__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

SPOTLIGHT PROMOTING POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING IN THE PERFORMING ARTS 2019 | ISSUE 1 CARING FOR THE TEAM OF GLORIA AT MELBOURNE THEATRE COMPANY FAMILY AND FRIENDS DAY JULIUS CAESAR MEET THE TEAM BEHIND THE MEDITATION COLLECTIVE SUPPORTING THE STUDENTS OF THE QUEENSLAND CONSERVATORIUM

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

1


We acknowledge the traditional owners of country on which we meet, visit and perform, and pay our respect to their Elders, past, present and future.

04

22

41

What is the Arts Wellbeing Collective?

Surviving to thriving: designing Tour Well

Congratulations to our newest Mental Health First Aiders

08

25

42

Caring for the team of Gloria at Melbourne Theatre Company

Resource Spotlight: Tour Well

Supporting the students of Queensland Conservatorium

29

46

An interview with Greta Bradman

Spotlight: Furbabies of Arts Centre Melbourne

32

50

Meet the team behind The Meditation Collective

Why alone time is essential for creativity and self-care - and how to prioritise it

12 Resource Spotlight: Your Pocket Guide to De-Role

14 Getting through the art ‘come down’

16

34

Arts Wellbeing Collective in the USA

Three points of contact: rock climbing is good for your brain

18

38

Family and Friends Day Julius Caesar

Mapping intimate scenes to create safer environments

54 How time in the UK helped me detach from music industry pressure

59 Helpful support services

Cover images: Jane Harber and Aileen Huynh in MTC’s Gloria, image by Brett Boardman. Backstage at Arts Centre Melbourne, image by Mark Gambino. Please note that the health and wellbeing advice contained in this publication is not a substitute for professional advice. Arts Centre Melbourne has taken all reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of material contained in this publication. You should always consult a suitably qualified professional before making any decisions that could affect you or others. 2

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


Welcome Welcome to Spotlight, the first edition of the Arts Wellbeing Collective magazine. This magazine was born out of a desire to share wonderful stories of positive mental health and wellbeing across the sector. There are so many great examples from our peers and colleagues who are taking simple steps to prioritise and promote positive mental health and wellbeing for themselves and their teams. It is vital that we share these stories. All too often, we hear negative stories. Where we haven’t looked after ourselves and each other. Or we’ve been in an environment that stopped us from being our best. We hope that together, we can make these stories the exception rather than the norm, and stories of positive change - like those that you’ll read on these pages simply examples of the way we do business. Looking after ourselves and each other is not something we should do if we happen to have time and resources, but a hallmark of the way that we go about our work in the arts. I hope you take inspiration from the stories shared, and take pride in the work of your colleagues. It has been a privilege to be involved in some small way in the examples that you will read about in these pages. I encourage you to reach out to the Arts Wellbeing Collective team if there are ideas that you have that you would like to see happen, or if you have a mental health and wellbeing challenge that you’re just not sure how to tackle.

We will always do our best to listen and hopefully support you as we all aim to improve the way we do business together. Thank you to everyone who has so generously shared their stories and experiences for this first edition. We continue to be overwhelmed by people’s willingness, openness and generosity in supporting the objectives of the Arts Wellbeing Collective. In no way are we presenting the Arts Wellbeing Collective as the ‘be all and end all’ solution to all the problems of all performing arts workers, but we are heartened by the changes that are happening all around us. We hope that the performing arts sector becomes known not only for our incredible, rich, innovating and world class work, but for the way in which we develop and present that work – caring for each other, caring for ourselves, and knowing that when we are well, when we are supported, our creativity flourishes. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to join the Arts Wellbeing Collective as a member organisation. It is completely free of charge and open to all performing arts workers and organisations. Together, I know we can have a positive effect on this wonderful, exciting, unique industry. Claire Spencer Chief Executive Officer, Arts Centre Melbourne Chair, Arts Wellbeing Collective Advisory Group

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

3


Image by John Gollings

What is the Arts Wellbeing Collective? The Arts Wellbeing Collective is an Arts Centre Melbourne initiative that comprises a consortium of arts and cultural organisations whose shared vision is to effect better mental health and wellbeing for performing arts workers. Our objectives are to: • • • •

Improve support services for performing arts workers Collate and share information Effect industry cultural change Improve support networks within and between arts organisations.

Where did the Arts Wellbeing Collective come from? The Arts Wellbeing Collective first came about in 2016. In 2016: 4

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry: Final Report (van den Eynde, Fisher & Sonn, 2016) uncovers startling statistics. Of the entertainment industry workers surveyed, 15.2% experienced symptoms of moderate to severe depression and 44% experienced symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety.

Arts Centre Melbourne engages an industry working group and experts including psychologist (and renowned performing artist), Greta Bradman, and psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, to develop a program addressing the unique mental health and wellbeing challenges faced by performing arts workers.

Arts Centre Melbourne confirms funding to trial a sector-wide response. The Arts Wellbeing Collective is conceived, and 138 arts and cultural organisations across Victoria join as member organisations.


2017

2019

The Arts Wellbeing Collective Pilot Program delivers 40 workshops, seminars and professional development activities, including a regional roadshow to hubs throughout Victoria, and creates a custom-built website with more than 20 resources.

The Arts Wellbeing Collective team presents at the International Society for the Performing Arts Congress in New York as part of the session, Design Thinking: New Ideas Today.

The Arts Wellbeing Collective Pilot Program undergoes an independent, external evaluation. The Executive Summary states that “Feedback was overwhelmingly positive with a desire for the program to continue and expand. The program was seen as timely, useful, resource rich and generally well presented. There was relief that the program had started and gratitude to Arts Centre Melbourne for making it happen.”

Workshops, resources and sector initiatives are delivered to Arts Wellbeing Collective member organisations on a regular basis.

The Arts Wellbeing Collective Pilot Program is a finalist in the Australian HR Awards (Best Health and Wellbeing Program) and the VicHealth Awards (Improving Mental Wellbeing).

2018 •

Arts Centre Melbourne works with innovation partner, PwC, to explore strategic opportunities. Arts Centre Melbourne utilises findings from the evaluation and the PwC report to develop a threeyear strategy, which aims to create long-term positive culture change across the sector.

Arts Centre Melbourne receives funding from WorkSafe Victoria’s WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund, enabling the expansion of the Arts Wellbeing Collective over three years.

The new strategy launches on 10 October 2018, World Mental Health Day.

Arts Wellbeing Collective membership All Arts Wellbeing Collective workshops, resources, sector initiatives are completely open access and free of charge - including both individual and organisational membership. All arts and cultural organisations are welcome to join the Arts Wellbeing Collective. Arts Wellbeing Collective workshops, resources and sector initiatives are targeted at all performing arts workers - from performers, crew, management, and presenters, to publicists, playwrights, front of house, and any other associated roles. If you would like to join the Arts Wellbeing Collective as an individual member, you are most welcome. You do not need to be working full time in order to qualify for membership - freelance, casual, part-time, fulltime, variable-time, or those between roles, training or re-training are all welcome to join the Arts Wellbeing Collective.

To find out more about the Arts Wellbeing Collective, download resources, register for workshops, or to become a member, visit artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Image by Mark Gambino

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

5


What does the Arts Wellbeing Collective offer? Support for developing mentally healthy creative workplaces The Arts Wellbeing Collective works in partnership with peak bodies, organisational psychologists and industry leaders to support the development of mentally healthy creative workplaces, acknowledging the sometimes unusual needs and composition of creative workplaces.

Sector initiatives The Arts Wellbeing Collective delivers initiatives aimed at building sector capacity. Initiatives include the roll out of tailored, accredited Mental Health First Aid, the development of a peer support network, and exploring opportunities for increasing access to professional support.

Resources

Workshops

The Arts Wellbeing Collective builds practical, tailored resources including tool kits, videos, guides, and more. All resources can be accessed via the Arts Wellbeing Collective website, and are open access, free of charge and readily available for all performing arts workers.

The Arts Wellbeing Collective designs and delivers face to face workshops, focussed on building knowledge and practical skills to address common mental health and wellbeing challenges in the performing arts.

Resources in development include Train Well promoting positive mental health and wellbeing for students and educators in training institutions, and Audition Well - promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in audition processes.

Special thanks to the learning journey design team who worked closely with Arts Centre Melbourne’s Learning and Organisational Development team to scope the delivery of the Arts Wellbeing Collective workshop offerings - Kam Greville, Akimera Burckhardt-Bedeau, Greta Bradman, Dr Alison Robb and Matt Heyward.

This magazine includes excerpts from recently released resources.

Member organisations can request workshops to be delivered onsite for their teams.

What are the guiding principles of the Arts Wellbeing Collective? Prevention focused, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, and raising awareness of mental health, mental health problems and the value of early intervention. Working in partnership, ensuring a variety of partnerships state-wide and across the industry – collaboration is core to the Arts Wellbeing Collective and vital to success. Creating systems level change, through seeking to understand and address systems, cultures and traditions that contribute to poor mental health and wellbeing in the performing arts. Long-term thinking, prioritising resources and initiatives that have capacity for long-lasting impact, scalability and transferability. Knowledge creation and dissemination, working with experts and industry leaders to find, share, create and translate the best available information, tailored for creative contexts. Encouraging innovation, Arts Centre Melbourne is always learning – we do not have all the answers. We will test, trial, evaluate, and share useful findings with energy and authenticity, and continue to be rigorously planned, strategically responsive and thoughtfully adaptable.

6

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


Members of the Arts Wellbeing Collective team and Advisory Group with Barbara Hill from WorkSafe Victoria at the launch of the Arts Wellbeing Collective Strategy Image by Mark Gambino

The Arts Wellbeing Collective team The Arts Wellbeing Collective is an initiative of Arts Centre Melbourne, Australia’s largest and busiest performing arts centre. Arts Centre Melbourne’s purpose is to enrich the lives of Victorians – culturally, educationally, socially and economically and to provide leadership in the promotion and development of the performing arts (Victorian Arts Centre Act 1979). The Arts Wellbeing Collective is an example of Arts Centre Melbourne’s commitment to providing leadership in the promotion and development of the performing arts. The program is managed by Arts Centre Melbourne’s Learning and Organisational Development team, and supported by an Advisory Group of industry leaders: Damien Angus Partner, PwC Greta Bradman Performing Artist and Psychologist Lydia Fairhall Executive Producer, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

Linda Fleet Director, Strategic Marketing & Communications, Creative Victoria Mark Gogoll Manager, Mark Gogoll Enterprises Leanne Lawrence Executive Director, Human Resources, Arts Centre Melbourne Michael Lynch Director, Smart Artists Management Jason Marriner CEO, Marriner Group Catherine McClements Performing Artist and Arts Centre Melbourne Trustee Kendra Reid Director, KLR Consulting Evelyn Richardson Chief Executive, Live Performance Australia Ian Roberts Arts Administrator and Arts Centre Melbourne Trustee Claire Spencer CEO, Arts Centre Melbourne artswellbeingcollective.com.au

7


The cast and crew of Gloria. Image by Brett Boardman

Caring for the team of Gloria at Melbourne Theatre Company WORDS BY MADELEINE DORE When we make art, often our aim is to reflect the world around us, or reveal some truth about what it means to be human. This may mean delving into difficult subject matter grief, violence, injustice, relationship breakdowns and other challenging content. This can be a difficult or straining process, not only for creators of work, but all the performers, production crew, contractors, and front of house team involved in a production, explains psychologist Dr Alison Robb. “When you’re faced with it day after day, show after show, it can have an impact on your wellbeing,” says Dr Robb. 8

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Such work can occasionally provoke a kind of vicarious trauma, a term used to describe the effects of repeated exposure to traumatic content whereby you empathically and emotionally connect with the material. “You may be vulnerable in a similar way to a therapist hearing trauma stories over and over, or a paramedic turning up to the scene of an accident day after day,” adds Dr Robb. To protect team members from the adverse effects of working with such difficult material, the Arts Wellbeing Collective supported Melbourne Theatre Company on the production of Gloria, a play by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Lee Lewis.


The production is set in the office of a New York City periodical. The day’s discussion between colleagues centres around a party that Gloria – the ‘office loser’ – threw the night before that no one went to except Dean. Bitter and angry, Gloria’s actions propel the plot into a confronting scene depicting graphic violence, which is then referred to throughout the production. Given the challenges of the production, Executive Director and Co-CEO of the Melbourne Theatre Company, Virginia Lovett, said it was crucial to ensure all team members had access to the right support. “We needed to make sure that our staff were supported first and foremost, so that in turn they could act sensitively and confidently with our audiences.”

Given the challenges of the production, Executive Director and Co-CEO of the Melbourne Theatre Company, Virginia Lovett, said it was crucial to ensure all staff had access to the right support.

