Adelaide’s Lament: Pent-up Frustrations
However much I talk about youth issues in Adelaide, it is in many ways a city where it is great to be a young maker of things – because the generation above us is missing. They’re living in Sydney or Melbourne. It’s much easier to find yourself noticed or to raise your voice above the din when there isn’t much of a crowd which needs to be broken through. But how is this impacting on the younger and emerging generations of artists? Is the cultural drain, coupled with a lack of venues where independent artists can present – and where audiences interested in independent work can attend – and Adelaide’s insularity having a negative impact on the quality of art produced?
In both Brisbane and Sydney this year, I saw work by people who were once based in Adelaide, but now these writers, directors, actors, and stage managers, live and create work in other cities for other audiences. This work ran the gauntlet from among the best (The Seagull) to among the worst (Woyzeck) I saw this year, but the point is I couldn’t have seen it at home. I don’t blame them – I’m not planning on sticking around forever – but this has a two-fold effect on the cultural ecology of Adelaide. Not only are we losing these artists and these voices, we’re also losing the effect these artists can have on the generation who follows them: the knowledge base and the talent which can be shared is lost.
It is, of course, a self-perpetuating cycle. The “brain-drain” creates its own pull, the more creative people that leave, the more others feel they need to leave, too, to find new opportunities, be them creative, employment, or creative employment orientated. Then, particularly in the case of arts administrators, as people start to return to Adelaide to raise their families, having worked interstate almost becomes a prerequisite for many higher level jobs. There is, it seems, even the perception that you must leave in order to advance in a career in Adelaide.
It is not only the artists who leave, it is the other people interested in punctuating their lives with arts and culture outside of the festival context. The more these people leave, the harder it is for artists to find audiences, and the more artists leave to move interstate.
The pull of the Adelaide artists in Sydney or Melbourne grows ever stronger, the pull of Adelaide grows ever weaker.
But it’s not just the people which contribute to this drain. “The venues” issue is one which pops up a lot and it is one which has severe ramifications on Adelaide as a presenter of work, and is directly contributing to the drain. The only venue in Adelaide which currently programs a season of work year round is the Adelaide Festival Centre, where the smallest venue, the black box Space Theatre can seat 168 to 352 depending on configuration. This venue is notoriously expensive, to the point where some Adelaide-based companies who need a 300 – 400 seat venue are choosing to not present work in Adelaide at all, going to the regions and then other state capitals. Two local theatre productions which were originally programmed in the Space in 2011 that I know of were cancelled. When Adelaide companies can’t take the risk on that venue, what luck does anyone travelling from interstate have? We are not only losing the presentation of SA work, but of touring work, too.
Most of the non-festival based programming in the Space came from the inSPACE program, which in 2011 showed the Children’s Cheering Carpet’s Saltbush (immersive children’s theatre, Italy/Vic), My Darling Patricia’s Africa (theatre/puppetry, Vic), independent dance work Side To One (SA), and a “Mini Festival of New Performances”, incorporating The Harry Harlow Project (theatre, Vic) and I Left My Shoes on Warm Concrete and Stood in the Rain (dance, SA/Vic). Of these five productions, three were presented with Mobile States, meaning there was significant investment in presenting these shows in a national tour. inSPACE in this version seems to have been struck from the Adelaide Festival Centre for 2012. While the number of inSPACE development works – work in progress presented in a rehearsal room for a donation payment – has doubled, the platform for presentation of independent professional theatre and dance has been lost, with nary a whimper.
Outside of the festivals, programmed into the Space Theatre in 2012 the AFC has placed music with their new January Sessions program, and the Various People ensemble in June; a series of work for children – The List Operators For Kids! (Vic), Catherine Wheels Theatre Company’s White (co-presented with Windmill) (UK), and Patch Theatre Company’s Me And My Shadow (SA); and Katrina Lazaroff’s dance piece Involuntary (co-presented with One Point 618; an inSPACE 2011 development work) (SA).
