So, there went our fourth Regional Victoria Living Expo! Working with Regional Development Victoria, Creative Victoria and Multicultural Arts Victoria, Regional Arts Victoria delivered another broad ranging, diverse cultural program. The brief each year is to illustrate the strength of artistic practice and depth of community participation from all points of the compass in regional Victoria.
Located in the vast expanse of Jeff’s Shed, every regional council gets together in one (large) room for the only time each year to represent themselves, their communities, their hopes, aspirations and – for the metropolitan visitors to the Expo – to present the opportunities available to them if they make a move to the regions.
If you fancied a move to Buloke… then you could chat to their council here in Melbourne for this one long weekend each year! Then you would have seen us at the Regional Arts Victoria stand to discuss what artistic connections could be made for you to be inspired when you settle in Buloke. (We chose Buloke because we like saying Buloke – and now, writing it. Other choices are available.)
This year’s cultural program once again represented every one of Victoria’s regional designations with community choirs, ensembles and individuals. One particularly pleasing element this year, attempted but not achieved previously, was to connect with a couple of key arts venues: Federation University in Ballarat and the brand new Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo. Both represented their current programs with fantastic extracts from Oh! What a Lovely War and NED respectively. We can’t name everybody in the program here but we must make mention of nine-year-old Lillie Walker from Shepparton, a Yorta Yorta girl undergoing mentorship by Deborah Cheetham as part of the Dungala children’s choir program. Wow!
Our other highlight was the community choirs. With One Voice Geelong is a mixed-ability Creativity Australia choir. They focus on the healing power of singing. During their performance, one of the choir members stepped forward. She told us about the passing of her husband and how joining the choir gave her a strong network as well as a creative outlet to process her grief. Several other members of the choir also expressed both on and off the stage the importance of the choir as a community.
The Alley Cats Community Choir from East Gippsland also performed. On their Facebook page they highlight words that they have used to describe themselves. These words include ‘support’, ‘friendship’, ‘love’ and ‘welcoming’. Their rapport on stage and the familial words they use demonstrate the central place that this choir holds for them.
Both of these groups show how like-minded individuals can find each other and build networks through the power of a community arts group, and were an inspiring demonstration of people coming together around a passion for song.
We’re still waiting to learn whether the Regional Victoria Living Expo will continue past its impactful first four years… We’ll keep you posted!