Five years on from Cyclone Yasi, and I am about to launch a kickstarter for a book of poetry Magic Fish Dreamingfor children and family celebrating the very area the cyclone made a huge impact on, the Cassowary Coast.
Two of my children are in senior school, one is going into second year.
We all live in Brisbane now, and are really starting to feel like part of the Brisbane community. My husband is still a science teacher but at a different highschool.
We ask after our friends in Tully, but many are down here as students now, and many have moved away.
The one thing that will always unite us is the shared experience of the night and the recovery process and the unspoken realisation that you must always actively care for your family, before, during and after such events.
Sadly some of the families and couples we knew, and many businesses in the local area, did not stay together, but nevertheless those involved have found strength to move on with their lives and rebuild.
May they find peace and happiness, and for all those who were able to give others strength and keep your family, farms and businesses together, good on you.
Although it is true nobody died as a direct result of the cyclone, the untold story of anyone going through a natural disaster is the social and economic impact made on their lives afterwards by such events. Australia is very blessed to have many charity and emergency services as well as funds from governments put towards this recovery process.
Such events challenge people to consider what the real priorities in their life are, and for some, like one dear friend I know currently doing a lot of work in the Philippines, they rise to another level of courage and strength to empower others.
I will always remember the Cassowary Coastal community, its peoples, and natural environment with the greatest affection and happiness.
One of the small rituals of our family’s life is bath time for our champion guinea pig crew; champion because they survived Cyclone Yasi as calm as could be. Animals amaze me with their resilience.
Before bath time with – Soot, Calico, Chocolate and Misty – the children make them a warm, comfy and portable home – a plastic tub generously equipped with pet towels.
They lay out pet towels for afterwards – ready to dry and warm them.
Their cage is normally cleaned by the children not involved in the bathing, so they can return there when the whole operation is finished, newly washed, lovely to smell, and glossy. They rotate this less enjoyable task because it can get mighty smelly in the cage.
The children have made bath time a precision operation, littered with a huge number of comforting cuddles, as not all the guinea pigs like water. Misty needs the least amount of cuddles because he loves bath time. He still receives plenty!
There are three main stages to the bathing phase; stage one – place the crew in a box with carrots, their favourite food. There they wait to be washed.
Stage two – a patient child gives each one a dip in the low run bath (most often my daughter or our eldest), and then lastly one by one they go into the warming area to wait for their other guinea pig chums.
Once all the guinea pigs are together the children swaddle them for a while in towels to warm them, and then take the time to cuddle and chat with each one of them. They take great joy in the guinea pigs hiding in the towels.
Then there is a thorough clean of the bath – for the humans who must follow the guinea pigs to use it.
But Soot, Calico, Chocolate and Misty won’t make it back to their cage for a while, as now they are so clean they are especially enjoyable to play with.
One of my favourite memories from when we first had the guinea pigs is the children placing soft toys all around them. They discovered that the guinea pigs loved snuggling into bears. They’d run around in a circle if a ring of toys was put around them and ‘popcorn’, that is a little guinea pig jig.
They are not quite as playful as that now, but they are just as cute and interesting to observe.
It’s hard to imagine family life without the guinea pig crew – Soot, Calico, Chocolate and Misty.
This year Tully Song Trails gathered the musical experience of nineteen people from the ages of fifteen to seventy-eight years.
All ages worked together and came from the genres of bubble gum punk, folk, country, rhythm and blues, and rock. We had harp, saxophones, bass, flutes, guitar, trumpet and voices – high and low – all of us were motivated to do what we all love- make music.
Peter Farnan was again one of the tutors, this time joined by Morganics a hip hop artist from Sydney. Both had considerable talent in producing songs, which was important on the last day of the workshop when two songs were recorded.
The Song Trails Weekend reminded me of what most of us like in songs and what composers and writers search for to make a memorable song.
1- A groove in the music.
2- A contrasting chorus and verse – with a stable chorus and unstable verse (reverse this for an unusual effect).
3- Writing with a sense of the history of the genre you are writing in whether it is Blues, Hip, Hop or Jazz.
4- A texture of instruments and voices that fits the groove of the song.
5- Music is collaborative.
6- Instrumental solos can build of be scattered through a song for great emotion and can have a certain feel to them coloured by the song.
