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/Tasmanian Aborigines – The original owners and cultural custodians - of all the lands and waters across Lutruwita/Tasmania upon which our Festival takes place.

With thanks to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for place names and other words in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines.

Big Dreams – How (our) small community can inspire the world

The energy of the West + North West program is just the beginning of our celebration of brilliant Tasmanian artists in ten halls and multiple other sites around Tasmania in March. We all look forward to seeing you at the Festival in March.

In every festival the headliners grab the attention, but it’s the detail of a festival program that reveals its real riches. This is certainly true this weekend with our Creative Coast program at Burnie Arts and Function Centre. We’re transforming Burnie Arts and Function Centre into the heart of the 2021 West + North West program with our welcoming new Atrium Festival Bar and events throughout the weekend. Choices for pataway/Burnie Festival-goers include a contemporary treatment of plague-era erotica with Shakespeare’s Venus & Adonis performed by Marta Dusseldorp and Ben Winspear, award-winning films and brilliant visual arts.

For me, this weekend’s ‘don’t miss’ moment has to be Lynette Wallworth’s keynote which opens our day-long symposium Creative Coast. Lynette is a true rock star of Australian culture. Winner of multiple prestigious awards including TWO Emmy Awards, and one of the most eloquent speakers I’ve ever heard, this Saturday at BAFC Lynette will speak about a subject close to all our hearts: Big Dreams: How Small Communities Can Inspire the World. Set in regional Australia and the Amazon forest, Lynette’s award-winning films are testament to the power of small communities and individuals to make a difference in the world and to how dreaming big is transformational, no matter how remote or tiny the place you are in.

I have always been drawn to the idea of ‘imagining’ as a practical process – a way of animating an alternative social reality. For artists, the act of imagining is a practical process. As a festival director I want the festival program to give a community a sense of what might be possible when bold ideas and creativity intersect in the civic space. Anyone who was on Mersey Bluff beach in Devonport in 2019 for the first mapali Dawn Gathering will confirm the transformative power of communal imagining and experience. This lovely quote from Lynette Wallworth is another expression of the value of festivals in communities large and small.

‘Someone once told me that a festival meant “A Time out of Time” I like that definition because that is what I like about festivals, how you suspend the everyday and give yourself over to another kind of time, an immersion in experiences and gatherings, shared moments of reflection, investigation, contemplation. We are shifted from the everyday to think about things that are hard to focus on in the relentless run of everyday life and we leave enhanced and renewed by being together.’

Recently I have been reflecting on how Ten Days on the Island’s move to the North West has redefined us. I strongly feel that in pataway/Burnie Tasmania’s unconventional festival has found a new voice, edge and focus. As we gaze across

Bass Strait from our new home, Ten Days on the Island’s 20th year is an opportunity to reimagine our role in this state and nation, happily swimming against the tide of urban mega-urban festivals.

This Festival will be my 9th, with four Perth Festivals, three Sydney Festivals and one Ten Days on the Island under my belt. My experiences in Tasmania have revealed to me the power of engaging the imagination of a community through authentic shared experiences that may be smaller, gentler, more intimate. In 2019, I experienced the free events in the North West program as shimmering moments of potential for pataway/Burnie’s civic future. Projects like mapali: Dawn Gathering on the Mersey Bluff, Big hART’s signature music event The Acoustic Life of Sheds, the installation of the Festival lounge and the international visual arts centerpiece in Pursuit of Venus [Infected] into the cafeteria of pataway/Burnie’s former paper pulp factory are powerful examples of repurposing iconic environments through art. They show how shared moments experienced in festivals can carry meaning for a community’s citizens. These moments give our Festival real purpose.

Equally, I am inspired and exhilarated by the ideas trawulwuy cultural leader David mangenner Gough, who talks about people ‘bringing their energy’ to mapali – Dawn Gathering and the landscape ‘holding’ that energy. There is a ritual element to it in which people and place are both actors, as when people bring candles to a special site of shared memorial, place of prayer or celebration. This idea of collective energy and imagining is the subject of a lunchtime discussion I’ll be hosting with a stellar panel of Festival artists, also part of Creative Coast on Saturday 6 March.

Opening a festival is always buzzy but i’m looking forward to the start of our 11th Festival this week is a special thrill, particularly as so many landmarks of this special Festival take place here in the West + North West. Hundreds of participants and community will gather at the break of day for our second mapali – Dawn Gathering on the pataway/Burnie foreshore on Friday when we officially open with fires, drumming and dance.

On Friday and Saturday in Stanley and Zeehan we cut the ribbon on If These Halls Could Talk, our centrepiece series featuring World Premiere performances from Monique Brumby and the TSO and Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures, with new music by Dean Stevenson. In Walking the City of Makers, local Burnie artists articulate their own cultural footprint across the city with visual arts and storytelling experiences in local CBD sites – the Beach Hotel, shops, arcades and in a QR code treasure hunt. Check out the website for all these details, as they’re not in the printed program.

The energy of the West + North West program is just the beginning of our celebration of brilliant Tasmanian artists in ten halls and multiple other sites around Tasmania in March. We all look forward to seeing you at the Festival in March.