Meet Jenny Simpson, CEO of AWESOME

We asked Jenny Simpson to let some AWESOME cats out of the bag by sharing her highlights from this year’s AWESOME Festival. Warning: spoiler alert!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role. What attracted you to this job?

Like most CEOs of not-for-profit companies, my role is very diverse … and just a little bit crazy! AWESOME is a small company with a big footprint and we can only achieve what we do through the generosity and goodwill of many partners who believe in us. It is these friendships, the creative wheeling and dealing and the collective sense of achievement that keeps me in the role. In curating the AWESOME Festival program I am lucky enough to experience the work of hundreds of phenomenal artists throughout the year. Being exposed to such vision and creativity is a joyous thing and helps me to maintain a sense of curiosity and wonder at the world.

Funnily enough, it wasn’t the AWESOME Festival that first attracted me to the role at AWESOME. I have been involved in festivals since I was a child and they can actually really wear you down. What initially drew me to AWESOME was the regional Creative Challenge program. I grew up in a wheatbelt community and cannot overstate the importance of access to quality arts experiences for young people in the regions. Eight years on and I still love the Creative Challenge program and the creativity that it fosters in young people … and yes, I do love the AWESOME Festival too!

Tell us about the AWESOME Festival. What are some highlights for this year?

The AWESOME Festival is all about offering quality arts experiences to WA children and their grown-ups. The line-up is diverse and covers a range of art forms. The artists and shows are hand-picked from around the world. Simply put, we believe that children deserve the best! The festival has experienced an exhilarating growth trajectory over the past three years and in 2015 we expect this trend to continue.

As the Festival Director, it is nearly impossible for me to select favourites, I love everything – suffice to say that my inner child is squealing with delight. I’m pretty thrilled to be welcoming Dame Lynley Dodd to this year’s AWESOME Festival and featuring a beautiful exhibition of her illustrations at the State Library of Western Australia. We’ll be presenting a number of forums with Dame Lynley for writers, illustrators, educators and of course all of the diehard Hairy Maclary fans! We have a tiny circus – Circo Ripopolo from Belgium – that is not to be missed, an achingly beautiful show – The Secret Life of Suitcases from Scotland, crazy good dance from New Zealand called Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients and, in the tradition of European mime, LaLaLuna will absolutely wow audiences in the Heath Ledger Theatre. The local line-up is also world-class and features Lewis Horne with Future Me – a Lego project with a difference, The Red Balloon by Black Swan State Theatre Company, Benjamin & Me at The Blue Room Theatre and (drumroll …) I am over the moon to be launching Meg McKinlay’s new book, Bella and the Wandering House. I am a huge fan of Meg’s work and cannot wait to read the new one.

What can people expect to get from the festival?

Families love the AWESOME Festival because it is such an easy, enjoyable and affordable day out. It is our intention to make the AWESOME Festival just as enjoyable for the grown-ups, particularly the theatre program.

At AWESOME we strive for everything we do to be so much more than entertainment. For us it is about engaging hearts and minds, inspiring creativity and giving families an opportunity to enjoy time together. I think many people turn up expecting to be entertained and they leave feeling energised, moved and inspired.

The last week of the AWESOME Festival is programmed for schools and we have a very faithful following of teachers who love the event. I think this is because they have a great day out and we provide the kinds of experiences that can easily convert into classroom-based learning. I’m sure that our curriculum-link teacher resource kits are a great advantage too!

Why is AWESOME different to other festivals?

The AWESOME Festival is one of three curated international arts festivals for children in Australia and it is unique in the scope and the quality of programming on offer for young audiences. Like the name suggests, our program is clever, exciting, inspiring and … well, AWESOME!

How can teachers and parents stay in-touch and book tickets to this year’s festival?

The best way to stay in touch is to join our mailing list. (We promise not to spam you!) We provide festival updates and special offers and we post out festival programs.

For teachers wanting to know more about our excursion packages, they can email us on or call our office during business hours on 9328 9666. AWESOME Festival takes place from 3 to 16 October, with details on


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