• Passionate Pathways Featuring Sila Toprak

    This month Passionate Pathways features Sila Toprak.

    Sila, at nineteen, is someone who’s life experience has already given her a pretty big perspective on the world and its challenges. As a member of Western Edge Youth Art’s Geelong Edge, she is currently in rehearsals for, Six Hours In Geelong, an original work, created by the ensemble, which will be showing at GPAC on 27 October.

    ‘I guess I’m kind of an activist, in my own way’, says Sila:

    ‘I’ve seen a lot first hand, I’ve experienced it, but not as bad as some people. In the show, we’re trying to tackle misconceptions around Islam. I can’t stand injustice. I can’t stand people believing lies. But it’s very hard to change what people think. I hope our show can challenge minds and hopefully audiences can leave the theatre aware of some real issues…’

    Sila is in the first year of a Bachelor of Criminology and Psychological Science at Deakin University. She also likes to make short films, and works part-time in a fish and chip shop. She was in year nine at North Geelong Secondary College when Western Edge Youth Arts came and staged a performance at her school. ‘There was a girl wearing hijab and it was about racism’, she recalls about the performance, ‘and that really got me’.

    She was involved in WEYA’s school based program at NGSC, and after finishing high school was part of a small group who’s passion for making socially engaged theatre lead them to form the Geelong Edge ensemble, with the support of WEYA.

    Of Six Hours In Geelong, which follows Belonging, performed to a packed house at the Geelong Courthouse last year, she says: ‘I love what everyone is putting into it…we’re getting better and better with our shows’.

    Sila was born in Australia soon after her parents emigrated from Turkey, with her older brother, but is strongly connected to her Turkish cultural roots. She says:

    ‘Our household is quite Turkish. We speak a lot of Turkish and we are quite cultured in how we eat. There’s a Turkish community in Geelong and we spend time with them’.

    Sila was nine when her parents made the decision to move back to Istanbul. She went to school in Turkey and loved it:

    ‘It was good. I adapted well. I always felt more Turkish on the inside, although I’ve always been a bit conflicted. I’m not really Australian enough, but I’m not Turkish enough. I love the culture, so that’s why I adapted well. The people there, I really get along with, so I can fit in. I spoke English when I went there, and everyone was really amazed at this little girl from Australia who spoke English. I made friends really quick.’

    But the family struggled financially in Turkey and ended up coming back to Australia. She goes on:

    ‘We go back to Turkey every few years. I haven’t been since I was 16, and now there is so much going on with terrorist attacks and I’m scared to go back. Family have visited us here, like my grandma and my aunty. But it’s a hard process to get them here. We don’t have “New Year’s” or anything like that spent with family. My Dad passed away five years ago, so my Mum’s been very strong. She’s been Super Mum’.

    We came back to talking about the show, and the process the ensemble has gone through to create the work. She explains that they ‘created scenarios first, and the characters came out of that’.

    The character that Sila is playing is called Zareen, who she relates to quite strongly:

    ‘Zareen is a conflicted character. She’s stuck between two worlds: culture and religion. We tried not to paint her as a stereotypical “Muslim girl”. She’s got lots of layers.

    Sila explained to me that early in the play Zareen has experiences that lead to a decision to start wearing hijab ‘almost as a political statement’. She’s a character that ‘blames herself and is stuck on what to do, how to act in this society. She feels guilty a lot’.

    ‘We really want to put up the right message about Muslims in the community’, says Sila and she emphasises that an important phrase in the play is ‘we shouldn’t get Islam and culture mixed up’. She talks about what she sees as ‘…the growing hate on Islam and the misconceptions surrounding it’.

    ‘Hopefully through the play’, she says, ‘we can put some perspective on it’. She continues:

    ‘We can’t speak for Muslims around the world. But we can show that we are all just humans. We’re all lost. We’re all flawed, and believing in what you believe in doesn’t make you a bad person’.

    There are three Muslim characters in the play. They are each very different, having been brought up in different contexts, and coming from different cultural backgrounds. ‘One’s lost’ she says, ‘one’s really religious, but they’re all true, they’re all representing real people’. She goes on to muse:

    ‘Religion is really how you interpret it. Everyone interprets it differently. It really depends on your environment and your upbringing’.

