Wake Up Call: Australian Theatre Forum – Brisbane 19-21 September 2011

28 July, 2010 by 4 Comments

Guest post by Zane Trow

The second Australian Theatre Forum will be held from Monday 19th to Wednesday 21st September 2011 at Brisbane Powerhouse during the Brisbane Festival. A steering committee has been formed, and will be “announced soon.”

The powerhouse is located in a converted power...
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This little snippet appears on the Theatre Network Victoria E-News site for June and there is also this elsewhere on the same site.

This’ll give you, dear reader, some background on the Theatre Forum itself and a recent “workshop” held towards planning for the 2011 event.

The first thing to emerge on the list of goals for 2011 is:

  • At the next forum in 2011 we want: Better representation of Independent theatre makers (at the Forum and in general)

So my first question is, “Who, from the Independent sector, is going to be on the steering committee”?
And my second question is, “Who from Brisbane is going to be on the steering committee”?

Who from the Independent sector is going to be on the steering committee and who from Brisbane is going to be on the steering committee?

Both seem to me to be reasonable questions, as certainly the planning “workshop” (Towards an Australian Theatre Forum 2011, Tuesday 23 February 2010, Adelaide Festival Centre) seems to me to have been run by the usual suspects, with certainly no Brisbane representation that I can see. I may have missed the Brisbane people in attendance; I may also have missed those same Brisbane people calling for a wide input into the event by seeking opinions from us all so that when they sit on a national, Australia Council-funded forum they can speak about Brisbane theatre from a position of strength and support.

It’s not rocket science. If you are a representative of a region then you let that region know who you are, how and why you were chosen and how the broader sector can keep in touch with you and feed in thoughts and strategies as the event emerges. You do this through announcements in newsletters and on blogs, and you call for a local group to meet regularly and inform the debate as it goes along. This is called democratic consultation (or some such other old fashioned phrase) and it allows you, as a local representative, to be part of a national event that actually has meaning locally.

No doubt I am just being my usual anarcho-syndicalist, paranoid self and the steering committee which is to be “announced soon” will address these issues?

The event is to be held at the Brisbane Powerhouse and is part of Brisbane Festival, so maybe someone from one or both of those institutions may already be about to be “announced?” If so, I hope that they open up debate locally, especially in the light of the Baylis Report and the “lack of venues” issue and to give those of us that take an interest in these matters the opportunity to plan the structure of the final event program. I think this is important because it is an Australia Council for the Arts event, and will clearly therefore have a long term impact on the development of theatre policy overall. Whether we like it or not, events such as this will, directly or indirectly, influence how we work.

Theatre Network Victoria is a fantastic initiative; there is nothing like it in Brisbane, and it clearly allows local debate and development to extend continuously. We need a similar structure; we need it very badly indeed in my opinion. Especially since there on their e-news is also this other little snippet: Does Australia need a National Peak Body for Theatre?

TNV is preparing a discussion paper on the need for a National peak body for theatre in Australia. Calls for input will be made next month but, if you have anything to contribute prior to then, feel free to contact Nicole at TNV.

Oh honestly, what has all this got to do with anything? It’s just another talk fest isn’t it? Well, as Pippen says to Treebeard in Lord of the Rings “… but you are part of the world aren’t you?” Yes we are, Brisbane is, but we have to make our voices heard, otherwise things that are happening as close to us as our own backyard will simply pass us by.

Zane Trow is a composer, performer and live artist and a post-disciplinary art professional with over 30 years experience in bridging community arts and contemporary arts practice. Recent work includes the devising and curatorial management of “Once Only” and “Exist” – international live art exchange events in 07 and 08, National Mentorship Program Coordinator for Youth Arts Qld, Artistic Advisor for Metro Arts and Chair of the Metro Arts Advisory Group.
Zane is an Associate Professor – Performance Studies QUT – and is currently Chair of Multimedia Arts Asia Pacific. His sound art and music is released internationally through the Room 40 Imprint and recent solo live works have been presented in the USA, Indonesia, the UK & Singapore.
Previous experience includes: Artistic Director of the South Bank Corporation; Chairman of Youth Arts Qld; CEO/Artistic Director of the Brisbane Powerhouse Centre for the Live Arts; CEO/Artistic Director of The Performance Space in Redfern; CEO/Artistic Director of the Next Wave Festival Inc in Melbourne; CEO/Centre Director of the Footscray Community Arts Centre in Melbourne and Assistant Director of the Common Stock Theatre Company in the UK making site-specific live performances with disadvantaged communities in London.

4 Replies to “Wake Up Call: Australian Theatre Forum – Brisbane 19-21 September 2011”

  1. Thanks to Zane, Mike for your observations. Well said! And thanks to Kate for publishing this/these issues.

  2. Mike Mullins says:

    The other aspect that needs to come into any current debate is historical referencing:

    it is impossible to talk about where we are now without knowing where we’ve been.

    The Australian performing arts community are very good at ignoring the past and/ or re-writing it to suit the occasion. I was shocked at the recent National Dance Forum (Melbourne 19/20 March 2011) to realise:

    1. that such an event happens very rarely;
    2. that there is little or limited historical record of past achievements and;
    3. that many of the issues that were discussed are the same that were discussed 20+ years ago.

    In the final planary session a group was asked to list important milestones from the past:

    it was interesting to note that major contributers such as Margaret Barr, Russell Dumus and Nanette Hassel (to mention a few) did not register in the collective memory. Another extraordinary moment was when it was suggested that nothing much had happen before the 60’s.

    Australian performing arts exists in a void. Except, of course, for lovely bureacratic reports.

    Mike Mullins (founding director, The Performance Space)

  3. Paul Osuch says:

    Agree with your points Zane and thanks for the heads up. Keen to hear the answers and for as many people from Brisbane independent theatre to be in on the discussion prior to and during the Australian Theatre Forum