It seems through inSPACE development, the AFC are developing theatrical work from South Australian artists, but primarily presenting work from interstate and international artists. Of the theatre works being presented in the AFC program across the Space, Dunstan Playhouse, and Her Majesty’s Theatre next year, three hail from the UK, three from NSW, and just one from South Australia – the extant Me And My Shadow, which premiered at Marryatville High School’s Forge Theatre in 2010.
State Theatre Company of South Australia is using the Space Theatre to present Sarah Kane’s Blasted and Simon Stephen’s Pornography, alongside their main season in the Dunstan Playhouse, but the AFC has programmed no theatre work for adults in the Space Theatre in 2012 in their season. The one venue in Adelaide which can take mid-sized tours of independent work will now be but a too-expensive-hall-for-hire, and these works will continue to pass us by. Independent artists in Adelaide will continue to look elsewhere – hopefully within this city, but it seems the tides are turning against Adelaide’s audiences – either to relocate, or to present: creating here, but not showing here.
The Space Theatre occupies the gap between the 230 seat end-on Odeon Theatre (outside of the festivals, rarely used by professional companies other than venue operator and childrens theatre company Patch) and the 600 seat proscenium Dunstan Playhouse in the AFC, and is the only extant venue in Adelaide which has a truly flexible configuration. The barriers towards using this venue affects not only the artists who are making or touring work with an intended audience of 250 – 400 per performance, but it affects audiences who lose the cultural vocabulary which comes from being exposed to this level of work, and it affects young and emerging artists who lose sight of the spectrum between their own practice and major productions.
The more Adelaide sits outside of the national touring circuit, and the longer we continue to have evacuations of a generation, the wider the gap between Adelaide and our interstate counterparts will become. “You can’t be what you can’t see”, goes the mantra. How can we expect Adelaide artists to reach their true potential when they can’t see work which can inform them just how high their potential can be? When Adelaide is creating young artists who can’t look at the work of the generation who went through the same steps as them as they graduated, who can’t directly look at the best independent work coming out of Melbourne or Sydney, what sort of artists are we creating?
And this gap isn’t just present comparing Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney, the gap grows ever wider between Adelaide and Brisbane. Significant programming of work happens at QPAC, Brisbane City Council owned Brisbane Powerhouse, and Arts Queensland owned and managed Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts: with a theatre, art gallery, screening room, artist studios and a slate of resident cultural organisations. Brisbane’s La Boite is the second company creating work for adults in Brisbane which programs an annual season, alongside the Queensland Theatre Company. In 2012, QTC will be running GreenHouse, “a visceral hothouse of art, ideas and exploration.” La Boite also provides support, a venue, and a season, for independent artists in their La Boite Indie season, with their third season just announced. Metro Arts is an independent arts venue in the centre of Brisbane city, programming a season of independent work, has a slate of residencies and allied companies, and runs MAPS for Artists – a managing and producing service for artists, which provides “support structure for creators of new performance work and coordinates regional, national and international touring activities.” Are we ever going to see a Judith Wright Centre, a GreenHouse, a La Boite, a La Boite Indie, a MAPS for Artists?
But La Boite Indie and QTC’s upcoming GreenHouse, coming off the back of their 2011 Studio with independent arts organisations, aren’t the only organisations bridging gaps between mainstage and independent artists. Malthouse Melbourne recently closed applications for their new Helium initiative for “Australia’s independent artists and ensembles.” Griffin Independent started running in 2009, to “bridge the independent and main stage sectors and to provide our top independent theatre makers with the best opportunities and support”; in the same year Belvoir hosted the final season of B Sharp, bucking against the national trend. Sydney Theatre Company works with independent artist through Next Stage seasons (“They should be by emerging artists. They should be formally intentive. And they should feel new. They should be cheap, cheerful and rough.”) and Rough Draft developments and showings. While these aren’t all of the first- and second- tier companies, where is the STCSA on this list? I believe they are a company which should be contributing to the development and presentation of work by emerging and independent artists; I believe they need to become a part of this conversation.
