Marnie Karmelita arrives in Tasmania
Our excitement has been building these past few weeks as we’ve packed up our lives in Wellington, Aotearoa New...
The very first thing I want to do in my final blog is to congratulate my fabulous successor Marnie Karmelita on her well-deserved appointment. I’ve known Marnie for many years, we worked together at Perth Festival, and we’ve crossed paths many times since, in her roles at Brisbane Powerhouse and New Zealand Festival, and I have such deep admiration for the wonders she’s achieved! She’s an inspired choice as the next AD of Ten Days on the Island, and I can’t wait to see what amazing art-experiences Marnie brings to Lutruwita/Tasmania!
So now the 2023 Festival is done and dusted, it’s such a luxury to reflect on my three festivals in Lutruwita/Tasmania. Hand on heart, Ten Days has been one of the happiest chapters of my career and life, and I’m grateful for every moment. Even the most challenging moments – like ripping up a year of festival planning when Covid closed the borders in 2020 – turned out to be great adventures with wonderful colleagues, artists, audiences and communities. I have met so many amazing people here, been to such amazing places, learned so many important lessons and have felt part of something really meaningful in making three festival programs for this extraordinary part of the planet. There is yet so much to discover: its First Peoples’ stories, culture and places, its unique creative identity, its contemporary narratives and ingenuity. What a place to make art!
In 2020, before Covid turned the world upside down, I shared my reflections on the 2019 festival, our first from our North-West home in Pataway/Burnie, in a keynote for a conference at UTAS. At the time, I was thinking about the 2021 Festival, but these reflections largely ring true for the 2023 Festival too.
Away from the city we have found a new voice, edge and focus. In 2019 we shared ambitious new adventures in site-specific and landscape/place-based performance, socially engaged practice, the development of new performance work, landscape-oriented practice and unique Tasmanian/global collaborations. Now, gazing across Bass Strait from our new coastal home, we are reimagining the future of our unconventional festival, a singular (weird, even) outlier, happily swimming against the tide of Australia’s urban mega-urban festival rapids.
I’ve loved each of my three Festivals for different reasons. Vernon Guest and I were learning on the run in 2019, so the wisdom and deep experience of Lutruwita/Tasmania that Jane Haley shared with us was vital (In fact, thank you Jane for inviting me here in the first place!). Highlights of my first Festival will remain with me forever, like the World Premier of Kate Mulvaney’s The Mares, Nigel Westlake’s Compassion with TSO, Big hArt’s Acoustic Life of Sheds and the first mapali – Dawn Gathering on Devonport beach. In 2021 the anxieties and constraints of border closures and covid audience limitations became strengths in our hyper-local Festival, which celebrated intimate epic experiences and Tasmanian creativity in our island-wide project If These Halls Could Talk. More unforgettable experiences: the sheer joy of Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures in Zeehan’s Gaiety Theatre, with Dean Stevenson’s music bringing historical black and white films sparklingly into our time, Rummin Films’ beautiful No I in Island animation project capturing the voices and fears and dreams of the Tasmanian community in isolation. What a revelation to see Tasdance creating new work in Rowella Hall, or Archipelago bringing Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis to tiny spaces across the north of Lutruwita/Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s Band in St Helens, or Julie Gough in Ross. These are just a few of the shimmering moments I treasure.
And in 2023 we were allowed to stretch our wings again, to connect global artists with Australian and Tasmanian artists, stories and landscapes. I’m proud of our 2023 Festival program’s ambition, scope and I loved the way it looked with Milan Milojevic’s eccentric and whimsical design. The festival team for 2023 was extraordinary.
But there is SO much more this Festival can do! With Marnie, Vernon, Sally and the Ten Days team, this amazing little Festival is in incredibly capable hands, so in signing off, I send all my Ten Days on the Island colleagues, the board, and you, the artists and audiences, my thanks and love – it’s been a privilege, a pleasure and an epic adventure, personally and creatively, that I’ll treasure forever. Now it’s on to new creative adventures, some in Lutruwita/Tasmania – so watch this space!
In the meantime, I look forward to being in the audience for the 2025 festival and beyond.