(A ha! How the tables turn! Wesley Enoch late to his own session! And who can blame him – it was nearly impossible in our punch drunk state to come inside away from the river and re-engage yet again with the issues facing our sector.)

In the final session of the Australian Theatre Forum it was time to descend into the VISY for the summing up of the findings hosted by Anni Davey and Wesley Enoch to reveal the democratically decided issues considered by the delegates to be most pressing. Of course there was the disclaimer that this was not a list of the only priorities “just what has floated up to the surface.”

So here we are with the strategies – and encouraged to think that we are not alone in our ideas or strategy or passions and this should encourage all of us to act.

The list talked of :
the importance of young people- as artists and audiences
the pressing urgency of green/sustainable arts practice
The need to create support networks
The importance of advocacy and development of cultural policy.

And then it was time for some impressions from some artists reflecting on the experience over the past 3 days

Candy Bowers did what Candy Bowers does – asked us to connect and re-think what it means to sit in the company of each other. She asked us to hold the hand of the person next to us. Then she asked us to put our pointer finger in the palm of the person next to us and then slide our hands together, then grasp each other. then asked us to close our eyes and take our time before we opened our eyes. And when we finally dared to open our eyes, there she was – slow dancing with Fiona Winning.

And then suddenly the floor filled with spontaneous slow dancing… people, artists, administrators took to the floor in an act of joy and affection.

And the room erupted in applause.

Anni Davey -“And then we danced until we listened to the sound of us clap each other”

Tim Stitz delivers a spoken word response – a huge cooking metaphor about making and educating and experimenting…. ending with the idea “to cook to eat and to savour there is nothing sexier than passion.”

And then the floor opened up –
“Now that we are driving in our new maps – that we should all be aware of our blind spots.”

A wish “That in 2012 that theatre is considered equal to sport and that we are conscious of the words and metaphor we use when we talk about theatre.”

An acknowledgement of how this forum has been the “Most non male and non white theatre group that I’ve seen.”

Fiona Winning –
Thanks the volunteers – Thomas Banks (VIC), Gabrielle Castle (QLD), Athalia Foo (QLD), Ella Holmes (VIC), Eloise Maree (QLD), Anna Molnar (QLD), Benjamin Schostakowski (QLD), Nathan Sibthorpe (QLD), Billy Stewart-Keed (QLD), Alexandra Talamo (VIC), Kristen Trollope (QLD), David Vespertine (QLD).

Then thanks the partners – MetroArts, Powerhouse, to the Brisbane Festival, the Brisbane artists community, Nest for Change for the picnic on Wednesday night.

And then she thanked the documenters –
Leon Ewing – who has brought his own camera and documented everything
Bionny Kidd from Australianplays.org who has also documented feedback on the forum.

And then the sponsors –
Brisbane City Council, DCA, ArstSA, ArtsVIC, ArtsNSW, ArtsQLD, ArtsWA, Melbourne Theatre Company and Back to Back theatre who bought some delegates airfares.

The ATF Committee – Committee members are: Nicole Beyer, Director Theatre Network Victoria (Chair); Candy Bowers, Freelance Superstar; Lenine Bourke, Artistic Director Contact Inc; Liz Burcham, CEO Metro Arts; Wesley Enoch, Artistic Director Queensland Theatre Company; Kristy Edmunds, Artistic Advisor Park Avenue Armoury New York; Fiona Maxwell, Queensland Manager Artsupport Australia; Chris Mead, Director Playwriting Australia; Rose Myers, Artistic Director Windmill Theatre; and Alicia Talbot, Artistic Director Urban Theatre Projects.

The ATF team – Nicole Beyer, Tija Loadens, Rebecca Meston, Paul Bardini.

And of course there we were – a whole room of theatre people – inter-generational, multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled, ever-hopeful, miming a champagne toast to the future.

(Applause and evacuation to the bright Brisbane sunshine and the last of the free drinks)

Here’s Jane Howard’s feedback and reflections –

And of course, you can’t go past the queen of theatre blogging, Alison Croggan’s Summary –

For me, there are a few things that I feel compelled to say…

I was at the forum because of the grace and vision of Fiona Winning and Rebecca Meston – who felt it was important for me to attend. It is thanks to ArtsNSW that I got a chance to sleep somewhere safe, travel comfortably, eat occasionally. I would not, as an independent artist and blogger (hate that word) be able to do it any other way. I was there to report (I felt) on the event for my fellow indy artists who aren’t able to spend the time or the money to engage with this conversation.

This is a great shame. We are still operating in a model which speaks to companies and funded organisations – and often artists themselves are left out of the conversation. There’s a combination of things to blame – and I don’t knwo what the solution is – but there is a dominance of the company structure in forums like this – and the brave, solo voice can sometimes get lost.

I found the forum to be very intense. A lot of words – heard, thought and typed. A lot of text. By Friday night I was relieved to be abducted and taken to a Butoh show (still don’t like Butoh) – and then a magic show. I needed to remain mute for the rest of the weekend, and even now I am only re-emerging into the world.

There seemed to be three major sections to the Forum –

It was a lot to take in and absorb – and I am still digesting and processing – yes, I feel like I have eaten too much – and it was good because I was hungry for this level of conversation, and the conversation was at times very nourishing, but I just went over board.

I want to thank a few people – Rebecca Meston, Fiona Winning and ATF for having me, Dan Evans for hosting me at his awesome picnic, Jane Howard for being the best co-hort/adventurer a compulsive blogger can have, Sam Hawker for keeping me afloat and watered, Sam Strong for that glass of wine, Lachlan Philpott for being so funa dn provocative, Kit Brookman for being OK with me crying at that Chinese restaurant in the Valley, Ross Mueller for the amusing side anecdotes, Michal Imielski for being uber patient/kind/nurturing/reassuring as I verbally processed everything I was experiencing.

I may share the aftershocks with you as I recover from the erruption of ideas within me over the next few days/weeks/months.

All I can say is – the Australian theatre industry/community are fierce, articulate, intelligent and a force to be reckoned with. I’ve said it before – never EVER underestimate a theatre person’s passion or energy – it is unparalleled.