GUEST BLOGGER: ROWAN McDONALD
A Volunteer’s Perspective…
A sense of cultural humidity is palpable down at FraserStudios; a build up for the creative monsoon to come. Performers are arriving, lighting plots developing, preproduction briefings unfolding, artist tours elaborating and excellent people vibing together on the enriching events at hand. The bread and beers have been broken; now the fortnight that is Underbelly Arts is underway.
BUMP IN DAY 1
First things first: formalities. These are the in-depth induction sessions covering all elements of Occupational Health and Safety, Operational Access and Introduction; the sort of thing ensuring everyone can do their hoodoo with ease and confidence in the various spaces available across the laneways of upper Chippendale. It’s a serious undertaking to bring one hundred odd artists into the one place; but worth the slightly laborious necessity of going over what, when and how to do (or not to do) what creative pursuit one might be bringing to the party. And what a variety there is: physical theatre, burlesque, dance, spoken word, visual art, sculpture, film, video, digital media and music all barrelled into the one massive Arts Lab – it’s no wonder the people behind it all are intent on keeping things running smoothly. As an artist or volunteer coming in, the scale is a little daunting; but more than reassuring to know they’ve got the important things covered, like people’s safety and stuff. OH&S is a pretty big deal these days with insurance and so forth, and mostly it relies on common sense. Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, but for peace of mind alone, it pays to be thorough.
BUMP IN DAY 2
With such a range of people coming in and out of the main space to get settled in, it’s kind of hard to get your head around the scope of it all. Right now it’s a combination of paints being mixed, quiet conversations in corner between poets and sound designers, sewing machines whirring and broad stroke logistics being mulled over – but in the coming days it’s the real deal. Rehearsals, tough choices and the ultimate demands of the festival deadline: merely days away should bring the talents to the fore. There’s nothing like a bit of pressure to get the juices running. That’s very much the point – it’s creative process happening while you watch. I feel a little privileged to get some behind-the-scenes access to the development process. The progress of the production is open at certain times for various public viewings each day. I can’t wait to get a sense of who and what we’re in for…
BUMP IN DAY 3
It’s pretty big, spanning one or two city blocks, but the artists’ tour on Wednesday night put things into perspective. There are half a dozen spaces housing the various performances of site specific, pop up theatre, poetry and conceptual works going on in house. There are shared spaces, with a variety of rigs, installations and performance related art. It’s hard to capture every different creative venture but the folks involved demonstrated the passion and ideas that brought them here, together, for this event. Some are developed ideas, others are planted seeds about to bloom, there are works in progress and hands-on research projects. The tour took us across the spectrum and it’s a fascinating thing to hear people articulate their visions; knowing that most of us are seeing these spaces for the first time and the works will be up and running in just over a week.
Public tours begin tomorrow and are running at regular times throughout the week; so it’s really worth coming in and seeing how this unfolds. A rare chance to unpack the mysteries of creative practise, if you will. Check The Lab page for tour schedules and drop in!