Whole Lot of Hart
In thirteen years with Queensland Music Festival, for Executive Program Producer Erica Hart, the most memorable events are often the quirky ones. A former librarian, she recalls sleeping on the floor of a library on Saibai Island, having spent her flight searching through the Perspex wall of the customs plane for crocodiles. It’s an anecdote that perfectly illustrates both the spirit of Queensland Music Festival, and the staggering geographic reach of twenty years of community programming. From Mount Isa to Cooktown and the Torres Strait Islands, Erica has been instrumental in implementing many of these events, and describes their impact proudly.
One 2011 performance featuring Sarah Blasko and chamber music collective the Kurrawong Ensemble moved people to tears when the set was delivered; the Musical Ship, a now permanent piece of public art in Cooktown, built and transported from Maleny. ‘I remember the Mayor saying “I was a bit dubious, I’m more of a Sound of Music kind of guy,’ Erica says, smiling. ‘But at the end he found it quintessentially Cooktown.’
Erica’s tenure at Queensland Music Festival has included several years as the Director of Programming, and having worked with four different Artistic Directors, she has seen the organisation evolve from humble beginnings to where it is today. One of the most satisfying things about this for Erica is watching events transition into the custody of communities, with programs like the Yarrabah Music and Cultural Festival poised to entertain generations of music-lovers for years to come.
Nominated last year for the Industry Observer’s Impact Award for services to Australian music, 2019 will be Erica’s last year with Queensland Music Festival. Some of her final projects include Opera at Jimbour, Mission Songs Project and The Mount Isa Blast, a line-up which showcases her dynamic, community-centred approach to producing.
“I think the memory stays on quite a long time,” she says. “Wherever we’ve worked, we always maintain a connection with some of the people, even years later. One of my choir members used to send me photographs of fish that she caught,” she adds, laughing.
Talking with Erica, it’s easy to see the joy created by these events. Not only do they allow people to experience the highest calibre of musical performance well outside of our coastal metropolitan cities; they also allow communities to connect in ways they might not have otherwise. Whether it be through dancing tug boats in the Port of Gladstone; or performances like Behind the Cane in Bowen, that retell important stories from Australia’s colonial past; it’s clear Erica’s work for Queensland Music Festival has made a lasting impression on people from all over Queensland.
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