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Junction Arts Festival Success

Andrea Dawkins

Andrea Dawkins  -  Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Tags: Arts, Festivals, Launceston, Music

Ms DAWKINS (Bass) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to bring some good news from Launceston on another successful Junction Arts Festival and to congratulate the board of management of Junction - Natalie de Vito, Frith Mabin and Sarah McCormack, their crew and all the volunteers involved.  Junction opened on Wednesday 2 September with the first heat of Senior Idol and closed with the final on Sunday.  It was a brilliant section of the program which enabled involvement from a sector of the community often under-represented in festival programming.  Bill Carney, Launceston's resident ghost tour guide, took out the honours in fine style.

Having been involved in Junction for four of its five years, I have seen the program adapt and grow, always promoting the idea of participation rather than simply being entertained.  Junction asks its community to view the region through a different lens, to examine what it is to be a resident and to see our community from different perspectives.  En Route had been a past favourite in this regard, taking a guided headphone tour through back alleys and buildings normally closed to the public, activating often-overlooked spaces. 

At last year's Smart Urban Futures conference I heard James Lunday speak of streets as the first playgrounds and I was encouraged by Junction's connection to the idea.  Another well-supported offering at Junction this year was Abigail Conway's 'Ride', which grabbed the attention of festival goers and sold out quickly.  Abigail talked to a number of motor cycle enthusiasts, prototyped her work during the 2014 Junction Arts Festival and mounted it in the 2015 festival.  Arriving at Ride HQ, a participant was fitted with riding gear and asked to choose a bike and rider.  I chose Danny Penny from Kayena and was fitted with an MP3 player of his story.  We headed off to Myrtle Park, all the while Danny told me of his love of his hobby and how he came to be a biker.  Blues music was being pumped through the headphones and day turned to night.  We took the Turners Marsh route home, travelling through the winding roads.  The lights of the houses on kanamaluka merged and I felt, even though I had taken the trip many times by car, I had never experienced it in the same way.  I began to love Launceston all over again.  In my view, this is the most important role of art to a community - to make us step back from our everyday lives and re-examine our values in light of the experience.

Junction also held a public lecture on Thursday 3 September entitled 'How Cultural Nights Contribute to a Vibrant Northern Tasmania' in the mode of many contemporary festivals by introducing philosophical debate to the program.  Time and time again conversations of this kind take us back to models of funding, innovation and building capacity for meaningful interaction between governments, artists and the community.  Recent pressures from the changes to federal funding have meant that not all art disciplines have current funding and the ones that do lack security and are often funded at the expense of contemporaries, like a kind of Hunger Games for artists.

According to arts consultant, Kylie Eastley, in her recent submission to the Senate inquiry into arts funding, Tasmania continues to have the highest number of artists per capita and yet we have seen a continued reduction in the pool of funds offered to them.  She believes the current changes to arts funding will exert a downward pressure on funding, creating an environment where artists will have to exit the sector.  She, like many others, supports the process of continuous improvement in all sectors but does not believe that sudden changes will result in positive results, especially in the areas of innovation and production of risky art.  I would have to agree with the sentiment that transformative moments in art come from the smallest and sweetest experiences that are raw and real.  I can categorically state that time and time again, Junction fulfils that to the thousands of participants.  Considering the recent changes to the management of our country, now might be an appropriate time for the Tasmanian Minister for the Arts to lobby her federal counterpart, come the Cabinet reshuffle next week, to reverse the changes to arts funding federally by either funding the NPEA separately or abandoning it altogether.