    Sila has a fascination with discrimination, that she has had the opportunity to explore through her studies, as well as through theatre. She’s also seen and experienced some interesting, and frightening examples of it in different forms and contexts.

    Last time Sila was in Turkey, things were pretty volatile, politically. She paints a picture:

    ‘We were at my Aunties place in Turkey and there were random violent marches where people were creating fires and burning what ever was in their path. And there were gun shots and stuff like that. You watch from the balcony but try not to poke your head out when they’re going on. You can hear it from a mile away and it’s quite scary’.

    She goes on to explain more about some of the tensions:

    ‘Turkey is the biggest protector of refugees and I met a lot of them when I was there. In my Grandma’s apartment I met a little Syrian girl who had her face burned. A lot of people don’t like the refugees being there and say that they take our jobs and stuff, but others are also supportive’.

    ‘In Turkey, also it’s the fear, that some of them are terrorists. If people meet a Syrian refugee they seem really sad and they love them, but when they’re talking about them, it’s like they’re another person’.

    She reflects that ‘It’s not just white people that can be racist. You can have a lot of people hating each other’. But she cautions, that ‘it’s white supremacy that’s institutionalised’ in the Australian context, and globally, and this institutional racism can be particularly problematic:

    ‘I see how people can be marginalised for their race, in the criminal justice system, in healthcare. Yeah it all goes hand in hand. It’s the inbuilt stuff that’s so deep in the system. I guess it’s worse in America, but, Aboriginal people, for example, are something like three percent of the population, but one third of the incarcerated population. Yeah, there’s a big issue here too.’

    Referring back to the play, she says, ‘everything we’re doing in the play it’s so real’. And she goes on to talk about a real life incident that happened to her just a couple of weeks ago in Geelong.

    She was out in the evening, having just finished a film shoot for some footage that will be used in Six Hours In Geelong. Sila had a scarf on, because she was in costume as her character, Zareen. She was sitting at a fast food restaurant with her friend. ‘It was cold’, she said. ‘I kept the hijab on to keep warm’.

    When she got up to leave, she brushed past a man, who took the opportunity to lay into her with a tirade of unprovoked verbal abuse. She says:

    ‘I’ve never experienced that in my real life, where I don’t wear hijab. And also, from the other people who were there. No one said anything. No one jumped in. I was a young woman, getting verbally abused and no one stepped in. I was just wearing it for a couple of hours and that happened to me. I realised how hard it must be for people wearing hijab every day.’

    Her closing comments are about the role of the news and the media in feeding a culture of discrimination:

    ‘Headlines say “Muslim terrorist”. Why don’t they just say “terrorist”. If a Christian does it, they have a troubled childhood. By having those two words, “Muslim” and “Terrorist” associated together for years and years, people have been wired to fear Muslims, and to think that they’re all evil. The Turkish community are just so frustrated with it. And there’s so many keyboard warriors. I can’t even watch stuff any more because of the comments. It’s really frustrating. The news is also controlled by the government’s agenda. It’s like pills for sheep’.

    But Sila is no blind follower. She is finding a strong voice for countering misconceptions and increasing understanding. If she ever goes into politics, I know I’ll be voting for her, and not only to prove that women who work in fish and chip shops in Australian regional towns, can offer compassionate and broadminded perspectives. Six Hours In Geelong, will show on 27 October at Geelong Performing Arts Centre. Bookings via GPAC website.

    Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts



  • Passionate Pathways Featuring Craig Gunguta

    Our Passionate Pathways feature for this month is Craig Gunguta.

    Dancer, actor, musician, and art’s in education facilitator, Craig is a creative powerhouse who believes he is here for a reason.

    Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Craig moved to Geelong by himself in 2014 when he was 17 years old. In Zimbabwe he was involved in making Zimdancehall music. And since moving to Australia, he has continued to develop his creative practice, working across a range of disciplines.

