IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE AN ARTIST
By Catherine McGauran
I am incredibly lucky to live in Melbourne’s inner north, where public life is thriving. Most of the time I’m around like-minded folks be it at a library, cafe, music venue or community event. We have parks and gardens that take the sting out of urban living. I am also thrilled to live in the City of Yarra, the first council in Victoria to take a stance against systemic racism by acknowledging that January 26 is not an appropriate day for celebration. Mayor Amanda Stone said that aside from doing this to right an obvious wrong, the council took action because it was important to the community. Even when the Federal Government took away its right to hold citizenship ceremonies, Yarra City Council held its ground.
It is the open minded, welcoming nature of the communities here that force a council like Yarra, and now Darebin and Moreland, to take progressive political action. This strong sense of community combined with an interest in questioning the status quo is why The Village Festival can flourish in our beautiful Edinburgh Gardens. For the Village Festival to succeed a community of curious minds must come together and play, which is why the inner north is the perfect location.
As public spaces become more heavily policed, a unique event like The Village Festival gives people the opportunity to socialise and have chance encounters with people outside their immediate familial, work or school group of friends.
Encounters like these in public spaces are not only life affirming, but create possibilities for new friendships, ideas, socialisation and at the most basic level, human connection. Look at the scope for projects like Collingwood Arts Precinct. It’s fun to head to a party with friends or watch movies at home, but opportunities are expanded in a different way when people choose to enter communal spaces. There’s no way of knowing what experiences you will have in the company of strangers.
I have eagerly attended The Village Festival since 2014. I find it stimulating knowing that I will talk to people I wouldn’t otherwise meet, learn new things and generally have my mind prodded for a while. Our lives are full of infinite possibilities, yet the routine of everyday life makes that an easy thing to forget. A space like The Village Festival leaves me feeling invigorated because it reminds me of what can happen when you step outside the ordinary and into a world that is, by definition, mysterious.
The Village Festival also gives adults permission to be playful. As our society becomes increasingly obsessed with productivity, adults don’t often get the chance to be in the moment judgment free, to do something just because it’s fun or interesting. To interact with giant puppets, costumes, kids and adults of all ages allows for new things to happen in a way that is only possible when we come together in public spaces.
In August this year I met Artistic Director Suzanne Kalk by coincidence in the Northern Territory. Within minutes we were talking about the festival’s philosophy and why it’s important to indulge things like play and curiosity in safe public spaces – one of my favourite topics of conversation! Soon after Suzanne asked if I would like to help with the festival this year, and I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Despite my newfound involvement, I can safely say that I will be as surprised as any festival-goer when we close on Sunday night.
The Village Festival, Edinburgh Gardens
27 – 29 October, 2017
You can find Cat McGauran making her way through the Maze of Motions and the Brainwash Station at The Village Festival Edinburgh Gardens.