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Victorian Seniors Festival - Spotlight on In Conversation

Tuning into the Seniors Festival Reimagined In Conversation series is like eavesdropping in a gloriously eclectic café.


Tuning into the Seniors Festival Reimagined In Conversation series is like eavesdropping in a gloriously eclectic café. You can dip into the humour and easy camaraderie of performers who have worked together for decades, then listen to fresh, respectful connections being formed, or be challenged by artists who use their creativity as a political tool.

In Conversation Creative Director Bec Reid says it was a joy to be able to explore the rich alchemy of artistic relationships and collaborations, both old and new, whilst celebrating and providing a platform for a range of art forms.

‘I loved that it debunked myths about ageing along the way,’ Bec says.

‘Everyone we spoke to was still contributing, with many of them mentoring younger artists. In Conversation gave us a unique insight into the respectful and caring nature of these intergenerational connections.’

Sparks literally fly when magicians, illusionists and friends Sam Angelico and Ross Skiffington reflect on how their art form has changed over the 50 years of their friendship — from a career considered a ‘rung below strippers’ to an established theatrical artform. The men recall how their white tights and leather pants challenged the status quo and discuss what advice they would give the fresh crop of kids who, inspired by the gift of a magic kit, dream of a life on the stage.

You can hear the mutual respect that Robyne Latham and Leo Dale share for each other’s talent when they chat about their work. Leo, a musician and camera operator, has filmed several of Robyne’s art installations over the years, including the bittersweet ritual piece that uses empty coolamons, or wooden vessels that Aboriginal people used as cradles for their newborns, as a powerful symbol of the children taken during the Stolen Generation era.

On the surface, Iranian musician Vahideh Eisaei, Pacific Island vocalist Tangata Tupou and well-established composer and artistic director of Outer Urban Projects, Irine Vela, have little in common. But moments into their warm conversation you can feel the tug of their shared values of community and music.

As an established artist, Irine instinctively recognised the young women’s talent and understood, as a senior, what they had already been through to get to where they were as performers, and what lay ahead if they chose to continue. She has nurtured both women and continues to collaborate with them on artistic projects.

One of the results of their collaboration is Aotearoa, an original kanun (a traditional string instrument) composition by Vahideh that the trio perform for the festival with Tangata on vocals, accompanied by Irine.

You can also listen to the budding friendship and collaboration between three artists activists who share a passion to use the arts as a political tool in the fight against climate change.

Angharad Wynne-Jones is the Founding Director of TippingPoint Australia, which connects artists with scientists, economists, politicians and activists to develop projects that highlight the urgency of action on climate change.

Young community artists Eliki Reade and Lana Nguyen recently connected with Angharad to learn from her experiences as they seek to harness their creativity, and the creativity of others, in their push for concrete action on tackle climate change.

Bec says the conversation that ebbs and flows between Angharad, a self-described senior, and the younger artists is a perfect metaphor for the Seniors Festival reimagined; their piece ends with Angharad talking about the collaboration as a ‘fluid and lovely experiment’ that has shown her, ‘I do have some things I have done that may be useful but similarly I have a lot to learn’.

Learning and teaching are also at the heart of the delightful conversation between the 15-year-old Lottie with her student Jenny, a retired English teacher.

Establishing a Zoom Piano school in 2020, enterprising Lottie’s students are located across Melbourne and Tasmania. A gifted musician and patient teacher –you can feel her energy and enthusiasm for their shared passion of music coming through the screen. it’s a lovely inter-generational story.

Reviewed 19 May 2023