Outside of the AFC, Vitalstatistix is the only other organisation which curates a body of theatre-based work for a single venue across the year. Based at the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide, there can be significant perceptional barriers as to seeing this as a part of Adelaide, despite being just a twenty minute drive away. The program, incorporating full productions to development residencies working with many independent artists, shows a big output for such a small organisation, but doesn’t begin to make up for the gaps in other parts of the local sector. The remainder of Adelaide’s venues are simply halls-for-hire, with consistency sketchy at best. Many, due to highly cost prohibitive venue hire, particularly those for whom security must also be paid for, are rarely used outside of the festival season.
What sort of venues can our young and independent artists be working towards presenting in when so few come with consistency? Where can our audiences find work when everything is programmed independently? While I started this talking about the 300 seat venues, this really is an issue which impacts on everything from underground work to the larger independent companies.
South Australia is “the Festival State”; and we do festivals well. We fund festivals well. In the 2010 State budget, the Adelaide Festival of Arts received an extra $9.9 million over three years; the AFC’s Cabaret Festival and OzAsia Festival received an extra $3 million between them. Industry Development funding, which supports mid-sized organisations across artforms lost more than $1 million, a quarter of their total budget. (Much more detail on this over at confidential without the parenthesis.) We are “the Festival State”: it’s much flashier to bring in a crew of off-Broadway singers for two weeks then invest in local work.
Since the open-access Adelaide Fringe went annual in 2007, many people have noted a fluctuation in quality of work in the theatre program in relation to the Australian Performing Arts Market, a biannual event run alongside the Festival of Arts. It was recently announced that South Australia has lost the rights for this market, which has been produced by Adelaide based Arts Projects Australia since 1998. From 2014, the market will be presented by the Brisbane Powerhouse coinciding with their World Theatre Festival, the Brisbane organisation beating Adelaide at tender in a move which came as a shock to no-one.
Now with over 900 events, unless you are a big-name comedian, musician, or commercial Spiegeltent production, it is highly unlikely that artists and presenters will make a profit at the Fringe, perhaps least of all independent theatre. What the Fringe can offer is a platform to present work to new audiences, new presenters and producers – a platform which is greatly enhanced by the power of APAM. While the Fringe has its own program hosting producers and presenters, Honey Pot, if this will be able to replace the power of APAM in attracting theatrical productions is yet to be seen.
Outside of the international Fringe, Adelaide can tend to be very insular. I’ve been shocked several times this year when I’ve mentioned smaller to mid-sized interstate companies whom I would have expected Adelaide theatre-makers to know of, only to be met with blank faces. How much do these artists see themselves as participants in a greater Australian theatrical ecology? Even if their work isn’t being seen yet outside of Adelaide, are our artists striving to be part of a national conversation, trying to make themselves noticed on a national platform?
There has been more than one production in this city this year I only heard about through a friend’s facebook status the night before it opened, or only after the reviews come out. If this is how I hear about work – as someone actively engaged in the local theatre scene – what hope does anyone interstate have of being part of our conversation?
When it comes down to it, I want to be able to say I am proud to come from Adelaide, that I believe we are an important national player, that our theatre-makers are among the best in the country. As 2011 draws to a close, however, I am feeling exhausted by the work that Adelaide is, and exasperated that more people here won’t fight loudly and publicly and nationally. But fight isn’t the right word; theatre and art should always be a conversation, and I see very few people from Adelaide participating in the current national conversation.
We have a Critics Circle so disconnected from the national dialogue as to profess that their own awards “arguably are the most coveted in the country” and “the most valuable for careers and reputations.” I am, honestly, at a complete loss at what to say to something which is equal parts ignorant and pompous. Not only does this hurt the standing of Adelaide’s arts writers, holding themselves above the nation in such a way for an awards ceremony which is barely a blip on the national awards radar, but it indeed hurts the whole Adelaide arts industry by spreading pomp and circumstance where it is not wanted nor deserved.
