I was raised on stories. Usually served on a bed of red sand, smoked lightly in campfire, and seasoned with a hint of the supernatural.
My family came to Bourke, where I was born, and then Broken Hill where I spent most of my youth, to find and tell stories in their own way. Some may remember Cornerstone Community, the Christians who ran the local Pizza shop Pizza Runners in the 90s? Growing up I was sounded by families and other people passionate about what storytelling could do for people. They would run events, concerts, youth groups, adventure camps, church services; all to share stories, personal and historical, that might make life better for the people in their community.
As a musician, organiser, journalist, and filmmaker, I have found my own way to try and do a similar thing.
After 15 years away from the Silver City, gaining my communications degree, then working as a journalist and musician in Melbourne for ten years, I heard the call of home. It was to be six months; a visit to write an album about the city that still haunted my dreams. But, as is a common tale, I fell under the spell of the place and a return to the big smoke became harder and harder to imagine. I took up a job as the feature reporter at ABC Broken Hill and six years later, I wonder sometimes if life away from the town was all a hallucination?
One of the many things I’ve loved about being out here is the people this place brings you, old friends and new who hear the call of the desert, or the Barka. All have something to share about their experience of this place, or their connection to it. This area isn’t just rich in ore, but in story, and beauty, and horror, and humour. It whispers, and sings, and screams at you. The Wilyakahli and the Barkindji have known that for thousands of years.
I’ve been inspired by that, and I’ve tried to find ways to make the alchemy of music or art and this place, happen. One way has been to put on some small events or tours with local acts and bands visiting from other places. Many people would have been to one of the Bush Witch Productions events over the years with musicians like Mick Coates, Charlotte Le Lievre, and Leroy Johnson. Or perhaps a few to a Gritty City event.
Another approach has been to place my own creative process in the landscape and write songs about these places. My Last Album ‘If you were a lake, I’d drink you up’ was recorded outdoors in one afternoon on Mutawintji National Park. An incredible experience.
More recently I have set out to make films capturing musicians in the landscape, watching that interaction, and documenting it as best I can. The Boneyard Sessions started as me filming musician friends in the Broken Hill landscape, but has broadened to me visiting people in their own backyards and camp spots, all over the country.
It’s been a real adventure, and absolute affirmation that art and culture is alive and thriving in rural and remote Australia. There are growing communities of people opting out of big cities and into small ones that embrace their art and encourage each other to create. I’m lucky to get to see that happening in a few places, and Broken Hill is off chops with creativity people doing innovative things right now.
At present I’m splitting my time between Broken Hill and Adelaide, juggling work and Covid as we all are. Enjoying the challenge of innovating new ways to tell stories in these new times, writing and recording new music, and working on some projects with my production company, @Bush Witch Productions. Got some stuff in the works with adopted daughter of Broken Hill Charlotte LeLievre and Barkindji song woman @Nancy Bates. If people want to keep up with that they can sign up to my mailing list here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Aimee Volkofsky
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