The first thing I noticed when arriving in the Pilbara was the incredible contrast between the burnt red earth and the clear blue sky. The colour of the landscape is something you don’t see very often on this planet.
I had the pleasure of heading west to attend Performing Arts Connections (PAC) Australia’s annual Performing Arts Conference. This year, held in Karratha at the brand new Red Earth Arts Precinct on Ngarluma Country. The event brings venue managers, artists, producers, presenters, government representatives and other arts workers together over five days. The first three days is the Performing Arts Exchange (PAX), which is an opportunity to see pitches, talk about shows and creative projects that are both in development and ready to tour. It essentially starts as an arts marketplace, but one with a strong focus on relationships and networking. It progresses to a conference style event with this year’s theme, Making Space, focusing on identity and place. How does place inform the art we make? How does the art we make contribute to place and a sense of identity?
As a representative of Regional Arts Victoria, I was there to develop national touring projects for Victorian artists, connect with other tour coordinators and also contribute to the conversations happening around Australia’s performing arts industry. There was an incredible selection of works on offer by Victorian artists: Personal by Jodee Mundy Productions, Mission Songs Project by Jessie Lloyd Music, By A Thread by One Fell Swoop Circus, and Oil Babies by Lab Kelpie. I particularly enjoyed the full length performance of Bali by The Last Great Hunt: a hilarious whirlwind trip of cheap cocktails, awkward massages, and disgusting tourists to Australia’s favourite holiday destination…
Three days into the conference, delegates made their way onto busses and were taken to the nearby town of Roebourne for the final session of pitches and performance excerpts. Afterwards, the local community and the delegates shared a BBQ and sat on the grass as the sun went down. It sounds very idyllic, and in some ways it was, but Roebourne is a town with a very dark history you can feel. Alongside its beauty, it is a place people associate with injustice against Indigenous people. The difference between the luxury of the Red Earth Arts Precinct and the facilities in Roebourne was stark with contrast.
Overall, the keynote speakers at the conference were an honour to listen to. Sigal Cohen, the Director of International Relations and Development at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv, spoke passionately of the difficulty (and necessity) of presenting work in Israel that challenges the power structures that exist in her country. Her presentation spoke volumes of the privileges we have in Australia to engage openly in political issues. I was also inspired by the keynote from Gill Hicks and her notions of ‘peace’ as a verb. Gill was left severely and permanently injured from the actions of a suicide bomber in the coordinated attack on London’s transport network in July 2015. She optimistically referred to this moment as a ‘plot twist’ in her life and one that has given her a determination to actively cultivate and spread peace in the world. She was incredibly funny and left everyone with goofy smiles on their faces.
Making Space is an important concept and conversation for the arts sector to explore. In saying that, ‘contrast’ seemed a more prevailing theme. There was contrast between the earth and sky, contrast between the $56 million Arts Precinct and the under resourced community of Roebourne, contrast between Australia and Israel, contrast in the mining industry occupying Ngarluma Country and, contrast in my ability to use both my legs with those who have had that taken from them.
It is important to be present for the critical conversations of our industry. For Regional Arts Victoria, this is just one of the ways we develop and sustain creative communities and artistic practice all over Victoria.
Regional Arts Victoria’s Programming Team connects artists and producers to diverse audiences across the country. Touring Services delivers high quality arts experiences to performing arts centres throughout Victoria and across the country.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Talk with Dale Packard
Manager Touring Services
03 9644 1800
Images by Dale Packard
1. Reader Head Lookout, Cossack
2. Welcome Road, Karratha
3. “Spot Lines in Latitude”, Dale’s Album Cover, Reader Head Lookout, Cossack