that shifts the university into a platform, so we’re not always creating temporary spaces. Temporary spaces are great, but they’re expensive.”

Ross’ own experiences as an events and theatre creator gives him great insight into the workings of successful venues. One of his first major projects was the co-creation of the shanty-town-esque Adelaide Festival nightclub, Barrio, in 2012. Barrio changed Adelaide, it preceded and inspired small bars, it inspired CityMag’s very existence – to keep the spirit of Barrio going all year.

Ross is chuffed with this.

“You know how musicians talk about their first albums? Barrio was like my first album as an event maker. It was built out of scaffold and designed by Geoff Cobham… and it was kind of like the first time you saw a temporary wonderland being made. Up until that point we’d all been in theatres and we’d never really seen someone make a play space for adults,” he says.

“We had a bunch of bars and happenings every night that had a different theme, and it sort of changed the face of Adelaide for a little while at quite a key moment. The small bars licence was just coming into Adelaide and a lot of things, which we take for granted now, were just starting to burgeon.”

The university’s decision to create the director, cultural and campus events role is what Ross sees as a brave step to shaping a new wave of innovative events.

“I’m really interested in the broad range of leisure events, cultural events and arts events, and I’d love to explore and commission work around the intersection between art and science,” he says.

“I was remembering back to Sky Show, which was this kind of really tacky fireworks thing – but it was amazing. The whole of Adelaide would come onto the street and watch this fireworks display. I was trying to think of how I could bring everybody onto campus, how we all could be outdoors and watch something.

“So, I’m looking at the possibility of exploring the university’s interests within science technologies and what we can do in the sky … looking at fireworks, drones and lasers.”

While Ross will be developing a program of events for 2021, he says creatives with particularly pressing and original ideas could be produced earlier.

“Access to the buildings and lecture theatres has to primarily be used for classes, but then we’ve still got 17 weeks when they’re not being used as much and I can put other things in there,” Ross says.

“So, if you’ve got an idea and you want to contact me, reach out through the external relations branch, and come pitch to me. And, if you’ve got a cultural connection to Bangladesh or Vietnam or any of our cohorts of students, and you’ve got an idea for something I’d be interested to hear from you.”


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