7- Writing songs means tapping into creativity through many means, from drawing on the subconscious, the feeling our piece of music gives to us (ie you can begin with the music and then add the words that fit that piece).
8- It’s important to search for the unpredictable rhyme.
9- Having a hook in a song makes it extremely memorable.
10- It is possible to write a song in just over an hour, but it might take more time for it to settle.
As for the new format of Song Trails, it’s a ripper, from a participant’s point of view you learn a lot more about song making than the original three-hour workshop. You have a great chance to form connections with other artists, and you see much more of the song producing process if you have never witnessed this before. We learnt concert protocol and added to our performance experience.
The concert at the end of the three days featured local talent who had participated in the workshops extensively, with Peter and Morganics supporting on instruments and doing just a few of their own works. The feedback I’ve received from people who headed to the Tully concert was that is was great quality. They audience were amazed by the newly composed songs and impressed by the local artists – they also enjoyed what Morganics and Peter shared. Especially Morganics rap/ode to Tully.
The three day workshop format is a ripper, the only challenge I can forsee is that if you have over twenty participants you’re going to need another tutor, to assist in mentoring the groups and recording songs. Another singer, musician might come in handy throughout the weekend just to have another genre, person with different life experience there. Although a lot of this can come from participants as well. It really depends on who turns up to the workshop.
I was delighted QMF employed me to photo document song trails this year. It might be possible with more of a budget to regularly make a montage photo video as part of the three-day workshop. Yes, I know I’m shamlessly plugging for another documentary gig and an extension of this role to possible music video maker, what can I say – I absolutely loved documenting Song Trails as a participant and it was energising wearing the two hats. I threw a photo montage together on the spur of the moment on the Sunday morning, and Morganics did some rhythmic editing to time it to the music. Hence a small music video was possible! I went home after the workshop and mixed a montage for another song as well. Loved doing that but wasn’t really part of my original time budget for the project, just felt moved to do it for participants.
Those attending the concert enjoyed the behind the scenes photographs, especially the family and close friends of the participants. The parents of the youth participants said their kids came home every day raving about what they had learnt, who they had met, and other local youth are rearing up to do it next year on the recommendation of their mates. Morganics was a hit with them!
Importantly this workshop worked as everyone was deliberately mixed by the tutors and collaborated with people they did not know, all ages and genres mixed. This was extremely good for ensuring everyone learnt something new. So a big thankyou to Peter Farnan and Morganics, you both did a great job.
In breaks many people were trying out playing the harp of one of the participants, and so many youth want to work with the harpist next time. I think she felt like quite a celebrity. Peter was extremely delighted to record a live harp, which he said he had never done before. So perhaps people will be lining up for the facilitator’s experience at Song Trails remixed and have an experience like Peter’s, although everybody would love to see Peter again as he has such a subtle way of helping you improve a song.
Another highlight for me was extremely talented songwriters turning up to support emerging songwriters by attending the workshops. Their willingness to attend the workshop really made it for the other less experienced participants, I refer especially to Michelle Walker, Sue Day and Shirley Lyn, who added to the positive dynamic of the weekend. More experienced song writers and singers should not discount participating in Song Trails, for the opportunity to meet up and coming artists and form collaborations and friendships. Who knows maybe some more song trailers will present co-written songs, just like Michelle and Bob did on the first evening.
A big thankyou to Queensland Music Festival, APRA, Cassowary Coast Regional Council, Queensland Government, and Kareeya Hydro for bringing this workshop to Tully and making it so accessible, as the workshop was free. The support crew of Song Trails were great as well, thankyou so much for all you did whilst in Tully.
It was just so rewarding and exciting to assist my friend Danielle Wilson by filming behind the scenes of her project Dance for Recovery. She was supported in her vision by two community arts workers, Avril Duck and Melissa Robertson working for Connecting Community Voices, ISAY project, funded by Far North Queensland Volunteers inc, and several other creatives in music, sound and film: Dez Green, John and Mark Edwards. A couple of members her dance class and some of the wider dance community came to participate, although not all participants were dancers and this was not a requirement.
