Claire is currently the Youth Arts Director, and the co-creative producer of the Projects Company at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba. She is a passionate teacher, facilitator, playwright, theatre maker and youth arts practitioner. Claire has over six years’ experience in the education sector, as a high school teacher in both Australia and the United Kingdom. Her plays have been recognised both nationally and internationally. She is the co-artistic director of Mixtape Theatre Collective, an independent partnership designed to elicit joy through live performance for broad audiences; their play Escape from the Breakup Forest was presented in 2012. In 2011 she completed both a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing [QUT] and a Graduate Diploma in Experiential Arts Therapy [MIECAT]. She is currently completing her Master of Arts [USQ] focusing on facilitation in youth arts practices and its impact on young people. Claire works with and writes for young people because nothing else makes quite as much sense.
I had the pleasure yesterday of speaking with Claire, the current Director of Empire Youth Arts. We chatted about the work being done by EYA in Toowoomba and the surrounding regions in southern Queensland. Over the past couple of years I've seen a lot of the work being done in the various after school and performance projects which EYA has produced. The scope and outcomes are impressive, to say the least. Claire expanded. "Some ... that I’m really proud of include a partnership with Toowoomba Flexi School for National Youth Week. We also worked with the boys from Optikal bloc to create a documentary. We facilitated a Child Protection Week project with some young children at Rockville Primary school, and provided them access to a couple of visual artists." In addition, during 2012 there were two IMPACT Ensembles: the first was a production of Blackrock which Claire speaks about in the interview. She notes that it was particularly exciting for the group who had partnered with the Toowoomba Says no to Violence movement, and held a Young Men’s Forum day as part of the overall project. The second IMPACT Ensemble a production written, performed and designed by the ensemble members has just closed. Claire and I chat about the value of this particular project in the interview. Empire Youth Arts also conducts regional classes in Toowoomba, Crows Nest, Lockyer Valley and Dalby, and all have operated all year. The outreach into the wider community is committed, and anyone who sees the work recognises the quality. Geoffrey Rush (Empire Patron) did on a visit to Toowoomba a couple of months ago. Some of the EYA team not so much performed as gave direct voice to what being involved had meant to them and of how their lives had been changed. I understand Mr Rush was visibly moved and subsequently made a generous donation to the building of the Empire's new 380-seat performing arts space earmarked as the home and hub for youth performing arts in the region. Now, there's a patron for you! Good job, Empire Youth Arts and Claire Christian. You can and should follow Empire Youth Arts on Facebook for all the latest on their activities.