Arts / ‘Detonate’ festival aims to go off with a bang

“DETONATE” is the name chosen for Belconnen Arts Centre’s coming celebration of the International Day of People with Disability and it suggests an incendiary approach to art-making, as experienced and emerging talents come together in the name of art.

A three-day, mini festival focused on “engaging and experimenting”, “Detonate” will feature a concert by musicians from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, “Peter and the Wolf” narrated by Duncan Driver with puppetry by Marianne Mettes, songs from blind artist Mpofu Namba and Canberra’s the Alchemy Chorus, and screenings of films including “This Machine Is Not Me, the IGNITE: Creatives story” and Meryl Tankard’s film “Michelle’s Story”, which traces the experience of her former leading dancer Michelle Ryan as she struggled with multiple sclerosis.

Liz Lea, left, and Katie Senior. Photo by Emma Dykes

Although the centre has been at the forefront in the “arts and well-being” movement, its creative program officer Ann McMahon tells “CityNews” that the real aim is to: “Allow people to engage in something wonderful… treating them as patients is a mistake, we see it as a case of the arts lifting people’s spirits”.

A part of that aim will be a significant exhibition in the foyer of the centre where artists who have been working in its Alternative Arts Academy with Naomi Zouwer, Mariana del Castillo, Sean Davey and Barb Mickelson, will show the “many threads of their practice”.

Dance will be centrestage of the Day of People with Disability itself, Sunday, December 3. Artists Katie Senior and Liz Lea will revive a production created through the centre’s “IGNITE: creatives” program that involved arts projects in dance, design, ceramics, photography, writing, and video where established creative artists worked with emerging artists with disabilities. Senior has been dancing and acting since age five and represents Australia as a Paralympic swimmer. She has choreographed and performed two solos, “All for One” and “In the Corner Where the Shadows Meet”. A 22-year-old with Down Syndrome, she had a lead role in Genevieve Clay’s film “Beautiful,” produced in Canberra.

Friendships like that between Senior and Lea have flourished under the centre’s “IGNITE: creatives” and another creative program officer, Philip Piggin, points out that the idea is to “position artists with disabilities within the mainstream”. Whether for more senior dancers in the Gold team, or people living with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, the openness of programs to people of all abilities is important to the integrity of what they’re doing.

Creative program director at the centre, Monika McInerney is quite sure that “Detonate” will be “a weekend of inspiration.”

“Detonate,” at Belconnen Arts Centre, 118 Emu Bank, Belconnen, December 1-3, program details at

Highlights include:

  • Free community concert by Canberra Symphony Orchestra, 6pm, Friday, December 1.
  • Mini-workshops in felting, fibrework, drawing and collage, artisan stalls, performances and films, 11am-4pm, Saturday, December 2.
  • Open dance workshop, forum on dance and wellbeing, dance performances by CDTeens, The GOLDs, Canberra Dance Theatre, Vivacity, Off Beat Xtreme Stars, Dream Team and collaborators Liz Lea and Katie Senior, 11am to 4pm, Sunday, December 3.



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Helen Musa
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