“THE show will go on,” the organisers of the Gunning Arts Festival are saying as they prepare for their second virtual festival in a row.
The event will take place over the weekend of October 30-31 as a celebration of arts in the region, with wind farm business BJCE Australia, Bailey’s Garage, the Upper Lachlan Foundation and the Upper Lachlan Shire Council joining in as sponsors.
The project has also received a grant from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal via its Tackling Tough Times Together program.
One of the more striking events on offer involves former “CityNews” Artist of the Year, Elizabeth Dalman, holding a “virtual lunch” on October 30, noon-1pm, for which patrons are invited to “pour yourself a glass of prosecco, prepare a cheese board”.
Dalman, apart from being one of Australia’s most significant dancers, is a leading light in regional arts, having founded Mirramu Arts Centre and the Weereewa Arts Festival on the shores of Lake George area, where she lives.
A little bemused, she says: “It’s all very strange for me, but I’ve got to go with it… I’m pre-kindergarten when it comes to computer technology.”
The conversation with arts writer and broadcaster Barbie Robinson will cover her dance work in nature and, happily to her, it will be pre-recorded.
If things had gone differently, right now she’d have been creating a new dance work for Liz Lea’s planned BOLD festival of dance and presenting at the opening ceremony.
But, though now double-vaccinated, Dalman is seeing the pandemic through on her own at Mirramu, but is blessed with good neighbours and can shop in Bungendore where everybody’s wearing masks, so as she says: “It’s not too bad, because I just love being in nature.“
She’ll have plenty to talk about at the Gunning lunch.
“I want to talk about how I’ve always been inspired by nature since coming to Mirramu… The reason I wanted to live on a property was that I needed to be close to nature just as much as I needed my dance and living here has taught me so much, not only about theatre work but also about site-specific work, which I began in 1992.”
Dalman has regularly staged outdoor events, sometimes on the cracked, dry lake bed, sometimes with water lapping at our ankles and, as with her 2019-2020 performance, “SO – in Search of Sophia”, in the thick of the bushfires.
“I’ll talk about what I’ve done and the difference between producing dance in the natural environment and doing it for a theatre,” she says.
“I initiated the Weereewa arts festival in 1999 and we closed down in 2014, quite a long stretch I think, so I’m really excited that the village of Gunning has taken up a festival of the arts and thrilled to be part of it.”
Gunning has been forging ahead as more than a dot on the highway since artist-actor Max Cullen and his partner, the painter Margarita Georgiadis, bought the old Picture House and turned it into a gallery and performance space.
Cullen, now the festival patron, says the committee is building on the experience gained last year.
Three events are already open for booking at gunningartsfestival.com with all other events scheduled to launch on October 30.
Those now open are the Dalman lunch, the Picture House Art Prize and People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Derivan and run by Cullen and Georgiadis, to which entries close on October 27, and an interactive live embroidery and weaving workshop at Hold Cottage on October 31. Participants will be sent everything needed beforehand by mail, then can create a work of art in a Zoom group with live feedback from tutors led by artist Clare Mazitelli.
On October 30, after a welcome to country by Aboriginal elder Joel Bulger and opening by Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman, the festival swings into action.
Musician Gyan, joined by her multi-instrumentalist partner Si Greaves, friend guitarist Tim Gaze, Tara-Lee Byrne on cello, Lloyd Swanton on double bass and violinist Veronique Serret will perform virtually.
In a follow-up to last year’s festival, rehearsed readings of “At Dusk”, “Thomas”, “Penny Dreadful” and “Drought,” written by Gunning region playwriting pioneer Millicent Armstrong, produced by Music Theatre Projects and recorded at the Picture House Gallery, will be performed by actors Chris Carroll, Heather Keens, Holly Ross and Dianna Nixon.
In the “SnapWrite” Facebook group, locals will post picture-stories capturing life in the region, a selected sample of which is made available on the Gunning Arts Festival website.
“STA kids,” hosted by Southern Tablelands Arts will reveal self-led activities, art classes, holiday activities and things to explore around the region.
There will also be the “Whimsical Wares” workshops and an exhibition of the best trail camera photographs from Gunning District Landcare’s Trail Camera Competition.
Not all, but most of it will be free, Georgiadis says.
Gunning Arts Festival, October 30-31 at gunningartsfestival.com
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