At home in Adelaide, it is easy to decree the lack of SA based nominations for the Helpmann Awards, to scoff at ArtsHub only focusing their 2011 wrap up on the Eastern Seaboard. But: what would you place there? What would you say is coming out of Adelaide to play on the national (or international) scale? What would an Eastern Seaboard native say is coming out of Adelaide to play on the national scale?
They’re there, of course. Our children’s theatre companies, Slingsby, Windmill and Patch all have recent or shortly upcoming US tours; ADT regularly travels to Europe; The Border Project, Leigh Warren and Dancers with State Opera South Australia, and Brink Productions have all toured interstate in recent years. But these are increasingly the exception rather than the rule; companies which are funded year-round afforded the ability to take their shows out nationally; medium-sized, not small-sized.
Work is being done to make touring easier: the Australia Council recently visited Adelaide in consultation sessions around creating a National Touring Framework; I hear about the occasional workshop. But at the moment, particularly for independent artists, the wall between local presentation and touring can be insurmountable.
The brain drain will march ever forward; there is no solution in sight for venues or support of independent work; we will continue to be a city which looks inwards rather than outwards, while still being a city which supports imported international culture over work which speaks to our own.
The final paragraph is where I should tell you how to fix it, what we’re going to do, where we are going to go. But I can’t. I don’t know how to fix this. We need to see massive levels of change: from the policy makers, to the organisations seen as industry leaders, to venues and presenters, to a spectrum artists and audiences can participate in, so we can retain and create artists who are willing and able to give their all to this city but be part of this nation, damned be the consequences.
Until that happens: could the last person to leave please turn out the lights?
Sounds like a chance for something unique and valuable to grow. Needs hard work and leadership but who’s afraid of that.
I’m a mid career artist who cant get a gig with the emerging artist companies or the big companies cause they all recruit from within their ranks. I have developed and toured Australian work regionally, nationally and internationally for over 10 years. I recently got rejected for a grant from the OZco fund you mentioned on the basis that “I am not big enough”, despite their assurances that I had a better than average proposal. I’ll still keep making theatre cause thats what i do but there is no career here, There is only development and then get you’re work out of here. But how do you connect when you know few people and have to get big enough to be taken seriously in the first place? Audiences in Adelbrain WANT to see theatre and I’ll keep trying to give it to them (apologies if other peers don’t see this as what they ‘need’). Anyway… back to the grindstone… come and see my show in the fringe ‘MISERY’, that would help a lot!
This response starts well, but turns into my response to the Facebook hyperbole about critics and the amateur/professional thing. Still important, cause I think that’s part of why the arts ain’t working in Adelaide at the moment.
Thanks for this article Jane.
As a proud Adelaidean, a passionate arts lover, and artistic professional*, I’m writing this as (I must now admit it) part of the brain drain, from an empty school hall come created theatre space after the penultimate performance of a critically acclaimed (12+ reviews, all VERY positive) production based on Anders Breivik (spelling most likely incorrect), the man responsible for the brutal massacre and bomb blast in Norway earlier this year.
The show, ‘The Economist’, by Melbourne theatre of new writing MKA (http://www.mka.org.au) Artistic Director (and personal friend) Tobias Manderson-Galvin, is the second I’ve worked on for the company this year, and whilst I’m not expecting a lot (financially) from it, The Economist has, through the creatives directly involved, and those invited to see it from the Malthouse, MTC, Belvoir (and others), permitted me a great opportunity to open up discussions with these companies to the benefit of my career in the future.
I want to work in Adelaide. I enjoy working in Adelaide. It’s where I was born, where I grew up, and it has an amazing heritage as a destination and ignition point for bold, intelligent, art – thanks in no small part both to those behind the first Adelaide Festival of Arts and our lord and saviour Don Dunstan.