Melbourne Theatre Company undertook several initiatives across all stages of the production. In addition to taking their code of conduct, workplace policies, and Employee Assistance Program seriously for all employees, the company also have an Environment,

Health and Safety (EHS) framework with a dedicated EHS Coordinator on staff. All front line team members were included in a special briefing with the director and production team to not only illustrate the visuals and logistics of the most graphic scenes, but to share why those scenes are included. This briefing also included a video of the company run so that the team could watch the sequence in a safe space rather than seeing it for the first time when working as an usher. It was also essential the team had a holistic understanding of how various elements of the scenes worked and could ask any questions. “This exercise was also beneficial to cast and crew, as it reassured them that the content they were communicating would be received with maximum impact, and maximum consideration for those experiencing it,” said Lovett. During the rehearsal process, the cast worked with a firearms expert to help understand ways to deliver the scene in both a physically and mentally safe way. An onsite psychologist was briefed about the challenges that the team might face. She also watched the company run, so that anyone who sought support didn’t have to explain the content of the show. In addition, the Melbourne Theatre Company’s stage and production managers had recently completed Mental Health First Aid training through the Arts Wellbeing Collective, with more team members set to complete the course.

Image by Brett Boardman

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

9


Tips and tricks that arts organisations can learn from Melbourne Theatre Company’s experience The approach taken by Melbourne Theatre Company contains lessons for all arts organisations to support not only their team members dealing with difficult subject matter, but also to prepare audiences. Even having read the script, Virginia Lovett says she felt anxious about how the production would be received by the public. “Lee Lewis, the cast and our production team had made it so realistic, it was indeed shocking for the wider audience,” she said. In addition to including a content warning about coarse language, sexual references and a scene depicting graphic violence, a content guide for audience members was made available upon request. Various details of mental health support services were also available at the theatre for those who felt they might need support following the performance. At the heart of it, looking after audiences starts with looking after the team, says Lovett. Initiatives such as the Arts Wellbeing Collective have been integral in this regard – raising awareness and encouraging organisations to learn from one another.

10

Initiatives such as the Arts Wellbeing Collective have been integral in this regard – raising awareness and encouraging organisations to learn from one another.

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

“It is wonderful to have a collective that unites arts organisations in their shared experience of working in the arts. It allows space for arts workers to learn from each other about issues that may be affecting them, and any wellbeing solutions that may be beneficial. It’s also encouraging for us as a Company that benchmarks are put in place across our industry, which keep us moving forward together,” she said. Lovett would encourage all organisations, companies and individuals dealing with traumatic subject matter to plan both holistically, and in great detail. “Starting on the front foot with difficult content is invaluable, as it sets all involved on the right path to making sure every eventuation is accounted for,” she said.

Starting on the front foot with difficult content is invaluable, as it sets all involved on the right path to making sure every eventuation is accounted for.

Such precautions and planning can enable better productions, she adds. “I would also say that never let difficult content deter you from executing it; Gloria was extremely well received, and for all our preparation, audiences demonstrated that they were hardy, curious and resilient. We banded together as a Company to take a creative risk, and collectively we reaped the rewards of this difficult challenge.”


Signs and symptoms of possible vicarious trauma - spot it early

Visit artswellbeingcollective.com.au for more information and resources, including:

While there is little research regarding vicarious trauma in the performing arts context, working with confronting or difficult work may create risk.

Tips and tricks for de-role

Audience support flyers that you can adapt for your venue (example below)

This is particularly poignant for performers, as they may undertake extensive processes to develop character.

Access to upcoming Mental Health First Aid training sessions.

“This inner world is effectively a skilfully constructed trauma memory and with enough repetition, may become as solid as your own life memories, especially if you have used material from your own life to create it,” says Dr Alison Robb. Whether you’re a performing artist, follow spot operator or front of house team member watching the performance night after night, there are several warning signs to watch out for. Spotting signs early means you can quickly seek professional help and put strategies in place to best deal with difficult subject matter. Signs and symptoms may include: •

Intrusions Unwelcome recurring thoughts, flashbacks, body sensations or dreams and nightmares related to the show.

Avoidance Avoiding things that remind you of the traumatic content, cutting off your emotions, using substances to cope.

Hyper-vigilance Feeling under threat, on-edge, over-reacting to loud or unexpected sounds, or scanning your environment for danger. Changes in your beliefs Changes from your previous beliefs where you may start to perceive the world to be more dangerous and/or yourself to be more powerless or helpless.

No matter what art form you’re working in, or what production you’re working on, or what role you play, you don’t need to suffer in silence.

Hear a story. Connect. Imagine. Discover. The performing arts have the power to move, excite, challenge, inspire and affect us. We trust that you will take care of yourself, including your mental health and wellbeing when experiencing the magic of theatre. If your engagement with the arts has triggered something for you or otherwise affected your mental health or wellbeing, please seek support. Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 DirectLine 1800 888 236 Griefline 1300 845 745 Headspace 1800 650 890 Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 Lifeline 13 11 14 Mensline 1300 789 978 MIND Australia 1300 286 463 Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 Switchboard Victoria (LGBTQI) 1800 184 527

If you experience a negative impact or change in your daily life, behaviour, feelings, mood, or experience intrusive thoughts, it is important to recognise you’re not alone. If there is someone in the company that you feel comfortable speaking with, reach out. If not, talk to a loved one or support service. No matter what, Dr Robb’s advice is to get connected with a health professional and see a GP if you don’t already have a psychologist. “There are robust ways of dealing with the symptoms of trauma – don’t struggle alone,” concludes Dr Robb.

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

11


Image by Mark Gambino

Resource Spotlight: Your Pocket Guide to De-Role - tips for getting out of character and back to your wonderful self Download a full version of the guide at artswellbeingcollective.com.au

We spend so much time meticulously getting into character – thinking, feeling, speaking, and moving as someone else – how much time and energy do you spend getting out of character?

At the time of writing, there are no formal researchbased guidelines for getting out of character. The following ideas are drawn from anecdotal evidence and clinical experience.

It can take more than a quick debrief and a post-show high five! Getting out of character properly can help you avoid: • Poor mental health and wellbeing from ineffective or absent de-role practice • Character creep and character bleed • Blurred boundaries between actor and character • Intrusive thoughts, feelings or behaviours that are not your own

Hopefully you will find tips and tricks to help you return to your wonderful self!

12

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

The content was created, reviewed and informed by Arts Centre Melbourne, Alicia Gardiner, Simon Gleeson, Matt Heyward, Bert LaBonté, Daijah Porchia, Dr Alison Robb, Patrice Tipoki, and Deone Zanotto.


IN REHEARSALS Discuss the importance of using effective de-role processes. Share tips and techniques with each other that may have been successful in the past. Agree as a company to spend time at the end of the day getting out of character before you leave the building. Add post-rehearsal group exercises - something fun and frivolous - and make a conscious decision to use each other’s names. Once you hit the theatre, use ‘dress down’ time as the signal to start the de-role process!

IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING PERFORMANCE Consciously place the character’s props back on the props table. Remove the character’s costume. Place it consciously on the rack. Carefully remove any make-up, wigs, markings etc. worn as the character. Physically shake the character off - arms, legs, hands, feet. If you have access to a bathroom, have a shower and imagine washing the character off. Change into an outfit that is comforting, or expresses your personality, or both. Smells can evoke powerful memories - use a particular perfume or deodorant when portraying the character, then rinse it off and use one that represents you.

...use a particular perfume or deodorant when portraying the character, then rinse it off and use one that represents you.

REINFORCE THE DIFFERENCE For any post show meet and greet, forum or backstage tour, make sure you are introduced to audience and participants with YOUR name, not the name of your character. “This is [Name] who plays the role of [Character].” You could even make mention of the differences between the two: “You might have noticed everyone in the show is really scared of [Character], but [Name] is actually one of the sweetest people you will ever meet!”

NOTICE YOUR THOUGHTS Sometimes a character isn’t a problem until you’ve been doing it for a while. Notice when your mind supplies you with thoughts or suggestions, or dreams, that are from the character and not you. Practice saying to yourself, “Thanks mind, but that’s (CHARACTER), that’s not me” and then turn your attention back to what you were doing in the present moment. Over time, the thoughts will come less frequently and you’ll be able to identify and deal with them faster.

CONNECT WITH... YOUR SPACES: Pay attention as you move through different spaces - offstage into the wings, into the dressing room, out stage door. Engage your senses as you leave the theatre and reconnect to the real world - what can you see, smell, hear, taste and feel? Notice all the differences. YOUR PEOPLE: Call a loved one and find out the details of their day - a good antidote to the epic arc of performance. Plus, you get to speak to someone who loves you for you. If you are playing a role that isolates you, make a conscious effort to connect with others. YOUR BODY: Let go of certain physical character traits that are not like your own. Dance to your favourite music, do a quick yoga wind down, meditate (search the web for a ‘body scan meditation’ as a good starting point), or simply sit quietly and take some slow, deep breaths. YOUR THINGS: Some performers create a ‘self-kit’ to keep in their dressing room. A collection of things that remind you who you are outside of work - keepsakes from loved ones, objects that represent your hobbies and interests, and photos of friends, family and pets.

We hope you found this excerpt from Your Pocket Guide to De-Role useful. To read the full guide or request a printed version, please visit artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Subtle shifts in language can make a big difference. artswellbeingcollective.com.au

13


WE ALL KNOW | Photographic record of temporary works Image by St. John McKay

Getting through the art ‘come down’ WORDS BY ST. JOHN MCKAY What I’ve found in making art is that once you’ve given birth to your baby - a performance, a film, a sculpture, a painting, an exhibition - you go through a type of postpartum depression. How to get through this? In my case I make solo, multi-media performance pieces. In 2018 I put on two ‘major’ works, in that they were years in the making, were each over an hour in length, and were quite complicated to execute. They are also filled with very personal, very true elements, revolving around traumatic experiences. The first of these two had a three night run in February and, as can be imagined, the two months leading up to the dates were all consuming. I do freelance work to pay the rent and, luckily, I had a light season around then so could just ‘be in the zone’, 14

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

working day and night on the piece. I was working right up to the minute I put it on. It went well, I had more than the three people I expected to show up (50 people!), and got great feedback. And then comes the day after. When everything has been directed toward one thing, and that one thing is done, suddenly I found myself facing a huge, cavernous void.

And then comes the day after. When everything has been directed toward one thing, and that one thing is done, suddenly I found myself facing a huge, cavernous void.


I crashed badly. I basically got into bed and stayed there for two months, only getting out when I had to for work. Gradually I came out of this, but it was very scary. Then came the second show, set for September. This was even more taxing than the show in February as that one was a mixture of personal and societal, whereas this was all personal, dealing with my deepest traumas, domestic violence from my childhood and estrangement from my young son in adulthood.

The lesson I learned is to have some sort of routine alongside your immersion in your work, something that can be there for the fall off the cliff that can sometimes happen when something is done.

Again, I was lucky to have a quiet time from work so was able to be totally immersed in the piece. Though I’d been working on this thing for years, I now spent two months thinking of nothing else, twenty-four-seven.

The lesson I learned is to have some sort of routine alongside your immersion in your work, something that can be there for the fall off the cliff that can sometimes happen when something is done.

But it was hell. Working on my most acute trauma day in day out, for the purpose of exposing it to a room full of people for their judgment, felt quite insane. It was like I was having a mental breakdown every single day.

It doesn’t have to be the gym. It doesn’t have to be something you don’t really like (I’m not a fan of the gym!), it can be something fun.

I couldn’t see how I could go on except I had a date, and I had to go through with it. I’d actually already quit on putting on this show a year before, when I’d had a couple of nights of it booked, because it was too emotionally taxing. I didn’t want to quit twice.

A sport, a building project unrelated to your art, a volunteering commitment, therapy, some kind of regular social thing that involves multiple nights a week.

But now, on top of everything else, I was most terrified of one thing: the day after. After being put through the ringer with this piece I couldn’t see how I was going to keep out of the dark hole awaiting me on the other side. Except, this time I had one difference: an exercise routine.

What I’ve learned is to be ready, have an idea for how to keep healthy after it’s all over. Making work is difficult, taxing, stressful. We all need a plan to keep us sane, and

Or, if you have the luxury, plan a trip for afterwards - I’m a fan of ten day Vipassana silent meditation retreats.

... To. Keep. Going!

After being put through the ringer with this piece I couldn’t see how I was going to keep out of the dark hole awaiting me on the other side. Except, this time I had one difference: an exercise routine.

For reasons to do with the performance I’d actually wanted to get physically toned, and so, besides working on the show, I was also a gym rat, and became very careful about what I ate, including intermittent fasting. So, when the show was over, I had this routine in place. I had lost thirty pounds and was in probably the best shape I’d ever been (if I may say so!), so I didn’t want to just throw away all that effort. Therefore, though I wanted to crawl up into a ball in bed, which I still did plenty of, believe me, I also got myself to that gym almost every day. And that made the difference.

