Where the Treasure Lies by Marguerite Pepper
My journey with Queensland Music Festival began in 2005 when I was appointed by Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini, as Supervising Producer, with the brief to mentor the staff and develop their producing skills. My first adventure in regional Queensland was with Cooktown Corroboree (Cooktown) and Bob Cat Dancing (Mount Isa). Other projects with communities included Charters Towers The Musical (Charters Towers), The Greatest Show on Earth (Longreach), The Road We’re On (Charleville), Behind The Cane (Bowen), Boomtown (Gladstone) and The Power Within (the Isaac region).
All of the projects mentioned were based upon the unearthing of inspiring stories. They brought together sometimes surprising elements in unusual locations, while honouring the communities that had shared their experiences of place with the Queensland Music Festival team.
In each of these community cultural development projects, collaboration was the key. Queensland Music Festival brought together various teams of extraordinarly creative and generous arts workers who fully immersed themselves in the productions.
Our approach was to build trust in order to creatively break down barriers and achieve the impossible - choreographing a tug boat ballet on Gladstone Harbour, creating a BMX track on the main road out of town in Charleville, or harnessing a large group of trick horse riders in Longreach. The tug boat pilots, BMX trick riders and horse riders proved that everyone has artistic potential and were celebrated along with actors, singers, dancers, choirs and musical ensembles and local production personnel. Many of our participants took the opportunity to grow their craft and subsequently moved onto professional careers in the arts. Others have taken up the reins and produced their own shows or continued to manage local choirs.
There were many stakeholders involved behind the scenes, ranging from State and Federal Government to Regional Councils, to corporate and philanthropic sponsorships. Without them we could not have delivered our artistic vision and we are very grateful for their contributions.
Living and working in regional Queensland is often a challenge. The elements, the isolation and the lack of services that many city dwellers take for granted, serve to make these populations resilient and strong. Uncovering their stories in the various projects helped to unite and empower and often encouraged locals to reconsider the values and specialness of their community, thereby engendering new respect and greater reason to remain.
The process in regional communities of research, writing and then ‘mining’ local resources to embrace all available musical ability is unique. Drawing on history (sometimes long forgotten) and placing this within a contemporary context has been at our core. I believe in this process and consider it more important than the final production as what we discover during this development time is the real legacy. This is where empowerment begins and the treasure lies: where our amazing local collaborators take ownership and begin to steer the ship.
I have been privileged to spearhead many of the major community cultural development events Queensland Music Festival has produced over the past 20 years. This process of music theatre making, commissioned and delivered with high production values and a professional team of advisors has been greatly enriching to those involved. To finish with a metaphor, the process is like alchemy in that out of raw material we have been deeply privileged to find deep veins of gold. And what a beautiful experience …!
For more 20th Anniversary stories click here.