River is an uplifting gift offering healing and hope

“All these rivers we must cross. Together we will get to the other side. . . . We’ll be forced to grow.” This is the theme of River, a haunting new video by the Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra. It is an inspiring sound and visual experience of the Australia we are becoming, all woven together by the movement and grace of Gambirra Illume, Yolngu performer and cultural educator from Australia’s north east Arnhem Land. River is a song of sadness and despair uplifted by the hope and optimism that emerges from sharing the journey towards resolution. Look at the warmth and laughter of the participants as they near the end of their street performance.  Watch the video River. It is now available from all digital retailers.

In January this year, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that at least half of Australia’s special intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees would be settled in Fairfield in western Sydney, within 12 months. In the previous year, Fairfield City Council had already welcomed 3000 humanitarian arrivals from the two war-torn countries. It was the continuation of a pattern of accepting migrants and refugees displaced by war and economic upheaval, which had grown since World War I. This concentration of cultural diversity gave Fairfield a special relevance as the setting for River, Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra‘s first single released last month. The photo below records the warmth and excitement that surrounded the orchestra following their inaugural concert at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, in November 2014, when they performed the remarkable three stages of love and death. The words and music of River are developed from an extract of this work. Please take the time to click on all the links and listen to the music recorded.

It would be true to say that years of preparation have gone into the launch of River. Some of the first threads were drawn together long before Richard Petkovic created the Cultural Arts Collective in 2007 with Maria Mitar. Even so, they say it took three years of working with fellow musicians to create, record and release River. Through Cultural Arts Collective they showcase the future of Australian music by combining Australia’s many cultures into music that “touches the spirit”. It is a generous vision that has driven Richard for a very long time – unearthing the musical talents and mastery that have remained unrecognised outside the bounds of individual cultural communities and gathering them into making music that draws on tradition to create inspirational contemporary work – anything from driving rock rhythms to hypnotic spiritual chants.

Through Cultural Arts Collective, Richard launched the first Sydney Sacred Music Festival in 2011 after working with migrant and refugee communities in western Sydney for more than 10 years. After operating on a shoestring, it is now an established non-profit organisation, with a measure of government and private financial support. The program extends right across metropolitan Sydney, linking together a whole range of music organisations.

Death and personal loss were the immediate inspiration behind the creation of River. It offers a message of hope for those struggling with grief and profound loss. Eleven musicians performed in the streets of Fairfield, where they were filmed with the willing support of locals. They were world renowned Uyghur bard Shohrat Tursun – vocals, dutar (two string lute), Yaw Derkyi – African percussion and vocals, Richard Petkovic – guitar and vocals, Maria Mitar and Gambirra Illume – vocals, Nicholas Ng – urhu (Chinese two stringed fiddle),  Bukhu Ganburged – Mongolian horse fiddle, Salar Hs – violin, Rudi Upright Valdez – double bass, Victor Valdes – Mexican harp, and Ngoc-Tuan Hoang – guitar.

Many of these artists have been playing together for several years now and it shows in their ease of improvisation and collaboration and their quiet mutual respect. Cultural Arts Collective produces and composes music, and creates ensembles to support artists previously hidden from the mainstream. Already firmly established is the Shohrat Tursun Trio, comprising Shohrat himself, in right of photo, Yaw Derkyi, centre, and Richard Petkovic. CAC manages artists, produces festivals and events and distributes new music.

Richard’s perseverance in changing the focus of Australian music making and performance has led to contracts with Musica Viva to re-imagine their regional touring program and Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to work with several community festivals to improve their artistic direction. They are great steps forward on a deeply enriching path.

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Counter vilification and stereotype by getting to know the individual

1-khaled-sabsabi-majority-minorityWhat can we as individuals do if we don’t accept the torrent of vitriol, racial abuse and false information currently swirling around us? Quite a lot, really, if we are prepared to be steadfast, patient and respectful. Artists and arts activists in western Sydney have been travelling this path for many years. Through their art forms they have offered insights into what it’s like to belong to one or several different cultures and how that may find individual expression through their personal experience. As artists reveal aspects of their lives, we witness vulnerability, a search for the infinite, for meaning and understanding. Insights may challenge assumptions about each other and leave audiences and participants more open to new ideas and understandings.

