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So much has happened since I began in January as Artistic Director of Ten Days on the Island, and we thought today would be the perfect day to share some of our thinking as we plan the next two festivals. And why is International Women’s Day the perfect day? Because on this same auspicious day next year, we celebrate the first day of Ten Days on the Island 2019. We’re already pretty excited …
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks of abundant inspiration, stimulating discussions with energised people, and being blown away by the island landscapes. I want to belatedly thank everyone for the generous welcome I received on my first visit to Tasmania to start my adventure with this extraordinary gem of a festival, especially Jane Haley, Charles Murdock and the Ten Days on the Island team for facilitating my smooth and happy first foray into the dynamic Tasmanian arts community.
Last month we shared our new approach to the “shape and flow” of the festival at arts community gatherings in Burnie, Launceston, and Hobart. It was exciting to have such a warm response to the idea that in 2019 and 2021, Ten Days on the Island will be re-imagined as an epic adventure spread over three buzzing and action-packed weekend programs, starting in the Cradle Coast and the North West, followed by Launceston and the North East, and finally Hobart and the South of the island. In the days between, artists and audiences will have the opportunity to reflect, refresh and journey through the spectacular Tasmanian landscape.
Make sure you save these Ten Days in 2019!
Days 1-4: March 8-11 North West (Friday-Monday/long weekend)
Days 5-7: March 15-17 Launceston and the North East (Friday-Sunday)
Days 8-10: March 22-24 Hobart (Friday-Sunday)
There will still be continuous Festival programming to enjoy around Tasmania throughout this period, and many events will run across all three weekends. But the action will surge on the weekends with intensive and adventurous programs featuring Tasmanian, national and global highlights to delight locals and lure visitors to all three regions.
Each weekend will have its own character while staying true to the Ten Days on the Island ethos: experiencing our extraordinary island through art that brings us together to celebrate our shared and diverse humanity and sense of place.
While our values and commitment to Tasmanian creativity, stories, and community remain unchanged, the world around us HAS changed radically in the two decades since Ten Days on the Island was first brilliantly conceived by Robyn Archer AO. To survive and flourish festivals must continually re-imagine themselves, in the context of our changing world, and Ten Days on the Island is doing exactly that. My brief as Artistic Director of the 2019 and 2021 festivals is to respond to our changing world through the programs we present to contemporary audiences in the digital age.
And in our 10th Festival, it is timely to remind the world what makes this festival unique and important to the Tasmanian, national and global cultural conversation. At the heart and core of Ten Days on The Island is the development and curation of local programming. Upon this foundation, international works are selected to complement, resonate with, and amplify the impact of locally made work. This is a radical (and welcome) rethink of most current festival models.
I am thrilled that working alongside me on this great adventure is the newest member of the Festival team is my brilliant colleague, our new Creative Producer, Vernon Guest. He brings to Ten Days on the Island a vast amount of festival experience around the nation, most recently nine years at Sydney Festival, and before that Perth Festival, Adelaide and Darwin Festivals. I can’t believe how lucky we are to have him! Now in week three, Vernon has already moved into his new digs outside of Wynyard, swapping a one-bedroom apartment in Redfern for ravishing views across to Table Cape!
Jane, Vernon and I have just returned from a nourishing weekend in Adelaide enjoying the delights of a sensational Adelaide Festival and meeting with our festival colleagues from around Australia. It’s always exciting to be part of the buzz of a great festival, but now we’re back in Tasmania we are equally excited about moving our HQ to Burnie, in the amazing North West of the island. From our new home base, our team has begun a new conversation about how we can better learn about/from and engage with local regional communities across Tasmania and Australia more broadly.
This starts, of course, from our Festival’s underpinning recognition and respect for cultural protocols and continues within the Festival program through contemporary expressions of Tasmania’s Aboriginal cultures. In this we are on a learning trajectory and look forward over the next few years to building relationships and deepening our understanding by listening, contemplation and collaboration.
Empathy, citizenship, and leadership – the vital role of the arts in these turbulent times
We live in an unsettling age, a challenging time of turbulence, of anxiety and uncertainty – but also of limitless potential and possibility. More than ever, I’ve noticed the word “empathy” resonating in conversations about how artists can help make sense of the world. I concur with Peter Bazalgettes (former Chair of Arts Council England) view that “arts and popular culture, with their stories about the human condition are, if you like, the empathy gymnasium… Empathy is a glue that enables families, communities, and countries to function in a civil and civilised manner. If you can see things from someone else’s point of view, then you can go on to act compassionately towards them.”
In equal measure I applaud American author Sarah Sentilles in Draw Your Weapons, her excellent 2017 argument for art in our time when she says: “It is not compassion that is called for but citizenship.” I want Ten Days on the Island to advocate strongly for the vital role of the artist in contemporary society: the artist as citizen, the artist as leader. Everything I know about leadership I learned as an artist in the rehearsal studio, where we daily practice a commitment to shared outcomes, shared values, shared purpose, shared vision. And Ten Days on the Island seeks to position itself as a leader in all these defining cultural spaces, collaborating with progressive artists, thinkers, and enterprises around Tasmania, the rest of Australia and globally. The potential is thrilling.
I fervently believe in the shared experience of a festival as a force for good – a community gathering in a tolerant, empathetic meeting place. A civic celebration of music, images, movement, words, ideas and human emotion, a unique cultural expression of our time and place.
The team and I now look forward to the next stage of our shared adventure. This blog is to keep you in the loop along the way. And I promise they’ll be shorter from now on!
Until next time…
Image: Lindy Hume was the guest speaker at the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards, presented recently at the Brisbane Powerhouse within the 2018 Australian Performing Arts Market. Picture: Richard Walker/RDW Photography