Therefore, though I wanted to crawl up into a ball in bed, which I still did plenty of, believe me, I also got myself to that gym almost every day. And that made the difference.

Jewellery Box Wharenui, wood, paua shell Image by St. John McKay

St. John is a New Zealand born Brooklyn-based artist, and connected with the Arts Wellbeing Collective team while working at the recent International Society for the Performing Arts Congress in New York. Check out St. John’s arty stuff: stjohnmckay.com instagram.com/stjohnmckay facebook.com/StJohnMcKayArt artswellbeingcollective.com.au

15


Image by Joseph Mark

AWC in the USA Tessitura Network Innovator Series Tessitura’s Innovator Series promotes insight and innovation in the business of arts and culture with a program of brief, inspiring talks by industry innovators. Arts Centre Melbourne Chief Executive Officer, Claire Spencer, was recently invited to speak at the Tessitura Learning & Community Conference in Orlando, Florida. This incredible opportunity offered Claire the chance to share her experience of implementing the Arts Wellbeing Collective with 2,000 delegates. The response to Claire’s talk was overwhelming, with organisations from across the USA reaching out to see how they could get involved. Thank you to the team at Tessitura Network for this incredible opportunity. The energy in the room was electric. 16

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Real-time Twitter responses included: Mara @mjhwall | That feeling when 2,000 people have just heard a message we didn’t even know we needed. Thank you #TLCC2018 Marissa Todd @rissatodd | Glad to hear about promoting mental health conversations and care. We need to break down the stigma. Mental health is health. Self care matters. #tlcc2018 Kristin Darrow @krdwerd | A beautiful leadership example — tackling head-on improving the support of the WHOLE human being for the arts and cultural employee. Thank you Claire Spencer. @tessnetwork @artscentremelb #TLCC2018 Watch Claire’s speech, Stepping into the Void: A Courageous Collaboration at tessituranetwork.com/en/Items/Articles/InnovatorSeries/TIS_Claire-Spencer-2018


Image by Christopher Duggan

AWC in the USA International Society for the Performing Arts The Arts Wellbeing Collective team recently had the privilege of attending the International Society for the Performing Arts Congress 2019, held at The Times Centre in New York. Project Manager, Tracy Margieson, presented to more than 600 delegates from over 50 countries on the Arts Wellbeing Collective as part of a session titled, Design Thinking: New Ideas Today. This session was a rapid fire presentation of four projects that have the potential to have a global impact on and for the performing arts. Thank you to the team at ISPA for the opportunity to present - the Arts Wellbeing Collective team was thrilled to be a part of this wonderful event, and to raise the profile of the Arts Wellbeing Collective on a global scale.

While in New York, the Arts Wellbeing Collective team met with executives from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Signature Theater, Roundabout Theatre Company, Tessitura Network, The Actors Fund, Theater Development Fund, Broadway Cares, Commercial Theatre Institute, Disney Theatrical Group and The Juilliard School. Everyone was overwhelmingly generous with their time and knowledge. These meetings have significantly assisted and influenced the strategic direction of the Arts Wellbeing Collective. The ISPA presentation, Congress interactions and meetings, and the additional meetings held while in New York have greatly helped to solidify our bestpractice approach to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the performing arts. artswellbeingcollective.com.au

17


Image by Charlotte Barrett

Family and Friends Day Julius Caesar WORDS BY CHARLOTTE BARRETT AND MADELEINE DORE Every year, Bell Shakespeare presents an extensive national tour to regional towns and capital cities around Australia. While touring can be great fun, it also means being away from your family and friends for weeks - or even months - on end. As with many things, preparation is key. The Bell Shakespeare company of Julius Caesar decided to do it a little differently. Before embarking on the twenty-week tour of Julius Caesar, a special lunch and briefing session was hosted for family and friends of the team. “Many of the cast had families and children, so we felt it was important for this tour to try to make them feel part of the process, considering we virtually take their loved ones away for half of the year,” said Company Manager Charlotte Barrett. For Family and Friends Day, more than 30 guests including partners, children of all ages, mentors and friends gathered in the rehearsal room to see a glimpse behind the scenes of the performance, set and costumes.

18

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

The briefing session included an overview of the tour, introductions to the cast, creatives and crew, a rundown of the tour schedule and map of the venues, as well as sharing convenient times for family and friends to visit. “I know the cast and crew appreciated meeting each other’s significant others so they could put faces to names before they went on tour,” said Barrett. Such inclusion and detailed information is important for both staff and families, explains clinical psychologist, choreographer, and director Dr Jane Miskovic-Wheatley. “When an artist accepts a touring contract, it offers them a great professional opportunity, but it also calls for significant separation from their families,” she says. “Having a better understanding of what the arts practitioner is doing when they are at work, where they are touring to, and whom they are spending time with, can help families understand the opportunities but also the pressures of life on the road.” Miskovic-Wheatley has worked closely with several arts organisations including Bell Shakespeare to help support their teams before, during and post-tour, and believes there are many benefits of including families in the process.


“This type of program provides opportunities for the families to meet, and potentially make supportive social connections between themselves,” she says. It’s also particularly important for young children of touring practitioners. “It can assist the at-home carer to talk about the touring parent who is a bit abstract to the child when they are away,” she said. Through creating a bridge between personal and professional life, Family and Friends Day could also reinforce the need for long-term wellness and support initiatives, explains Miskovic-Wheatley. “It could help practitioners find greater balance for quality of life and mitigate some of the stress touring may bring to all involved.”

The briefing session included an overview of the tour, introductions to the cast, creatives and crew, a rundown of the tour schedule and map of the venues, as well as sharing convenient times for family and friends to visit.

Image by Charlotte Barrett

It’s the little things that make a difference During the briefing sessions, the team also provided guests with some ideas for how they can support their loved ones while they are preparing for, or attending a tour. Suggestions included small acts such as sending photos from home, making regular contact via email or text, sending care packages, attending a show, and acknowledging that their loved one may feel tired, pre-occupied and at times down during or after a production. The response has been great, said Barrett. “We have had a couple of family members and friends contact us over the tour – either to organise care packages to be sent to their loved ones while on tour, or to find out when they will next be home.”

Image by Ghenoa Gela

Maintaining communication has also been a key to the success of the initiative. As a supplement to the Family and Friends Day, the team have been sending regular newsletters to loved ones, sharing updates about the tour, including photos, details on where the team is heading to next, as well as highlights and lowlights. Touching on the low-lights and stresses is especially important to encourage open communication between practitioners, family and friends. “The arts tells stories of the full range of the human condition, and it should be ok for its story tellers to work with the same understanding, compassion and support, and for their families to be part of the story,” adds Miskovic-Wheatley.

Image by Ghenoa Gela artswellbeingcollective.com.au

19


Making it easier for all arts workers, families and friends Recent research has indicated that anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviours are much higher in the arts, explains Miskovic-Wheatley. Things will get better, the more we talk, she says. “We need to acknowledge the challenges, share ideas, and fight for support – the more we can empathise and help those that need it, and the more we might seek support ourselves when we have difficult days.” While Bell Shakespeare’s Family and Friends Day and ongoing newsletter are simple and accessible in their delivery, similar examples are difficult to come across in the arts sector more broadly. There is a growing awareness of the stresses faced by arts practitioners within the industry, says MiskovicWheatley. “The arts sector is talking more openly about the particular stress the industry places on practitioners due to their personal engagement in the art making process, the subjective nature of one’s work, the specific stressors of touring, and the financial instability most artists live with.” There are simple improvements the industry can make, from creating online support groups for family and friends of the touring company, to ensuring accommodation comes with efficient WiFi. Miskovic-Wheatley would like to see industry and funding bodies working together to make touring schedules and budgets more flexible and generous to allow for a better work-life balance for practitioners. “Hopefully more of an investment in the lives of touring and wider arts practitioners will mean people can not only survive but thrive in this industry, which would further enrich the sector,” she says.

Making self-care part of the puzzle One thing individuals can do is to learn how to priortise self-care. “Investing time, energy and – hopefully minimal – funds into self-care strategies is very important to support overall wellness for everyone, but especially in times of stress, such as when you are on tour,” said Miskovic-Wheatley. Self-care is often underestimated, but MiskovicWheatley views it as the first line of defence for mental health, and the first strategies to engage in if you begin to feel physically or mentally unwell. Strategies can include getting restful sleep, eating nutritious food, exercising, taking time out to get outdoors, meditate, read, and protect your immune system. Feeling supported by and connected with your team is also important, adds Miskovic-Wheatley. “Everyone has bad days, so it is really important that everyone has someone that they know they can talk to, that support is available and offered by the team and company. If you begin to feel particularly anxious or depressed, it is important to seek professional help, and ideally, companies should be prepared to support this process”. Ultimately, it’s about including people and acknowledging a person in the context of their entire lives, not just their work. “I hope collectively, initiatives such as Family and Friends Day will become more commonplace, so touring company members and their loved ones experience that mutual support,” concludes Miskovic-Wheatley. For more information on mental health and wellbeing while on tour, visit artswellbeingcollective.com.au For more information on Bell Shakespeare and their upcoming tours, visit bellshakespeare.com.au

Image by Charlotte Barrett

20

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


Tour preparation tips for your family and friends Bell Shakespeare included the following tips during their Family and Friends Day - consider implementing some with your own family and friends before you head off on your next tour: •

Identify and discuss challenges that might come up during the tour before the tour commences

Aim to spend quality time together before the tour kicks off, and during time off in your home town

Set ground rules and manage expectations will there be days where you simply won’t be able to communicate easily?

Schedule fun things to do when at home

Schedule regular contact and be honest and open

Create a family blog or closed social media group and post comments and photos

Have steps in place for managing a crisis, should something happen and you can’t be there

Use social media sensitively

Acknowledge that touring can sometimes look and sound like 24/7 fun, but in reality it’s often exhausting, sometimes stressful, and hard work!

Expect that returning home will take adjusting - give yourself time to get ‘back to normal’

As a supplement to the Family and Friends Day, we also sent out newsletters every couple of weeks, to touch base and give them an idea of what’s going on. Charlotte Barrett

Image by Neveen Hanna

Image by Hayley Stafford

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

21


Image by Mark Gambino

Surviving to thriving: designing Tour Well WORDS BY JESSIE WANG AND MATT HEYWARD If you’re in the performing arts sector, it’s likely you’ve been on tour or know colleagues who have. Whether you are performing, producing, or behind-the-scenes, touring is an exciting and unforgettable process. You can experience new places, perform for new audiences, and live an adventure where every day is different.

common mental health and wellbeing challenges that you might encounter before, during, and even after the tour.

But at the same time… it’s exhausting. You’re constantly on the move. You’re away from your family and friends. You’re working long hours in unfamiliar environments.

How did you get involved with Tour Well?

Sometimes you may feel like you are barely getting by – something that can quickly lead to mental ill health and wellbeing issues. As an artist myself, I’d like to think that a work-life balance exists, even on tour, so it’s great to hear that the Arts Wellbeing Collective has developed Tour Well, a toolkit consisting of evidence-based tips addressing 22

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

We spoke to Arts Wellbeing Collective consultant, Matt Heyward about the creation of Tour Well.

I am a professional Musical Theatre Performer who has been working and touring around Australia for the last 20 years in shows like Mamma Mia!, Les Miserables and My Fair Lady. In 2015 and 2016, I was an associate producer of Out From Under, alongside Matthew Henderson, Liam Mcilwain and Luke Hunter. We knew the statistics around mental health in the arts were bad, and thought it was time someone shed some light on the reasons why.


We produced an evening of entertainment and education aimed at ‘starting the conversation’. We worked closely with two psychologists and had discussion panels about anxiety, depression and identity, interspersed around some incredible performances. When the Arts Wellbeing Collective commenced in 2017, it was the perfect opportunity for me to get involved with a prevention program that focussed specifically on the promotion of positive mental health in the performing arts. Why do you think a toolkit like Tour Well is so important? When I started touring 20 years ago, you were handed a plane ticket, a taxi voucher, and the address of your accommodation. Other than that you were pretty much on your own.

When I started touring 20 years ago, you were handed a plane ticket, a taxi voucher, and the address of your accommodation. Other than that you were pretty much on your own.

A lot of performers can be straight out of drama school, straight out of home, and all of a sudden you are in a strange city, earning a full wage, working all the time, but with no extra support – you’re away from your family, friends, familiarity – it can be exciting, but also very daunting! Tour Well was developed to help you thrive while you are on tour - not just survive. The resource covers beginning the tour, things you may experience while you are away, right through to post-tour and the challenges that can come with leaving the ‘tour bubble.’

