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.

Last Thursday was epic. Three launches in one day but we made it – the program is out there, and the website is live. So welcome to Ten Days on the Island 2019! Our epic adventure is not only through exterior landscapes, but those of the interior, of the soul, the emotions, mind and spirit. Art and artists illuminate our interior landscapes and, even if they’re not always comfortable places, help us see and understand them.

Epic themes are explored in multiple art forms by brilliant artists from Tasmania, Australia and around the world.

Artists like Lisa Reihana from Aotearoa New Zealand, whose magnificent 17 metre video creation in Pursuit of Venus (infected) has been fêted at the Venice Biennale, at London’s Royal Academy, the Asia Pacific Triennial and is now the visual arts centrepiece of Ten Days on the Island. Or DUST, which has already played to sold-out houses at Brisbane and Sydney Festivals.  Co-creators Kyle Page and Amber Haines were inspired by the birth of their son to tackle some pretty epic philosophical themes: determinism, chance, social inheritance…. (so not exactly subjects you’d expect to encounter in your average contemporary dance work!). It’s a collaboration between two of Australia’s creative powerhouses, Dancenorth and Tasmania’s Liminal Studios, it’s powerful and ravishingly beautiful.

I reckon “Love is Bigger than Zeus” is probably the best line of the festival. It’s spoken by love-struck Thalestris, one of the Amazon warrior women of Greek mythology, whose blood-soaked island is re-imagined in The Mares, a World Premiere for Tasmanian Theatre Company. It’s led by two of Australia’s most distinguished theatre-makers: the award-winning playwright Kate Mulvany and director Leticia Cáceres, and features a cracking cast of Tasmanian actors and designers. A world premiere is always exciting, and this play is shaping up to be a knockout.

There is nothing like a great orchestra to amplify the power of words and evoke big emotions. In Nigel Westlake‘s Compassion, deeply personal themes of grief, despair, hope and redemption are conveyed – in Hebrew and Arabic – through the achingly beautiful singing of folk artist Lior and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Big ideas can also be found in small places. The Trojan Wars, rituals of life and death, colonial violence in Tasmania, and modern history are some of the not-insignificant themes explored in Intimate Epics, a series of small-scale works of epic ambition presented in pop-up performance spaces across the North East – like readings of Homer’s timeless Iliad by the brilliant Greek/Australian actor William Zappa.

It really will be an epic adventure. We hope you’ll join us for at least one of the three weekends, but we’d love you to be there for all three.


PS: Yesterday I was walking along the river in Wynyard, musing that the landscapes of the archipelago of Tasmania are every bit as epic in scale and beauty as those of Homer’s Ancient Greece. Then I smelt smoke on the wind, perhaps from the bushfire in Britton’s Swamp, about an hour west from here. It was a shock – up here in the North West we’ve been alert for news of the fires in the south, willing the weather to give the TFS a chance to get on top of them. Hobart vanishing in a blanket of haze last week was a surreal reminder of how close the fires are.

I nearly lost my home less than a year ago in the Tathra fires, so these Tasmanian fires are a reminder of the heartache, loss and wreckage a fire sears into the collective consciousness of the communities they affect. The images are not something you will ever forget – words like heroic, epic and apocalyptic are not too dramatic in these circumstances, but also the truth behind the cliché that these crises bring out the best in humans. That was certainly true in Tathra. 15 houses in my street were destroyed, and 70 in the town. My neighbour Craig saved mine and several other houses along our stretch of street by staying in the fire zone and continuously putting out spot fires. He didn’t sleep for days and was wired for weeks afterward. Craig’s a hero. Again, no embellishment there – it’s true.

The Ten Days on the Island team send our thanks to those fighting the fires across Tasmania, and our thoughts to all those affected by them. It’s hard to believe right now, but life will return to normal eventually, and if Tathra is any example, your amazing community will be stronger than ever.