Creative Convergence? The Persistence of the Centre, the Desire for Distribution


NZ – 4.30pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 2.30pm | SA – 2pm | QLD – 1.30pm | NT – 1pm
WA – 11.30am

Chaired by Merophie Carr

Creative Convergence: Enhancing Impact in Regional Theatre for Young People is a large-scale ARC Linkage project that has run from 2017-21. With a team comprising academic researchers and partner organisations ranging from small to large theatre companies, government agencies and an arts venue, the primary goal was to explore ways for theatre-makers to build and sustain relations with youth audiences over time and at a distance. In this panel discussion, the Chief Investigators engage in dialogue with industry partners to reflect on what the project achieved, and what can be learnt from its limitations.  

In particular, the discussion focuses on the persistence of the centre: how centralised power and the centripetal forces of cultural production have endured or reasserted themselves over the lifespan of the project. This persistence raises serious questions about the practical challenges of decentring both cultural practice and scholarship. At the same time, the panel takes stock of significant developments in such practices – regional networks, audience diversity, new technologies, theatre aesthetics – that have taken place over the lifespan of the project. Reckoning with the value of the centre and the desire for distribution, the panel will examine ways of making use of both forces in rhetorical and practical terms.   

Jennifer Beckett is Lecturer in Media and Communications, School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne, Australia. Her areas of research online community management and public and community engagement. She has 20 years of experience working in marketing and communications roles, including in the music industry, as well as in digital communications and community management. She is a member of Australian Community Managers and regularly delivers presentations and workshops to industry around community management practice.

Rachel Fensham is Director of the Digital Studio, and a Professor of Dance and Theatre (Melbourne). As a senior arts and educational administrator, she has managed theatre companies, written arts policy for the Western Australian government and produced national training reports for the Arts Industry and Local Government. She has published widely on theatre audiences, including To Watch Theatre (2008), community arts, and edits the New World Choreographies (Palgrave) international book series. More recently with a track record in curating Performing Arts archives and databases, she established the Theatre and Dance Platform and developed CIRCUIT: a mapping tool for the Creative Convergence ARC project

Paul Rae Head of the School of Culture and Communications and Associate Professor in Theatre Studies on the English and Theatre Studies Program. He is author of Theatre & Human Rights (2009) and Real Theatre: Essays in Experience (2019), and from 2015-18 was Senior Editor of the journal Theatre Research International. He has published widely on contemporary theatre and performance, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Joe Toohey is the Executive Director/CEO of Regional Arts Victoria.

David Williams is a theatre maker and the ARC Research Assistant – Creative Convergence at the University of Melbourne.