Khaled Sabsabi is a western Sydney artist, who was awarded the inaugural Western Sydney Arts Fellowship in 2016.  He migrated from Lebanon with his parents as a 12 year old in 1978 as a result of civil war, and settled in western Sydney. His personal experiences of conflict and dislocation in Lebanon and then in his adopted homeland of Australia, led him into deep social engagement. Independent curator and editor of Artist Profile, Kon Gouriotis wrote in 2014, “As a young artist, Sabsabi began experimenting with sound and poetry within the hip‐hop group COD (Count on Damage) in Granville NSW. He gradually moved to sound tracks for short and feature films, his last work was for Cedar Boys (2009). Yet it was to be media that eventually connected his sound and images . . .”

khaled-sabsabi-majority-minority-with-carmel-and-konFairfield City Museum and Gallery is currently hosting a solo exhibition of Khaled’s work, Majority/Minority, which Kon  officially opened in January. It encompasses three works which reflect on the complexities of migrant experience in western Sydney and the way in which minorities have gradually become the majority in areas like Fairfield. Kon, centre above, with gallery coordinator Carmel Aiello and Khaled Sabsadi. Top, is a still from Khaled’s two channel video Wonderland (2014), one of the three works in Majority/Minority.

In 2003 Khaled returned to Lebanon for the first time. He was profoundly affected by his exposure to the origins of his Islamic Sufi lineage. Kon considers that some of the Sufi teachings would have resonated deeply with Khaled, “especially an individual’s right to imagine the infinite”. It is generally understood that Sufism predates Islam and was connected to Zoroastrianism. Khaled uses the online name of peacefender and has worked extensively in detention centres, schools, prisons, refugeee and settlement camps. Among many awards, Khaled is a recipient of the Blake Art Prize, Helen Lempriere Travelling Art Scholarship and an Australia Council for the Arts Community Cultural Development Fellowship.

In the last year alone he has participated in group exhibitions in Yinchuan City, China; Blacktown Arts Centre, NSW; Artspace, New Zealand; and at Bait Al Shamsi, Sharjah, UAE.  Next Saturday, February 25, from 1pm to 3pm, Kon will be in conversation with Khaled at Fairfield Museum and Gallery. They will discuss Khaled’s exhibition Majority/Minority and some of his recent practice and reflect on the broader role of the arts and cultural sector in western Sydney. You are invited to attend and to participate with questions and discussion. RSVP to museumgallery@fairfieldcity.nsw.gov.au or call 9725 0190 by Thursday 23 February. Complimentary refreshments will be provided.

You don’t havejason-wing-within-arms-reach to look far in western Sydney for other examples of thought provoking work by artists of sometimes demonised minorities. Within Arms Reach was the poignant and haunting work, right, created by Jason Wing for The Native Institute, a 2013 exhibition at Blacktown Arts Centre. Jason is an artist of Aboriginal and Chinese descent, who was evoking the anguish of Aboriginal parents who camped outside the 19th century institute fence in the hope of catching a glimpse of their captive children.

wagana-woodford-academy-with-n-trust-0117Wagana Aboriginal Dancers from Katoomba, under the leadership of Wiradjuri descendant Jo Clancy, continue to explore traditional culture and create contemporary dance works. They are developing cultural knowledge and confidence among their young members and sharing their understanding with local and international audiences. Here they are at their first performance for 2017 at Woodford Academy, managed by the National Trust. Later this year, they will perform at the World Indigenous People’s Conference in Toronto, Canada.

The politically-charged marriage equality debate is the subject of a new dance performance at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. In Difference is a production of Form Dance Projects and Riverside in which leading dance artist Craig Bary in-difference-preparationhas drawn together a gifted artistic team. Here they are working on ideas and choreography, right, in preparation for a brief season, March 2 to 4, at 8pm.

“Marriage equality is a real issue for real people so we are making this work for them, and hope to make a significant contribution to the debate in the most creative and inspiring way,’ says Bary. ‘We will also bring the real life of the performers on stage to create a compelling, vulnerable and open environment for the audiences to connect with.”

We all have a need of connectedness, of belonging. Is there really any difference between the needs of a same sex couple and a heterosexual couple? In Difference promises a penetrating and poignant demonstration that dance can communicate important issues and make a social and political impact.

sydney-world-music-chamber-orchestra-rehearsalOther examples of work that defy the stereotypes and demonstrate the riches that come with experience of individual stories abound in western Sydney. Sydney Sacred Music Festival, now in its seventh year, is under the direction of musician Richard Petkovic. Over time, he has gradually assembled a whole range of highly trained musicians from many cultural and religious backgrounds, who are also frequently refugees. Their explorations of contemporary expressions of ancient traditions is continuous, where they share the transformative power of the sacred as distinct from the potential divisiveness of the religious.