But there’s not enough work there. Not now. With 1 major theatre company, 2 which excel at producing touring works for children, 1 opera company, a few dance companies and the symphony orchestra, and just three major professional venues with employment opportunities (Festival Centre, Entertainment Centre and Convention Centre); for those of us wishing to work in theatre in Adelaide, opportunities are limited to say the least.
Yes, there are companies like Brink, five.point.one, Duende and JungleBean. They all create amazing work, and they’re great for their independent voices and work they put on, but it’s not the same as having (for instance) a Griffin, Belvoir or Malthouse, each with their own venue and running along similar lines as a State Theatre Company but with the benefit of the ability to push the boundaries past the limits that only (reasonably) comes when you don’t have the pressure and expectation of the masses limiting your path.
And we should. But first we need to fix the current (in my opinion) self destructive quality that exists in the Adelaide Arts Community. Yes, I’m talking about professionals/amateurs and critics..
To leap head first and with little education into these often ranted about waters, it is my personal opinion that we have (with a few possible exceptions) the right mix of criticism for where our city is today.
Every critic comes with their axe to grind, barrow to push, and trough of cliches to spout whenever they put fingers to keyboard. From those with involvement in outside companies to Jane’s (not unhealthy) obsession with females in theatre and equality generally, it doesn’t take long for the astute reader to pick up where critical allegiances lie and use their brain function to consume critiques appropriately – that is, seasoned with a grain of salt. In my mind, the best thing the critical community can do is embrace its own subjectiveness and be open and honest about it for the sake of those readers who are not aware.
..and it’s only fair that artists do the same when spouting about critics’ apparently uneven judgement and the difficulty some have (in and out of the critical community) in distinguishing between professional and amateur work.
In my mind, THIS part of it comes down to quality and audiences.
First, to quality. Assuming critics, and the general community, are under a delusion about what is professional and what is amateur; surely, given the assumption that those working on professional shows are getting paid and have professional qualifications to do what they do whilst those in amateur shows do it solely for the love of it; there should be a GULF of difference between the quality of shows produced by ‘amateur’ companies, and those done by the independents/professionals.
Is there? Sadly I don’t get out enough to see enough works across the spectrum to know.
Now audiences. Do they know the difference between amateur and professional? Do they care? If the answer to either of these questions is anything other than a resounding ‘NO’, then I’m a fool and you should read no further.
Audiences care about the experience. Theatre is expensive. Theatre involves ‘special trips’. It’s hard to come see a theatre show, what the internets and the tvs in the houses with the beds.
And what kind of experience do they want? As theatre makers, it’s our duty – as much as it can get in the way of ‘artistic integrity’ and other such wank – to know what our audiences want and target our seasons/works to suit them. If audiences are consistently flocking to amdram productions of The Animals of Farthing Wood produced with flimsy sets and outrageous painted-on-calico costumes, a ‘professional’ company struggling for audiences should say ‘Oh, the audiences want escapist, fun theatre. Let’s try a classic farce, or a retelling of a fairy tale. Let’s make it fun, but let’s do it in a way that will refuse to cut corners, utilises our staff to the best of their abilities, and refuses to do anything other than KNOCK OUR AUDIENCES FOR SIX.’ (NB: Theatre people may not wish to use sporting clichés. That’s fine.)
Most importantly though, the ‘professional’ company should think ‘Let’s MARKET our production to our target audience in a way that is innovative and shows them that THEY WILL HAVE FUN!!!! when they come to the theatre.’
Oh, and for those wondering about the other 99% of theatre productions which aren’t fairy tales, I’m not saying we should drop them in favour of pantomime (although I do love a good pantomime..), just that we maybe shouldn’t sell them to audiences with phrases like ‘this is the most important work to come out of X country in N years’.
