Our Connecting Places Coordinator Rosie Dwyer reflects on Regional Arts Victoria’s recent round of community presenter workshops.
At the start of September, I hit the road with Regional Arts Victoria, visiting five towns to talk to local community presenters about our new halls touring program, Connecting Places. The program offers high calibre arts experiences to small regional communities. We work with our members in the regions to present these, and offer support and professional development opportunities across the program.
In each of our five workshops, we were aiming to get the word out about the program, offer some skills sharing opportunities, and most importantly: listen to what was needed in the regions for volunteer committees presenting touring works. We asked nearby Victorian Association of Performing Arts Centres (VAPAC) members to come and speak about how their Performing Arts Centre works, and offer some inspirational words. We also asked local community presenters that are at the top of their game to come and share their insights and learnings with the attendees, which was the highlight for me.
We learnt so much! Simple things like a slice and a cuppa after the show was often the most enriching part of an audience member’s experience, and offering the artists a home-made meal after the show was almost always seen as an important part of delivering the event.
What struck me most about why these amazing volunteer committee members dedicate so much of their own time to presenting shows in their communities was the importance of connection. Connecting with each other, connecting with the artists, connecting communities with their gorgeous hall spaces, and connecting as a committee to feel really proud of what they have achieved. It was truly inspiring.
Something else that struck me was what happens when a connection is missing. So often, like-minded committees within a small region are achieving similar things without even knowing that each other exists! When we’re not connected, we work harder to achieve the same goals, it takes longer to learn the same lessons, we have no have no one to learn from when we need new skills.
I’m really delighted to be building a network of community presenters across the state and to be developing a mentorship program as part of Connecting Places. There are so many amazingly talented and passionate people in the regions and I’m really excited at the prospect of locals mentoring locals.
There’s something powerful about gathering people. The electric buzz you feel when everyone is in a space and really happy to be there. In small communities, this can be felt tenfold. The healing, the catching up and the sense of community that can happen simply by getting people in a room and enjoying themselves is powerful stuff. I’m so delighted that Regional Arts Victoria have turned a firm attention onto these shining lights within the regions, and I’m honoured to be heading up a program that will, I hope, make a real change to the way small communities experience live art.