Reflections from Victorian Theatre Forum – Megan Riedl

I am in the midst of preparing Tripwire’s Annual Report for our upcoming AGM. In writing my Artistic Director’s Report, I am also reflecting on the recent Victorian Theatre Forum. The mix of independent theatre-makers, small unfunded organisations like Tripwire, and small-medium funded organisations was great – but a noticeable absence of major players, regional venues and theatre training institutions.

The day’s work centred around thinking about, talking about and drilling down into the major issues facing the sector. Producer Kieran Swann’s provocation was that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

In talking about their experiences over the past year of funding disasters, political upheaval and the like, Erica McCalman from Next Wave delivered a feisty 5 point plan. I was pleased to note how closely Tripwire’s values and mission aligned with Erica’s plan for theatre-making in troubled times.

  1. Know yourself. Why do you make art? Who are you? where do you want to go? And who are you going to take with you?
  2. Open up and share. In this climate we must carry each other and reach out for help when you need it.
  3. Teach. Empower each other in collaboration. Artists know how to “art”, and others know how to do all the auxiliary stuff.
  4. Know the value of the arts and own it. Business isn’t the pinnacle of how to run a society and we can teach other sectors – we punch harder and higher than anybody.
  5. We challenge and lead the rest of society. Showing an alternative way to do it.

As delegates, we were expected to work – sharing our experiences, identifying challenges, finding opportunities and potential solutions to feed into the ongoing work of our industry’s peak advocacy body. And the debate was robust. At my table, our discussions centred around the perennial challenge of communicating value of the arts into the broader community.

I met several people who remembered me from last year’s VTF at Artshouse in North Melbourne. At the time, I was about to launch Tripwire Theatre Inc and was speaking around our values of reciprocity, sustainability, and the focus on local. It was nice to see a few familiar faces who have been following our progress this year and admiring the way we do what we do.

And TNA’s Executive Director Nicole Beyer had a great point as she told a funny story about her laughing in the face of a staff member who asked to see TNA’s policy manual. That the value of what the organisation provides is central – and the admin comes second. And the constant question has to be: How Will This Benefit Our Members?

And from somewhere I wrote down on my page this gem: Art is not an optional extra.

By Megan Riedl.

Tripwire committee members Alise & Megan recently attended the Victorian Theatre Forum, an annual arts industry think-tank run by the Theatre Network Australia.

and you can see more of the discussions from VTF here.


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