Instead, sell the experience. Sell the fact the workshop spent 3 weeks picking out the correct type of wood panelling that would reflect the designer’s vision that the sitting room provide a foreboding yet humorous take on the living room from ‘The Brady Bunch.’ Or.. sell the hottie playing ‘Peter’. Sell the babe playing ‘Tracy’. Sell the hottie who’d normally play a ‘Peter’ but for this show will be playing ‘Tracy’ – and still move you to tears by the end of the first act. Sell the fact that the theatrical experience – actually sitting in a chair with 200 other people while 2, 4, 7, even 23 real live people breathe life and emotion into words from a page LIVE in front of you – is like NO other experience you’ll ever have. Hell, sell a few REALLY amazing shows at $1 a ticket just to get people hooked. Once you do, you’ll have them for $2 a ticket, then $10, then $30, then $45, then for life.. because, as a professional, your drive and training means you should have a much greater strike rate at producing sensational works that will, once they’ve attracted an audient to a seat in your theatre, keep them there for life.
Footnote 1: This kind of thing is always in your head, regardless of whether you have the funds to pay a marketing department for it or not.
Footnote 2: Amateurs – your role in this is to keep putting on the great work you put on. The Professionals should be more proficient at theatre making than you because they spent 3+ years at university learning how to do it, whilst you went to uni, became a doctor, and now earn more money than the arts makers can dream of AND you get to make theatre at night. Lucky aren’t you!
Footnote 3: This debate shouldn’t exist. It’s good work that matters, and if the debate can be driven into making better work in Adelaide, then that can only be a good thing because it will make greater audiences, better works, and more reason for the government to FINALLY spend some money on the arts again.
End of aside. I must get back to topic. Next post to follow soonish.
Yay! Part the Second. Which also goes a bit ranty, but, for something different, is much more stream of consciousness. Apologies for any factual, spelling or grammatical errors. Please send comments/complaints/declarations of love to firstname.lastname@example.org
So, to introduce myself properly. My name is Stephen Moylan. By trade, I am a stage manager. I have a qualification to prove my ‘professional’ standard, do nothing but this kind of work to earn a living, but know, having started learning and working as a Stage Manager in 2008, that I’ve still a lot to learn.
My previous comment utilises my company title, LinkAdelaide, which I set up in response to my own desires to promote the arts in Adelaide, meet other practitioners, and discover exactly what’s going on artistically in this town.
Now, as I head into my second Fringe of LinkAdelaide podcasts, and reach the end of a year mostly spent working outside and away from home, I think I’m getting to know my city better, and, like Jane, don’t think things are currently looking great for our future.
On the up side, Adelaide still maintains an awesome reputation interstate for our arts industry. Possibly due to the hard work it takes to leave everything you know behind to forge the relationships you need to make to create a career interstate [poetry, huh?], the contact people outside of Adelaide have with Adelaide artists and technicians is, for the most part, a positive one, with the hard work and ingenuity required to make things work in our city standing us in great stead when it comes to working alongside others for whom things may come slightly easier due to increased populations and funding. I have never had a single negative attitude from a prospective employer (or taxi driver) when I mention I’m from Adelaide. If anything, they’re keen to talk about our city, or find out if I know so and so from Adelaide (I inevitably do) that they worked with once.
Understandably, I wouldn’t give this up for quids. A point of difference, any point of difference, in your favour is a good one to hang on to when the battle for work is so much more competitive.
Oh, and the networking one needs to do to get noticed in Adelaide, the good work one needs to do consistently to ensure the dreaded ‘bad name’ is not your own, comes back to you in spades interstate, where the industry can be warm and incredibly welcoming to those who give it the hard yards.
But what of Adelaide? It’s home. It’s where I want to make the greatest impression because my family, the people I care most about, live there.
In the past, Adelaide was one of the most progressive cities in the country. Memories of primary school suggest (possibly wrongly), that we were the first in the country – almost the world – to allow women the vote. The first to grant Aboriginal voting rights.. and various other things only possible when you have free press, free spirits, and, most importantly (and less hiply) a strong, engaging, funded pool of arts talent supported by their government and community.
