Every part of Australia is, always was and always will be, Aboriginal land. As a community gathering-place, a festival of arts, cultural exchange and celebration and as a site for the sharing of ideas and stories, Ten Days on the Island pays respect to the palawa – original owners and cultural custodians - of all the lands and waters across lutruwita (Tasmania) upon which our Festival takes place.

A signature project for Ten Days on the Island

Image: Ross Town Hall

A signature project for Ten Days on the Island 2021 will be the Tasmanian re-imagination of If These Halls Could Talk, a magnificent place-making, community-building project which originated in northern NSW by our friends at Arts Northern Rivers. The Tasmanian version of If These Halls Could Talk, a series of art adventures in 10 community halls over three weekends from (clockwise) Zeehan in the West to Glen Huon in the south of the island, now forms the ‘spine’ of our 2021 Festival program. But last year when we selected 10 gorgeous local halls or beloved gathering places across Tasmania from dozens nominated by their communities, we could never have foreseen how valuable the adaptable architecture of this project would be for those same communities in a COVID-19 impacted Tasmania.

If These Halls Could Talk offered our team a way to keep in touch with those 10 communities during lockdown, providing a shared focus, a unifying goal to look forward to beyond the pandemic. It has been exciting to share with the communities the progress of dozens of Tasmanian artists who for the last few challenging months have been creating site-specific responses to the unique character and narrative of each hall. Now, in collaboration with Island magazine we are commissioning 10 pieces by Tasmanian writers in response to If These Halls Could Talk.  These published works may be informed by local story-keepers and historians who have shared with us the stories embedded in their hall, their community and place. It’s a perfect way to connect and celebrate Tasmania’s regions during this extraordinary time. Beyond this, we envisage leaving a legacy of skills, creativity and connections in each community.

Despite the anxiety and destruction of the pandemic, 2020 has presented some gifts and insights for which I am extremely grateful. While our borders have been closed I have travelled widely around lutruwita to visit each of the halls, swimming in Tasmania’s epic beauty, hearing fascinating stories, getting to know the artists who live here, chatting to locals in Stanley and Ross and New Norfolk. It has been such a privilege to spend time in these beautiful places as we conceptually connect them through If These Halls Could Talk. We think this series of seductive art-experiences in beautiful locations will be so compelling that people will want to experience all 10 halls over three weekends – what a wonderful way to see Tasmania!

Reshaping the forthcoming Festival as a celebration of Tasmanian artists, creativity, ingenuity and local stories for Tasmanian audiences has been a watershed experience for Ten Days on the Island. Through the creative resourcefulness and ingenuity of Tasmanian artists, we have been able to reimagine the pre-COVID-19 architecture of the 2021 Festival and it will be, I believe, a far better Festival program for it. We’ll return to international programming in 2023 but for the next year we’re loudly local, while retaining a global outlook.

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