1-dth-media-releaseWestern Sydney Literacy Movement – Sweatshop based at Western Sydney University, will launch associate director Peter Polites’ first novel, on March 5. Down the Hume is queer-ethnic Western Sydney noir, the first of its kind, and is published by Hachette, one of the biggest publishing companies in Australia.

Check out Natalie Wadwell’s latest blog post where she reflects on Resilience, it’s a cultural thing and promotes Jon Hawkes’ argument that culture should be the fourth pillar of sustainability. He proposed in 2001 that culture is not an additional policy or a strategy, but a framework through which we assess social, environmental and economic strategies. Natalie links this to her recent experience of a Resilient Sydney workshop.

National Theatre of Parramatta is just one more of many fine examples of companies that seek to defy stereotypes by presenting stories from diverse cultural communities. Still only in its second year, it has already met with great success.

Sacred music launch highlights Aboriginal spirit of country and inspires hope

1-IMG_4705I missed the opening event of the Sydney Sacred Music Festival, but by chance discovered unexpected beauty and symbolism. Owing to wet weather, The Gathering Ceremony at Marrong, featuring internationally acclaimed Aboriginal musician William Barton, was transferred from Marrong or Prospect Hill, to Pemulwuy Community Centre. I missed the message and arrived instead at the foot of the hill in Daruga Ave, Pemulwuy, at 2pm, last Friday, September 2. With no one in sight, the concert was clearly happening elsewhere. From the road, the view was of carefully landscaped bushland, polished steel and timber stairways, and signage including Burra – the Darug word for food – found in the bush around.

The hill is a central feature of the Cumberland Plains and the region of western Sydney. The sight was a revelation. The last time I had been on the hill was probably more than 20 years ago. The hillside was deeply scarred after years of mining for building and roadmaking materials, and battered old pine trees still formed a windbreak of sorts along the ridge line. At Worlds Collide, the Festival concert on the following night, others confirmed their only consciousness of public discussion about the hill was a pre-Bicentenary proposal in the 1980s for a giant flagpole on the hill – a symbol of white Australian triumphalism. In the 30 years since that time, a quiet revolution had been taking place with many participants, particularly members of then Holroyd Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee and local resident Jacqui Douglas, a descendant of the Malyankapa language group of western NSW.

1-IMG_4709Jacqui’s research of early documents had led her to question why the third colonial settlement of Portland Place, established at the base of Prospect Hill in 1791 appeared to have been abandoned in favour of Toongabbie, now officially recognised as the third white settlement in Australia. Holroyd Council commissioned historian Michael Flynn to undertake a formal study of Portland Place and the indigenous history of Holroyd. Three months after the establishment of the penal colony at Sydney Cove in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip set out with a party including Captain Llieutenant Watkin Tench to search for arable land for growing crops. On the fifth day, they arrived at what was soon known as Prospect Hill because of its fine vistas and dominant position in the landscape. Settlement followed but quickly met with Aboriginal resistance. Attacks and counter attacks were occurring elsewhere in the colony. In a chapter called War on the Cumberland Plain, in her award winning book The Colony: A History of Early Sydney, associate professor Grace Karskens details the complexities of relationships that were emerging between Aboriginal groups and white settlers throughout this period. There was no simple racial divide, but a network of sympathies and conflicts between and among Aboriginal and white groups across the plains. Outstanding among the Aboriginal resistance fighters was Bidgigal man, Penmulwuy from the Botany Bay area whose defiant exploits took him to many locations around Sydney. In 1802, despite previous remarkable escapes, Pemulwuy was killed.

1-IMG_4708Grace Karskens writes that in 1805, Governor King reintroduced the strategy that had successfully eliminated Pemulwuy. “A few days later, Aboriginal people of Prospect, Parramatta and the Cowpastures asked (the Reverend) Samuel Marsden to attend a conference ‘with a view to opening the way to reconciliation’. A complex dance of diplomacy and negotiation followed, brokered by Aboriginal women with the assistance of  Prospect settler, Jonathon (also called John) Kennedy, When Marsden arrived at the appointed place, the women told him that the men were in conference and would be calling on him when they were ready. And they did: . . .” Skirmishes in the area died down, though they continued elsewhere, particularly where white settlements had destroyed access to indigenous food sources.

