Here at Rural Room we meet the most extraordinary humans and we enjoy the opportunity to uncover exceptional creative work hidden in vibrant pockets all over remote and regional Australia.
The Rural Room environment is an extremely dynamic virtual and digital network that is optimised due to the generosity of its participants - that’s YOU - people who care deeply about story, creativity, sharing and supporting and we feel grateful every-day that you’re walking on this journey with us. Collectively, we are building an alternative perception of life outside metro centres, one that is buzzing with an abundant creative energy unique to people living closely with nature, and for whom the bush provides an artistic spirit that is raw, unrestricted and extremely selfless. We work with people who organically tap into this creativity in a way that is very empowering, in some cases subversive and in all cases, sustainable. You may have noticed that our stories are very lively and are often not conventional, in the traditional sense of structure and subject. We enjoy multi-media, the visual, the visceral, movement, feeling, connection, stillness, multiple perspectives, breaking format rules and engaging from the heart.
While the very act of story-telling is a positive and powerful form of expression, we don’t believe all stories need to present as positive spin or reflect popular ideas. Some-times the reality of the story being told is that is exposes a difficult truth, an awkward tension, a concept that might be hard to unpack, one that may challenge paradigms, dominant structures, biases, systems or might simply present a different way that may not get air time elsewhere. We cobble it all together intentionally, because we believe story telling starts important conversations, be it now or into the future. Prejudice and outrage are often bred from a place of fear – when people have their beliefs challenged or are confronted by thoughts or observations that conflict with their own. We believe that understanding is achieved through the coming together of different people who are willing to share and willing to listen. We believe creativity culminates through human to human connection and reciprocal engagement that genuinely invites multiple perspectives and leaves judgement at the door. Creativity does not avoid complexity, what we do is inherently about squelching our hands down into all the layers of mud, being prepared to be covered right up to our elbows. We’re about exploring it, wading through it, drawing up stories from deep within- all stories, not just the ones that we’ve been taught to know or the popular ones. Creativity is often messy work and it’s not for the faint hearted – it can be difficult, it can be exhausting, it can be alienating, but it can also be invigorating if you’re prepared to go the distance.
Speaking of, here at Rural Room, we’re committed to clocking up kilometres to get out on the ground and to connect in person. Whenever possible we like to embark on an adventure to live creatively in practise, not just in prose. This can be hard to do when we’re all running at great pace, working, working, working, trying to ‘live our best lives’ and just trying to live full stop…! However, we believe that to realise the true potential of our creativity we frequently need to get off the grid and meet together with a group of interesting people in a space that is open. Generally, you’re asked to come to a gathering or meeting with an organised sense of agenda and with a per-ordained outcome in mind. I understand this, I’m a Producer, so in many contexts this is important for various pragmatic reasons. However, we often forget that the most evocative creative moments are unpredictable and totally unguarded.
I often get asked to consolidate things into a straight line, and I really don’t relate to the urgent need to make meaning from things in an overly structured (inauthentic) manner. Maybe it’s the way my creative mind works (think of a cloud exploding) and maybe I’m tiring from having had to conform to a way of working that’s not consistent with my natural state, but I’ve always understood energy to be robust and I feel that the true exchange of energy (one that many performers/artists/writers would be familiar with) is a genuinely reciprocal exchange that implicitly involves listening, not wrangling, projecting or suffocating. I believe that sometimes, it’s simply enough to let the ideas float and meet and move up against each other, like dodgem cars or atoms. It’s even ok to let them bump into each other from time to time, because despite what we’re told, friction is not always ‘bad’, it also has value as it builds resilience...as shown in nature. I’m especially interested in how we use language (a dominate one) to push to particular outcomes. Language can often strip meaning, conceal gaps and does not reflect nuance - anyone involved in translation can vouch for this. This is also why Rural Room preferences a range of story telling approaches and mediums because idea exploration through the visual, the tactile, the emotive, the movement, the senses, the body, the feeling, the human, the spirit often goes further to bridge connection than words can alone.
Anyway, I’ve taken you down one of the winding roads that we chanced upon on our adventure, so let’s get us back on track. My adventure yesterday was coordinated by the trailblazer Keith Bradby, CEO of Gondwana Link, and we devised the adventure in the aforementioned unorthodox way. Said Keith ahead of my journey, “it’s hard to tell the exact sequence for this morning…but we will find you.” That was it – no agreed upon times, a vague discussion about location and parties involved but it really was just an open invitation for serendipity to come to the party to work her magic….and she turned up.