    I asked him what he was up to creatively at the moment:

    ‘I just made a song on Sunday, just finished recording that track and I’m working on two plays: Six Hours in Geelong and At First Glance. And I just finished shooting a video with an artist called Sticker1 that’s gonna be released on MTV soon. I was dancing in that.’

    Theatre was a new thing that he got into pretty soon after coming to Australia. He was in year 10 at North Geelong Secondary Collage when a group from Western Edge Youth Arts came and did an interactive performance at the school, and some of his friends were doing WEYA’s after-school workshop program, and suggested he come along. He recalls:

    ‘Everyone was like Craig, gotta join in, gotta join in! My friend Chang was really keen and I wasn’t, but then I started to be the one to say “are you coming?”. I got really interested in acting’.


    Three years later, Craig is working for Western Edge Youth Arts as a facilitator, supporting younger participants in a similar open access theatre program in Wyndham, as they find their voice and their confidence in front of an audience. He is also working on WEYA’s big gig for the year, as a member of emerging artist ensemble Geelong Edge. Six Hours in Geelong is a work that the ensemble have devised from scratch, out of an intensive development process that involved each of the ensemble members bringing elements of their own diverse stories and personal experience into the rehearsal space.

    I asked Craig about the development process for Six Hours in Geelong, and how it has been for him. He reflected that it has been great working with the ensemble on this project:

    ‘I get to see how other people see things in this multicultural community. I get to see how everyone thinks, you know, and I appreciate that. Most of the stuff in this story is something that really happened to somebody and something that really happened in the world. When we were writing this we were channelling energies of things we’d experienced and trying to express that. Trying to express how the world is and ways to make it better.’

    In Six Hours In Geelong, Craig plays a character called Zondo. He explains that:

    ‘My character’s name is actually taken from one of my best friends who is in Zimbabwe at the moment. He went to the same school as me in Zimbabwe. There was always an alpha male at the school and he was it. Then he past on the tradition to me. People liked you as that person, but at the same time they feared you. He was sort of a mentor for me. That’s why I named the character that, cos the character really reminds me of him.

    Craig is one of a kind. At 21 he is already carving out a unique path for himself. I asked him about his philosophy of life and he said:

    ‘I like to – how can I put it – I try to be not the same as everyone. I believe in individualism. Society tries to tell us do this, do this. I try to be different in what I do. We are all equal, I know that, but there are certain ideologies put up by society that are not good for people. The only way we can overcome the stuff that’s happening in the world, the racism and stuff, is to all realise that we are different and we are unique in our own ways. And like, if you’re tall and I’m short, and if I’m trying to reach something, you can give me a hand. Our differences shouldn’t separate us. They should be able to unite us. You know?

    ‘From where I’m from I didn’t think that I could ever amount to anything. Personally I feel I’m here for a reason. I’ve seen people suffer. I’ve been in environments where I didn’t think that I would make it. And so I feel like there’s a reason why I’m here. All of the people who didn’t make it. I just remember them and think “why am I here?”. I don’t know why they didn’t make it here and I did. That just gives me an extra edge in whatever I do, and so much passion, cos you never know where you’re going to end up in life’.

    Western Edge Youth Arts is proud to have Craig as one of our emerging artists and wish him all the best for the upcoming show and all of his creative endeavours.

    Six Hours In Geelong will be showing at Geelong Performing Arts Centre on 27 October, 1pm and 7pm. Bookings via the GPAC website.

    Watch Zondo’s Story on Youtube.

    Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts

  • A Chance to Succeed: Interview with Dane Noble

    Dane Noble is a teacher at Whittington Primary School. His year 3-4 class has participated in WEYA’s residency program at the school. He kindly took a break from his school holiday bathroom renovation project to talk to me about his experience of the program.

    WEYA’s residency program at Whittington has run over two ten week terms, both last year and this year. Dane explained how the first term of each program is a series of theatre workshops, and the second term is about putting together a play that students then perform for their school community. This year’s production, Arabian Nights, will take place at the school on 18 August.

    Talking about his first term working with the WEYA teaching team, Dane said:

    ‘I didn’t realize at the time that we were going through the whole story that we then created as a play. The way that process works is really effective for the kids.’

