12 kids, 8 months and one anthem with Associate Artist Davina Wright
Anthem Anthem Revolution – Terrapin’s new participatory work for public space – travels to the Birmingham 2022 Festival this weekend, to premiere on 21 July alongside the Commonwealth Games. But before sending it off to the other side of the world, we held a closing ceremony to celebrate the contribution of 12 Tasmanian young people to the project. Together, we experienced the wonderful, earnest and funny new anthem-making table tennis machine.
Making Anthem Anthem Revolution was a deep process. In 4 workshop weeks over 8 months, with support from facilitators Alex Walker and Billie Rankin, pakana hip-hop artist DENNI, and me, the young people wrote sentences, stories and words they wanted to include in a new Australian anthem. The young people explored feelings of love, reconciliation, respect of the land and the complexity of our country. The lyrics of Denni’s anthem held the kids’ words, which echo out beautifully when you manage to hit the ball (which if you’re me isn’t much). One thing they decided early on was that they wanted the anthem to never be the same twice, so that lots of different stories and perspectives could be told.
A word that kept coming up that the young people wanted in the new anthem was hope. In the weeks after we finished our last workshop I kept returning to this word. We’re living in incredibly complex and confronting times – many people around Australia have had a difficult time over the past 3 years with the pandemic, borders shut down and family members sick. Beyond that, internationally, we’re seeing unrest, war and the global response to a pandemic where millions of people have died. To have young people straight up say hope in relation to their future and their country, not once but repeatedly, made me also feel hopeful. I do want to recognise that as a facilitator or dramaturg to young people I definitely don’t think it’s their job to make me feel more optimistic, or hopeful, but it was an unexpected – and welcome – byproduct of the project.
In the second part of our workshops the young people interviewed a group of Tasmanians and asked them questions about what they wanted in a new national anthem. During these interviews I was so moved by the questions the children asked everyone and the interest and space they gave to the responses. The adults also asked the children questions and together it became a discussion of all of our hopes and dreams for Tasmania and, more broadly, Australia. I felt privileged to be in the room hearing everyone engage so genuinely and gently with each other. I learnt a lot about other people’s position on the complex issue of our national identity. One person being interviewed told the children they wished they could turn schools upside down and grow trees all through them (pretty exciting concept for the interviewers). Another Tasmanian man who was a Karen refugee talked about how important his Tribe’s anthem was to him, for its recording of their collective history. A member of the Australian military talked about how his father had made them all stand before dinner and sing the Australian national anthem together. My main takeaway here was the openness of all participants to listen and discuss what we might otherwise consider difficult topics. I think in a sense that’s the power of children: they support a space that asks hard questions and explores difficult themes with a sense of openness and understanding.
More broadly, the Anthem Anthem Revolution project made me think about how performance binds us together, supports these difficult and joyful conversations and helps us resolve conflict (when it’s working well). Supporting young people on the first journey through collaboratively making something with Terrapin was so exciting and rewarding. It was wonderful to see Terrapin engaging with children from the community to make something with, rather than just for, young people.
Anthem Anthem Revolution youth participants: Beatrix Bailey, Dottie Charlton, Frieda Cupit Sumner, Neo (Mika) Cupit Sumner, Annabelle Fenton, Quinn Sidney Gardner (Quince), Alondra Lisica, Pearl Smithies, Declan Triffitt, Isabella Triffitt, Woolf Wattern Wakelam, Dani Wright
Anthem Anthem Revolution is presented by the Birmingham 2022 Festival. The project is supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Arts Council England and The National Heritage Lottery Fund; by the UK/Australia Season Patrons, the Australian Government, the British Council and Creative Partnerships Australia through the Australian Cultural Fund as part of the UK/Australia Season 2021-22; and by Arts Tasmania.
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