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New interactive work NOT A CULT* made to tour

Counterpilot creates contemporary performance piece to activate diverse audiences in public spaces



Brisbane-based Counterpilot developed NOT A CULT*, a new interactive transmedia performance work designed to be toured to festivals.

NOT A CULT* is a satirical work that taps into herd mentality and asks participants to follow pseudo-inspirational instructions in a set of wireless headphones, working together to stage an ensemble intervention and activate a public festival hub with acts of hope and joy. 

Counterpilot presented the world premiere of NOT A CULT* at the 2023 North Australian Festival of Arts in Townsville. They pitched the concept at the Australian Performing Arts Exchange in 2022 and then pitched it as a tour-ready work in 2023, ready for national presentation.

Arts Queensland funding supported NOT A CULT* through multiple stages of development with the first stage concept development undertaken in 2020 through Counterpilot's Incubator Program as a response to creating work during Covid cancellations. 

This process sought to leverage Counterpilot's unique approach to devising interactive transmedia performance works and was supported by Metro Arts, Arts Queensland, Creative Australia (formerly The Australia Council for the Arts) and Darwin Festival and culminated in a concept pitch proposal with some brief script excerpts of five different projects – including NOT A CULT*

A second stage practical creative development was staged in early 2022, resulting in a full-length work-in-progress which was shared with an audience of potential presenting partners. This development was undertaken as a part of Counterpilot's 2021-22 suite of projects, and supported by Metro Arts, Brisbane Powerhouse, Arts Queensland, Creative Australia (formerly The Australia Council for the Arts), and the Princess Theatre.



When and where

NOT A CULT* was presented in:

  • Townsville from 23 - 25 June 2023 for the North Australian Festival of Arts
  • Darwin from 16-20 August for the Darwin Festival


Key stats

  • 1 world premiere
  • 1 additional festival season (so far)
  • 30x performances
  • 14 artists and arts workers employed
  • 473 participants

Potential for multiple touring locations - additional seasons in negotiation for 2024-25



The Queensland Government, through Arts Queensland, supported Counterpilot to develop NOT A CULT* with funding of $60,000 in May 2022 through the Queensland Arts Showcase Program (QASP) round 7.

Counterpilot received earlier QASP funding of $59,755 in 2021 for a suite of projects in 2021 to 2022, which included a creative development of NOT A CULT*. These projects were created as part of a residency project with Metro Arts. 

First stage creative development of NOT A CULT* was supported through Counterpilot’s Incubator Program in 2020, which also received support via QASP.




Build a strong and sustainable sector

  • The project extends Counterpilot’s offerings with a new tour-ready work that responds to market demand and provides ongoing employment for local artists. 
  • Progression of collaborative process – Counterpilot artists further evolved their working process and approach to shared collaboration 
  • Leveraging partnerships and opportunities to maximise potential outcomes


Activate Queensland places and spaces 

  • NOT A CULT* utilises creative technical design and the tension of real public space, playfully empowering the participants to perform for themselves, each other and an audience of passers-by. 
  • The work also activates the space with a gesture of cultural placemaking - serving unsuspecting secondary audiences who might witness the spectacle as though it was a mysterious public installation work.


Share our stories and celebrate our storytellers

  • A new work developed in Queensland and telling a contemporary story that reflects us. 


Drive social change and strengthen communities

  • The project provides an innovative platform to share and experience diverse perspectives.


Learnings and reflections

Working iteratively as we develop a work means that we can re-consider what the project needs in response to findings from process. Some re-shuffling in between developments allowed us to engage a choreographer, dramaturg and software developer in response to findings. Each of these additions to the team drastically improved the artistic product. The final production was not what we imagined when we first started making the work – it found a much clearer artistic voice for what it could be and how it could work. 



Messages from participants in North Australian Festival of Arts 2023:

“I also loved NOT A CULT*. I was impressed with the imagination behind it and loved that it had a hidden metaphor, was funny that many people didn't register what it was about” -NAFA 2023 Participant

“My favourite event this year was NOT A CULT*, which was fantastic.”-NAFA 2023 Participant

Messages from participants in Darwin Festival 2023:

“NOT A CULT*was exceptional and brought a real sense of community and joy to the festival”

“…it was the perfect ending of a fun but long week, and the words were so fitting for us getting ready to complete assignments and thinking about our dreams post uni… We need the positive self talk in the classic Aussie accent that you provided asap”

“This was so great!! …So Uplifting and friends and I had the best time tonight!”

“NOT A CULT* is a joyful, clever, and interactive public space activation that was a wonderful addition to the 2023 Darwin Festival. For the participants in the show, they loved being ‘in the know’ and they fully embraced what they were instructed to do. For the unsuspecting audience in Festival Park, it created a whimsical and playful spectacle which encouraged more people to get involved and participate as the season went on. Counterpilot are a fantastic company to work with and they created and delivered a highly tourable show. “-Kate Fell, Artistic Director Darwin Festival


Tips for others

The final stage of creative development focused on: 

  • rewriting the script in response to feedback 
  • building the scale of the work by increasing audience capacity and quadrupling design assets from the previous iteration (set, costume, props, integrated tech) 
  • building a robust and sophisticated sound infrastructure, ensuring that the work can tour as a technically complex self-contained kit 
  • rehearsing, recording and designing recorded voice components 
  • finalising sound design 
  • integrating lighting design 
  • detailing production design.



What next?

NOT A CULT* has attracted keen interest from a range of festival presenters around the country.

It is Counterpilot's intention to leverage APAX and the company's existing network of national presenting partners to pursue a long touring life for NOT A CULT* from 2023 onwards, achieving ongoing employment opportunities for Queensland artists and showcasing the competitive innovation of Queensland artists on a national stage.


Find out more


Counterpilot proudly describe themselves as techno-troublemakers, deploying technical frameworks to cause acts of mischief and well-meaning chaos. We believe that good art SHOULD cause trouble - it should shift something in the world off-kilter, so that new perspectives are enabled and old problems are better-articulated.