Arts Revival Granted

Monday 4 January 2021

Bushfires came to Tenterfield early in 2019, decimating national parks, and then returned in September to destroy homes and businesses, and take lives. The region had long been suffering from drought, and now the fires, which continued to year’s end, were devastating the economy.

Hard-hit sectors included tourism and the performing arts, both of which had been flourishing – and not just due to the town’s connection with Peter (The Tenterfield Saddler) Allen, in whose memory a festival is held each September.

“This is a great arts and crafts community,” says performer and film maker Peter Harris.

“We have a host of talented musos, actors, dancers, videomakers etc, and a great performance space in the Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts“.

In January, as the fires died down, the COVID-19 scare began, causing Tenterfield’s performing arts scene to close down, as happened throughout Australia.

“Performance art is unsteady work at the best of times,” Peter points out, “but when people can’t share their work with live audiences they start to lose confidence. The broader community suffers through no longer sharing the joys of performance.

“This can have a real impact on collective wellbeing.”

The local arts scene is now on the road to recovery, thanks to $15,280 funding from the Vinnies NSW Community Bushfire Grants program, to purchase video and sound equipment to film and record a series of performances by diverse local talent over the coming weeks and months.

On stage at the historical Council-owned theatre will be musicians of all styles, from cabaret to classical, dancers, poets, high-schoolers doing Shakespeare and stand-up comics. At least one performance will be outdoors – members of the Moombahlene Local Aboriginal Land Council will be filmed doing traditional dance and playing didge in a bush setting. All performances will be uploaded to YouTube from mid-January 2021 and offered to viewers free of charge.

As part of the process Peter’s team is running free tutorials for interested locals, developing a core group with multimedia skills who can mentor others. Direct beneficiaries of the project number at least 22. The whole community will also benefit, not least the hospitality and tourism industries.

Skills taught will include photo editing, filming techniques, lighting, editing video for online/TV/Cinema, audio recording, multi-track studio recording and mixing, plus live performance technology. Participants will be able to watch live editing of the performances on a big screen. These workshops will run over the holidays to enable attendance by young people.

Active in the grant process was St Vincent de Paul Society’s Mary Mother of the Church Conference in Tenterfield. Members say they are delighted to see Bushfire Appeal funds helping the town’s performers provide joy to the community.