Tahni Froudist Indi Summit Report Launch speech
Posted February 01, 2016
Tahni Froudist is the General Manager of HotHouse Theatre, Australia’s leading regional theatre company. Before joining HotHouse, tahni was the Associate Producer at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre, producing new Australian work by some of the country’s best writers and theatre-makers. She is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, with a Bachelor of Arts Management. Tahni has worked for a number of independent and professionl theatre companies, including Deckchair Theatre, Perth International Arts Festival as well as producing in the Blue Room and B Sharp independent seasons. Tahni is an alumna of the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program.
“Thank you for having me here Cathy. And thank you for the opportunity to be involved in the Indi Summit. I’d like to start by adding my acknowledgement of the traditional owners of this inc redible land, and pay my respects to our Aboriginal elders, past, present and future.
I moved to the region almost 2 years ago to take up my position at HotHouse Theatre, after spending 5 years in Sydney. Originally I am a Western Australian girl, raised in a small south western town before studying in Perth. While the bright lights of the big smoke held appeal for a while, I knew for sometime that I was missing a sense of community, and the quality of life that regional living can provide. Soon after I moved here, I was lucky enough to be selected as a participant in the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program. Over 10 months between 2014 & 2015 I travelled all over the region, and learnt about the beautiful region that we live in, the pressing issues and challenges we face, and the incredible innovations that our fellow community members are constantly making. I was hooked. When the Indi Summit was announced, I knew that I had to be involved.
In the lead up to the summit I was lucky enough to be involved in the working group who wrote a pre-discussion paper on the arts in Indi. This working group lead by the inimitable Emma Jones, and the discussions we had at the summit, have had a huge impact on the way that I work as an individual, the way that HotHouse Theatre connects in the region, and I hope will have a lasting effect on the way artists and arts organisations work together.
For me, as a relative newcomer, the pre-summit discussion we had in Wangaratta was valuable enough – an opportunity to meet the other players, to discuss where our challenges and opportunities intersect, to open the way for collaboration. It was a fantastic meeting of the minds, and I’m proud of the focus we were able to bring to the discussions at the Summit.
I wanted to be involved in the Summit because it was an incredible opportunity to meet with other community members, join forces and collectively set our own agenda for Indi. It is extremely powerful to not just outline issues that we expect our federal member to somehow fix, but to be part of the solution – setting frameworks and strategies for the next few years and how we can best use our access to the Canberra through our federal member to make Indi even better.
Ultimately, I wanted to be involved in the Indi Summit because I want to be a member of this community, and do my part. See this community thrive, and hear from other community members the issues that are important to them, and see how I can be involved, or make change in my life for the better.
On the day, I spent most of my time in the arts group led by the talented Kirsten Lingard. You can read the outcome of our conversation online in the theme reports, and I’m sure there’s a summary in the paper we’re launching today so I won’t go into too much detail, but one of the major outcomes that came out of our discussion about the arts was about how we collaborate, share information and break down silos. As I read more theme reports preparing for today, it became clear that this is not just our problem. Again and again, the opportunity to make sure information was available, share expertise and collaborate on issues came up.
My overwhelming takeaway from the summit was how incredible the people of this region are, and the power that lies in collective action.
While I was just one person with passions and experiences of my own, there were over 200 other individuals with their own passions, experiences and skills. All of those people care about the future of our community, all of those were willing to give up their Saturday to be involved, and all had something unique to share. We were able to share our thoughts, based in our own experience, find the similarities and differences, and create a document that outlines our plans for Indi. There is so much power in that.
And another, seemingly obvious realisation for me, is that it’s up to us. No one else is going to do this for us. As I said earlier, this strategy is not a list of the things we don’t like about Indi to give to Cathy to take to Canberra and get fixed. This is a strategic plan for the region that gives all of us, the members of the Indi community, responsibilities to ensure we get to where we want to be. There’s so much power in that.
Next steps post-summit
I was extremely keyed up after the summit. I am excited about what we can achieve when we work together, and have a clear purpose. One of the opportunities that came out of our discussions at the summit for the arts in the region, was to open up communication and have more opportunities to cross-promote the vibrant cultural life of Indi and share information. Ever since we’ve been using #IndiArts to promote what’s happening, and while I was still in Benalla that day, I even went so far as to set up a twitter account @Indi_Arts to promote what’s happening across the region – a quick fix, but hopefully one that we can improve and broaden.
We’ve started to share emails through our network of arts workers that we didn’t do before. Nothing game changing, but we’re slowly building our connections, building our network so we can rally together when we really need to.
I’m excited to have input into an advisory group who can work across the region to set the collective agenda for the arts in Indi. Some of the opportunities we’ve already floated, are an annual cross art-form survey to give us some base data on the impact of the arts in the region, and the actual number of artists and arts workers who live here, an online forum to share what’s on, who’s working, and other opportunities. Of course there are always individual challenges such as access to funding, or the lack of an exhibition space when you most need it, but I’m excited about the opportunity for us to create a cultural network of artists and arts workers who can think long term, who can work together and can engage with the future in a meaningful way.
For me, that’s the Indi spirit. What I’ve been struck with most over the last 2 years here is our sense of community, that united we stand and that Indi is only going to get better. I am incredibly excited for the future of this region, and thrilled to be here to celebrate our first community led strategy for Indi.”