From April 21 - 24, in the bush south of Hobart, Australia’s southernmost capital city, 51 Playbackers from round Australia and New Zealand - including visitors from the UK, Switzerland and India - met over two and a half days for the Australasian Playback Gathering 2017.
From the Opening Ceremony round a large fire in the bush - which featured a Welcome to Country sung by Kartanya Maynard - to the closing in a quiet circle in the conference space, we brought ourselves forward in a spirit of enquiry and exchange as we explored the conference themes of: Place, Purpose and Practice Under Our Southern Skies.
We used the Open Space process, facilitated by Kim Willing of Hobart PT, and there were over 40 different sessions. There were forums for discussion and exchange; training workshops in different aspects of conducting and acting and music; and each evening we were treated to a Playback performance.
Over the course of the Gathering you might go to a workshop on story structure, and then find yourself in a discussion group about whether PT is stuck in the 70’s. You could spend a session exchanging different forms, then go off to ‘Playful Spontaneity’. The Stories of Some of Us - making space for identity politics and culture, might be followed by an opportunity to express what it is you don’t like about PT. There were sessions mapping which First Nations land each company is on, profitable Playback, Playback in the round, social issues and panel shows, acting large emotions by being real and using less.
Through all this there was a rich mixture of ages and experience and an enlivening sense of a community of practitioners bringing ourselves forward in a spirit of generosity, and a willingness to meet, listen to and learn from each other.
One of many highlights, at the end of our second day, was a Skype hookup with the European Gathering happening at the same time. We sent real time greetings and each Gathering sang a song to the other. It was a joyful moment, and deeply moving to link up with another part of the wider Playback community.
At the end, there was a hunger for more. This is a good sign, I think. Not everything in us had been satisfied, we hadn’t felt comfortable in every moment, but many people expressed their satisfaction at simply being with other Playback people doing this work that excites, inspires and challenges us. We left well nourished (even if we didn’t like every dish), and looking forward to the next meal.
Peter Hall April 2017
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