    What he is particularly excited about, as a teacher, is the impact of the program, that permeates well beyond the bounds of the theatre workshops, into other areas of learning, the discussions that are sparked in the class room, and the ‘stories they write’.

    The production they are currently working, is set in the Middle East and ‘that’s really interesting to have those conversations’, he says, pointing out that Wittington Primary is a relatively disadvantaged regional school, with many students who don’t have many opportunities to gain an expansive visions of the world.

    He focuses in on the impact on students’ general sense of confidence and capacity. ‘It’s great for kids with different sorts of abilities’ he says, ‘some kids who might struggle with reading have an opportunity to come to the fore.’

    And the inclusivity of the programs is also a plus for him: ‘last year we had 3 or 4 kids who had really low attendance, but they still had a role.’

    I asked him what the WEYA residency had taught him about his students:

    ‘That element of those kids having an opportunity to be successful, even though they’re not reading at anything like the standard of their year level. If a kid is in year four and he can’t read well, then he isn’t in a good position to be feeling confident about his capacity to achieve… [what’s great about the WEYA program] …is the opportunities for success…’

    And he gave this example:

    ‘This particular kid, he’s been asked a couple of times to read some lines. You can see he’s been told the line. He’s hanging around the back and repeating and repeating the line so he knows he’ll get it right. In this process he’ll sit there and he’ll work on it till he knows he can get it right. Kids who would, in other circumstances, just say ‘no I can’t do that’ can reach that success, and learn about the process of learning, having multiple opportunities to get it right. He was practicing and practicing. You find out about [the students’] resilience, that comes out in a different way.’

    Dane also talked about the cumulative value of the program over the two-year period that it’s been running:

    ‘Kids that are repeating, you can see their confidence, in the way they’re acting. Learning how to actually talk to the crowd, you can see how they’ve retained that learning. One of the stars from last year, you can see how he’s showing the others how to do it.’

    I asked about where they are at in the process. ‘We’re at the point now of running through the play and figuring out who’s going to take what role’, he explained. This is not a simple process, he explains, because each of the kids is given a role, and some lead roles are shared around. Last year there were ‘three different Hades’, for example.

    Dane is anticipating that Arabian Nights will be a bit of a big deal for the school community. Talking about the production last year he said:

    ‘They [the WEYA teaching artists] don’t just chuck them up on stage and say “have a go”. They go the whole hog. Big performance, great set, great lighting… Six classes performed on the same day. There was a massive parent turn out. That showed something about how it was valued both by the kids and by the families.’

    So I asked him to say more about the parents, and the Whittington community, and what he’d learned about them through the process:

    ‘It was interesting for me to see the parents that did turn up’, Dane reflected, explaining that he’s only been living in the area for the two years that he’s been teaching at Whittington Primary, so he’s still getting to know the neighbourhood:

    ‘There was that element of not being part of the community and not knowing who they were’ he said, but he really appreciated the opportunity to connect with parents ‘outside of the formal teacher interview’, which was the main forum in which he’d met them previously.

    His impression is of a community that is significantly less economically and educationally advantaged, compared to the inner city school where he previously taught. He remembers when he started this job, being surprised about the expectation that he wear a suit and tie to meet with parents, and how the principle explained that “when the parents come to see us, we’re probably one of the most formal people they see in their lives”.  Dane goes on to explain that:

    ‘For many of these parents, their other experiences with authority are often not very good. So seeing that many people engaged with the drama program…it’s amazing to see that kind of engagement with parents and a sense of building an understanding of the shared process of learning, and building respect and trust in these communities. The school is gradually building that respect in the community, and the Western Edge project has helped to build that.’

    Dane sums up our chat, saying that:

    ‘The key message that I want to get across is that element of – its not just going in for a little drama class. There are great education benefits. The facilitators obviously know what they are doing. I love going in there and knowing that it’s going to be organized and knowing that the kids are going to have fun. It’s not just a fun play where someone dresses as a tree. There’s actually great educational depth to it. I know I enjoy it and I think most of the other teachers do to.’

    Visit our shows page for details of the upcoming production of Arabian Nights.

    Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts

    WEYA’s residency program at Whittington Primary School is supported by the Kimberly Foundation.



  • Passionate Pathways Featuring Ada Cardona

    Our Passionate Pathways feature for this month is the awesome Ada Cardona.

    ‘It’s not just a cute love story’ says Ada about At First Glance.

    At First Glance is the piece she has been creating on Wednesday nights over the last four months, with fellow members of WEYA’s Werribee based Wyndham Edge ensemble. After a successful preview showing as part of a World Refugee Day event in June, the Ensemble will be presenting the completed work in Hoppers Crossing on 3 August, and again in Footscray, as part of Due West Festival on 26 August. Click on the dates for details.

    Ada, who is in year 10 at Point Cook Senior Secondary College, joined Wyndham Edge last year. She says that she’s ‘always liked the idea of acting, but never considered actually doing it before’. When she came into contact with WEYA’s programs she ‘really liked the ideas and concepts’.

    It ‘felt real to me, and vivid, and I wanted to be a part of that’ she says, and explains that she always thought theatre would help her ‘get out of [her] shell and be a little more confident’, concluding that it definitely has!

    Wyndham Edge is the newest of WEYA’s open access theatre workshop programs, and in its second year, it is really beginning to find it’s flow. Ada reflects that ‘this year, a lot of us who were in the Wheel of Fate production last year had to leave, so we have a new set of people to work with, but it’s been really interesting and fun, and it’s just nice to be around’.

    About At First Glance Ada reflected:

    ‘The basic idea of the production was that we were thinking about love stories…we were playing around with ideas about culture and how different cultures see love and courting. I’m from the Philippines and our views are very traditional and conservative. The other main character, her ideas on love are based on her [Nigerian] culture, but she’s trying to put love aside to focus on work cos her mum is sick’.

    The subjects that Filipino born Ada likes best at school include English – ‘I’m doing advanced English, ‘cos I actually really like English it’s one of my favorite subjects’. She also likes PE when they get to do dance, and is taking a theater unit as part of a special VCE preparatory program. This semester she is also doing a history unit which she says is ‘alright’.

    After first saying that she has ‘no-idea’ what she wants to do after high school, she goes on to say that she’s thinking of possibly doing ‘something art related’, perhaps in design or theatre. On the other hand she is attracted to teaching:

    ‘Working with kids is nice. …I like what teaching does for kids. It impacts on who we become in the future and I think that’s nice’.

    Ada has been living in Australia since she was seven months old, and only speaks a little bit of Filipino, but understands it well because her parents and most of the extended family in Australia do, and she’s been back to the Philippines a couple of times.

    I asked her what her family think of her involvement in theatre and the Wyndham Edge ensemble. She says that her Mum, Dad and brothers, and sometimes her uncle and aunty, come along to performances, and she says: ‘they think it’s pretty cool – they mostly like the bits where I’ in it though!’

    Ada is looking forward to At first Glance and she tells me that:

    ‘I’m always looking forward to performing, although I also get nervous. I’m looking forward to people seeing our show. It’s not just a cute love story. It touches on issues about discrimination, racism, domestic violence. What I hope for the shows that I perform in, is that people enjoy it, and that they learn something from it.’

    Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts

  • Quarter Acre First Creative Development: Interview with Simone Liew

    Over the last few weeks, a group of WEYA’s senior emerging artists have been involved in an exciting new creative development with Westside Circus.

    I asked Simone Liew, one of WEYA’s emerging artists, about the creative development process so far for the show that has the working title Quarter Acre Block. The first stage of the development involved three emerging artists from WEYA and three from Westside Circus, as well as one lead artist from each organisation guiding the process.

    ‘It’s been very interesting and a little bit challenging’ was Simone’s opening summary.

    ‘The theme that we are touching on is the great Australian dream’ she explained.

    And it sounds, from her description, like the creative development involved some pretty rigorous debate and thrashing out of this classic topic, from fresh angles.