A lot of effort has been put into this toolkit. But the best part is that it’s also filled with graphics, tips and tricks, and written in a colloquial voice. How was Tour Well developed? Was each writer in charge of a different section? We reached out to some of the top professionals in their fields and asked them questions designed for arts workers and touring. For example, a lot of us know of the difficulties around sleep when it comes to performing at night and constantly sleeping in different rooms and environments. We interviewed Dr Melissa Ree, one of the top sleep psychologists in the country, and asked her questions that none of us in the industry seemed to know the answer to, like, “What time should I be going to bed when I finish work at 11pm?”, “How do I unwind properly after a show?”, “How much sleep is enough sleep if I have a matinee tomorrow?”

“What time should I be going to bed when I finish work at 11pm?”, “How do I unwind properly after a show?”, “How much sleep is enough sleep if I have a matinee tomorrow?”

Each section was put together this way; identifying specific issues around touring and then reaching out to mental health professionals to shed some light and offer tools and structures to help deal with them. We collected all of the information from the experts then put it all together in one voice that is hopefully easy to read.

Matt Heyward Image by Kam Greville

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

23


The topics in Tour Well were informed by consultation with more than 100 touring professionals, and driven by what these touring professionals wish they had known. Why do you think mental health and wellbeing on tour is not commonly discussed? I have found that even though we are in an industry that is all about communication, often we aren’t very good at it ourselves. There is still a lot of stigma about mental health issues, and often we feel that ‘show must go on’ mentality that we need to keep being ok - at any cost. Whether that be issues with sleep, anxiety, or simply missing home - it is a good thing to know that if you are experiencing any of these feelings, you are most certainly not alone and maybe if you are brave enough to voice it, you might inspire someone else to do the same. I am so excited to be working with the Arts Wellbeing Collective team who are really doing incredible things in the mental health and wellbeing sector in the arts – Claire Spencer, Arts Centre Melbourne’s CEO, and her team are really making big steps to shift the way mental health is viewed and spoken about in our community, and that includes conversations about health and wellbeing on tour.

To know that is completely normal, and then read suggestions about how to help yourself deal with it all, then at the very least you are armed with information.

I wish something like this had existed when I started touring. Even to just be made aware that you might feel a certain way when you are away from family and friends and feel like the only thing you have in your life is work. To know that is completely normal, and then read suggestions about how to help yourself deal with it all, then at the very least you are armed with information.

If there was one thing you could tell people going on tour, what would it be? You are going away to work, have fun and enjoy yourself, but look after yourself at the same time. Make sure you have balance outside of work. Find classes, parks, cafes, libraries in each city, that make you feel like you, not just ‘work’ you.

What are you hoping people get out of this toolkit? If one person finds something in it that helps them in any way while they are on tour, whether that be to do with sleep, diet, exercise or post-tour comedown, then I am happy. I wish something like this had existed when I started touring. Even to just be made aware that you might feel a certain way when you are away from family and friends and feel like the only thing you have in your life is work.

Article first appeared in CutCommon. Founded in 2014, CutCommon is an independently run classical and new music magazine with a passion for exposing talent. CutCommon is a proud member of the Arts Wellbeing Collective. Visit cutcommonmag.com Article republished with permission.

Tracy Margieson and Matt Heyward Image by Kam Greville

24

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


Image by Mark Gambino

Resource Spotlight: Tour Well Download a full version of Tour Well at artswellbeingcollective.com.au WHAT IS TOUR WELL? Tour Well consists of practical, evidence-based tips addressing common mental health and wellbeing challenges that you might encounter while on tour, so you can better prepare, take care of yourself, and help support your mates on tour. Going on tour is great fun - exploring towns and cities, delivering shows to new audiences, meeting people and making lifelong friends. Living out of a suitcase, being away from your family and friends, and spending hours travelling can take their toll on your mental health. Tour Well has been designed to help you thrive on tour. Whether you’re away for a week, a month or a year, we hope you find Tour Well helpful. IS TOUR WELL FOR ME? If you’re an individual about to head off on tour, yes, Tour Well is definitely for you! Tour Well is not a comprehensive guide to every issue you might encounter, and it does not take the place of support and information from your Company

Management, peak bodies, occupational health and safety practices, legal or medical advice, or your workplace policies and procedures. Tour Well does not include information about touring logistics, development, or policies and procedures. It is expected that your Producer, Tour Manager, Company Manager or equivalent has provided these details to you, and properly communicated rigorous and relevant policies and procedures to all members of the touring party. WHO DEVELOPED TOUR WELL? Tour Well is a resource of the Arts Wellbeing Collective, an Arts Centre Melbourne initiative. The content was created, reviewed and informed by passionate touring professionals from the Arts Wellbeing Collective Advisory Group, Arts on Tour, Entertainment Assist, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, and Regional Arts Victoria, as well as more than 100 company and crew who shared their challenges and ideas. Key contributors include Arts Centre Melbourne, the Arts Wellbeing Collective, Charlotte Barrett, Sarah Borg, Matt Heyward, Jess Jellie, Jacqui Louder, Dr Jane Miskovic-Wheatley, Sarah-Jane Purnell, Dr Melissa Ree, and Dr Alison Robb. artswellbeingcollective.com.au

25


PRE-TOUR PACKING CHECKLIST Clothes and shoes

Home away from home

ˆˆ Plenty of socks and undergarments for a full week. Touring schedules can leave little time for washing, and you never know how far away the next washing machine might be!

ˆˆ Comfort food

ˆˆ Clothes for all weather, and a range of activities (think comfy clothes for travel days through to something fancy for opening night dos or publicity events)

ˆˆ Favourite blanket ˆˆ Photos of family and friends ˆˆ Scented candle or oils ˆˆ Your pillow (or if it won’t fit, pop your favourite pillow cases in your luggage for a touch of home).

ˆˆ Workout gear - swimwear, beach towel, goggles - even a bike or surfboard if you have extra baggage allowance!

Electricals and entertainment

Toiletries

ˆˆ Phone and CHARGER (pack a spare – someone always leaves theirs behind!)

ˆˆ Skincare, nail care, haircare

ˆˆ Adapters (if travelling overseas)

ˆˆ Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash, dental floss

ˆˆ Laptop/tablet

ˆˆ Hygiene products

ˆˆ Book(s)

ˆˆ Deodorant or crystal stick

ˆˆ Cards / games

ˆˆ Perfume or cologne (be mindful of your tour party’s sensitivity to fragrances)

ˆˆ Spare pens

ˆˆ Make up / make up remover ˆˆ Sunscreen ˆˆ Stain remover stick (perfect for a quick basin wash or the odd stain)

Kitchen kit You never quite know what you are going to get in a hotel kitchen! You might be able to fit: ˆˆ Good knife and small chopping board ˆˆ Tupperware container and zip lock bags ˆˆ Basic cutlery/utensils set and your favourite mug (even your preferred pan/ wok/baking dish if space allows) ˆˆ Single serve blender for on-the-go nutritious smoothies ˆˆ Basic ingredients (herbs, spices, salt and pepper, small bottle of olive oil, packed in a plastic bag) to save you buying them over and over in each city. Be sure to check biosecurity laws first. Check (and double check) your luggage allowances, and always check with Company Management if you want to pack something on the tour truck. 26

ˆˆ Special piece of clothing

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

ˆˆ Earphones/headphones

Don’t forget… ˆˆ Items of cultural or religious significance. Check the calendar before you go for any days of cultural or religious significance that might happen while you’re on tour so you can plan appropriately. ˆˆ Any medications (and copies of prescriptions) ˆˆ If you have any ongoing medical, physical or mental health concerns, a referral letter from your GP can be helpful if you need to seek assistance on the road ˆˆ ID (passports, licenses etc.) ˆˆ Download your favourite tunes before you go on tour Music does much more than just entertain us. It can also: • Trigger biochemical stress reducers • Reduce the perceived intensity of pain • Increase workout endurance and performance • Speed up post-workout recovery • Elevate mood while driving – crank up your tunes if you’re feeling cranky in the car!


PRE-TOUR FEELING CONNECTED WITH OTHERS - A BASIC HUMAN NEED

TOURING WITH A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION

While you might be around others on tour, being away from family and friends can take its toll.

If you have an identified mental health condition, planning will be key.

Before you go, have a chat with your loved ones to come up with solutions for staying connected What would be a reasonable expectation for how often you will be able to be in contact? Are there any periods that contact will be not possible? Would you prefer to work out a set communication routine, or would you prefer to be spontaneous?

Make the best of technology Call, text, Skype, message, email - whatever works to stay in touch. Consider a closed social media group if you don’t want to ‘spam’ your friends with tour updates!

Figure out what would make you feel more connected while you’re away Perhaps mates could send postcards to be waiting for you at the next town, or you could find a way to bring your partner for a visit.

Check for any important events For example, birthdays or anniversaries that might take place while you’re away. Chat about how you might celebrate from afar.

Work out a plan for managing potential crises at home Who can help coordinate things and keep you up to date while you’re away? There are times when life throws a curve ball, like an accident or an illness, and you can’t be there - you’ll feel better knowing a plan is in place if the unexpected happens.

Notice if you’re feeling lonely

Medication Talk with your GP, specialist or psychiatrist before you leave and get their advice on how to manage your medication while you’re away. The effectiveness of certain medicines follows the body clock, so interruption or reversal of the sleep/wake pattern can interfere with treatment. If you need advice about medication while you’re on tour, you can call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from any state or territory between 9am and 5pm AEST (except NSW public holidays) or Nurse on Call (24/7 Victoria only) 1300 60 60 24.

Seeing your psychologist Chat with them about whether you can continue having sessions while you’re away, perhaps via video-conferencing or phone. Schedule a pre-tour session to consider stressors and triggers to feeling unwell, and develop specific management strategies to implement while on the road.

Sharing your story Consider disclosing to at least one trusted person on tour so you have someone to seek support from if needed. If you work for an organisation you feel supported by and feel comfortable sharing your mental health journey, talk to them about what you need. It can be worthwhile to share with company management, too, confirming that you are prepared for touring, and you have a management plan in place. You might need to be quite firm about your needs and boundaries. That’s OK – your health is the most important thing.

It sounds simple, but keeping an eye on your feelings can help you to take action. The antidote to loneliness is connection and you can seek it in many ways. Connect with a human or an animal in the community where you’re staying, seek support from your tour mates or direct your attention back home. artswellbeingcollective.com.au

27


ON TOUR LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER Encourage action

Start the conversation: What have you noticed? Mention specific things that prompted you to check in: • “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you?” • “You don’t seem yourself lately. What’s happening for you at the moment?” • “We haven’t talked in a while… How are you going?” • “I’ve heard you’re going through some stuff – I’m here if you want to chat.” • “I’ve noticed that you’re a bit flat – how are you coping with the tour?” • “I’m worried about you. Do you want to run anything by me?” >> Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach >> Ensure your genuine care and concern for the person leads the conversation - this is not an opportunity for gossip >> Unless you have concerns for the person’s safety or the safety of those around them, ensure confidentiality and privacy

Encouraging someone to seek appropriate professional help is one of the most important things you can do. •

Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times

If you can, offer practical support - perhaps helping to find an appropriate professional, making a phone call on their behalf, or giving them a lift to an appointment

Check in • • • •

Pop a reminder in your phone to check in. You could say: “I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to know how you’ve been going.” Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage. If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them. Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.

Listen without judgement Just listen. You don’t have to solve their problems or ‘fix’ anything. Ask open-ended questions: • “How are you feeling about that?” • “How long have you felt that way?” • “How would you like me to support you?” Use all your best listening skills: • Repeat back what you’ve heard and ask if you have understood them properly • It is not always helpful to say “I know exactly how you feel….”. You could share techniques that you use to manage your own mental health, but keep the focus on them, not you • Take what they say seriously • Don’t interrupt or rush the conversation • Sit patiently with silence • Let them know it’s ok to feel the way they do • Be a friend - not a therapist

Visit ruok.org.au for more tips on having conversations about mental health We hope you found this excerpt from Tour Well useful. To read the full kit or request a printed version, please visit artswellbeingcollective.com.au

28

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


Greta Bradman Image by Pia Johnson

An interview with Greta Bradman, soprano, psychologist, advocate WORDS BY RACHEL BRUERVILLE Australian soprano Greta Bradman is a woman of many passions. Along with her music degree, she also holds a Masters in Psychology, and is an outspoken advocate for the promotion of positive mental health among performing artists.

You officially became involved in the Arts Wellbeing Collective in 2016, after you’d designed some workshops in the area of positive psychology. What’s the Arts Wellbeing Collective all about?

We asked Greta about mental health among music students, the stereotype of the ‘struggling artist’, the Arts Wellbeing Collective in which she’s a member of the Advisory Group, and her personal experiences.

The aim was to offer something that can really transcend just good mental health; something which helps us to flourish and lead purposeful, meaningful lives. That is a big part of working within the performing arts.

