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Head Full of Love

What

Performing Lines produced a national tour in 2015 of the Queensland Theatre Company’s (QTC) production, Head Full of Love by award winning playwright Alana Valentine. 

With the Alice Springs’ Beanie Festival as its backdrop, the play portrayed the unlikely but inspiring friendship formed between two culturally different women. It is a drama about intertwined lives that touches on issues of black/white relations. The setting for Head Full of Love offered audiences a gentle introduction to the themes of Indigenous disadvantage and reconciliation.

Head Full of Love was toured by Blak Lines, an Australia-wide group of presenters who comprise the Blak Lines touring consortium.. Managed by Performing Lines, the Blak Lines initiative is supported by the Australia Council Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts and Market Development and was established to develop opportunities for presenters and audiences to connect with high quality Indigenous performing arts work and their local Indigenous community.

In the lead-up to the tour, an Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator was employed to work directly with members of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to develop and deliver engagement activities for the tour. This ensured community channels such as craft groups, renal heath networks, and local council Indigenous Liaison officers were aware of the upcoming season. 

A beanie mini-exhibition which accompanied the tour to every location provided the presenters with a strong point of focus, helping them to develop a suite of activities to wrap around the show and allowing locally generated ideas to evolve with the planned event.

Photo of Annie Byron and Paula Delaney

When

June to September 2015  

Where

Caloundra; Mackay; Rockhampton; Townsville 

Key stats

  • 4 performances
  • 602 attendees
  • 21 community engagement activities

Arts Queensland contribution

$37,581 – Playing Queensland Fund 2014  

Outcomes

  • Performing Lines connected early and regularly with the locality presenters in the tour lead-up, and focused on a responsive rather than prescriptive approach with presenters. By giving them the time and support to consult with communities about engagement options that would have local traction a benefit was the breadth of diversity in participants the programs attracted.
  • The touring beanie exhibition formed the nucleus of the engagement program. It helped presenters identify community groups that were the ‘best fit’ for the activity strands. Presenters also noted the difficulty in selling drama in Regional North Queensland and having the tour come with ready-made ideas for engagement was considered a bonus.

“a well thought out and appealing engagement strategy culminating in a visit to a live performance."

  • Caloundra’s tour feedback highlights very tangible benefits:

“The community were delighted to be involved and because they had a common goal to knit beanies for the Purple House, they all wanted to help”. 

  • With the Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator support, presenters collaborated formally with Aboriginal community development officers, community health workers, and local craft groups to promote interest in attending the play. 
  • The Head Full of Love season offered the Queensland Theatre Company an exceptional opportunity to further raise their profile and showcase their work nationally. 

Learnings and reflections

Performing Lines identified how the engagement process assisted with marketing the tour:

Performing Lines made a conscious decision to create unified and well branded marketing collateral for community engagement through their beanie knitting patterns, window decals, and information about the Purple House and Alice Springs Beanie Festival. In the past, presenters were responsible for development of these assets, which at times resulted in inconsistent messaging around the performances. Feedback to this strategy was very positive and will be continued for future Performing Lines tours.

The majority of presenters indicated their satisfaction with marketing resources provided for the show. In spite of the full suite of resources made available, a number of the presenters experienced difficulty coming up with a marketing strategy to sell the program.

While some members of the touring team were familiar with the rigors of life on the road, for others this was a newer process. Connecting with other Aboriginal communities and networks helped give support to Indigenous company members when dealing with individual challenges while on tour. This indirect support through local engagement is a strategy Performing Lines is looking to adopt for all future tours.

Informal feedback from tour presenters indicated that higher than usual audience numbers learned about the show through community groups such as the local arts and crafts committee and the Caloundra Art Gallery in particular. In some centres, the planned engagement activity made “a good story” and therefore attracted local media interest: The local community embraced the activities and the excellent media coverage enhanced the response received.

 

Links

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