    ‘I related to the idea of the great Australian dream as a migrant’ says Malaysian born Simone, who is currently studying a Bachelor of International Studies at RMIT.  She went on to explain more about their exploration of the topic:

    ‘We talked about the property market, and housing and belonging, and what the Australian dream really is and how that affects people coming to Australia. It’s interesting to hear everyone’s perspective on the topic and learn more about that. We shared a lot of personal experiences and memories as well. It was really interesting cos I hadn’t thought about these things from the perspective of people with other backgrounds. People have had really different experiences.’

    We also talked about the collaborative aspect of the development:

    ‘It’s cool that we’re incorporating circus into it cos it’s the first time I’ve done anything like that. It was a new kind of facilitation as well. Very different to what I’ve done before. We did really cool things like incorporating circus acts as well as drama ideas: juggling and game shows; houses out of cardboard boxes; the metaphorical property market. A lot of different themes and tones throughout the narrative.’

    Simone has been involved with WEYA since she was in year 7 in 2009, at Mt. Alexander Secondary Collage. She has worked as an emerging artist facilitator on several of WEYA’s school residency programs over the last few years. This year she has been working on the Wittington Primary School Residency Program, and is a member of the Phoenix Edge ensemble.

    Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts

    Quarter Acre Block: Creative Development has been made possible with the support of Australia Council for the Arts and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust


  • Passionate Pathways Featuring Lan Chu

    Our passionate pathways feature this month is Lan Chu. Twenty year old Lan is in the final year of her psychology degree at RMIT. I interviewed her in the lead up to the recent showing of, In the Light of Day.

    We talked about her long association with WEYA, spanning nearly a decade, and the process of creating In the Light of Day.

    Lan’s first memories of WEYA are from when WEYA had a residency at Debney Meadows Primary School, when she was a student there in year five. She was in a production called The Minotaur, performed at the Clock Tower centre in Moonee Ponds. She remembers ‘that massive minotaur head that they made, that we would carry out onto the stage’, and ‘this one scene where I had to be a mother who’s baby turned out to be the Minotaur’. She recalls having to ‘slowly pull the cloth from the baby’s face’ and ‘the moment I had to scream like a mad woman, which was the scariest part and I never wanted to do it until the show’. But she did do it, and felt ‘pretty good about that’.

    Lan went to Debney Park Secondary Collage, now known as Mt Alexander Secondary College, a school where WEYA had already been working for a few years.

    Reflecting on her early involvement with WEYA, Lan says:

    ‘It was fun. There was not much else that I did as a kid. The opportunity was there. I took it. Our high school was pretty poor. There weren’t the resources to support a pro music or sports program. When I was a kid it made me a lot more confident about my intuition – instincts and stuff. It explores so many issues. I always thought that it was good for me.’

    She also talks about the inspiring example of older participants in WEYA programs:

    ‘Definitely it’s the people as well. Keeps you coming back. So many people at my school: Abraham, Soloman, Macky. I wanted to be at that level too.’

    Lan was born in Melbourne, and raised by her Vietnamese born mother, along with three siblings. I asked her what her mum thought of WEYA:

    ‘She thinks it’s cool. She doesn’t have a problem with it. She only sees good out of me doing it. She tries to come to the shows, but it’s hard with her English.’

    As we talk about family, Lan mentions mental health challenges among her siblings, that she as a psychology student has had time to consider.

    We talked about In the Light of Day. Lan explained that:

    ‘We started off not knowing what we were going to do the show about. We just thought of a character, based off someone in the neighbourhood we grew up in.  My character’s a “shut-in”.’

    She tells me that her shut-in character is based on someone close to her, and that she wanted to raise awareness of the shut-in phenomenon:

    ‘A lot of people don’t really know about shut-ins. It’s really big in Japan. It’s like when people don’t really want to know about society, so they just shut themselves in.’

    Lan goes on to talk more about the play:

    ‘The whole street ends up being quarantined and we [the characters in the play] have no idea why. And it’s interesting ‘cos of all the unique characters! We have a lot of random characters [in this show]! It will be interesting! Hahah! It’s a slice of life in a ‘normal’ neighbourhood in the Western suburbs.’

    What Lan has enjoyed about studying psychology is that ‘it’s all about human behaviour, what makes up personality, how your brain works with your body, social behaviour, the play between how you behave and other people behave.’