The peace talks were held on May 3, 1805. On Monday, May 4, 2015, the 210th anniversary of the talks, Marrong Reserve was officially launched by the Mayor of Holroyd, Greg Cummings and Darug Elder, Aunty Sandra Lee. The commemorative plaque acknowledged the contribution of resources for the establishment of the reserve from Lend Lease and Boral Resources (NSW) Pty Limited. A Holroyd Council media release stated that “Marrong Reserve provides recreational, cultural and visual amenity to the residents of Pemulwuy and surrounding areas, and is named after the Aboriginal word for Prospect Hill because it follows the ridgeline. . . . The Reserve will be dedicated to Council by land owner, Boral Resources (NSW) Pty Limited and developer, Lend Lease after a maintenance period. The northern section of Marrong Reserve has been completed as Stage 1 with the expectation that Lend Lease will develop the southern portion as Stage 2.”

1-IMG_4704As I walked through the misty rain on Marrong, I heard and saw currawongs, kookaburras, crested pigeons and little finches. The surrounding scrub looked like a metaphor for the symbolic nature of the hill itself. Introduced plants like lantana threatened to overwhelm native shrubs, but other native grasses and trees flourished and hardenbergias were resplendent in purple spring flowers. Clearly there is a lot more planned for the reclamation and maintenance of Marrong/Prospect as a focal point for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal intercultural understanding and respect. Martha Jabour, cultural officer for the new Cumberland Council, which has absorbed much of the former Holroyd and Auburn Councils, writes that “the treatment of Marrong is very much about the work of our ATSI committee. Recent forums and programs have been effective in bringing  additional Aboriginal partners to the process.”

With so much progress in little more than 20 years, it’s encouraging to think that the hotly contested North Parramatta Heritage Precinct might yet emerge as another example of honest Australian story telling, self knowledge, education and cultural tourism. Advocates are heartened by the outstanding 10 year record of achievement of Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne as a model for their future. Click here to see the video highlighted by North Parramatta Resident Action Group president Suzette Meade.

1-img_1706I arrived at the Pemulwuy Community Centre, just as William Barton and his mother Aunty Delmae Barton finished their performance for The Gathering Ceremony. Their audience was clearly uplifted by the experience. Thanks to Martha Jabour for her photo. By good fortune, the artists were present at the following night’s Worlds Collide concert and improvised with musicians in the first piece to the delight of the crowd. Sydney Sacred Music Festival program continues Sydney wide until September 18.

More creative opportunities and events which smash conventions

1-Nazanin - exploring identity through calligraphy and ink drawingAdding to last week’s post about opportunities, here’s another valuable offering from Blacktown Arts Centre. With funding from Blacktown Council and the NSW Government, the centre is offering six Creative Residencies in 2017 in the following categories –

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Residency $5000
  • Pat Parker Memorial Residency $5000
  • Performing Arts Residency $5000
  • Performing Arts Space Residency
  • Visual Arts Studio Residency
  • Without Borders (Accessible Arts) Residency $5000.

The residencies offer space for the creation of new work and mentoring opportunities for the further development of existing creative projects. Blacktown Arts Centre is recognised for its exploration of dynamic, culturally diverse work that reflects Blacktown, its history and its communities. Above is one of this year’s resident artists Nazanin Marashian combining calligraphy and ink drawing in her exploration of identity. Nazanin came to Australia from Iran as a young child when her family fled the Iran/Iraq war in the early 1980s. A great deal of her art work is influenced by the lingering images of war torn houses and streets and the stories from relatives who remained in Iran. BNazanin - drawing first dayelow, left, is a work from her first day of residency – as she “got a few different ideas flowing.

Central to Blacktown Arts Centre’s program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities drawing on issues of local and global significance. A free workshop to assist applicants will be conducted by award-winning author and long-time writing coach Janet Fennell.

Writing for Small Grants & Opportunities 
Saturday, 13 August | 10am – 4pm | Blacktown Arts Centre
BOOK NOW

Another will be conducted by Patricia Adjei from Viscopy to answer questions relating to copyright, licensing, fair use and moral rights. Patricia will also explain the Resale Royalty Scheme in relation to your practice, and in particular for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Viscopy Licensing & Copyright Law 
Saturday, 20 August | 2pm – 4pm | Blacktown Arts Centre
BOOK NOW

Applications close Wednesday, 9 September 2016. Blacktown Arts Centre.

