“Through song, dance, theatre and art we are creating new songlines that connect us all to the past, present, people and place. We may be reawakening and strengthening already existing songlines we were unaware of. This is Story Room.” — Isaac Drandic
In 2021 Queensland Theatre launched Story Room in Cairns, a new opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to connect across artforms.
Curated by Associate Artist Isaac Drandic (dir. City of Gold), these weekly sessions at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre have so far featured workshops and conversations with:
David Hudson – musician, entertainer and artist
Culture, commercialisation and entrepreneurship
Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein – theatre makers, directors, writers, actors
Cross-cultural collaboration and the preservation of culture through story
Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain (Marrugeku Dance Theatre) — dance, performance dramaturgy, choreography
Performance dramaturgy, best practice models and community cultural engagement
Geoff Kelso and Ian Wilkes – theatre makers, dance, improvisation
Rewriting the Australian narrative using theatre and live performance, non-scripted performance making and cross-cultural collaboration
Carl Fourmile and the Minjil team – Yidinji Cairns/Gimuy custodian and traditional/contemporary performance maker
Story, song and dance from Gimuy/Cairns
Story Room is focused on diving into different approaches to artistic practice — from a First Nations perspective — rather than focusing on achieving specific outcomes. The sessions offer connection, inspiration and a culturally safe space to share ideas while exploring a range of artforms.
Meet some of the inaugural participants
Story Room participating artist
I was born into the Arts industry with both parents professional practitioners in production across theatre, playwright, festivals and events, film and music. Growing up I was always sounded by creative and technical people alike. It was inevitable that I would join the theatre world. My father was producing a show called No Shame when I was born. I was 6 months old when I first went on tour my dad. One of my earliest memories was in Dad’s Bedford van. We were eating one of his props after the bump out on the way to the next venue. It was a baguette he used as a goanna in the show. In early high school I turned away from the event industry and focused on my passion of animation and game design. During my senior years of high school I started working on festivals with my dad. My first paid job was backline on Stage One of the Womad world music festival in Adelaide. After school is when I really started my journey as a technician and a creative. I volunteered for many years and as a I landed a traineeship at the Centre of Contemporary Arts (now Bulmba-ja) in Cairns in 2014. I concluded my traineeship in 2016 and stayed on as a technician, working on every show that come through the venue. During my time at CoCa I volunteered as a lighting designer for Shakespeare at the Tanks with Tropical Arts. In 2019 I landed a part-time job with the centre as the Venue Supervisor during the renovations. Currently I’m full time and acting up as Operations Manager.
Story Room participating artist
Liam is the proud son of a Murray Island and Yidinji father and an Irish Australian Mother. Liam lives with his partner and two young sons in Cairns where he has relocated to ensure that his children grow up with a strong connection to their family, land and culture. After growing up in Sydney, Liam has worked across several fields such as social and legal services, building and most recently ran his own maintenance business in Cairns. Liam has decided to put his business on hold to share the child care of his two young children so his partner can reignite her career. This has opened up the time and space for Liam to pursue other interests such as writing, painting, woodwork and music. It has also enabled him to just be a dad and spend more time with his kids. Liam grew up surrounded by several family members who worked in the arts and it seems inevitable that he has found himself being drawn to learn more about creative ventures. Liam is very excited to see where this road leads.
"Before starting Story Room I was unsure what to expect. Having limited personal experience in the arts or in storytelling, I assumed it would be similar to a short story/script writing course. It ended up being so much more. I was exposed to some of the industry leaders and was given the opportunity to gain an insight into their motivations, inspirations and processes to create their work.
The generosity of the facilitators to share their knowledge has been amazing. For me personally, it has been a way of reconnecting with my late father. He always used to say to me "our mob needs to tell our stories". I feel that after going through this experience, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of what he meant ." — Liam Maza
The first Story Room sessions concluded in June 2021, with plans underway to create a global First Nations cultural and artistic exchange in the future.