Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) Acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Narrm, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present, and to Elders of all First Nations communities that visit MCEC.

Stage full of kids performing a show. Three students stand out in front of the rest. Blue and pinks lights shine down onto the stage.

Innovation Meets Inclusion at This Year’s 2024 Performing Arts Festival for Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak

By Bree Pagliuso|

We love Melbourne and its vibrant communities, and our spaces are often buzzing with local schools creating, sharing, and building experiences together. As a core part of Melbourne's fabric, we’re always looking to new ways to bring energy and innovation into everything we do. The 2024 Performing Arts Festival for Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak was a perfect example—it was no ordinary school event.

Looking over the shoulder of a women operating a technology display screen.

Embracing creativity and forward-thinking, our team pioneered new approaches, assembling an iconic all-female tech crew and fostering collaboration between students and professionals through hands-on activities. What began as a one-day event evolved into a catalyst for growth and empowerment.

After gathering feedback, it was clear that this year's festival needed a fresh approach for students. Our team brainstormed and developed interactive activities to elevate excitement and engagement.

Curiosity and inspiration were at the heart of this transformative experience. Now in its 13th year at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and with a strong partnership, we introduced new and exciting elements designed to leave Loreto students fulfilled and equipped with new skills.

We transformed a typical school event into a welcoming and progressive showcase of talent, innovation, and inclusivity.

Close up of a woman investigating a large stage light.
A battle of creativity and talent

With an impressive turnout of 2,000 students, the event featured four schoolhouses showcasing their self-written, composed, and designed productions. The competition was fierce, culminating in one house being crowned the best performer.

A woman is helping a student on paper designs of the production set up.
Switching things up this year

Chatting with Taylor Evans, MCEC's Technology Services Coordinator, she shared her thoughts on working with the students, the excitement of having a female-led tech team, how the day unfolded, and its lasting impact.

"We wanted to spice things up by getting students involved in the technical side of things. So, we gave them the chance to team up with our female-led tech crew. The response was electric and proved just how vital diversity is in our industry."

This bold move empowered Loreto students and gave them a taste of the action in a field often dominated by men, proving that diversity is the key to innovation.

"Having a female-led tech team was incredibly empowering. Watching these talented women not only put on an amazing show but also mentor and train young girls with minimal experience was truly inspiring. Their vibe, passion, and kindness created a supportive environment, making a huge difference to the event's success. With their help, I could focus on the details and handle issues confidently without being tied to the operator's desk."

The students were given valuable industry insight and real-life experience in event production by operating the lighting during performances. This hands-on involvement allowed them to showcase their skills and creativity while being assessed on their performance.

From nervous beginners to confident operators

On her responsibilities for the day, Taylor said, "Each house had back-to-back rehearsals on the big day, with precisely one hour of stage time allocated for each group. It was a lively atmosphere, with a palpable blend of excitement and nerves among the girls as they worked closely with our operators. Our technicians played a pivotal role in easing their fears, guiding them through the equipment and transforming what could have been an intimidating experience into a rewarding one. As the girls took charge of their shows, our team facilitated their creative expression, transforming them from nervous beginners to confident operators."

Managing the operators and working with the students during their rehearsals, Taylor collaborated closely with technicians to ensure smooth production. "One notable challenge was the need for a designated show caller for each house, crucial for communicating upcoming stage actions to technicians. Collaborating with the Loreto team, we trained one of their operators to act as a show caller for MCEC technicians. This simple adjustment improved the show's coordination and provided the students with valuable experience in event management, enhancing their leadership skills."

Group of woman working on a technology desk for a stage show.
Empowering young girls in a male-dominated field

"In a world where only around 20% of event technicians are female presenting, it is incredibly important to encourage a new generation into the space. Led by an all-female crew and with students gaining hands-on experience in lighting, AV, and tech, these small steps foster a sense of belonging and will continue to inspire future events."

As the curtains closed on this groundbreaking event, students didn't just walk away with memories; they left with a renewed sense of passion and possibility, armed with new skills and ready to take on future challenges. The festival's success highlighted the critical role of innovation, diversity, and hands-on learning in education, setting a new benchmark for school events at MCEC.

By breaking traditional boundaries and fostering a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak's Performing Arts Festival has become a shining example of how we can create engaging experiences for younger generations in our iconic venue.

Fun Facts
  • Lucky number 13! This year marked the show's 13th year at MCEC, cementing our strong partnership.

  • 2000 attendees joined the fun.

  • We assembled an all-female tech crew for the event.

  • Lights, camera, action! Students operated equipment with guidance from MCEC tech experts.

  • Talk about coming full circle. One of our very own Event Planners took the Plenary stage as a Loreto student in the past!

  • High fives all around! Feedback highlighted how thrilled students were to be involved in operating the tech and lighting as part of their event experience.

  • Set the stage for the future! The event has become a model for future school events, inspiring students in event production and the arts.

We're not just talk—we invest in technology. With our full-service tech and AV solutions, complete with next-gen innovations and skilled experts, we love to turn your event into an experience unlike any other. Explore the possibilities!