    She muses that ‘I kind of thought that by doing sociology I’d be able to understand other people more and be able to put myself in other people’s shoes and stuff.’ And notes that she sees herself as an empathetic person:

    ‘whenever I watch things I also put myself in the character’s shoes. That’s why I don’t’ like watching horror movies. Cos I always put myself in their shoes!’

    Lan will be graduating at the end of this year but plans to keep studying as she wants to go into education. She’s considering specialising in psychology, as a teacher, but also reflects that ‘I could teach drama, with my WEYA experience.’

    Whatever you do Lan, the Western Edge Youth Arts team is right behind you, and super proud! Not to mention grateful for all you’ve contributed to WEYA over the years!

    Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts

  • Congratulations Piper

    Congratulations to Piper Huynh, on being accepted into the Footscray Community Arts Centre’s Emerging Cultural Leaders program.

    Piper is an actor, maker and facilitator. She has been involved with WEYA as a participant since 2010, and has been a member of WEYA’s flagship emerging artists’ ensemble, the Edge Ensemble, since it’s inception, playing key roles in Iago (2015) and Caliban (2016). Read more about Piper’s Story with WEYA here.

    I asked her about the Emerging Cultural Leaders program.

    ‘I’ve been wanting to do the program for about the last three or four years’, she says.

    This year she’s ‘taking a step back’ from her creative practice, ‘to reassess’. So it seems like the perfect time for a professional development program like this one.

    Piper explains to me that it is a seven-month program where the sixteen participants, with diverse creative practices, meet weekly. There’s writers, photographers, people who work in schools (facilitators), poets, zine people, visual artists, radio broadcaster. The common thread is that they ‘all work in different communities’.

    ‘Speakers – industry people – come in and have a talk to us, and show us the ins and outs,’ she says, mentioning the names of General Managers of key Melbourne arts organisations, and respected Indigenous cultural leaders, as examples.

    ‘We talk about everything’ she says, outlining a range of key skills for artists and cultural workers, ‘even the dry stuff…yesterday we just did budgeting!’

    She is also looking forward to working on a creative project, as part of the program, that will have an outcome at the end of the year, that industry people will be invited to attend.

    We look forward to hearing more from Piper about the Emerging Cultural Leader’s program, and her many other rich and varied activities as a creative, over the coming months.

    Check out Piper’s website here.  And find out more about FCAC’s Emerging Cultural Leader’s program here.

    Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts

  • Phoenix lit up: In the Light of Day

    Phoenix Edge showed their new work-in-development, In the Light of Day, to an enthusiastic house at Phoenix Youth Hub on 10 June. There were some individual standout performances by this strong group of young theatre makers. But their work as an ensemble was the highlight under the talented leadership of their director/facilitator Georgia Symons.

    After the performance, actors and directors asked for feedback from the audience, to inform the ongoing development of the work. One young audience member who was attending theatre for the first time in Australia said that he ‘liked the parallel stories that were happening at the same time’, and another enjoyed the ‘use of the ensemble as metaphors’. Check out the photos in our photo gallery.

    In the Light of Day will be shown as a finished work, in late August. Keep your eyes peeled for more details.

    Thanks to Gandel Philanthropy, Newsboys Foundation and Maribyrnong city for their support of the Phoenix Edge program.

  • ‘At First Glance’ at World Refugee Day

    WEYA’s Werribee based crew, Wyndham Edge, performed a preview of their new original work At First Glance as part of World Refugee Day celebrations in Hoppers Crossing last Saturday 24 June.

    Multicultural Runway was a free family event with activities, rides, live performance and cultural food, held at the Youth Resource Centre, Hoppers Crossing. A diverse and attentive audience enjoyed the performance. Check out the photos.

    Wyndham Edge will also be performing At First Glance on 3 August, at the Youth Resource Centre, 86 Derrimut Rd, Hoppers Crossing. Details will be up on the WEYA website and facebook page soon.

    Here’s the scoop:

    Follow Benji as he falls in love on the Werribee line. Touch on to meet Lucinda, a young woman trapped in a dead-end job. Transfer to Joel, a shy guy in a music shop. 

