Home' Scoop : Scoop 53 Spring 2010 Contents 50 scoop SPRING 2010
region’s historic links with American whalers, who
plied its waters before the Portuguese and Dutch
came here, and sees various leading bands play
all forms of American music from jazz to cajun,
gospel and R&B, in its diverse wineries.
The Yellow Desert Writers Festival at Cer vantes
and the Pinnacles plays on the town’s Spanish
author namesake and embraces the Pinnacles as
well as the remarkable Lake Thetis stromatolites to
showcase writers and their works.
“T his will take place at the full moon of May
2012, when the shadows and the play of light on
the yellow sands – the only such sands on the whole
WA coast – is at its most dramatic,” Sean says.
The Giant Leap international dance event,
scheduled for October 2011 or 2012, at Albany
and Denmark, builds on the first communication
between Aboriginals and settlers through dance, and
is inspired by the image of the breaching whale.
“It will be marketed in harmony with the local
environment, the whale, wine and wildflowers.”
Bunbury, which has a 30-year history of
commissioning public art, will host an international
public art festival, entitled the Koombana Festival,
after Koombana Bay “which means ‘where the
whales spout’,” says Sean. “It would encompass an
urban setting of Bunbury, of contemporary art, then
landscape art out on the inner and outer harbours.”
The seventh of the Seven Sister Festivals, still
in its infancy, is The Silky Pear Bush Fleadh in
Kalgoorlie – Kalgoorlie literally meaning silky pear
bush, and fleadh the Irish Gaelic word for festival.
It proposes to bring some of the world’s greatest
musical names to the town, highlighting both its
Irish and Aboriginal history.
Designed to survive and grow as part of a
collaborating set of festivals, these seven events
already have a plethora of backers including
leading local and international philanthropists such
as Martin Smith (former chairman of English
National Opera), Bill Repard (former board
member of Perth Festival), Tim Ungar (chair
of the WA Museum), Mack Hall (former board
member of Perth Festival), and Micko O’Byrne.
Nine institutional bodies have already put
money into feasibility studies for the festivals
including the City of Geraldton-Greenough, the
City of Mandurah, Augusta Margaret River Shire,
Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association, Shire
of Busselton, Albany Chamber of Commerce,
Great Southern Development Commission,
Peel Development Commission, The Pleiades
Philanthropists, and the City of Bunbury.
Sean’s primary goal is to set up finances
and management for the Seven Sisters so that
ownership is within the region and, 50 years from
now, in the way PIAF abides in the capital, the
Seven Sister Festivals will exist as an entity in itself.
“These festivals are not about me,” he
emphasises, but admits that he spent much of his
own time and money developing these ideas before
any of WA’s key regional bodies came on board. His
singular drive to establish regional festivals comes
from his abiding belief that “the arts – in this
for mat and if the integrity and the quality is there –
can be transfor mative and they can be regenerative.”
In many cases in WA, he says “I feel that
places, communities have been neglected.”
Often too, he adds, “the landscape of the regions
is just seen as a finite resource that has a financial
end. But I think the arts – if the cultural worth and
quality is ensured – can help create a community
pride within, no matter how small that community
is. And I’ve seen the rewards of that, particularly
through the Gormley sculptures.”
Then there is his Wild Art project, an extension
of the Gormley vision involving other artists that
would, in collaboration with the Art Gallery of
WA, place major art pieces in other parts of the
WA landscape over the next two decades. Not to
mention a cluster of stand-alone projects he has in
the works for various parts of regional WA.
Or his newly minted role at Country Arts WA
which will see him not only program four days
of scenes and speakers for the regional arts
conference, but “creating a number of projects
after the conferences so that we leave leg acies for
Geraldton. That’s the big thing I’m interested in.”
Sean credits his abiding compulsion to
build cultural bridges wherever he goes, and
to empathise with the minorities of any given
culture, to an Irish childhood lived out ag ainst the
backdrop of “the troubles”. Invited to be Artistic
Director of the Belfast Festival in 1997, at the time
of the peace process, he g ot to see first-hand the
power of the arts to unite a people.
“It builds bridges, it really does. It opens up your
world. And working on the Gormley project I saw
the relationship between the capital and the rest
of the state as one of divorce or non-connection.
I think that’s a long term imbalance we need to
redress,” he adds, “and that’s what drives me.”
Xanadu Wines will host the second in the new Mar gar et
River Recital Series with opera singer Ruby Philogene
MBE on November 6. Tickets $195 all inclusive. For
bookings, call (08) 9758 9502, or visit xanaduwines.com.
Sean and his wife, opera singer Ruby
Philogene, both fell in love with WA
and settled here in 2008.
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