We don’t have that now. And we should. We should be making theatre that’s the envy of the country. Our Festival should still be THE only destination for the world’s greatest. Our young artists, trained still at some of the country’s best institutions (although more can always be done) should receive support from their government to create new, innovative works. Our flagship theatre company should blow its diverse audience out of the water and achieve full houses consistently. This audience should be fed, or feed a tier of smaller, partially funded companies with the artistic licence to push boundaries to the limits to take major risks in the creation of new works. Similarly, these smaller companies should be reached and fed by a thriving independent scene featuring drama graduates trying new things, or, even old things, in pop up venues around the city; playing to houses as low as 20 for short two week seasons as they dabble, become better performers, and work with the technicians, designers and audiences that will follow them in their progression up the ladder towards work with the flagship companies (which tour shows interstate to rave reviews..)
..And our venues should be better. The Festival Centre should not be a white elephant with a tired concrete wonderland. Demolish and rebuild, or fix it. From the ground up. Open all hours, have riverside eateries open from the river side, engage with ALL of Adelaide who use the Festival Centre as a thoroughfare to/from work. Engage with the land’s past by embracing the Corroborree (spelling apology) history of the pre-invasion Elder Park by turning this new Festival Centre into an Arts Centre with performers/visual artists/sculptors/theatre makers and dreamers all free to come, meet, exchange ideas and create. Force the pollies to SEE what’s right outside their back door and make the Plaza into the stunning outdoor meeting place I’m sure it was originally designed to be. (We had Fed Square before Melbourne, and better looking than Melbourne’s one. Only we’ve NEVER used it!) One, maybe two of the empty buildings in the CBD should be purchased and converted into permanent theatre spaces A-la Metro Arts in Brisbane. Remember, Tuxedo Cat proved it could be done dirt cheap with their work at Electra House in 2011…
But all of that is pipe dreaming. Or is it? None of those things involve much financial spending. It’s about attitude and belief. Build it and they will come kind of stuff. (Look at the hospital. One minute everyone was decrying NO. No. No. No. WE DON’T WANT A NEW HOSPITAL IN THE RAIL- and by that time the fences were up, transportables in place, the sleepers in piles and the carriages long gone.)
At present, the situation in Adelaide is unsustainable and dead. Artists like myself can’t sustain careers at home, so we leave, and find work elsewhere, in other cities where there’s more to do, and other problems to surmount.
With some leadership, and by putting our amateur battles behind us, I’m sure it wouldn’t take us long to regain, in our own minds at least (and most importantly) a leadership position in the arts. WE HAVE THE PEOPLE AND THE TALENT TO DO IT. All we need to do is provide them with somewhere to work and they’ll come flooding back, if only because Adelaide living is so much easier than Sydney living.. and there’s less footy fans than there are in Melbourne. 😉
Anyway, these are just my thoughts. And I’m not even in Adelaide at the moment.
Love to you all.
I love the interwebs….this is exactly the kind of relevant conversation it promotes. My comments come from the perspective of one of those seasoned theatre/arts admin people who have been around for a while, and who has participated in the brain drain/worked-interstate-but-come-back -to-Adelaide-for-big-job-and-getting-out-of-here-again dance. Also I once met Jane in a box office line and I think what she is doing is necessary and great. AND also I have spent the last three years working with emerging artists as the head of a support organisation and today is my last day at work before I leave town. (again). So please forgive me if this is a bit rambly.
Firstly – more power to you all. The thoughtfulness and energy of these postings shows me we are in excellent hands. If only we can find better ways to provide agency. Thats what all those great initiatives in other places do — they provide the infrastructure thats needed and then stand back and get out of the way, letting the artists get on with it. If they go down in a heap, then good. If they rise like the shining sun, then good. If they provide great ideas, great development and make great links, the best. and not just for the people on stage….