Greta’s entry into the Arts Wellbeing Collective came in April 2016 at Arts Centre Melbourne, through the involvement of Australian psychologist Dr Michael CarrGregg, with whom a pilot program was being explored.

Even the famous cases of artists who have struggled with mental health conditions - if you look at when they were at their most productive, it was when they were mentally well, generally. artswellbeingcollective.com.au

29


You have spoken out against the stereotype of the ‘struggling artist’, in which there is a perception that creativity is boosted by mental ill-health. How does this affect an artist’s output? I know for myself, the part of me that is highly creative is also the part that can be highly ruminative. Rather than making assumptions around some sort of a straightforward, necessary relationship between psychological problems and creativity, I think there’s a much more exciting, interesting and relevant conversation to be had around how to harness a meaningful life in the performing arts, so that you can live with all your personal idiosyncrasies and channel that in a positive way.

Rather than making assumptions around some sort of a straightforward, necessary relationship between psychological problems and creativity, I think there’s a much more exciting, interesting and relevant conversation to be had around how to harness a meaningful life in the performing arts, so that you can live with all your personal idiosyncrasies and channel that in a positive way.

I guess my main point would be that mental health is not some abnormal state, and that we all have it the way we have physical health.

What are some practical ways that you’ve found can be helpful in maintaining mental health and wellbeing? I think mindfulness within the performing arts over the next decade will become a really mainstream tool. Something that the research has shown is that it’s really important for people in the early stages of a performing arts career to equip themselves with tools and strategies that will help them maintain good mental health as they progress through their career.

Something that the research has shown is that it’s really important for people in the early stages of a performing arts career to equip themselves with tools and strategies that will help them maintain good mental health as they progress through their career.

It’s not really any good thinking, ‘I read once about mindfulness, maybe I’ll give it a go’, when you’re five minutes before stepping on stage. It’s like lifting weights - it will get better with practice. What’s the research telling us? There’s been really interesting research in the United States that suggests there is a predictable point in tertiary training among musicians where mental health drops off, around the end of second year. So, it totally negates the idea that people who chose careers in the performing arts are somehow also naturally more predisposed to mental health issues.

Image by Kam Greville

30

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


There’s been really interesting research in the United States that suggests there is a predictable point in tertiary training among musicians where mental health drops off, around the end of second year. So, it totally negates the idea that people who chose careers in the performing arts are somehow also naturally more predisposed to mental health issues.

This particular study by Zander, Voltmer and Spahn (Health promotion and prevention in higher music education: results of a longitudinal study, Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 2010), found that musicians do not experience significantly higher health problems at the beginning of tertiary study, as compared to non-music students. However, by the end of their second year of university, ‘music-related symptoms’ that negatively impacted on physical and mental health were found amongst student musicians. The development of psychological problems, such as performance anxiety, was particularly apparent, and researchers attributed this to performance pressure, high competition and high standards. The music students were also divided into two groups of consistent demographics; one group had resilience training and the other didn’t. Results showed that around the end of second year, the music students who had not had the resilience training had a decline in mental health, whereas the mental health of the group who were given the resilience training was actually maintained.

Results showed that around the end of second year, the music students who had not had the resilience training had a decline in mental health, whereas the mental health of the group who were given the resilience training was actually maintained.

Are there plans to expand nationally, or potentially into tertiary institutions or other workplaces? Yeah! I think that for starters, it’s just been amazing, and the level of engagement in the Arts Wellbeing Collective has blown us all away. We have ended up with more than 150 member organisations, so pretty much anyone who is working within the performing arts has access to the Arts Wellbeing Collective resources. It’s gone really well and we’re pretty excited.

Article first appeared in CutCommon Print Issue 1, 2018. Founded in 2014, CutCommon is an independently run classical and new music magazine with a passion for exposing talent. CutCommon is a proud member of the Arts Wellbeing Collective. Visit cutcommonmag.com Article republished with permission.

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

31


Meet the team behind The Meditation Collective WORDS BY MADELEINE DORE ‘Everyone is welcome,’ is the heartening philosophy behind a new drop-in meditation and mindfulness space, The Meditation Collective. Facilitated by Coco Nkrumah and Akimera in collaboration with the Arts Wellbeing Collective, the initiative aims to create a safer space for people of colour to explore wellbeing practices, led by people of colour. “Being people of colour ourselves, we were both really passionate about having a space where people could feel comfortable to try various techniques and practices and explore their experiences,” says Coco. This is particularly pertinent in a wellbeing industry that can at times overlook the challenges and barriers that ethnically diverse people face in mainstream wellbeing spaces. “Wellbeing marketing is often white-centric and predominantly female, and such imagery can at times be perceived as excluding to those who don’t fit that demographic,” says Akimera. 32

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

With over a decade of experience as a mediation and mindfulness educator, Coco brings many insights into how to rethink moods and emotions, as well as digest and unpack experiences specific to those from culturally diverse backgrounds. As a musician, arts facilitator, community cultural development worker, and Kemetic yoga instructor, Akimera brings a wealth of experience in creating safer community spaces and events where people can feel supported, particularly when sharing personal vulnerabilities. Combining their skills enables the pair to offer a multi-disciplinary approach and co-facilitate, support and welcome an intersectionality of experiences. “Our backgrounds really complement the space. Some of the issues and the conversations that arise may vary depending on an individual’s gender, identity, community or experiences and that interplay needs to be respected and supported,” explains Coco.


Being people of colour ourselves, we were both really passionate about having a space where people could feel comfortable to try various techniques and practices and explore their experiences.

The first event held in November was a great success, he adds. “People felt comfortable to open up and unpack their experiences, and across the board everyone felt it was something that was very much needed.” With a plan to invite other facilitators and introduce new wellbeing practices and modalities, the pair hope to broaden the number of attendees and ensure an intersectionality of spirituality, identity, gender, culture, wisdom, and tradition is represented. This also extends to being conscious and respectful of the traditional custodians of the lands during the sessions. With Akimera’s experience in the arts sector, The Meditation Collective also has a strong emphasis on supporting artists and creating a space to explore the emotional impact of creative pursuits. “This type of space is so important for artists and arts workers because we are often at the forefront of confronting content and high emotion environments. This makes wellbeing and self-care practises paramount,” says Akimera.

This type of space is so important for artists and arts workers because we are often at the forefront of confronting content and high emotion environments. This makes wellbeing and selfcare practises paramount.

Encouraging artists to attend the events comes back to making the space as inclusive as possible, adds Coco. “There is a lot of vulnerability in the sector. People who are holding spaces for arts and wellbeing projects often have to have a strong ability to regulate their own emotions.” With more free events to take place in 2019, The Meditation Collective will continue to make an inclusive and safe space accessible to all abilities and skill levels. “It is really an explorative space where people can gain insight into the different practices from various wisdom traditions and hopefully pursue something further,” concludes Coco.

The Meditation Collective meets monthly at Arts Centre Melbourne’s The Channel (near Hamer Hall). Attendance is completely free of charge. View a list of upcoming sessions at artswellbeingcollective.com.au or contact Coco at realitybasedmindfulness.com.au

Expectations vs outcomes in meditation WORDS BY COCO NKRUMAH Many people struggle with meditation. Sometimes they will make an ultimatum to give it one last shot or leave the path completely, and approach meditation with a renewed determination to master the practice. If this sounds familiar, I recommend you leave your expectations at the door and treat your meditation practice as an experiment. Why do I say this? First of all, we know that the nature of the mind is naturally judgmental. If you have expectations about what you are going to get out of a meditation session, you will automatically set yourself up for resistance if it’s not going the way you expected!

Naturally, your brain will stop cooperating, and you will start to feel frustrated - this mental loop results in more resistance and hesitation about the practice. But, if we can leave all our expectations at the door, we can be softer with ourselves and our minds. This allows us to let thoughts come and go more easily, and we are less judgmental when we have particularly stressful mental states. Once we approach meditation in this way, we find the mind begins to cooperate and we begin to feel the benefits of meditation. The paradox is – you may need to abandon all your meditation goals to actually realise them!

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

33


Three points of contact: rock climbing is good for your brain WORDS AND IMAGES BY KAM GREVILLE Indoor rock climbing is a simple sport. To do it you need a wall covered in grips, some harnesses, and a rope connecting two people: the climber and the belayer.The climber goes up while the belayer stays on the ground and acts as a brake. No matter what your level of fitness, hauling yourself up a wall takes strength, bloodymindedness and courage – it’s high up and its hard work.

1. You are only ever in competition with yourself

I go climbing most weeks with my partner. If you met me, I may not immediately strike you as someone who likes this sport. I’m big and bookish. I wheeze in cold weather. I’m afraid of heights. That said, going climbing all last year was a bright spot in what was otherwise a very difficult time for me. I was feeling burnt out and depressed. I was reassessing my work and how it fit into my life. In the end, I made the difficult decision to move on from a permanent role at Melbourne Theatre Company and into more independent, creative practice. Rock climbing helped me with this.

What followed was 18 months of scans, physio, losing my job, and finally, surgery. My knee swelled to three times its normal size and stayed that way. I spent months using a walking stick, unable to take stairs or carry things. Luckily, surgery fixed the issue.

Halfway up a wall recently, I realised rock climbing has given me three great lessons for how to grow through tough times and not get stuck in them. 34

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

When I was in my mid-twenties, I blew my knee. I wish I could claim a heroic reason but the truth is: I was squatting down in an industrial kitchen wiping food waste off a plastic trolley. Getting down I heard a slight click in my right knee. Getting up was agony.

Fast forward to now. I’m still on the easiest-rated walls after more than a year of regular climbing. I use multiple colours to make my way up. I see other people on harder climbs and over-hangs and am awed at their strength and flexibility. Sometimes, well-meaning people see me on the easy climbs and say things like “Are you just starting out? Don’t give up!”


I get why they say this but it makes me feel small. In my head I reply “my story is my story, my legs are my legs, my climb is my climb.” I do not give up and I’m stronger than last week. I remember the walking stick and am awed at my own strength and determination. Every single grip I climb is a victory.

I do not give up and I’m stronger than last week. I remember the walking stick and am awed at my own strength and determination. Every single grip I climb is a victory.

2. There is more than one way up the wall I’m fascinated by people. We’re all so different. Our histories, bodies, perceptions, sensations, and experiences are unique. Trying to conceptualise that glorious diversity blows my mind. I try to understand what makes myself and others tick, so I read widely and talk to as many people as I can about their experiences. One thing I’ve noticed in my reading is that no matter what the issue, there are people who claim to have ‘the answer’. Want to be less anxious? Do this! Want to lose weight? Do this! Want to be successful / happy / perfect? Do this! Anything that offers a one-size-fits-all answer gives me the shits. What I love about climbing is that each wall is a puzzle you solve with your body and your brain. There is no set way to successfully negotiate a climb. I have seen different people go up the same wall using completely different techniques. Perhaps you are much shorter than the last person so the same grips are not within your reach. Perhaps you can only grab that next hold by balancing on your left foot. The challenge is the same, but the solutions are as individual as the climbers. Figuring out a way through tough times, and finding the elements that allow each of us to live well and thrive is something we ourselves must do – taking into account our own preferences, circumstances, and limitations. I can learn from others by reading, talking, and watching them ascend. But it’s up to me to choose the route. It’s up to me to make the climb.

Figuring out a way through tough times, and finding the elements that allow each of us to live well and thrive is something we ourselves must do – taking into account our own preferences, circumstances, and limitations. I can learn from others by reading, talking, and watching them ascend. But it’s up to me to choose the route. It’s up to me to make the climb.

3. You need three points of contact to move To let go of the wall and actually climb, you need three points of contact and some slack in the line. As you move up, you need to balance your weight so you’re supported in three places to get a hand or a foot free. Plus, the person on the ground must not hold the rope so tightly you can barely move at all. The goal, of course, is to climb up and not fall off. If you do fall off, the rope catches you. What I love about this is that it’s a pretty decent metaphor for what to do to support your mental health, even when times are really rough. I reckon most of us understand that physical health is mainly good food, water, exercise and sleep. (Simple to say, harder to do!). When I was feeling at my worst last year, I wondered: is there an equivalent simple model for mental health? Yes. More than one, as it turns out.

I reckon most of us understand that physical health is mainly good food, water, exercise and sleep. (Simple to say, harder to do!). When I was feeling at my worst last year, I wondered: is there an equivalent simple model for mental health? Yes. More than one, as it turns out.

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

35


One that I came across which is pretty good comes from Positive Psychology. The model is called PERMA which stands for: - Positive Emotions (feeling good) - Engagement (being - and doing - in the moment) - Relationships (sustaining connections with others) - Meaning (living with purpose) - Achievement (striving for and savouring successes) So what does PERMA have to do with rock climbing and how does any of this help? For a start, the actual activity does a pretty good job of hitting all these points. It feels good, takes concentration, requires teamwork and trust, offers structure, and is full of opportunities for accomplishment. Through climbing, I have learned that I need balance. I have learned that I have to rely on others and let go. And when I am low or worried, or stuck in a bad place, I have learned that I just need three points of contact to keep moving.

