This season at Backbone looks to be jam-packed full of creativity, with forays into the hilarious, the political, and the intimate.
Backbone Youth Arts has served as a beacon of the performing arts in Queensland for over 31 years. Artistic Director and executive producer Katherine Quigley tells of her involvement.
“I actually got involved in the company when I was 13 years old. I did a few workshops there, back when the company was a part of La Boite Theatre... It was pretty amazing to be connected to a theatre like that when I was so young. I went back to the company around about age 20 when I wanted to get involved as a producer of events and festivals.”
Prior to Katherine's involvement as a key contributor to the organisation, Backbone underwent a series of structural changes. “There was a really big shift in the Queensland Arts policy priorities, around the time that a lot of youth arts organisations such as Youth Arts Queensland and Contact Inc lost funding from the State Government. We had to make Backbone Festival self-sustainable, sell tickets, change venues, rethink what landscape and climate we were headed for in a pretty uncertain funding future,” she says.
“From there until where we are now, a lot of the things I've put in place have been towards trying to increase our sustainability as an organisation... In a way in which we grow and build. A key part of it was implementing youth arts philosophies, so that everyone could experience what it's like to be part of a youth arts community, not just young people.”
The non-profit organisation functions as a space for emerging and established artists to develop their crafts, on both micro and macrocosmic levels. “Five years ago I started working there as the Executive Producer, and now I'm the Artistic Director! It's the kind of company that you can be a part of your whole life. The core philosophy is for people to be safe and comfortable to explore their ideas, something that is accessible to everyone. I think that the beauty of the world that we've made with Youth Arts is that you get a lot of ideas... You try to work with people to scale, to support them to develop at home, and out of that comes some really amazing stuff, and some really sh.t stuff. I kind of want all of it.”
This season boasts a smorgasbord of new productions. Speaking of what's in store, Katherine tells, “The best thing is because we actually have resources now, whereas previously the model worked that, especially throughout our festival, we didn't have time with the artists to support their ideas in a long term way. We now have a residency all year round, which allows artists to develop their ideas, test them out in a smaller scale and build them up.
“Our collaboration with La Boite – a show called 'Open Homes' by Jeffrey Tan, where really the beauty is in the mundane, is very much about experiencing a person's or a family's life in situ, and sitting with that... This is the first time this has happened in Australia.
“It's a comparison between the way that different cultures experience each other in their homes, seeing how that translates to Australian communities. We want people to open their homes for facilitators to share what the beautiful things about their families are. We can get locked away in our homes, we don't necessarily want to be open to our neighbours, and yet we're so keen to find out everything we can about everyone via social media platforms, which is voyeuristic in a way. I guess the question we're positing is, how can we get over the voyeurism and get involved in each other's lives in an active and positive way?
“There'll be about 15 homes across Brisbane, walking distance from where Backbone is situated, where people will be able to go and have incredible experiences with their community, stories of Brisbane that have not been told because they're incredible historical moments, but because they're people, and everyone has really amazing stories,” Katherine says.
Recently, Backbone delegated nine young artists to travel to London's Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), as part of their Open Source Residency. “The personal exchange with the BAC is very much about opening up the conversation with young peoples' peers, as artists,” Katherine says. “When I was in London, I was taken aback by locals' (lack of) knowledge of British imperialism, and of what impact that has had on Indigenous languages, cultures. The timing of our visit is around the Brexit, and essentially our conversation will be about telling stories from Brisbane, but also from the context of the history that we come from.”
Also up and coming is a musical production by musician Jeremy Neale and David Stewart.
“The best thing about 'Absolute Objectivity' is that it's a musical by people who hate musicals,” Katherine says. “We all just go 'why are we making a musical?' It's an interesting art form, it combines my two brains together, I've been fascinated by the popularity of musicals and what makes that appealing! But as I'm learning, its not easy to make one. It's also very funny so far. It's poking a stick at our generation in a way that I think will be refreshing, to say the least.
“Aside from that, we have things on at our venue every weekend that range from gigs to trivia nights... There's so many different experiences on offer at the venue, so I would recommend people just try stuff out there – and bring their ideas as well, because that's what we're all about.”
Backbone’s full programme has officially launched. Check out their website for a list of upcoming shows.