Melbourne Festival artistic director Jonathan Holloway will hand over the reins after he delivers his fourth festival next year, citing family reasons.
Holloway, who directed Perth Festival for four years before taking on Melbourne, made the announcement on Wednesday ahead of unveiling the 2018 program.
"What started out as a four-year Australian adventure [in Perth] has become an eight-year Australian adventure, which is fabulous," Mr Holloway, who is from England, said.
With his daughters now 10 and 12 and about to start high school, he said it was time to return to Europe.
"It was always going to be a difficult decision – we have so much family here now and so many wonderful friends. We are having an absolute ball," he said.
"I absolutely adore Australia and I think it has some unique opportunities – and also challenges – culturally, which every day I find thrilling."
Before coming to Australia Mr Holloway was artistic director of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in England, during which time audiences increased tenfold and ticket sales tripled.
Holloway established his reputation for bringing performances out of traditional spaces, and brought the same flair to Perth Festival from 2012 to 2015 where again ticket sales boomed.
For his first Melbourne Festival in 2016, the strange beasts of Les Tambours de Feu lit up the city's laneways with fire and tribal drumming. Last year's Melbourne Festival saw less of the public fanfare, but its centrepiece – Taylor Mac's feat of endurance, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music – was an overwhelming critical success.
This year's Melbourne Festival runs from October 3 to 21. The full program is due to be announced in July.
In a statement, the festival said it would announce details of the recruitment process for Holloway's replacement "shortly".
With Kylie Northover
Hannah Francis is Arts Editor at The Age.
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