36

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Say I don’t feel good right now, but I know why I am here, what I am working towards, and who matters to me. Great! 3 out of 5, keep moving. Or maybe I have just lost a meaningful relationship but I can find simple pleasures like a bath or a walk, and I have a pottery class on Tuesdays where I get totally absorbed in what I am doing, and I’ve recently had some great feedback from my boss. Great! 3 out of 5, keep moving. Life is really tough sometimes, worse than tough. I get it. But as with physical health, if today you wake up exhausted but manage to drink a bit more water, chat to a friend, and have a walk, well 3 out of 5. You’re going to be so much higher up that wall. You’re going to be one step further towards feeling good again. Come climbing with me. Keep moving. We got this.

Kam has held numerous roles in the performing arts, starting out in catering and events and working in front of house roles, back of house, marketing and communications, and arts administration and management. Kam was most recently House Services Manager at Melbourne Theatre Company.


Tips for positive mental health and wellbeing Adapted from the PERMA Model by Prof. Martin Seligman. Find out more at gostrengths.com/whatisperma/ You could easily list ways to improve your physical health. What can you do today to improve your mental health?

GLOW | positive emotions, feeling good Embrace and relish your positive emotions Be it awestruck, inspired, grateful, courageous, bold, excited, reflective, enthusiastic, hopeful, optimistic, loving, joyful. What’s a positive feeling that you can embrace right now?

FLOW | engagement, finding flow Become immersed and absorbed Find those activities that match your capabilities with your creative challenges where time flies and you finish feeling energised. Can you set aside some time today for one of your favourite activities?

GROW | relationships, authentic connections Connect authentically with those you value Spend time with people who give you energy. Seek meaningful connections with your community. Think of someone who gives you energy. Can you call or visit them today?

KNOW | meaning, purposeful existence Live your life in a way that’s meaningful to you Courageously connect with your purpose. Orient yourself to what gives you a sense of meaning. Choose one of your core values - what small thing can you do today to live by that value?

SHOW | achievement, sense of accomplishment Recognise and celebrate your achievements Acknowledge and savour your accomplishments - big, small and everything in between. Grab pen and paper and send a congratulatory note to a friend or colleague - or even to yourself!


Image by Kam Greville

Mapping intimate scenes to create safer environments WORDS BY LIZZIE FRANKS If sex scenes were as mapped out and planned as fight scenes are, actors would be safer, says intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien, who spoke with Actors Equity’s Lizzie Franks about the urgent need for standard guidelines. Ita O’Brien is the UK’s leading “intimacy director”, and is on a mission to make sex scenes safer for actors. “The situation has become a crisis because of this idea that the director or producer is all-powerful, and the actor just has to be a pawn for fear of being considered difficult,” says O’Brien.

38

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

“Nobody should be expected to be groped or harassed or abused in their workplace, yet situations where the sex scenes weren’t choreographed properly have left actors open to those situations.” O’Brien trained as a dancer and worked in musical theatre in London’s West End before becoming a professional choreographer and movement director. For the past four years, she has been developing best practices and industry standards when it comes to nudity, simulated sex and intimacy on screen and stage. Her mission was sparked in 2009, when she was devising her play, April’s Fool.


I started looking at what I was asking of the actors and what methods or techniques I could put in place during the rehearsal process to make them feel safe.

“I started looking at what I was asking of the actors and what methods or techniques I could put in place during the rehearsal process to make them feel safe.” She was shocked to discover there were no industry standards for sex scenes or nudity. In response, she started developing her Intimacy on Set Guidelines to ensure “everyone is on the same page”. “When a director or producer reads a script and there’s a fight, they get in a fight director, or if there’s dancing they will get a choreographer. When it comes to sex or intimacy, it should be treated in a similar way,” O’Brien explains. “Since Weinstein, the industry is listening to a different way of approaching the work. Producers want to make sure that they’re running a theatre or TV or film production that has a good practice, and having guidelines in place is a big part of that.” O’Brien’s guidelines recommend banning sex scenes or nudity from the audition process and having a closed set for rehearsals of intimate scenes. Most importantly, the actor and director should have an open and honest dialogue on “sculpting” the sex scenes before rehearsals.

“So often directors are embarrassed about the sexual content, so they don’t deal with it. The amount of stories I’ve heard where an actor tells me, ‘oh, the director just kept missing it out during rehearsals and then they just told us to improvise it’. And, of course, that situation is where an actor has been left vulnerable.” O’Brien’s guidelines say the sculpting of a simulated sex scene should involve these standard practices: always have a third party present (keeping the work professional, not private), identify the blocking of the scene, agree on areas of physical touch, plan the physical actions using plain words, separately identify the emotional content of the scene, and integrate the physical actions and emotional content. That last one is key to O’Brien’s method. “We approach the physical and the emotional journey of the scene separately,” she says. “Actors agree where they want to be touched and we choreograph and repeat the physical journey so that it’s in their body memory. Then we look at the emotional content for the power play, passion and lust. It’s a release. Actors feel comfortable serving the character journey if they know they’re safe, that everything happening with their scene partner is agreed and consented to.” When it comes to theatre, where an actor will be required to repeat a sex scene over and over, O’Brien advises having an “intimacy call” before each performance. This involves checking in with the actors to ask how they think the intimacy and simulated sex scene went during the previous performance, agreeing on areas of physical

Ita O’Brien Image by Nick Dawkes

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

39


touch before each performance and allowing for adaptations, then sculpting the physical actions using plain words and for it to be gone through at least twice. “During a long run it’s so easy for someone to get sloppy, a hand to slip here or there, to start touching a part of the thigh that wasn’t agreed,” says O’Brien. “An intimacy call will give time and space for the actor be present, to really make sure that the physicality is exactly as it has been agreed. If you have a fight, you have a fight call before every show. If you have intimate contact, you should have an intimacy call before every show.”

An intimacy call will give time and space for the actor be present, to really make sure that the physicality is exactly as it has been agreed. If you have a fight, you have a fight call before every show. If you have intimate contact, you should have an intimacy call before every show.

After the Weinstein revelations, O’Brien can’t keep up with the demand for her services on set. However, she’s still regularly met with opposition from the industry. “They go ‘how can it look passionate if it’s rehearsed?’. And, of course, that’s mad because that’s what acting is. You could say ‘how can a play look spontaneous if you’ve rehearsed it for six weeks? How can a fight look really dangerous if you’ve rehearsed it?’” Often O’Brien has to explain that her work doesn’t interfere with the creative process.

“I had a colleague who was working on a TV series say ‘but I wouldn’t want you to come in and take over at that point when I’m getting into the most intimate content’. I said, ‘well, of course I wouldn’t come in and take over at that point. If I did work with you, it would have been just like if you had a fight director, who would assess the risk and choreograph the fight and then ultimately it’s handed over to the director. It is exactly the same with an intimacy coordinator,” she says. “Part of the issue is people saying it’s constraining… but in reality, it’s actually the reverse. Being really clear and present with choreographing and sculpting the scene actually means that the actor has way more freedom and the director has more freedom, because they know that everybody’s happy and then they know that they can really serve the work.” O’Brien would like to see her guidelines adopted as an industry standard worldwide and wants more members of the industry trained as intimacy coordinators. “Post Weinstein, actors are being heard. There’s a much greater understanding that emotional [and] psychological injury is a real thing, and there are some very simple things we can be doing to prevent it.”

This article was originally published by the Equity Magazine. Ita O’Brien was a guest of The Equity Foundation and its partners for an event series in Australia and New Zealand in 2018. The Arts Wellbeing Collective, Arts Centre Melbourne, Film Victoria and Creative Victoria were proud to be a partner on the Victorian event series. An Equity Sub Committee is currently drafting Intimacy Guidelines to apply industry wide. For more information, visit meaa.org

Watch Sue Brooks in conversation with leading intimacy coordinator, Ita O’Brien at artswellbeingcollective.com.au/resources

40

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


Congratulations to our newest Mental Health First Aiders The Arts Wellbeing Collective is thrilled that so many people have been undertaking Mental Health First Aid training. Mental Health First Aid is the help provided to a person who is developing a mental health problem, or who is in a mental health crisis. Like physical first aid, mental health first aid is given until the person receives professional help or until the crisis resolves.

The Arts Wellbeing Collective offers the 4th Edition Standard Mental Health First Aid Course. This course has been developed by Mental Health First Aid Australia, and customised by accredited MHFA Instructors from Arts Centre Melbourne to incorporate arts industry specific information. Complete an Expression of Interest for an upcoming course at artswellbeingcollective.com.au

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

41


Godspell Image by Nick Morrissey

Supporting the students of Queensland Conservatorium WORDS BY MADELEINE DORE When we hurt ourselves on stage, in rehearsal, or in the workplace, there is someone qualified with first aid training to offer assistance. When we feel hurt in the very same circumstances, sometimes it can seem as if there is no one there. Paul Sabey has a bold vision for the future and how we support mental health and wellbeing in the arts. “In any dressing room backstage, I want to see somebody with Mental Health First Aid training who can be there to ask if someone is okay. It’s just as important as first aid – somebody who needs that mental health support should get that help in the same way,” he said. He is well on his way to making this vision a reality. As an Associate Professor at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Paul says it is part of his job to care, not just teach. Paul has spent the last year implementing workshops and training for staff and students addressing common 42

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

challenges such as self-doubt, rejection, and self-care to help build resilience and a better understanding of the signs of mental ill-health. “The mental health of the students has always been something that is important to me because what we do is very demanding and comes with a lot of self-doubt. Doubts about your ability, about your appearance, and about whether you will ever get a job can plague a student’s mind, and then there is the constant rejection that can take its toll,” says Sabey. “We often see people leave the business because that rejection is continuous, they don’t get the work, or they actually can’t handle that rejection,” he explains. “So mental wellbeing is an important subject area – it’s not just about teaching students to sing, dance and act, we have to teach resilience and self-care, but also to care for others around them as well.”


It’s not just about teaching students to sing, dance and act, we have to teach resilience and self-care, but also to care for others around them as well.

That’s not making light of any other area of work – mental health issues can hit anyone at any time in any location – but performing artists can be particularly vulnerable, adds Sabey. “We put ourselves on stage, expose ourselves to be judged by a panel, an audience and critics, and to be judged in a way that in some instances is rather harsh,” he said. Wellbeing is more important than ever

If I look to what it was like for students studying twenty years ago, it was very different to what it is now, and I think social media has had a big impact on that. There is this constant pressure to be living the life that everyone wants, but actually, who really lives that life?

The internal and external pressure to succeed – and signal your success – can lead to things like burnout for students as well as those already working in the industry. The impacts can be difficult to spot, but this is why more awareness and attention to mental health is crucial.

It has become increasingly pertinent to ensure students, arts educators and workers receive this type of support, says Sabey. In his 31 years of teaching musical theatre, he has built a wealth of knowledge and experience in guiding and framing young performers for sustainable careers in the industry. In recent years, he has seen a big shift in the types of difficulties emerging musicians and performers face. “If I look to what it was like for students studying twenty years ago, it was very different to what it is now, and I think social media has had a big impact on that. There is this constant pressure to be living the life that everyone wants, but actually, who really lives that life?”

Associate Professor Paul Sabey. Image by Nick Morrissey

West Side Story rehearsal Image by Nick Morrissey

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

43


“We all have bad days, we aren’t always switched on and jolly and that is fine, but if someone’s behaviour doesn’t revert, that is one of the signs to look out for. Are there big changes to someone’s appearance or behaviour? Are they skipping meals, not taking care of themselves, or pulling away socially? Of course people are allowed to change, but it is a way of noticing and asking, “Are you okay?””

‘We all have bad days, we aren’t always switched on and jolly and that is fine, but if someone’s behaviour doesn’t revert back, that is one of the signs to look out for. Are there big changes to someone’s appearance or behaviour? Are they skipping meals, not taking care of themselves, or pulling away socially? Of course people are allowed to change, but it is a way of noticing and asking, “Are you okay?”’

A series of workshops and training have been specifically designed to help students spot these signs in themselves and others at the Queensland Conservatorium. The aim of this mental health and wellbeing focus is to make something that would be long-lasting, “not just throughout the course, but throughout the students’ careers and future, wherever that may be,” says Sabey. Students attend various workshops led by a counsellor over the span of the degree. For first year students, the workshops provide strategies for coping in a new environment – from moving away from old friends and making new ones, to how to adjust from being a big fish in a small pond, to suddenly being surrounded by equal talent. As second year has a focus on auditioning, the workshops prepare students for dealing with rejection. Topics such as substance use will also be addressed in various workshops. The Conservatorium will also run similar workshops with a dietician and a physio to address mental health holistically, as well as introduce a buddy system between first and second year students. Beginning in 2019, all third year students will complete a two-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course. After all, “it’s about providing skills for life,” concludes Sabey.

