Melbourne, the arts, circa early 2000’s, defining values, creating indelible change.

Yesterday I took a trip into the messy back corridors of memory to access one of the most cherished periods of my career for a book about Melbourne performance.

It’s a complex period of time for me- primarily because I lost my partner Geoff to a fatal motorbike accident in 2007 and in so many ways my life is defined by before and after his death.

But the early 2000’s in Melbourne were also formative years in defining my values and forging out a pathway for me to have a professional life in the arts. They were years of climbing a challenging learning curve and relishing in the adrenaline rush of not being sure if I could pull it off.

We’ve all got them. Those first 5-8 professional years that challenge you, forge you and hopefully don’t break you. For me I was fortunate they were spent in a city that shared my surname.

I feel a great deal of gratitude that I had access to artists and industry leaders who nurtured, challenged and backed me. My key values of inclusion, humour and integrity were fostered by Lesley Hall, Michelle Evans, Mark Wilkinson, John Britton. The challenge to always strive for depth, impact, courage and innovation was laid out by Kristy Edmonds, Nadja Kostich and by Annie Davies who was Chair at Fringe at the time. They were formidable humans who I respected and admired.

Integrity, risk and compassion were asked of me on a daily basis and I relished the opportunity to do things that had never been done before, like setting up the first primarily youth governed professional youth theatre in Australia or producing a giant interactive multi arts installation in Federation Square that merged engineering and community arts. I connected first time audiences to work and provided and opportunity for emerging artists to make work and test new ideas. It’s so deeply satisfying to see these artists still having a thriving professional life in the arts.

Melbourne at the time was a supportive community of artists and facilitators who didn’t wait to get funding to test an idea. This DIY sense of adventure and the organisations like The Store Room, Melbourne Workers, LaMama, Platform and Fringe were conduits and enablers for this work and it made for a rich, layered and diverse arts scene. In those days you could always find a spare garage, warehouse or shop front in the inner city that hadn’t been turned into industrial townhouses with bespoke laneways eateries and you could usually scrape together enough dollars to buy a few floodlights from Mitre Ten and put on a profit share show.

The book, coming out of Melbourne University is driven by the passion of Jana Perkovic and Andrew Fuhrmann who believe that there was something unique about the time. They will interview several key figures in the performing arts in Melbourne and these transcripts will form the heart of the book. I look forward to reading it!

Thankyou for reminding me of a time when female leaders could still be a little wild, a little rebellious and just a little working class.

For more information about me check out my LinkedIn profile.

photos in main pic by John Sones

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