Among the people who have made a major contribution to Blacktown Arts Centre’s performing arts program and simultaneously benefited from the centre’s support is Richard Petkovic. Richard is the founder and director of Sydney Sacred Music Festival now in its sixth year. In the course of his musical and regional networking during the last 20 years, Richard has met many highly skilled musicians – many of whom arrived in Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra - 6 of 14 membersAustralia as refugees. Two years ago, they launched Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra which combined an eclectic mix of cultural music from Mongolia, East Turkistan, Vietnam, China, Mexico and Indigenous Australia to create new Australian music that explores different cultures, faiths and genres.

“Featuring some of the best ‘world’ musicians in Sydney, SWMCO melds classical strings, Dervish rhythms, Latin Samba and intimate melodies to smash conservative music conventions and create a dynamic journey that changes the internal chemistry of the listener,” Richard says. Now some of these musicians are collaborating with others and leading visual and multimedia artists to create the spectacular Worlds Collide event on Saturday, September 3, as part of this year’s Sydney Sacred Music Festival.

william+barton+sacred+musicThe festival will be formally launched with The Gathering Ceremony at Marrong, Friday, September 2, at 2pm  (Prospect Hill) Pemulwuy. Featuring in the ceremony will be internationally renowned didjeridoo player, William Barton.

Marrong (Prospect Hill), was a place of Darug ceremony for thousands of years and the highest landmass in the Sydney Basin. It was from Marrong that indigenous warrior, Pemulwuy, observed the approaching devastation of Aboriginal land and led the resistance against the expanding colony. The Gathering Ceremony will bring together the local Aboriginal community to relaunch Marrong as a significant place of culture for Aboriginal people – a place of spirit and a place of the Crow (Pemulwuy’s totem).

The event kicks off a program that will continue until September 18 and incorporate a wide range of musical events in venues from Mona Vale to Campbelltown, Sydney CBD to the Blue Mountains. Program and bookings.

From Powerhouse Youth Theatre (PYT) comes this urgent invitation –

PYT - Tribunal 2016Don’t miss out — TRIBUNAL is selling fast!

Join Powerhouse Youth Theatre (PYT), Griffin Theatre Company and some of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists and cultural leaders to tell the parallel stories of Indigenous Australia and our treatment of newly arrived refugees in a performed conversation at the SBW Stables Theatre from August 12 to 20. LISTEN HERE to the cast talk to ABC Radio National about TRIBUNAL

TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW and are selling quickly. Book online HERE to avoid disappointment.

Flight from despair to hope, opportunity and creative engagement

UNHCR - RefugeesAccording to a report released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) last month, wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since UNHCR records began more than 65 years ago. The report, entitled Global Trends, found a total 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier.

Large numbers of people have fled Afghanistan and Somalia in recent decades and more recently, countries like Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine and Central America. Settlement solutions are becoming harder to find as countries close borders against an influx of distressed people and there is little sign of regional cooperation between countries that might receive refugees. Worldwide, Turkey is the biggest host country, with 2.5 million refugees. With nearly one refugee for every five citizens, Lebanon hosts more refugees compared to its population than any other country. In 2015 children made up 51 per cent of the world’s refugees. Many were separated from their parents or travelling alone.

Blog - PPM book coverAll too often fear is the constant companion of refugees until they find respite. Now, with increasing frequency, fear has taken hold of people in countries that might offer protection – fear of terrorism, fear of losing jobs to refugees, fear of strained health, housing and education resources, a loss of law and order. Australia swings between cycles of fear and cycles of generosity. Our constitution for the founding of Australia as a federation of states in 1901 was influenced by fear of foreigners and totally ignored Aboriginal people. It still has the racist statement that the Commonwealth has the power “to regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races . . .” Two years later, the White Australia Policy was a direct outcome. By contrast, multiculturalism as a concept was introduced during the years of the Whitlam Government in the early 1970s. Under the following government of Malcolm Fraser, Australia opened its doors to Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers, including those who arrived by boat. Associated stories appear in my book Passion Purpose Meaning – Arts Activism in Western Sydney and in this blog. They demonstrate repeatedly just how many migrants and refugees have gone on to become outstanding arts practitioners and community leaders. Research also shows that the economic costs of accepting migrants and refugees is far outweighed by the value of their ultimate contribution to society.