Queensland Conservatorium Performing Arts students Image by Ruby Clark

44

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


Paul’s tips for prioritising mental health in arts training institutions Train staff in mental health first aid “All staff have completed the Mental Health First Aid training as we regularly have students come to us with issues and concerns. We were sort of self-helping them, but we needed to formulate and find the correct way to handle such issues.”

Start now “The thing is that someone may think they don’t need the support now, but you never know where you or someone you know will be in a couple of months or in a few years time. Something could come up and you will have the skills to fall back on to handle it.”

Focus on the long-term benefit “What we have done here at the Queensland Conservatorium is actually very easy to do. It costs a little bit of money, but is that really important compared to the advantage? Students are talking more about mental health, helping each other, and also applying their knowledge to life outside the program. I think it is a small amount to pay for the life-long skills students receive.”

Encourage mistakes and learning “In the arts we tend to focus a lot on minute details and they can weigh us down. Because we want to be perfect or we want to be the best, sometimes we forget to enjoy it and allow ourselves to make a mistake. Sometimes you have to say, let’s just have a laugh, let’s just do it, let’s just see what happens.” Little Women: The Broadway Musical Image by Nick Morrissey

Cultivate genuine caring “I care about people and I care about people’s mental health and I want to see people do well – and we can only do it when we are on form. As educators or leaders, we are only as good as the people we turn out – if I turn out people who are not secure in themselves or confident in their technique, then I haven’t done my job.”

Visit artswellbeingcollective.com.au for more information and resources, including: •

Workshops on self-care in the performing arts

Access to upcoming Mental Health First Aid training sessions.

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

45


SPOTLIGHT: THE FURBABIES OF ARTS CENTRE MELBOURNE TEAM MEMBERS

It’s hard to put into words the happiness that a pet can bring someone. You might be the one caring for your pet but they support and care for you in unspoken ways. Whether it’s a dog wagging their tail and greeting you at the door, a cat or bunny snuggled in your lap or a bird singing to you, pets provide companionship and unconditional affection. The bond you share with a pet can do a lot to support your mental health. Beyond Blue Pets and their impact on mental health beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/supportingyourself/pets-and-their-impact-on-mental-health

46

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


artswellbeingcollective.com.au

47


48

artswellbeingcollective.com.au


artswellbeingcollective.com.au

49


Why alone time is essential for creativity and self-care – and how to prioritise it WORDS BY MADELEINE DORE Alone time is an essential part of the creative process. Art requires of us patience, responsiveness to our emotional landscape, a mind primed for original thought, and a resilience to life – all of which can be honed through solitude. For some artists, alone time is more favourable than anything else, as artist Louise Bourgeois put it, “Solitude, a rest from responsibilities, and peace of mind, will do you more good than the atmosphere of the studio and the conversations.” Despite the long-praised benefits of alone time, it can seem elusive for many of us. In a time of distractions and busy schedules, solitude can often be neglected, interrupted or postponed. We continually break our plans with ourselves, making time alone a scarcity.

50

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Adding to this deprivation, many people seem to have forgotten how to be alone. We confuse alone time with ‘doing nothing’ or equating it to physical isolation, something that happens far away from our everyday lives. But solitude is defined as a state or a situation – not a place or final destination. We can have private moments and stillness when we are in company, we can dip in and out, and we can traverse a rich inner world when alone.

We can have private moments and stillness when we are in company, we can dip in and out, and we can traverse a rich inner world when alone.


When we don’t define solitude for ourselves or practice it regularly, we can all too easily allow our work, social and family schedules to consume our time alone. As Journalist and author of Happy Never After Jill Stark said, “I think we live in a world where we overburden ourselves not just with work commitments but social and family commitments, and that level of duty and obligation, and we completely forget to spend time on our own and with ourselves.” If we avoid time alone, we can become fragile, less productive, and unable to solve difficult problems for ourselves or unearth creative insights. So how can we prioritise and find solitude in our day to day lives? Creatives across multiple disciplines share their thoughts on the benefits in spending time alone for their work, the challenges they face in seeking it, and how they prioritise it.

Build alone time into the creative process Not only has alone time become a forgotten art for some, it can often be something that is feared or avoided. As Sara Maitland writes in How to Be Alone, “How have we arrived, in the relatively prosperous developed world, at least, at a cultural moment which values autonomy, personal freedom, fulfilment and human rights, and above all individualism, more highly than they have ever been valued before in human history, but at the same time these autonomous, free, self-fulfilling individuals are terrified of being alone with themselves?” Viewing solitude as an essential part of the creative process can help flip this fear – instead of fearing alone time, find the joy in it. For visual artist Carmel Seymour, alone time is essential for daydreaming. “For me, all my studio time is alone time, but I do get terribly distracted. When the pressure is on I can block the world out a little easier; a good pair of headphones helps too. I need to be alone to allow for all the daydreaming that I need to create new works. I do think it’s essential to discuss ideas with others and that can often lead to surprising outcomes, but the intimate core of my works comes from quiet times at my desk. Sometimes just sitting and staring at what is around my studio leads to the most exciting new connections.” For producer, writer and performer Bethany Simons, alone time is also an essential part of a collaborative process that the performing arts requires. “My own projects are often self-driven. Even when I collaborate as a writer and performer, I need solo time to dream, play, relax and create and my process is quite private – I’m very careful about who I let near my work before it is ready!”

Experiment with how much alone time you need From my own experience interviewing highly successful artists, writers, and creative entrepreneurs, I’ve found one of the most common responses to the question of how they can be so prolific to be, ‘well, I don’t have a social life.’ They put their creative work ahead of their social schedules. Turning the magnifying glass to my own relationship with alone time, I calculated that, on average, I was spending 22 hours or more each week on social activities. In a bid to see what would happen to my work output, health and wellbeing, I decided to try and cut out my social life entirely. For one month, I declined all in-person activities with friends to see if it would make me more productive. I felt recharged and found myself having new ideas, or attending to old ones that I’d repeatedly put off. This enabled me to determine how much alone time I need any given week, and now I am very protective of keeping hours – especially my mornings – to myself.

Learn to be alone without distraction Endless opportunities for distractions mean that when we are alone, we are not truly alone – we have the world at out fingertips, and opportunities to compare ourselves and our work with each scroll we take through our social media newsfeeds.

Endless opportunities for distractions mean that when we are alone, we are not truly alone – we have the world at out fingertips, and opportunities to compare ourselves and our work with each scroll we take through our social media newsfeeds.

The ‘wired world’ is a threat to our inner selves – and our creativity. As Alan Lightman writes in In Praise of Wasting Time, “By not giving ourselves the minutes – or hours – free of devices and distractions, we risk losing our ability to know who we are and what’s important to us.” The antidote may be to consciously step away from your devices, or have strict rules about their use. Writer Jill Stark does this by building time alone into her routine. “When I take a break to spend time by myself – and that could be a week, or an afternoon or an hour – one of the most important things to try to be really disciplined about social media as the notifications can be distracting. I set alarms and I only look at social media every few hours.” artswellbeingcollective.com.au

51


Identify your own cycles of solitude

Schedule alone time

Singer-songwriter Jen Cloher likens the life-cycle of creative work to seasons. “There’s sowing the seeds through the winter, then writing and making the album through the spring, and the summer is the release where you reap the rewards, and autumn you find rest.”

If we don’t prioritise something we want more of in our lives, it’s very difficult to actually get around to doing it. Just like things such as exercise, self-care activities, and spending time with people we love, alone time often thrives once scheduled.

Even though it can feel as if you are ‘doing nothing’, having time alone is important for sowing the seeds of creativity.

For American writer Ann Friedman, it’s helpful to schedule alone time in her calendar every week. “I do have a ritual of having a free night scheduled on my calendar each week.

Even though it can feel as if you are ‘doing nothing’, having time alone is important for sowing the seeds of creativity.

How productive you are during this time can ebb and flow, and that’s part of the process too, as musician Brendan Welch reminds us. “I do pretty much all my writing alone, and I will have really productive phases where I will stay up all night writing and other times where I will not really do much and I worry that it will never happen again. It seems a bit mysterious, the coming and going of it, but in general I tend to want to be alone a lot – I need that alone time to work or think about things or practice or do research or read up on things that are interesting me every day pretty much.”

52

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

It reoccurs on my Google calendar every Thursday night and I’m allowed to move it to other nights of the week, but I can’t delete it. That just ensures that I have at least one night a week where I’m home, I’m not going out, I’m not doing any work things.” Journalist Jill Stark adopts a similar approach. “Even though I live on my own and I could say I always have time on my own, it’s a very different thing to put it in the diary as you would if you were meeting a friend or going on a date and nothing gets in the way and you don’t cancel on yourself.” Scheduling alone time could also be in the form of an ‘artist date’ explained Bethany Simons. “I count research and artistic consumption as work, and it’s often best to do this alone. I love the artist date concept in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, which is going on solo dates reserved just for me and my inner artist. I love wandering through parks and along streets I don’t know, eavesdropping and scribbling ideas. I’m not always working on something solid – simply generating material such as poetry, songs, and voices is an important part of my practice.”


Start small

Don’t live in regret

If we are not used to building alone time in to our everyday life, or can’t seem to find the space for it amongst an already crammed schedule, starting small is key.

“The most regretful people on earth,” said the poet Mary Oliver “are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

One task at a time can help, explained Alice Glenn, Creative Director of Schoolhouse Studios, co-founder of No Lights No Lycra, and multidisciplinary artist explained, “I have two children and staff that require my attention and support but I need alone time to answer emails and manage the administration side of my work. I think it’s healthy and important for the brain to focus on one task at a time and having a quiet place to work without interruption definitely aids this practice.”

The time to prioritise your creative work – and yourself – is now. There is no doubt it is difficult to turn down social obligations, to be alone with confronting thoughts or self-doubt, or find room in your schedule for simply being.

We can also start small by building achievable habits that protect our alone time, added Bethany Simons. “It’s very easy to allow myself to be pulled in every direction so I have a morning routine, which I try to protect – a cup of tea with a book and my journal. In the evening, after a busy day of juggling creative projects with my part-time arts management job, recharging can be as simple as having a bath instead of a shower, using soft lighting in my bedroom, stretching and listening to music. Of course, I relish the times when I have an empty house in which to play! I sing, do accents, write, and reflect.” Being alone for even an hour can be creatively fulfilling, said Brendan Welch. “If you are wanting to be alone but can’t seem to find the time, being pragmatic about it and seeing that at least for a few hours a week is actually a lot of productive time compared to just thinking about doing it and not getting the time.”

The time to prioritise your creative work – and yourself – is now. There is no doubt it is difficult to turn down social obligations, to be alone with confronting thoughts or self-doubt, or find room in your schedule for simply being.

But the fruits of our time alone are worth it – it helps us face our fears, generate new ideas, and get to know the world inside us better. As Carmel Seymour said, “I think most artists, painters especially, need an intimate relationship with the details of their work and this can only happen when you are alone. The real trick is how to balance this with the rest of your life.” Keep experimenting, and guard your time alone as if you are guarding your life, because as a creating being, you are.

Image by Kam Greville

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

53


Image: Charlotte Abroms

How time in the UK helped me detach from music industry pressure WORDS BY CHARLOTTE ABROMS I have been penning a letter about detaching from the pressures of the music industry for the past few years, but I didn’t consciously start to detach until I recently went to London. Right now I have the most clarity I’ve had since I became a full time music manager last year. I was awarded a Creative Victoria grant in partnership with the Association of Artist Managers to base myself in London and surround myself with the brilliant minds of the managers at Everybody’s Management. This trip was life changing in ways I did not expect. My hour commute to work meant that I was finally allowing myself time to listen to albums again. In my first few weeks I had Mastersystem’s album ‘Dance 54

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Music’ on repeat. Mastersystem are a band of two sets of brothers – Scott Hutchison and Grant Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit) and Justin Lockey (Editors) and James Lockey (Minor Victories). For me, this was a fresh injection of Scott Hutchison’s profound lyricism with a musical nostalgia that reminded me of my teenage years listening to Nirvana’s From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah. Whenever I’ve been asked what inspires me to work in music, my answer has always been the same: I want people to connect to music in the way that I connect to Frightened Rabbit. First hearing Frightened Rabbit was like making a new adult friend, you don’t consciously


realise you have room for anything new, and then this drawer opens and it’s empty and that’s where Frightened Rabbit goes and you close the drawer and it stays with you forever. As a self-deprecating hopeless romantic, I related to Frightened Rabbit lyrics as though they were my own experiences, as I know many other fans do too. Mastersystem was different, I felt I’d grown up with an artist. There is a sense of relatable exhaustion laced throughout the album and the first track ‘Proper Home’ grabbed me with these lyrics: A bunch of disenfranchised souls Coming back to what we know We realise we need a proper home I’m not in the spotlight in the way musicians are, I’m not in the spotlight at all and yet I still experience the unsettling lifestyle that comes with touring. It’s a strange sense of being everywhere and nowhere at once. It’s unintentionally detaching from people you love due to distance. It’s a forced selfishness.

