Fairfax Festival Blog Seven: Day Two

by Jane


And just like that, we’re here on our last day of the Fairfax Festival. As I post this, the kids are packing up their cabins on Pental Island before driving back into Swan Hill. We have two more workshops this morning, then bump in and rehearsals, and tonight they perform with YES Fest.

Yesterday, as I revisited some of the rehearsals, I was stunned at how far some of the kids had come in just a day. There is still some hesitance, some lines dropped, but they made such a leap. If that’s what they can do in one day, I’m excited for tonight to see where they end up at the end of another – and when they’re able to feed off the crowd.

My highlight of yesterday was the Snuff Puppets workshop. The artists brought five skeleton body-suits – twenty years old, they’re a bit worse for wear in places, some of the zips instead became held together with gaffa tape and safety pins, but they were amazingly effective costumes on the kids. They dressed up and wandered down the main street of Swan Hill, waving at cars, popping into shops and holding up shirts to see if they suit their skin tone, or they tried to eat some sneakers. Even though I helped them dress, I immediately forgot who was in each suit, as I laughed following down the street.

What I loved about it, though, was how uninhibited the kids were when they were dressed like that. With 107 students, there is a wide variety of comfort levels in everything that’s been happening here – from rehearsals to warm-ups – but this was the freest I’ve seen anyone be. When all possible markers of identification are removed and they are skeleton’s walking down the street, what can’t they do?

This discovery of freedom has also been happening in other workshops. My other workshop for the day was with Jess Fairfax at Smart 99.1 FM, Swan Hill’s community radio station. Taken over by “Fairfax Pirate Radio” the kids got a run down in how to create a radio show, and then in groups of three to five they scripted and presented a short segment – live to air. While some kids were clearly ready for it from the get go, a few others were a bit nervous about taking it on. Once they did, though, although I heard a couple of “I’m never doing that again”, they were all pretty happy with how they’d gone. The station offers training on Wednesday nights, and their are certainly a few Swan Hill kids who seemed keen to take it on – I really hope they do.

Today, I’ll be learning about Shakespeare and sound design, then partying the night away on the streets of Swan Hill. Well, at least until nine.