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) is conducting a two day forum on Friday and Saturday, August 19 and 20 to explore the relationship between refugees and the arts. “Open to artists, performers, art therapists, educators, researchers, art workers and creative producers, the Arts and Refugees Forum also welcomes humanitarian and community development workers to share their experiences and discuss various aspects of artistic practice by, with and about refugees.” It is a free event that will provide a platform for greater networking and development opportunities. The forum will take place against a background of photo-media and video works made by local Sydney-based artists who are former refugees, current asylum seekers and first generation Australians whose families fled war to settle here.

CPAC - refugees - curiousworksBeyond Refuge: Citizens has been assembled by CuriousWorks, which describes it as “an exhibition that asserts the beautiful and fundamental rights of every human being to freedom and peace. It is also a cry to those who have lost their freedom, through the structures and exertions of power.” Image above: Soheil Ettehadolhagh, “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”  –  Báha’u’lláh universal peace, 2016. Photograph.

Both the forum and the exhibition take place in the context of a major exhibition, Refugees which brings together works by 22 world-renowned artists who share a refugee background. Important works by these high profile artists have never before been seen in western Sydney. The artists are Khadim Ali, Frank Auerbach, Christian Boltanski, Yosl Bergner, Judy Cassab, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Lucian Freud, Mona Hatoum, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Guo Jian, Anish Kapoor, Inge King, Dinh Q. Lê, Nalini Malani, Helmut Newton, Yoko Ono, Aida Tomescu, Danila Vassilieff, Ai Wei Wei, Ah Xian and Anne Zahalka.

CPAC is located in one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in Australia, with 40% of the population born overseas and over 150 languages spoken. The arts centre sees the exhibition as an opportunity for advocacy and empowerment of refugees in the local area, as a key to creating social change.

In the meantime, a yoHelen Boris - shards-life-poems-ung woman who arrived as a displaced person from Ukraine in 1949 and later settled with her husband in Seven Hills, is about to launch her first commercially published book. Helen Boris had her university studies in Kiev interrupted by the Soviet occupation and the Second World War and was never able to complete them. Despite the upheavals of terror under dictatorship and the death of family and friends, Helen never lost her love for literature and writing and her interest in sharing it with others. From her earliest days in Australia, she wrote poetry in English and her native Ukrainian. She became active in local chapters of organisations like the Fellowship of Australian Writers, conducted workshops with others like Ann Stewart Galwey to support local writers and helped their community publication. Next Saturday, at the age of 96, in frail health, but of very clear mind and with the support of the Ukrainian ambassador, she will launch her book of poems Shards of Life. You are invited to join them at the Ukrainian Hall, 59 – 63 Joseph St, Lidcombe, at 1pm. Shards of Life is a selection of Helen’s English language verse, through which she shares some fragments of her story, the “shards of her life”.

And thenSyd Sacred Music Fest 16 - Worlds Collide there’s Sydney Sacred Music Festival, now in its sixth year under the leadership of founder and director, Richard Petkovic. This year it begins on Friday, September 2 and continues across locations from Mona Vale to Campbelltown, Sydney CBD to the Blue Mountains, until Sunday, September 18. In the course of two decades, Richard has identified and come to know an extraordinary range of highly professional musicians, from many different cultures and faiths. Many were living in western Sydney following their escape from war torn countries. They have been working together with wonderfully enriching results.

This year, they will present a live multimedia performance of contemporary world and electronic dance music at Wentworth Street carpark in Parramatta’s CBD, on Saturday night, September 3 – Worlds Collide – Eight Storeys High, Seven Cultures, One Amazing New Sound. The rooftop, they say, “will be transformed into an artistic wonderland, featuring art installations by Khaled Sabasabi, Marian Abood and Ghasan Saaid, video projections, interactive dance workshops and the world premiere of the Arts NSW funded, Worlds Collide ensemble. Worlds Collide brings together the best world musicians in Sydney, photo above, and fuses the South Asian Underground beats of Coco Varma’s ‘Sitar Funk’, the acoustic world fusion of the Shohrat Tursun Trio; Latin music legend Victor Valdes; soaring vocals of Blue Mary’s Maria Mitar and the hip hop rhymes of Mt Druitt’s Esky the Emcee, all under the direction of music producer and composer Richard Petkovic (Cultural Arts Collective).”

Program details and bookings.