There was a fantastic response well beyond the circle of Danielle’s friends (most people attending did not know Danielle or each other) to attend this workshop and some people had heard about it on the radio, through the newspaper or the web or through friends; the workshop gave the chance for many people to connect beyond their immediate home. Danielle is all about accessibility and so the class was open to everyone over the age of sixteen. Danielle said she loved that the workshop brought people together from Cairns, Cardwell, Mission Beach, Tully and Innisfail, to express and find their emotions about the cyclone and release them through movement.
I have known Danielle since taking my children to her free movement classes in Mission Beach when they were little. She still works with children but has branched out to work with adults and so Dance for Recovery was an important extension of that process. I vividly remember the way in which she created a sacred and creative space for children of the Cassowary Coast to express themselves and my children have never forgotten the classes. I knew the participants were in for something special even before we had begun. Danielle and I had been talking about a collaboration at some point as I wanted to experience photographing and filming dance, and Danielle wanted to document and be creative with making a dance film. It was amazing to have this opportunity to support a friend and work on my own creative practice. Danielle and I have often crossed paths at workshops for writing, and other projects in the Cassowary Coast and we respect each others arts practice.
Even as we speak Danielle is looking at a draft mix of some of the footage as well as still photographs I took of the workshop Dance for Recovery. I so hope that she is happy with how I am beginning to piece together the story of the project. I am looking forward to working with Leandro Palacio from ABC Open who makes some amazing films that have quite an artistic flair to them. As we filmed on Thursday Leandro especially encouraged me to experiment with my perspective, work the height of the tripod and develop a steady hand-held technique, he directed me to move, just like the participants guided by Danielle in their dance.
To prepare for working on the edits with Leandro I thought it would be helpful to sift through 23 minutes of footage and find the parts which:
1- Help convey the story of the project and performance.
2- Look varied, creative and arty and have some continuity with each other.
3- I am pretty sure he has sound to as my camera has some limitations with how well it collects sound.
4- Are free from camera shake or wonky hand-held technique.
5- Do a draft premix longer than we need to try out some editing techniques and mixes for the final documentary.
6- Look at doing a longer interview with Danielle, either me or Leandro can do this, I could maybe pop over to Danielle’s to do this, she was pretty tired after the workshop.
In the process of filming and photographing I was sensitive to the participants, especially due to the topic of the workshop, cyclone, recovery and finding calm, and Danielle let participants know who I was and that they could opt out of being filmed and that I was approachable and wouldn’t mind whatever their decision. I look forward to their responses to the final documentary as well.
It was great that everyone, participants and artistic support, seemed keen to help Danielle by being in the documentary and a few were happy to talk on camera afterwards even though they were on the way home after long day. The rest of the time they forgot I was there and just went about their workshop. It’s always good for a documentary film maker to be invisible and exist primarily in the movement of her camera! A special challenge with filming this documentary was working with the concept of faceless portraits, and avoiding the human face as much as possible.
Dance for Recovery was funded by FNQ Volunteers, Queensland and Australian Government, Isay project, Connecting Community Voices, and involved many volunteers and a small budget for production for contributing Artists.
Today we had a meeting of the artistic, technical and documentation crew as well as the community cultural development officer and other council staff, to help Danielle Wilson with the Dance Recovery workshop happening this Thursday at the Innisfail Shire Hall. It was exciting and enlightening to have everyone familiarising themselves with Danielle’s overall plan for the workshop, and to be looking at the space, lighting, sound, as well as clarifying our roles.
I have been preparing by studying up as much as possible on the white balance, exposure, shutter speed, and video features of my Nikon 5100. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to practice and learn more about video and film as I will be observing everyone else working on video and lighting that day (we have a dolly contraption coming – more on that next post). There’s a few of us helping with the varying video and filming requirements for the day, I’ll devote a post to the team next time.
My focus will be the ‘process of the production’, a mini behind the scenes documentary, observing how the elements come together under the direction of Danielle, Avril and Melissa. I’m going to do some video of Danielle in action, maybe some short interviews at the very end of the day, some still photography – and collect video of the process of putting together the performance as well.
I took some video of the planning meeting today as well and a few stills. Everyone was enjoying playing around with their silhouettes up on the screen. As I headed off with my notes for Thursday sound and other aspects were still being discussed. It’s all looking great for Thursday. There’s still space for participants if you are keen, but you need to call Avril or Melissa and be over sixteen. See Dance Recovery for more details.