I’m not in the spotlight in the way musicians are, I’m not in the spotlight at all and yet I still experience the unsettling lifestyle that comes with touring. It’s a strange sense of being everywhere and nowhere at once. It’s unintentionally detaching from people you love due to distance.

Finding any sense of balance on the road can be difficult. In a business that is built on the foundation of sensitive souls, the lifestyle and lack of structure that then surrounds the job only seems to fuel this anxiety. This song spoke to me and is a reminder of the importance of home. I saw Mastersystem play the album live at Oslo in Hackney. Exactly a week later Scott lost his battle with depression. There was a unified force of grief from friends and fans throughout the world. Scott’s words gave people hope, his honesty encouraged honesty and he was publicly open about his emotional struggles in a way that allowed others to openly express their own pain. He was a glimmer of hope. For a moment there I wondered if this business was for me. Something had changed forever. In a business that is built on the foundation of sensitive souls, the lifestyle and lack of structure that then surrounds the job only seems to fuel this anxiety.

I listened to every Frightened Rabbit and Mastersystem record a few times over. I tried to remind myself of all the early influences that encouraged me to pursue a career in music. I watched interviews with Kurt Cobain. I listened to ‘Abel’ by The National on repeat. I was uplifted by listening to the artists I work with and artists that I have previously worked with. These were all personal reminders of why working in the arts is special and why I bent over backwards and made so many personal sacrifices to get here. I became a manager because I have a burning desire to help people reach their full potential, for me there is no better feeling than knowing that your skill set can positively affect someone’s confidence, career and life. I like ensuring talented people know they’re talented – music and beyond. Creativity is often coupled with deep insecurity. First and foremost, I work as a manager because I want audiences to connect in the way I connect. I want music to be a helpful dose of therapy for complex, chaotic minds. I want to help artists reach those people. A week after Scott’s passing, his brother Grant tweeted “Don’t ever think there isn’t someone out there who wants to listen to what you have to say.” From this moment something changed in me and my first and foremost focus became about mental health. To see Grant campaigning for kindness and encouraging people to speak up during an unfathomable loss was something I wanted to subscribe to. I didn’t want to walk away from music, I wanted to help encourage change and search for practical solutions.

From this moment something changed in me and my first and foremost focus became about mental health. To see Grant campaigning for kindness and encouraging people to speak up during an unfathomable loss was something I wanted to subscribe to. I didn’t want to walk away from music, I wanted to help encourage change and search for practical solutions.

During my time in London, I had lengthy conversations about the fact the music I am most connected to is intrinsically tied to complex thought patterns. The music I find interesting often comes from a dark place, talent is often honed by people who enjoy being alone. In my many conversations about this, I’ve learned that writing music is often therapeutic for people who are prone to depression and anxiety. It’s a form of self artswellbeingcollective.com.au

55


expression and therapy. In my experience, the most complex lyrics are often brought to life from a dark place. In this business, all you ever dream of is building an audience but no one tells musicians the truth about what happens when you do experience a level of success. Introverted people are suddenly expected to be extroverted. Fans and industry alike will demand your energy. It becomes more and more difficult to anticipate what the future is going to look like; what tomorrow is going to look like. Your inbox explodes. Your office is a pub. You can experience imposter syndrome, you become so used to the struggle that quick success feels unnatural and unwarranted. If you are an empathetic person, you start to feel guilty about not having the time or capacity to respond to everyone. People talk at you. People tell you their deepest, darkest. People try to tell you how you should feel. You want to be accessible but if you’re too accessible people will take too much from you. Expressing deepseated emotions on a stage to an audience of strangers looks exhausting. Touring is exhausting and can be unhealthy. I only experience a small portion of these struggles as a manager but the artist (if vaguely fragile) might experience all of these things at once. And then your friends punch you on the arm and say “You’re killing it!” What does that even mean? I spent the last year saying thanks to people who told me that I was killing it. My inner monologue was saying “I’m really very tired”.

And then your friends punch you on the arm and say “You’re killing it!” What does that even mean? I spent the last year saying thanks to people who told me that I was killing it. My inner monologue was saying “I’m really very tired”.

I was tired of having to convince people to trust me. I’ve been called an old soul my whole life and then suddenly I was “too young” to know what to do. I don’t want to play by the rules or follow a template, I want to trust my instinct and when you’re starting out that’s difficult to justify to those demanding explanations behind your natural way of thinking. I have a clear instinctive direction but for years I had no evidence to back my decisions up. It was tiring.

56

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

I was tired of working seven days a week for next to nothing. I became selfish and I let good things and good people pass me by because it was the only way I would be able to forge a career in this business. I forced myself to stay focused and by doing so I missed a lot of important life things. I felt immense levels of guilt because I wasn’t enjoying management in the way I always thought I would when I was trying to break out of a 9-5. People are constantly telling you how they think you should feel; you should feel lucky and happy and privileged. With that comes an inability to discuss how you’re actually feeling, in part because you don’t want to let people down and because it sounds silly.

I felt immense levels of guilt because I wasn’t enjoying management in the way I always thought I would when I was trying to break out of a 9-5. People are constantly telling you how they think you should feel; you should feel lucky and happy and privileged. With that comes an inability to discuss how you’re actually feeling, in part because you don’t want to let people down and because it sounds silly.

Comparatively, working in music shouldn’t be hard. Working in music means you get to travel the world and build a team of like-minded people and go on adventures. It’s not as glamorous as it seems from the outside. For years I was sleeping on couches and earning next to nothing, missing important milestones, working 16 hour days and feeling selfish about my career choice. There was very little reward. When I started to experience a small level of success as a manager, it was coupled with a fear that I was facilitating careers that could negatively affect an artist’s mental health. That is the last thing I would ever want to be involved in. I only want to bring about positive change. Sadly, while an audience is benefiting, often the artist is suffering. When I was in London I decided to talk about these things for the first time. I told everyone I work with that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s good to talk. It’s okay if you don’t want to do music today or you need a break or you don’t want to tour. It’s okay if you changed your mind after we committed to something. If you feel anxious or fragile, talk to me.


Image: Charlotte Abroms & Angie McMahon

I told everyone I work with that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s good to talk. It’s okay if you don’t want to do music today or you need a break or you don’t want to tour. It’s okay if you changed your mind... If you feel anxious or fragile, talk to me.

There’s no such thing as blurring lines or boundaries, the truth is we are connected humans, we are friends, we are colleagues, we’re like family. We’re complimenting one another’s talent. We’re intertwined. It’s okay to talk about issues that have nothing to do with music at all. It’s okay to say you don’t want to post something on social media, or you simply won’t meet that deadline. It’s okay if you don’t want to do the thing at all. I’ll back you.

I’ll confidently and boldly back you and I will stand in the way of any person who tries to change your music or your art. The truth is I love all music from the artists I work with and very rarely have constructive criticism. When industry try to give me feedback to relay to the artist, it feels like someone is walking into their bedroom, pulling out their journal and saying, “Rewrite your feelings.” It’s not natural and I boldly refuse to allow it. I learned to detach in the most healthy way possible. I started to delete the word ‘URGENT’ from subject lines. I started calling people out on bad behaviour. There’s no such thing as HR when you’re a freelancer in the music business.

I learned to detach in the most healthy way possible. I started to delete the word ‘URGENT’ from subject lines. I started calling people out on bad behaviour. artswellbeingcollective.com.au

57


Twice I’ve come up against angry men, unjustifiably yelling at me through the phone and I’ve calmly told them their behaviour is unacceptable. I started to make room for other people, choose friend’s weddings over shows, cherish my time with tiny relatives. All I care about is putting mental health first, both in a work context and beyond. My few months in London were some of the most difficult I’ve experienced. I stuck it out because I was surrounded by a community of wonderfully philosophical and like-minded friends and colleagues at Everybody’s Management. I could openly communicate about how I was feeling and I was supported. It fuelled a fire within me to continue to chase our collective goals, to embrace the business of songs, to appreciate that music should be FUN! I flicked a switch to remove anything toxic, to surround myself with people who lift me up and hopefully I can do the same for them in return. I started to let people in and open up about the difficulties of this job without regret. I learned to talk and trust and connect. I started to fall in love with music like I did before I associated it with work. I stopped caring about the ‘just following up’ emails, if an artist takes a day or two to respond then leave them be. Everything can wait. They give so much of themselves already. I won’t project the pressures of this business onto people I work with and care about. They can do things at their own pace and follow their instincts. If you don’t want to do press interviews on the day of a show, fine – no press. If you don’t want people backstage before or after your show, fine – new policy, sign on the door. It’s okay to sleep in. You worked late. It’s okay to go to the park and read a book, it’ll spark your creativity. It’s okay to turn your phone off. You sometimes can’t respond to everyone. I won’t make a deadline for your songs, that’s personal stuff unique only to you. All artists are different, but whatever your requests are – it’s okay. You don’t have to do things like everyone else does. My time spent in London was fantastic from a business perspective – I watched Angie McMahon play her first London show at Royal Albert Hall, support C.W. Stoneking around the UK and Ireland and sell out her first headline show. I was excited to be able to have frequent meetings with our UK/EU booking agents, publishers and distributors. We received publishing offers and distribution offers, attracted some fantastic label interest and booked in shows for Ainslie Wills, Gretta Ray and Angie McMahon for next month. I spent time with the MMF, getting to know other managers and learning of their struggles, while we all banged our heads together to offer one another solutions. I saw some of the best gigs I’ve ever seen including Baba Maal at Union Chapel, Mastersystem and LUMP at Oslo, Courtney Barnett at Roundhouse, Brooke 58

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Bentham at The Great Escape and several talented Australian artists at The Aussie BBQ. While this trip was career defining for my business, my main takeaway was philosophical. I cried a lot trying to make sense of what happened. I felt immense grief for all of those who were close to Scott. I talked a lot to other people who work in music about their own personal struggles and what we can do to provide solutions and help each other. I started to care about myself more, I started to nurture my own creativity and make time and room to let new people in.

I started to care about myself more, I started to nurture my own creativity and make time and room to let new people in.

Thank you to Creative Victoria and the AAM for providing me with a life changing experience, I will value my time spent living and working and growing in London forever. Years ago I found myself searching for an article like this, I have a screenshot I took where I was searching “Why working in music is so hard” and my computer was returning almost no results. I hope this article is beneficial to anyone who can relate. You’re not alone. You can detach from the pressures and make a difference too. Whether you know me or you not, I am always here to talk, I am always here to listen.

Recipient of the Lighthouse Award and the Fast Track Fellowship, Charlotte Abroms guides the careers of Haarlo, Ainslie Wills, Gretta Ray and Angie McMahon. She’s a lover of songs and people. Article originally published in The Industry Observer, September 2018. Article republished with permission.


Image by Kam Greville

Helpful support services It is ok to ask for help. If you, or someone you know is having a rough time, don’t carry on alone. These services are designed to be there for you when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Don’t ever worry that you’re not distressed or upset enough. Working in the performing arts can be tough, and you’re only human.

If life is in danger, call 000. BeyondBlue: 1300 22 4636 (24/7) or visit beyondblue.org.au to chat online (3pm to midnight) or join an online forum Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24/7) Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (24/7) SANE Australia: 1800 187 263 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday) QLife (LGBTQI): 1800 184 527 (3pm to midnight) Mensline: 1300 789 978 (24/7) Griefline: 1300 845 745 (12pm to 3am) DirectLine (alcohol and drug counselling) 1800 888 236 Gambling Help: 1800 858 858 (24/7)

Support Act Wellbeing Helpline: 1800 959 500 (24/7) WorkSafe Victoria Advisory Service: 1800 136 089

Actors Benevolent Funds and Trusts Victorian Actors Benevolent Trust vabt.com.au | 0411 524 929 Actors Benevolent Fund of NSW actorsbenevolentfund.org.au | 02 9333 0915 Actors & Entertainers Benevolent Fund (QLD) abfqld.com.au | 07 3846 0044 Performing Arts WA performingartswa.org.au/benvolence New Zealand Actors Benevolent Fund nzabf.org.nz

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (24/7) artswellbeingcollective.com.au

59


60

artswellbeingcollective.com.au

Profile for Arts Wellbeing Collective

Spotlight: The Arts Wellbeing Collective Magazine  

Spotlight: The Arts Wellbeing Collective Magazine  

Advertisement