We as an arts community are facing severe government funding changes that will have the potential to do two things: redefine our arts practice or ‘cancel the show’. That’s why I turned up tonight as part of the panel for the #freethearts forum. How do we move forward with strength?
This is a potted selection of my notes: read them lightly. If they don’t make sense don’t worry. Just link together as many ideas as you can. I had a choice: to take time to weave it neatly and clearly, or get it out immediately. I chose the latter.
La Boite offered to host the meeting in the Medea set, a brilliant installation by Sarah Winter. The session, 15th June from 5.15pm was tape recorded.
Todd MacDonald welcomed us all “It is vital to meet like this…to unify and articulate”. He mentioned the gathering this Thursday in Canberra where delegates are going down to meet with government. “This is just the beginning” said Todd, “Stay in touch. It’s the first step forward”
Our moderator was Eleanor Jackson who invited the audience to be an active part of the session. She requested conversations from the audience as well as from the panel.
Below are extracts from what people shared, recorded by hand, so excuse mistakes etc.
WHY ARE WE HERE:
Eleanor talked about the meaningful change that is taking place and how there is a redirection of funding. She talked about the main questions that we would discuss. The interconnectedness of the community and the ecology of the theatre world.
Lindy Hume: AD of Opera Queensland talked about interconnectedness: “If we take a chunk out of the ecology, how can it flourish? Opera Queensland must be interconnected (indie companies and different disciplines)… Interconnectedness integral to its survival”.
Sue Donnelly GM Queensland Theatre Company: “The majors recognise the connection between people in the various levels of the artform”.
Todd MacDonald AD La Boite: “The heartland of theatre is NOT in the Majors. We have a past, a history. The pathways for artists are not necessarily just to get to the majors. Independent artists are working in their own right”.
Brian Lucas Independent artist: “It’s not a pyramid. We need to remember this in our sector. Its not about heading to the top”.
Yaron Lifschitz AD Circa: “We are an ecosystem, where there is diversity… adaptability with the capacity to remove toxins etc. The system has not been set up equally. Circa tours 1/3 of all Australian tours overseas yet it is classified as a small to medium company. 40% of companies will not be there in the next decade. Perhaps we cannot survive and prosper on merit”
David Fenton CEO Metro Arts: “Ecology: large fish eat small fish. This is just a construct. Its been constructed in a certain way. Cross Sector collaboration: keys to surviving 40 years in the desert. Metro supports artists. Independents will survive this by being clever and generous and share resources”
David Berthold AD Brisbane Festival: gave examples of work that began in the independent sector and progressed “For example “Holding the Man” going from a small theatre and finally ending up on WestEnd then into film. Quite a few films at Sydney Film Festival (2015) came out of independent companies.
Audience Member: “145 companies are affected by this. Are we looking into the 21st Century? Is equity something we want to have?
Anna Yen, Independent Artist: “We need to have diversity of stories and all sizes of stories. Community arts: who has access to the arts? Is excellence about the process? Is it the art form? We need access”
Scotia Monkivitch, Independent Artist and Advocate: “Arts participation will be affected”. “Freedom of voice” “standing up for democracy”
Margi Brown Ash, Independent Artist: “What do we do personally and politically? What can we do as a community? What do we do tonight? What do we do tomorrow?”
Kris Stewart: “What we need to understand is why these decisions are being made”. “we need to change the conversation. We need to change that song.
And my most favourite expression tonight was made by Kris when he said “We either drive this bus or get run down”
Audience Member: “We need to look at the ecology of our audiences. Not just bums on seats but types of bums. Who is coming? Whey are they coming?
Audience Member: “Begin dialogues with parties. Have dialogues with politidal process. We need to write to our ministers”.
“The Greens and Labour have pressed for an inquiry”.
Lindy Hume: “Is this the new reality? The majors can be used more strategically. Talk to the majors…collaborate…the majors have a responsibility”.
What does this excellence mean?
Audience Member: Contact local MP’s. What are we going to do about it?
Audience Member: “we have to address the questions How do we get through this? and What do we want”
Yaron: “Pursuing innovation. Investment in infrastructure. Lets use this for a far more courageous and visionary plan”.
Audience Member: “Regional Queensland needs a voice. We don’t want to be called “small to medium” It’s not about size. What do we want to say in the letter to government”?
Audience Member: “How do we move the arts forward?”
“What are the avenues to push our work and get the feedback we need?”
“We need to kill the notion of difference”
Audience Member: “2 points: we don’t know what is to happen. We do know that a strip of money $104 million has been moved. We know the funing rounds of June are cut and the 6 year plan is shelved. We need to have every poster, leaflet etc with #freethearts on it so that every Aussie can see what they are facing”
“Who gets to make the arts funding decisions? The people who are the friends of Brandis perhaps are our best friends to put Brandis in the picture”.
Sue Donnelly: “Whoever you know who has any influence, talk with them.”
Scotia Monkivitch: Check out #freethearts, #holdonarts, MEAA has a petition.
Draw up a letter.
Audience Member: What is the Australia we want to present to the world? How do we make a creative nation?
“You can’t create the future by re-staging the past”
“The value of consultation”
“Careful use of language because language defines us”
“We will progress the conversation. This is not a finished process. Just to turn up. That’s what we need to do”.
“What will come out of Thursday in Canberra? It will be recorded”.