The fight for federal arts funding intensifies, even as new programs emerge

Art Changes Lives - June 2016

 

 

A National Day of Action begins today with demonstrations by artists and the arts community against drastic funding cuts. On May 13 this year, 50% of small
to medium arts companies did not receive funding as a result of the government’s
cuts to the Australia Council. These cuts will result in job losses and will have flow on effects across cultural industries, educational institutions and the commercial sector. The arts employ more people than agriculture, construction or mining and the creative industries generate $50 billion for the Australian economy. Independent artists and organisations are the backbone of arts in Australia, generating new ideas and new talent.
Artists are the innovators of our nation.

Rosie Dennis, artistic director of Urban Theatre Projects, based in Bankstown says, “Join us at 12.30pm outside Bankstown train station to show your support. Follow #Istandforthearts and join in, wherever you are. Now more than ever is the time to hold onto our democratic right and freedom to speak out and protest, and let our leaders know that we want to see and hear great stories, told by talented artists, that are connected to the country, the city, the suburb, that we call home.”

UTP - One Day for Peace - 2The National Day of Action launches a two week campaign highlighting the importance of the arts in the lead-up to the federal election on July 2. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Association for the Visual Arts will be asking visitors today to tell politicians about why the arts are important in their own lives. Theatre companies are taking similar actions with their audiences. Rosie Dennis says, “Increasingly the arts are disappearing from our daily lives and are almost always under-valued as a career path. Yet it’s one of the most valuable industries we have in terms of reminding us of our humanity.” Above, is an image from UTP’s 2015 film One Day for Peace, which featured members of many different faiths in western Sydney and was shown to a range of audiences across the region in September. One Day For Peace will feature on ABC’s Compass program in August this year.

Family Portraits - Joanne SaadFederal funding has been vital to the success of UTP programs, which work closely with communities in western Sydney and regions across NSW to highlight the experiences of many different cultural groups and offer them the opportunity for deeper understanding and sharing common ground. Left, is an image from Bankstown Live, UTP’s four day event in last year’s Sydney Festival.

Organisers urge –

→ Get on social media and post about your support with #istandwiththearts
and #ausvotesarts
→ Write a letter of support for the arts to your local member (or email)
→ Write to the Arts Minister Hon. Mitch Fifield www.mitchfifield.com/contact.aspx
→ Vote for the candidates with the best arts policies on July 2

Rosie Dennis says, “I urge you to have a conversation with your neighbours, your local school, the people you work with, your friends, your family about the value and importance of the arts – theatre, film, dance, literature, visual arts. And not the Hollywood blockbusters, or the big names that play at the top end of town, but the little guys, like us, here at UTP, who reach out to a broad range of people and see the impact that our work has on people’s daily lives.”

Blacktown Arts Centre 1In the meantime, state government funding through Arts NSW has allowed the development and launch of a new program for young Aboriginal people Solid Ground 2016. A new partnership between Carriageworks in inner city Redfern and Blacktown Arts Centre, right, Solid Ground 2016 is a new three-year strategy that will provide pathways for young Indigenous people in NSW into the arts and cultural industries. Solid Ground will create designed tertiary education and on the job training programs for 90 young Indigenous people from across Redfern, Waterloo and Blacktown. It has been a long time in preparation and aims to give young indigenous people meaningful connection with school and rewarding pathways for their own futures.

Sydney Sacred Music Fest 16 - headlineState funding is also assisting the 2016 Sydney Sacred Music Festival, now in its sixth year, scheduled for September 2 to 18 throughout Sydney. Their first major fundraising event presents a great line-up of Sydney’s best world music performers at Camelot Lounge, Marrickville, July 3, 6.30pm for 7.30pm show. Festival founder and director Richard Petkovic, of western Sydney, promises a night of “the authentic, the fusion and the future in world music!”  Tickets and information – click here.

In the meantime, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre has opened bookings for its Way Out West Festival for Children program. An annual event funded by Liverpool City Council, the children’s festival is Sydney’s only free contemporary arts festival for children and will run from July 13 to 16. It’s an extensive and varied program promising lots of fun and which has also been assisted by state funding. Although free, bookings are essential.

Inspired initiatives from western Sydney attract engagement across Sydney

1-Augusta SuppleAugusta Supple is responsible for Strategic Initiatives – Western Sydney at Arts NSW and a passionate advocate for the region. A theatre director, producer and writer with national and international experience, she says, “Western Sydney is the most exciting region in Australia – diverse in its landscape, arts and cultural activity – home to a tenth of Australia’s population, third highest region contributing to Australia’s GDP. Western Sydney is the innovative, distinctive, unique crucible of community engagement and internationally connected artists.”