Personal point: In my early career I worked on many downstairs shows at Belvoir as a freelance publicist — people could almost never pay me but I didn’t care because it was a privilege to be part of it, and heres the thing — the artists were generous, and they welcomed me in and made me part of what they were doing. Not many people can say they worked on William Yang’s first full length show and got paid in a photograph.
Critics: At its rare best the mainstream critical commentariat can be incisive and wonderful, bringing great things to the attention of the public.
Personal rant re critics and arts writers: What annoys me the most however is the lack of self examination. Not revealing you are writing about a relative or friend, walking the official party line because you are seduced by seeing yourself as a player and dont want to leave the inner circle, engaging in witch hunts, dressing up gossip as journalism etc etc — we’ve all seen it a million times, we are used to it and it probably happens everywhere. Its also probably more irritating in a community the size and shape of ours because we are a lot closer to it and can see the levers being pulled more easily.
Asking our readers/audiences to see through this is a necessary coping mechanism I guess, but really, people, at some point all these guys were young and new writers — wouldn’t it be great if we had more than one Sebastian Smee who chose to write from here? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Smee) ..and was published in a daily paper?! I am not saying ditch the oldies either, just mix it up a little.
Thanks and kudos to Jane, Bridget Noone and other bloggers, movers and shakers, for providing us with an alternative, and keep going!
The comments from the circle about their own awards are hilariously revealing.
Amatuer vs professional. In some artforms (notably the big orchestral works with choirs) you actually can’t perform without that blend. I think it is endearing that we even have a strong amateur scene here, and shows people are hungry for the live experience — both as creators and audiences. Are they the same as professional? in my view absolutely not. Can they sometimes provide passionate, exciting and joyous performances? Absolutely they can. Is the whole idea of a semi-professional scene a good one? Could be — anything that provides emerging theatre makers with an opportunity is a good thing. Should they be reviewed on the same basis? Absolutely not in my view. I’m sure any critic would have an opinion on whether their 20 years of public writing under the gaze of ruthless editors produced the same kind of output as a person with five minutes experience, an unlimited word count and a laptop.
All of you who have posted here have so many great ideas, and you clearly know what to do and are already doing it .
Thank you for posting this and giving me the opportunity to reflect on what Adelaide has meant to me over what is now a long career (gosh how did that happen).
I need to go and do some more resigning now, but heres what i would like to leave you with:
Keep raising and sharing these issues ; it is amazing how much difference it makes when people feel they are not alone.
You are already on the way to creating a different paradigm for how things are done here in Adelaide just by discussing it.
Don’t get sucked into the funding debate of big vs small, festivals vs other, heritage vs innovative. It wastes your valuable energy on a public argument that diminishes the arts into a cliched bunch of squabblers and whingers. Its a continuum we are after.
Funding is fabulous but it isn’t the answer to everything. it comes with strings attached. Always.
Create a critics awards of your own. Make it the Adelaide Awards and create the categories you think are important. Include an amateur category and use the word loud and proud and think about its meaning.
Dont get sucked into using the word professional in a strident way. Just be.
Shamelessly steal memes and habits and formats. (example, festival of unpopular culture)
Keep making your work and keep writing about it.
Point things out.
Be generous with your time and attention.
Be kind to the creative impulse in others, even when such creativity makes art you can’t stand, resides in someone behind a keyboard, or someone who makes music at night after a fourteen hour day. Their impulse to create does not diminish your skill or training. They probably envy you.
Show up. To everything you can. and keep showing up.
[…] If you really want to argue the point and keep falling back on this truism, then I’m going to suggest you either read Mike Rann’s introduction to the Thirty Year Plan for Greater Adelaide and the corresponding sections which outline the need to attract and retain more skilled labour of ‘working age’. Or, if you want it straight from the Mouth of Youth, Jane Howard’s wonderful diatribe on the topic at No Plain Jane. […]
[…] Howard, an Adelaide-based performing arts critic, writer and blogger, on the shrinking creative support network in Adelaide… an important story that is mimicked in a number of Australian cities I’m […]