BECOMING Australian PUPPETEERS

1995-2014 is how long since we migrated to Queensland. My husband is close to retirement and contemplating a revival of his Puppetry passion. We are attempting to fix the house up before our income is reduced. At least Roy will be secure from the absolutist welfare policies of the present day Abbott Government(CONSERVATIVES).

I am not looking forward to being called a ‘job snob’ when I explain the mainstream workforce makes me mentally ill(literally) to the instruments of this Lib/Nat Coalition Governments ideology. Can I claim my arts practise as working for the dole?

Cultural policy? Nah… moving everything onto the verandah to polish the floor boards I stopped to peruse the photo albums and archival magasines of our Puppetry chapters in our life. Scanned a couple of pages to my earlier stock-taking, from the Victorian Education Department which funded the Theatre In Education section with an enthusiastic teacher/administrator, Sue Galley.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS – when the Arts were valued in every child’s education and the Commonwealth was re-distributed wider.

I met my husband Roy when he was making “The Adventures of Platypus Phil” – to get to the kitchen one had to go under the blue shimmering creek across the loungeroom and his dead-line was the annual preview of shows for school teachers who could book in eary….It also provided free postage for a mail-out to every school in Victoria.

I was a a Co-director and Youth Arts co-ordinator at Fringe Network in Brunswick St. Fitzroy(former Flying Trapeze cafe). The rest of the Melbourne Fringe Arts Festival planners were being funded by a combination of arts and employment schemes. My full-time wage was for 6months thanks to Labor’s Commonwealth Employment Scheme. I was sent off to learn how to touch type.

Very useful for our future inspired and original puppetry and poetry enterprises.

Typical of most artsworkers on $8-$20,000 a year it was necessary to supplement living with unemployment benefits even though we were writing, building, rehearsing, collaborating and submitting arts grant applications to the Australia Council – cultural arts body set up under Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
The last time the Arts were championed was when Paul Keating was Prime Minister: Creative Nation.

We auditioned the original and innovative Platypus Phil in front of the representative of the Queensland Arts Council. Unlike the rest of Australia they had a tight control on what was seen and censored. You can read in this older post how we experienced our first experiences of censorship and barriers to take our show to Queensland audiences.

HOME AT FAIRNEY VIEW

I was anxiously awaiting an audience for Jika Jika Puppets from North Fitzroy, Melbourne. They were part of my Youth Arts program for the first Melbourne Fringe Festival(1983) that I was a founding member of, and hardly anybody had turned up!Summoning courage I went up to the puppeteer, Roy McNeill, who was dressed in black clothes. He eased my feelings of incompetence by saying it was okay, because he was training a puppeteer(Maeve Vella) into the show of The Four Chinese Brothers and they would look at it as a rehearsal.

A group of young unemployed performers and musicians who had hitched their way up the Nepean Highway from Frankston sat with me, cross-legged on the floor. We were enthralled by the Japanese style Bunraku rod puppets and the way they came to life. The sets were original, incorporating musical instruments within them, like the giant triangle used as a gong.

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