She was pleased when last week Richard Watts reported in Arts Hub  that, ” An increased flow of works and ideas between cultural organisations in Sydney’s east and west is helping to unify the once-divided NSW capital.” Arts Hub is an extensive online membership service and publication for the Australian arts community. The headline signalled a change slowly becoming more apparent, “Eastern suburbs provide audience for the West.”

1-jump first ask laterRichard Watts talked with Powerhouse Youth Theatre director Kaz Therese about last year’s production of Jump First – Ask Later at Fairfield. The production was created by six young members of Dauntless Movement Crew (DMC), directed and choreographed by Byron Perry.  It tours to Sydney and Melbourne later this year. It will be in The Studio at Sydney Opera House from September 22 to October 2, preceded by two days of creative learning for school students, Years 3 to 12. Photo by Alex Wisser.

The four member directorate of the new National Theatre of Parramatta are themselves representative of east and west. After their challenging first production last month, Swallow by Stef Smith, directed by Kate Champion, Augusta reflected on the role of theatre in society. “. . . Theatre serves many purposes. To impart information, to entertain, to inspire action or compassion in one’s own life. It also helps define identities, create community and asks people to be present, with each other – which in a bombarding world of curled spines and thumbs tapping on screens seems to be more and more of a big ask – or an oasis, depending on how you choose to look at it.”

NToP isNToP - Imogen Ross - Stolen well into preparation for their next production Stolen by Jane Harrison directed by Vicki Van Hout, 2-17 June at Riverside TheatresStolen tells the stories of five individuals from the Stolen generation. A reading this week launched their Backstage Pass program, a partnership with UTS: University of Technology Sydney which provides an opportunity for high school students to meet with the cast and creative team, and get an industry glimpse into the creative process.  Stolen set and costume designer Imogen Ross, above left, unveils her design concepts.

Another leading initiative from western Sydney is the Sydney Sacred Music Festival, already in its sixth year and under the direction of founder Richard Petkovic. Save the date!! It seems a long way ahead, but July 3, at 6pm, Camelot Lounge, Marrickville, will be here before you know it. Sydney Sacred Music Festival is promising a wonderful night of music to raise funds for their 2016 festival, from September 3 to 18. The Festival Fund Raiser – will feature Latin music legend Victor Valdes and many more artists to Syd Sacred Music Fest 16 - Friendsbe announced. The photo above is of the recently formed Friends of Sydney Sacred Music Festival, who were meeting for the first time at an Afternoon Tea on the Silk Road. They are planning a colourful market stall at Addison Road, Marrickville, markets, June 5, and will help out at Camelot Lounge, July 3. They welcome new members, too. Read the festival’s latest newsletter and make contact.

1-Aanisa Vylet - The GirlYet another extraordinary talent from western Sydney is Aanisa Vylet.  Drawing on her own life experience, Aanisa created The Girl over many years, which met with great success at its premiere production at this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival. Now she is bringing it to Leichhardt Town Hall, May 27, at 8pm. Catch it if you can – an amazing experience! Maybe you can get there straight after Natalie Wadwell’s all day forum We Run This: A Conversation with Australia’s Independent Arts Sector, as part of Vivid Sydney. It’s worth a try.

And finally, there is a unique offering from North Parramatta Residents Action Group – NPRAG. They are presenting the premiere screening of Zu Neuen Ufern – To New Shores at the Riverside Theatres on Sunday, May 22, at 2pm. It’s a rare black and white German musical drama from 1937 with subtitles. Set in London it tells the story of a woman sent to the Parramatta Female Factory after taking the rap for her fiancés forgery crime. (He’s a cad and ultimately gets his comeuppance!)

NPRAG - German film 1Like a plot from a Coen Brothers movie, the making of Third Reich era German film Zu neuen Ufern (To New Shores) is quite a story in itself. Produced by German film studios in 1937, the film was nominated Best Foreign Film at the 1937 Venice Film Festival. Swedish actress Zarah Leander is Gloria, who must now endure the consequences of her wrongful seven year sentencing to the colonies. Filled with betrayal, heartbreak and perseverance, the film embodies the struggle of many women inside the walls of the Parramatta Female Factory. Join NPRAG.org, Professor Carol Liston (Western Sydney University) and James Findlay (University of Sydney) for a talk and screening of this fascinating collision of Parramatta’s colonial past and Germany’s pre-war cultural machine. The film highlights the importance of Parramatta Female Factory’s application for National Heritage Listing and assists with fundraising for the campaign.