End of an era – judge of Australia’s longest continually running theatre awards retires after 42 years

After an extraordinary 42 years of voluntary service, Newcastle theatre stalwart, Ken Longworth, has decided it is time to step back from his judging duties for CONDA – The City of Newcastle Drama Association.

Ken has been on the judging panel since the CONDA awards were first introduced by Newcastle City Council in 1979, as part of the 50th birthday celebrations for the Civic Theatre.

Ken, along with other theatre reviewers in the city, was invited to judge 37 productions that year. These days, Ken and his fellow CONDA judges critique around 70 productions per year across the Lower Hunter.

In 2017, Ken was awarded an OAM for his contribution to the theatre industry, following a nomination by CONDA.

Commenting on his decision to retire from judging, Ken said he was immensely proud to have been associated with the longest continually running theatre awards in Australia, since their inception.

Ken Said:

It has been an immense pleasure to watch the Newcastle theatre industry flourish.

Over those four plus decades, I have seen a lot of changes, but the one constant has been the passion and dedication of those involved in the industry – professional and amateur practitioners alike.

The quality and wide range of local productions continues to go from strength-to-strength and is supported by an ever-growing number of theatre goers.

I’m particularly delighted by the robust nature of youth theatre in our city. We are blessed with a number of top-quality drama schools, passing on their love for theatre to an increasing number of young drama and musical theatre devotees.

In the past two years, the industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, with theatre the first to shut down and among the last to reopen. But our local theatre companies have shown their steely determination to push through and continue to deliver much-craved live performance when and where they can.

Ken Added:

I stand aside from my CONDA judging duties with mixed feelings. It has been an intrinsic part of my life for so many years, but I know it is now time for me to step back and let the next generation take the reins. I do so, knowing the awards are in the very best of hands. Thank you to all in the local theatre industry who have supported me over the years. I look forward to seeing you in a theatre foyer soon,”

Commenting on Ken’s retirement, CONDA President, Shane Bransdon, said the CONDA Committee was confident it speaks on behalf of the wider theatre community when it wishes Ken all the very best and thanks him for his extraordinary contribution to strengthening the industry.

Shane Said:

Ken is, without a doubt, an icon of the Newcastle theatre industry,”

We are all looking forward to celebrating Ken and his remarkable role in CONDA at the annual CONDA Awards ceremony at the Civic Theatre on Saturday 11 December 2021.


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