    Can you really fall in love at first sight? Can love be found in unlikely friendships? How do we find the strength to act from love and not spite? 

    The Wyndham Edge program is a WEYA program, proudly supported by Wyndham City.

  • Bernadette Fitzgerald Reflects

    In the Youth Arts sector there are a lot of heroes, often unsung. Board members who volunteer their time to do the work of guiding the direction of an organisation and nurturing its culture are certainly in this category. Bernadette Fitzgerald who recently resigned as Chair of WEYA’s board after nine years on the board and five as Chair, has been involved in supporting WEYA and its predecessor programs for over 14 years, and she is deservedly proud of this organisation that she has watched and helped grow over so long. I chatted to her in the sun outside Footscray Community Arts Centre where she is a Creative Producer, and where it all started for WEYA, as she recalls.

    Bernadette talks about SCRAYP and Y3P, the two successful programs at FCAC, out of which the current WEYA incorporated grew. And mentions some of the names of the people who were involved back then: David Everest, Viv Sercombe, Professor Maureen Ryan from Vic Uni, who all made invaluable contributions to building the legacy of what WEYA is today, as well as Dr Dave Kelman who is still with the the organisation as Artistic Director. Bernadette remembers some of the young people, ‘like Ezeldin Deng’ she glows ‘who learned English through SCRAYP and hip hop and rap with DJ Wasabi, and is now an amazing film make, continuing to support his peers and community and support their voices through the arts’.

    When I ask about milestones, she says: ‘the incorporation of WEYA from a project to becoming an organisation in it’s own right, that was an extraordinary accomplishment’. ‘At FCAC’ she emphasis, ‘we are proud of…not our baby, but something that’s grown into it’s own entity’. And it’s again clear that for Bernadette, who was actively involved in the incorporation process, this is a deeply personal pride.

    She goes on to reflect that WEYA has grown into ‘an agile organisation, through necessity. That commitment and agility to being responsive is important’ she says, ‘and that’s across the arts and education. Rising up to that challenge, while continuing that commitment to young voices is to their credit’.

    But she emphasizes the privilege: ‘I’ve had the privilege of seeing the participants grow up’ and ‘the privilege of being an audience member and hearing those voices’ and being challenged to ‘think differently about something’ as a result, and the privilege of watching the ‘staff and the artists and all the young people who’ve made the commitment over all the years’.

    But it’s seeing some of the real outcomes of all this long term effort paying off that really lights her up. Talking about the emerging artists that have come through WEYA’s programs, as young school students, and that are now working in schools as WEYA teaching artist. ‘The diversity of young people that work in those schools now’, she says ‘that’s really significant’.

    And she also mentions the significance of the pathways to work as professional artists, as well as arts and cultural workers, employed across a range of organisations and programs, locally, nationally and even internationally. She mentions alumni working in community arts and professional theatre and stresses that ‘the training at WEYA has been acknowledged in the industry. A small team has achieved big things.’

    Talking about what has changed over the years, she says that ‘what shifts is the diaspora that comes through, with the shifts or waves of migration’. ‘That shifts with Western Edge’, she says, as the organisation responds to the needs of the community.

    But what stays the same, she reflects, is the impact on individual young people, and the ‘ripples’ that can have. The ‘extended story’.

    Bernadette attended the Geelong Edge Ensemble’s street performance of The Secret City that they performed as part of Geelong After Dark, at the beginning of May. She comments on the pride of the young people involved. As well the response from the very diverse audience – a moment where a young child in the audience told the actors to ‘stop fighting you too!’, and the family laughed and there was something very real in that moment. And the middle aged man who said ‘This is important!’.

    Finally, she stresses her thanks to the staff and the artists and fellow board members. ‘It’s been a huge privilege’ she says, ‘to support the work that they do, including all the past board members and artists. They will always be a part of the family and have been part of what’s formed and shaped the company, and that’s incredibly valuable. Working with the exceptional, creative and passionate supporters of WEYA’ she says, with emphasis, ‘has been an enormous pleasure’.

    Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts.