In 2017, I only published three posts here on the blog, but gee, it was a big year.
In no particular order here are some of the highlights and the lowlights and the lessons and my chosen word to enter 2018.
2017 brought more loss and grief, compounding and highlighting the collection of loss we’ve been buffeted by in the past four years. The second half of 2017 gave us a welcome breather though and we made it nearly six months without having to talk about a funeral. One of my dear friends then lost her uncle just before the end of the year and while this particular death did not directly affect me, it brought all those bubbling feelings to the surface again. As did the parade of #timehop photos of lost loved ones that tend to crop up over Christmas/New Year. Grief is a hungry ocean.
That ocean has taught me a lot in the last few years.
About what I value, who I am and how I want to be in the world and 2017 was no different. In 2017, I continued to be inspired by the work of the Groundswell Project and the importance of conversations about death, dying and grief. I also attended ‘The Future of Death Salon’, an event hosted by Moira Deslandes Consulting in Adelaide, which gave me lots of ideas for hosting conversations within my own community about this and other topics. Brianna Obst and I continued to have meaty conversations exploring our personal relationships to suicide, euthanasia and who owns our lives and our deaths. These conversations and our long creative relationship has planted the seeds for a new play that I plan to begin work on in 2018.
Losing Faith in Unicorns
In the first couple of weeks of 2017 things that had seemed so solid at the end of 2016 started to fall apart and everything felt like quicksand. As the Creative Producer I faced the possibility of pulling the plug on a project we’d been working on with a feisty group of teenagers since 2015.
Losing Faith in Unicorns was an immersive theatre experience in a house and we were programmed to present the work as part of the dreamBIG Children’s Festival. We’d secured a house late in 2016 but received the devastating news from the structural engineer that it didn’t pass muster early in 2017. With the clock ticking towards May and the project requiring time for the final purpose-fit design, install and rehearsal, I was freaking out. I rang and emailed well over a hundred individual real estate agents, organizations and other leads. Met dead end after dead end after dead end.
In the throes of my frustration and fear that we weren’t going to pull it off, I said to Nic “If we were in the Riverland, I’d have 5 fucking houses by now.” Because in the Riverland, I’d know who to ask, and the scale of the community means that people are more willing to get involved. Here in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, it mostly felt like shouting into the void. We have lovely, supportive little circles around us here, but the size of the community and it’s particular make-up means that it is so much more difficult to get messages out to the right people. To gather champions and circles of support.
We gave ourselves until the 8th of March to find a replacement house. We secured a house that week. It was owned by someone who lives in the Riverland and the real estate agent I made the initial contact with grew up in the Riverland and moved to Adelaide a few years ago. So there you go – even three hours away – the Riverland came through for me (thank you, thank you, thank you to Kay, Brenton and Tracey!).
So we did it. We created and presented an immersive theatre performance and installation in the very non-traditional space of a suburban house in Christies Beach. The final three general public shows sold out and we received beautiful written feedback like this from audience members:
“I was lucky enough to be in the bathroom when ”Sam” locked the door for the last time for that performance. How brave to lay herself on the line in such a small space. She was brilliant; raw, honest and touching. My daughter’s friend’s mother is dying of brain cancer, and to be able to share Sam’s monologue about her aunt’s death with her has since allowed for some difficult and truthful conversations, and a deepening of mine and my daughter’s relationship with her. This was one of the best pieces of theatre that I have seen. What a great platform for starting those tricky conversations with our teenagers.”
And to cap it all off, Kids Against Humanity and Losing Faith in Unicorns were one of four finalists for the 2017 Arts SA Ruby Awards in the Community Impact under $100,000 category. They didn’t win, but five of the crew attended the awards night and we were in some incredible company alongside the winners – Creating Coonalpyn (of the Coonalpyn Silo fame).
You can see a five minute insight into the project and performance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeatjvyJ-P4&list=PL0IRgfhn-sEHdTrvGrdwVdAxTDKjNAUn_&index=6
This project had so much packed into it across its 18month journey. It was challenging and frustrating and joyous and powerful and the project and the young people who led it have taught me so much more than I can encapsulate here. I’m not the same because of it and the way I operate personally and professionally has been shifted and shaken and changed by them. I am supremely grateful to have had the opportunity walk beside them on this journey.
Australian Rural Leadership Program
2017 included another three residential components of the 15month ARLP Program. Due to my prior commitment with LFIU I could not attend the overseas session in Indonesia in May with my cohort (23) but will be joining C24 in May 2018. 2017 included a week in North-East Victoria and a week in Canberra. ARLP has been a massive process for me right from the beginning with the two weeks in the Kimberley in 2016. 2017 ARLP for me saw a deepening of relationships and learning . Lots of fierce (and sometimes) difficult conversations, so much laughter and gratitude, some incredible and inspiring presenters, connections and lessons. It’s been an incredible experience and I am so very aware of what a privilege and a responsibility this investment is in me and my work.
Every participant of ARLP has to complete a written report for their sponsor (mine is the Australia Council) and this is some insight from my current draft:
“I feel that I have been especially lucky to be a participant of ARLP being from an arts background and being one of the younger members of our cohort, Course 23. At only 32, being surrounded and enveloped by our cohort has been incredibly inspiring, especially in the strong and amazing older women of our cohort who have made me feel so excited about what my future can hold and just in the incredible diversity of experience and perspectives across the entire cohort. I have felt like I am accessing this amazing bank of knowledge every time I am in the room with Course 23 and I feel very privileged to have access to that. One of the things that attracted me to ARLP as a leadership program was that it was not arts specific and that I would be participating with individuals from completely different industries and disciplines. This for me, has been one of the greatest benefits of ARLP. To step outside of the sometimes circular debates and conversations that happen in your own industry and be able to learn and reflect by talking and collaborating across industries has been invaluable.”
At the beginning of 2017 I signed up for the Writers SA Manuscript Incubator program. It was a year-long program incorporating a monthly writers group critiquing session and monthly craft workshops for 16writers working on the early draft of a novel. I worked on the early foundations for a novel that has its seeds in a draft play I wrote as part of mentorship with Caleb Lewis way back in 2012. I didn’t complete as much of the wordcount/meat of the novel as I’d hoped at the beginning of 2017 but I left 2017 feeling motivated and well equipped to continue developing the project.
The program was a pretty big investment for me – costing over $1000 for the year – but it was well worth it, and if you’re an aspiring writer, I would highly recommend it. I felt so supported and nurtured and welcomed into the Writers SA family (including getting the opportunity to travel to Mildura with Ali Cobby Eckerman to be in the room with her as she shared her skills with emerging writers there).
It was an absolute joy to spend a year with a group of fellow emerging South Australian writers, supported by Writers SA, and I am so glad I made the commitment.
My Patreon circle is small but mighty in its impact. In 2017, my patrons collectively contributed $866 to my creative practice. This $866 directly contributed to commissioning Adelaide artist Alice Blanch as part of Manifold Portrait. Alice spent two days in Berri visiting Rotary Park and creating an artistic response. I am collecting the special something she has made from her tomorrow to deliver to Manifold Portrait next week – keep an eye on my Insta for a little sneak peek or sign up to the Patreon for patron-only posts. Which by the way, although I’ve been quiet here on the blog, I’ve created 47 posts on Patreon, most are patron-only, though a few are visible to general public and they are a mix of behind the scenes work-in-progress snippets, personal reflections, updates, vodcasts, e-zines and a few other bits and bobs.
As above, my Patreon circle have contributed financially and my posts there have been a way of keeping me accountable (to myself), but most importantly, these supporters – who are putting their actual, real money towards my creations – have been a huge source of encouragement and support. Knowing they believe in me and want to actively support and follow my work has been the biggest gift this year. Thank you Jesse, Kerrie, Ryan, Gemma, Rebecca, Sam, Kimberlee, Andria, Nic and Nic. You are all bloody gems.
You can find the Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/lylyeeoftheriver
I’m keeping the regular rewards the same but I am toying with the idea of revamping the goals and their special reward this year.
I’m going home. At the end of 2017 (October) I nabbed a brand-spanking-new dream job as the Creative Producer, Youth for Carclew and Country Arts. It’s new jointly funded position between the two organisations and the role is dedicated to nurturing creative experiences and opportunities for young people living in regional South Australia. I’m bloody stoked. It’s a promotion (money wise), my contract includes a car (yeah!) but most importantly the J&P said ‘the successful applicant will be based in a regional location, to be negotiated’. So Nic worked his guts out and nabbed himself a teaching position back in the Riverland and we are going home to be embedded in our community of extended family, friends, challenges and opportunities. I could not have ended 2017 feeling any more excited and grateful.
And while I am sad to say goodbye to ExpressWay Arts and to see that project come to an end, in other brilliant news, Carclew and City of Onkaparinga made a new commitment to support Kids Against Humanity with a 1.5day a week Creative Producer. So there will be some continuing legacy of that work and Kids Against Humanity in particular. Claire Glenn who was their weekly facilitator has taken on that new role (and you can read a recap of everything we achieved in the four and a half years I was Creative Producer of ExpressWay Arts here: http://carclew.com.au/Program/ExpressWay)
Other bits and bobs of note
- I wrote and supported a short film and some attached scenes for a Shine SA sexual health project with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in collaboration with Jessica Wishart.
- I was the recipient of the 2017 Arts South Australia Geoff Crowhurst Memorial Ruby Award
- Managed to write 37,157 words during NaNoWriMo
- Participated in the Operation Move 12-week Learn to Run Program and continued to make regular running a part of my life
- Sold hand-made zines of words I’d crafted at one of Zombie Queen’s official Zine Swaps
- Participated in a five week song-writing course (which seems small if you don’t know the backstory to why I was afraid of it) and have since written three songs that are meaningful to me
- Presented a work in progress with the very excellent Sara Strachan and other collaborators at Crack Theatre Festival in Newcastle
- Had two wisdom teeth removed the same week I was the opening speaker for the 2017 District 9520 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards
- Ticked off another two units of my never ending double degree (which I commenced mid-2008 and have been studying externally via CDU)
- Completed a bunch of e-courses in various business and arts things which I found super helpful (including Laura Milke Garner’s Artist Bootcamp)
- Started a peer-mentoring process with Petra Szabo and her fledgling company Potential Kinetics Theatre
- Had my first overseas visit! I went to Singapore for a couple of days as a presenter at a Youth Arts Symposium with the CE of Carclew.
- Wrote and performed more poetry, facilitated more workshops, spoke at more things, ate lots of food, had lots of naps, visited the beach with my children, snapchatted and messaged with my friends and family, lived and learned and breathed and cried and hoped and discovered.
And because so much of this post is about the things that went right, here’s some words from a patron-only post I shared back on 3rd May 2017:
Oh my loves. I’m tired this week. Tired in that way where your face hurts. Tired in that way where you crave sugar and a warm blanket. Tired in that way where the littlest things leave you on the edge of tears.
Yesterday I dropped my phone and the screen cracked. It’s not the worst I’ve seen but the cracks are in just the right spot to make it difficult to view photos, which is terrible timing for promoting Losing Faith in Unicorns on social media (the show opens in two weeks from tomorrow!). Today I ripped my favourite pair of pants. Right through the inside seam and across the back of my left thigh. I’m still wearing them but they’ll never be acceptable for public viewing again.
I’m tired and worn thin. By big things and little. By the world and by my world and by my self. And I’m okay, because I know these times are only temporary, because somewhere along my journey I got the taste for hope and now it never leaves me even when I feel like I’m splitting at the seams. So I’m okay. But part of being okay is also sharing that sometimes okay is not being okay. Sometimes okay is struggling and being tired and teary and worn out and full of doubts. Because we all feel that way sometimes. Because that’s part of living a full, rich life too.
A word for 2018
I choose a word every year. As a frame, a lens, a direction to pursue. In 2017 my word was mobilise. I was struggling to decide on a word for 2018 and Nic was throwing out random suggestions, one of them was ‘yield’ and in response, laughing I said, ‘I never yield’.
But I got to thinking about what a great word yield is and how it has layers of meanings that feel so right for me in entering 2018.
So there you go.
- produce or provide (a natural, agricultural, or industrial product).
- produce or generate (a result, gain, or financial return).
- give way to arguments, demands, or pressure.
- relinquish possession of.
- (of a mass or structure) give way under force or pressure.
See you in 2018, dear hearts.
A small selection of the things that shaped me, inspired me and moved me in 2017:
- A.B Original, Reclaim Australia Album (special mention to ‘I Could Be Dead in a Minute)
- Electric Fields, Nina (from the Inma EP)
- Jessica Wishart, My Black Boy EP
- Vitalstatistix, Adhocracy & Rebecca Meston’s Drive showing/artist talk
- Restless Dance Theatre, Intimate Space
- Emily Steel (writer) & Daisy Brown (director), 19 Weeks & Rabbits
- Paul Gazzola with various artists and the City of Onkaparinga, SUE
- The Vampire Diaries on Netflix, and no, I’m not joking (maybe I should write about this?)
- Learn to Run Program, Operation Move
- Binder of Australian Women Writers FB Group
- Writers SA (formerly SA Writers Centre)