Dad and I met our adventuring counterparts at the front gate of our block in Boxwood Hill after a lazy drive from Kojonup towards the Stirling Range which, framed by yellow canola at this time of year, was too beautiful to approach too quickly. *Disclosure; we also stopped for a fair bit of banter and a few cups of tea– sustenance in the shape of a warm drink is a mandatory adventuring inclusion, in case you didn’t know. * We met Keith and crew comprising Amanda Keesing (Gondwana Link Information Manager) Nick and Kady from Conservation Council of WA Citizen Scienceand Ian and Lesley Pulsford from the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative, based in Canberra. We were later joined by Professor Simon Forrest and Bryn Roberts fromCurtin Universityand another adventurer Peter Ashby from Guilford Grammar.What struck me about our gathering was that it was a group of people with no established knowledge of each other, threaded together in a delicate web. A web beautifully designed in nature by Gondwana Link, an initiative developed to enable land to be restored to its natural bush state through corridors of regeneration extending from Margaret River through to the edge of the Nullarbor. Of Gondwana LinkAmanda says, “in this time of significant climate change; with the change of fire conditions, rainfall and temperature, nature needs to be at its strongest and most resilient. This initiative, and the people involved are fostering this resilience, so nature can respond.” Keith, Amanda, Margaret Robertson and film maker Frank Rijavec have been producing a documentary, Breathing Life into the Boodja, to share the incredible details of this project - we’ll be encouraging everyone to watch it as soon as it’s released, it’s completely awe-inspiring.
Tightrope walking across a thread, I was able to intersect with fellow web-residing insects around the table at a special place called Nowanup, arguably the core of the web. This place has an energy that transcends English words just like the custodian of Nowanup himself, Noongar elder Eugene Eades. Eugene says more with his presence than any person or leader I’ve ever met. People talk about charisma and the ‘x-factor’, but the ‘Eugene affect’ is greater than those two things combined, and I can’t come close to sufficiently describing his spirit - you’re just going to have to meet him to truly understand. The story of Nowanupis a story that everyoneneeds to hear, but it’s not my story to tell, it’s Eugene’s, and his way of telling it is on country, with country. Eugene shares the story (and many others) with people from all over the world. He’s hosted over 15,000 people at Nowanup– that’s too many cups of tea, song recitals and yarns to count. It puts ‘Facebook likes’ and ‘Youtube views’ to shame…in short, it’s a lot of house guests and Eugene Eades is one busy man.
As is often the case with anything designed intuitively and with genuine integrity, the people involved in bringing this to life have kept their feet firmly planted within the rich Great Southern soil. They haven’t distracted themselves by shouting from the rooftops, they’ve gone softly, softly in a peaceful, harmonious and humble way. The people involved are living their values in action…not talking about it. In fact, all these people, every single participant, deserves huge congratulations and genuine gratitude. In short, we owe them. These people aren’t righteously advocating or spruiking their cause in an unashamedly public ego driven way for the here and the now. They’re out there getting their hands dirty, sharing collectively around an intimate campfire; joining the dots and distributing the silk to create a strong web for generations to come. I’ve got to admit, I’m a little taken aback by the magic of these people, and certainly the place. There’s a ground swell bubbling at Nowanupthat is a powerful collaboration between mother nature and the people she trusts. It’s a connected, shared leadership style that inclusively brings together all the parts; the growth, decay, healing, repairing, preparing, trauma, pain, joy, young and old, putting them all on the table and holding the space. It’s a place where data and power is not allocated to a person and knowledge is not held in filing cabinets or stashed within computer software. Instead, it’s stored in sacred gums that house all the secrets, whispering wisdom to select stakeholders, in a way that is often felt, not always spoken. This exchange practise is one that occurred for over 60,000 years in the past and will continue until the end of time.
Our contributors wear their heart on their sleeves, so this blog pays homage to the courage of the people who write for this platform. Thank you also to you, our readers and participants, for allowing this to be a safe space where we share conversations that aren’t necessarily mainstream, are often experimental, and are always anchored in creativity. Hopefully the diversity of our content stimulates thoughtful discussion in an environment that inclusively invites people to question, respectfully disagree and provoke a wide range of thoughts. A big thank you to Keith for triggering the adventure, Amanda and everyone else involved the in adventurous conservations held over multiple cups of coffee in tea in the cosy warmth ofNowanup. I’d like to tip my cap to my old man, a farmer, for introducing me to the Gondwana Link project many years ago and for cultivating my life long appreciation of the bush, instilling in me a deep respect of nature and people, for letting me run away with my imagination and for never boxing me in. Finally, thank you to Eugene for warming welcoming me to Nowanupand, as always, for sharing his valuable time, talent, passion, truth and self-less heart. As always, this work requires a great deal of output and I would encourage any-one interested in supporting Nowanupand Gondwana Linkto contact the team and get on board.
I abandoned my work, emails and exterior distractions to embark on the enlightening adventure to Nowanup, and today I urge you to enjoy a random adventure one day soon. Tap out, go with an open mind and an unrestricted vision about where things might lead and what you might discover. Go to nature – feel the ground under your feet, listen to the birds’ chatter, be conscious of the crisp, fresh, air, the colour of the trees, the beauty of the leaves. Let the walls, structures, rigidity and conformity slip and slide away. Replace the phone screen or computer screen with a sweeping, landscape vista and let your imagination run as wild as nature itself. And even though it might feel uncomfortable or overwhelming to give yourself over, without any set plan, you can relax in the knowledge that just like the spider’s meticulous orb lines and radical lines, natures got her pattern laid out, so we don’t have to try so hard to design it ourselves, we can simply swing from a thread.