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Victorian Seniors Festival - Spotlight on Pure Performance

A desire to shine the spotlight on lesser-known artists and provide a diverse range of programming choices led the development of Pure Performance, part of the 2021 Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined.


A desire to shine the spotlight on lesser-known artists and provide a diverse range of programming choices led to the development of the Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined Pure Performance, a stream of online events that will challenge and delight visitors to the Senior Festival’s online stage.

The program includes everything from music to movement, from cabaret-style performances to stand-up comedy. Pure Performance Creative Director Dr Nat Grant gave the performers a great deal of freedom to decide what they wanted to share with festival goers, and the result is a broad range of punchy and fresh content.

Unlike last year’s festival, the lineup includes yet is not dominated by, mainstream artists. Instead, it has deliberately sought to provide a venue for talented, independent performers such as comedian Pauline Sherlock and Gunditjmara song man Dave Arden.

A co-Musical Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musical theatre company Black Arm Band, Dave co-wrote the thought-provoking track Freedom Called with Paul Kelly. The song is about Aboriginal diggers going to war at a time when they were not allowed to vote in Australia.

‘Dave has released music before but the amazing thing about him is that he’s often in more of a supporting role when he's played with Uncle Archie, Ruby Hunter, Tiddas, Mixed Relations, Dan Sultan, Shane Howard, Not Drowning Waving, Bart Willoughby or Hunters and Collectors,’ Nat says.

Pure performance includes short interviews that provide insights into the artists, but the focus is trained on showcasing their work.

‘We have videos of people who are improvisers talking about that as a craft,’ Nat says. ‘We’ve got experimental performances, we've got traditional Chinese and Hindu music, we've got First Nations songwriters. It's really going to challenge people to maybe stretch what their comfort zone is in terms of what they would normally choose to experience.’

Unless you are a devotee of improvisation, the contributions by dance performer and improvisor David Wells, and the collaboration between percussionist Duré Dara OAM and vocalist Carolyn Connors are likely examples of performances that may be outside your comfort zone.

Duré, who describes herself as ‘Indian by race, Malaysian by birth and a citizen of Australia by choice’, has been composing and performing her unique brand of spontaneous music for more than 40 years. A passionate community activist, Duré was Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her community work and is on the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

Dure and Carolyn are long-time collaborators who turn sounds into a form of music and language, using everything from a table harp and accordion to pebbles and tin foil. The duo is motivated by a desire to express themselves and provide support to causes that resonate with them, as demonstrated by their performance, which includes a reading of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Intergenerational relationships spark conversations and inform work by other festival artists, including Sarah Ward and Bec Matthews who run a songwriting project pairing people under 10 and over 60. Neil Thomas and Patrick Cronin first worked together in the 90s but have more recently discovered a mutual love of electronic music. The result is The Bunker Tapes, a quirky mix of voice and sound.

Comedian and musician Pauline Sherlock pulls no punches when providing her take on ageing and the benefits of her kids leaving the nest, whilst Sarah Carroll, the Ukulele Queen of the Bellarine, sings bittersweet songs sparked by the recent loss of her husband.

‘I don't think there would be anyone who would recognise the name of every artist,’ Nat says. ‘But I hope that everyone will find something new that they like that they might not have stumbled across elsewhere.’

Reviewed 21 December 2022