Stephen Gilby - Program Manager, Chinese New Year Festival, Sydney

Stephen Gilby
I work with a committee of Chinese community leaders and the City's Events Team to help plan the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival throughout the year.'

For Stephen, February is all about Chinese New Year. This Chinese New Year Festival, celebrating the Year of the Rat, will be the fourth he’s organised for Sydney. Stephen took out some time from his busy schedule putting the finishing touches to the festival events to speak to us.


 

 

 

What do you do in your job?

I work with a committee of Chinese community leaders and the City’s Events Team to help plan the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival throughout the year. It’s a one-year to 18-month process to put the festival together. We plan and run our own key events and work with external groups to include their events as part of the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival. We also work with groups from overseas, particularly from China, who come to Australia to celebrate Chinese New Year in Sydney. A large part of my job involves putting together all the marketing collateral – the website, programs, postcards, posters, that sort of thing. 

What different events are there?

We have several key events. This Friday we have the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival launch. At the same time we have the Chinatown Markets, which have moved this year from Dixon Street Mall to Belmore Park, near Central station. In past years it’s been the biggest event of the Festival – a quarter of a million people attended over three days and the new venue will allow for bigger crowds. We follow it up next weekend with the Chinese New Year Parade – our ‘signature’ event. We have 2500 participants including 600 from China. Last year we had 60 000 spectators and this is our fastest-growing event. The next big event is the Dragon Boat Racing. This attracts 2000 paddlers and 200 000 spectators. I have overall responsibility for all these main events and also for bringing in external events.

Are you already planning for next year’s festival?

Yes, particularly the parade. We have plans in place for the next five years, although things change, obviously, as each year gets closer. In 2009 we’re having a night parade so planning for that is well underway.

Do you have to work extra hours in the immediate lead-up to the festival?

Yes, in the lead-up and during the festival we do work quite a lot of extra hours. All the events are on the weekend and, as I attend all of the main events, I end up working a lot. That can get a bit tiring but it’s worthwhile once you see the end result.

How many people do you have working for you?

It varies. The parade has about 100 staff working on it. In terms of permanent staff working on Sydney Chinese New Year, there’s myself, my manager and a team of six in the Events Team who work on different aspects of the event. We also bring people in on shorter-term contracts – as the event gets closer the team explodes!

How did you become involved in event management?

I did a double major in anthropology at uni, then worked in Japan for a while. When I came back to Australia I worked in a marketing role for a legal publisher. Then I went into a media and events role at a local council and then moved over to South Sydney council in a similar role, before coming to the City of Sydney when the two councils merged and started my current role.

What skills do you think are important to succeed in your job?

You have to be someone who won’t get stressed and can manage stress levels. When it does get stressful, particularly when there’s a lot to do in a short amount of time, it’s important not to be fazed by that. Also, you must be able to work really effectively within a team.

Which events are you particularly looking forward to this year?

I’m looking forward to the launch on Friday night – we’ve got one of the performers from the Sydney Dance Company taking part, which I think will be fantastic. And the Chinese New Year Parade will be very exciting – we’ve got 600 people from Shaanxi province taking part. Shaanxi province is where the Terracotta Warriors are from and it has a really strong cultural history so what they’re doing should be great. And the markets – the new location and the range of stalls is going to be really good to see.


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