The first ever BRINK Festival is set to take over Fremantle this week with nine events over five days in a collaboration of independent Western Australian artists, arts workers and environmental campaigners from Thursday, March 25 until Monday, March 28. Described as an “ethical alternative” festival, BRINK seeks to encourage artists, producers, venues and audiences to create and enjoy art for an ethical and sustainable future. ANTHONY JACKSON caught up with co-organiser, Vivienne Glance to find out how treating artists fairly and refusing fossil fuel sponsorship are central to the festival’s core values.

Congratulations on the launch of BRINK Festival! The program looks great and there’s such a great cause behind it too. Can you tell us more about what BRINK is all about and the issues you are bringing attention to?

BRINK is an artist-led festival founded on the principles of integrity, community, and preservation. Together with the City of Fremantle, we’re a team of local artists putting our best foot forward and walking the talk, delivering an ethically-funded arts festival in 2021; one that celebrates diverse cultures, amplifies fringe voices, and supports local artists. We’re a truly independent artist-led, grassroots fringe: a seed planted in Freo but an idea that’s growing.

The On The Brink fundraiser was last Sunday at Mojo’s Bar with some great bands performing! How did that go and did you feel there was community support for the reasons behind the festival?

Absolutely there was community support! When the artists called for action on climate change the audience cheered their support! There was also a great speech from Mayor Brad Pettitt on acting as a community, and a heartfelt plea to care for the natural world from Uncle Ben Taylor who welcomed us to country. And we got to show off our great t-shirts!

BRINK Festival will feature a diverse range of performances ranging from music to theatre, poetry, and more. What was it that you looked for in performers and artists that made them a great fit for the festival?

We pulled this together very quickly so most shows were ready to go. However, some are getting their first outing so we’re super excited about that, too. The artists who answered our call-out wanted to present work at a festival that aligned with their values: not only free of fossil fuels but one where the artist is at the centre. Too often, the arts outcome and the artist become the shiny thing people notice, but are not really well-looked after by arts organisations. Sometimes it seems that sponsors and funders are more important than the creative people who make the event so enjoyable.

Richard Walley’s Six Seasons this Sunday at Freo.Social looks to be the highlight of the program, featuring a song for each season in Noongar culture. What can we expect from that performance?

A great night out! Not only will you hear amazing songs, you’ll also learn a little through these songs about the Noongar world view, one that has existed for tens of thousands of years. Also, Natasha Eldridge will start the evening with a solo set. In 2019 she was named for the NAIDOC Artist of the Year Award. Following this we’ll push the tables back and hold a Junkadelic Dance party!

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival that we should look out for?

There’s something for everyone. I’m personally looking forward to Tomas Ford’s Band Frenz Club at The Aardvark. If any of you know Tomas you’ll know this will be a high energy fun blend of music and mayhem! Or if you’re looking for something more soulful and peaceful, Kavisha Mazzella will bring her Empty Sky Cosmic Cabaret to the Fibonacci Centre.

Then there’s Chicken Licken, a wonderful puppet show for the younger ones at the Sonar Room next to Little Creatures. Perhaps have lunch at the beach then head in to see this. Of course there’s the show I’m MC-ing as well, and if eco-poetry rocks your boat, come along.

And what do you hope people will take away from the festival, other than enjoying the performances?

We want people to start thinking about how to do things differently. We need to ask why arts organisations have to take money from fossil fuel corporations that are polluting life on our planet into non-existence. And why are these corporations so willing to give it to us? Purchasing a social licence to operate is part of a marketing strategy to make them look good and deflecting real scrutiny of their activities.

If we really value the arts then we need to treat artists better, as more than a means for sponsors to artwash their image. Let’s start talking about this and maybe we’ll find a new way to support sustainable, ethically funded and produced work. We need to work out a transition plan for the arts sector that will achieve this. We can’t do it overnight, but we need to do this soon.

It’s a small contribution to all the other movements and actions happening right now to save or planet! Plus, we want to see if we can make this festival even bigger and better next year!

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