Rockin’ and Rollin’ in Swan Hill

Kids Thrive is producing Cha Cha Sam’s Postcards From Nanna, taking in regional libraries to start conversations about cultural diversity.

Here are Tales From The Road…

After a rocky start to the day, Swan Hill turned out to be nothing but rock ‘n’ roll!

We arrived in Swan Hill, incident free, checked in to our accommodation – still incident free – and even packed all our Postcards from Nanna set and costumes and took them to the venue. Still. Incident free.

And then, upon arrival at Swan Hill Regional Library, we discovered that our very smart business attire – perfect for facilitating the professional development session we had scheduled – was sitting pretty in a wardrobe back in Mildura.

I. Ande organising delivery of clothes left behind in Mildura before Swan Hill showAnde jumped straight on the phone to the hotel, and started trying to organise a courier. What a nightmare! Working quickly (we had a show to do!), Ande rang the hotel, rang a courier, contacted a taxi company to try and take the clothes to the courier, we considered how viable it was to dash to the local Target to buy some new clothes, we even rang our delightful new friend Linda to see if she could help! Linda was about to go and get the clothes for us when Star Track came to the party. They organised to pick up the clothes from the hotel and send them on. Thank you Star Track for (literally) saving our knickers.

Crisis averted, it was time to prepare for the show. The performance of Postcards from Nanna was scheduled to start at 10.30am. We began setting up around 9am, and the library doors were due to open at 10am. At 9.59am, there was a curious swell of people gathering at the front door… At 10am, the doors open, and the crowds swarmed through – more than 200 people had booked in to come to the Swan Hill Regional Library for Postcards from Nanna.

It was the closest thing to an AC/DC concert I have ever experienced. We were in such shock – due to our early-morning clothing mishap, we hadn’t even quite finished setting up, but that was certainly no deterrent – children and adults alike were eager to get the best seat in the house, and happily watched us finish our set up.

At 10.30am, the metaphorical curtain went up on Postcards from Nanna. The show rolled along like thunder. Children sang and danced, and children as young as 2 years old sat, totally engaged and mesmerised for a full 90 minutes (with the half hour pre-show turn up!). Enthralled by the story, everyone was eager to get involved and enthusiastically belted out tunes with us as the words were projected onto Nanna’s ‘No Go’ shed door.

Children at the front were so excited that they kept moving so that they were just slightly in the way of Ruby Big Dog, hoping that they would get brushed by the dog as she passed! Imagine The Beatles arrival in 1964, and multiply it by a hundred and you will have some idea of the madness of the mosh pit that was the Postcards from Nanna show at Swan Hill Regional Library.

Q. Swan Hill crowd

As always, we made some gorgeous friends. As a performer, you will often spot someone in the audience whose expression is slightly different from all the others. They’re having fun, no doubt, but there’s more to it – a hunger in their eyes, amazement or a delighted wonder – it’s difficult to describe, but once it’s there, it will stay there for the whole show.

At this performance, that person was Kenneth.

KennethInChaChaSamHatSwanHill
Kenneth tries on Cha Cha Sam’s hat after the Swan Hill Library show

Kenneth was there with his family, and he was absolutely fascinated by the way the puppets in the show moved and how they could possibly have so much personality for just inanimate materials on sticks! After the show, we gave Kenneth a special behind-the-scenes look at the way the puppets in Postcards from Nanna worked, and even gave him a turn at controlling the puppets himself.

 

There are moments in life that change us – of course, at the time, you have no idea that that’s what is happening, but upon reflection, you might remember the first time you cooked dinner for a friend and you realised that was the turning point for deciding to become a chef, or the first time you walk onstage under a bright spotlight, or sing for a large crowd or win your first soccer grand final. Who knows – this might have been a moment Kenneth will look back on one day when he’s a world-famous puppeteer!

You never know when you might be a part of someone’s ‘special moment’, and you should

K. Family-OliviaKennethChaChaSamEmmanuel
Olivia, Kenneth, Cha Cha Sam and Emmanuel

always try and take the time to share your knowledge, your passion – whatever it might be – because you might just be changing someone’s life. And, even if it’s not a life-changing moment, the joy of discovery appearing suddenly on the face of a curious child is priceless.

After the show, in preparation for our professional development session (in addition to now having our lovely clothes to wear), we looked through the children’s books section at Swan Hill Regional Library.

L. Kelly Carlo children's librarian Swan Hill
Kelly Carlo and Cha Cha Sam

With the help of Kelly Carlo, Children’s Librarian, we looked through several books to see what stories are being shared with our kids. Are they being represented in these stories? Are their voices being heard? It is so valuable that young people see true representations of their community and their families not only in popular culture, but in books, films and theatre.

Seeing difference normalises difference, and can also help to make us feel less alone in the world. It is reassuring to know that someone is going through the same challenges as us, and experiencing the same fears and joys. It is vital that young people receive these messages too, whether they be about bullying, body image, self esteem or friendship, the arts is a fantastic tool for encouraging and promoting the value of empathy.

At our professional development session, we will work with around fifteen early childhood educators, and equip them with the skills and confidence to use the arts in their teaching. Using music and storytelling helps to increase engagement, participation, and collaboration, and it also helps us to challenge our own preconceptions biases.

Even if you’re not a teacher, it’s easy to incorporate the arts into conversations with young people – asking what they thought of the way a certain character responded in a situation, how they may have responded differently, and what the consequences were of their actions. Seeing a piece of theatre, watching a film or reading a book can provide valuable platforms from which to launch conversations with young people. Hopefully today’s jam-packed Postcards from Nanna performance has helped to get at least a few people talking!

J. Cha Cha Sam Camille manager Swan Hill Lib Ande Lemon
Cha Cha Sam, Camille and Ande Lemon

Finally, we would like to give a shout out to Camille, the Manager of the Swan Hill RegionalLibrary, who is doing some incredible work in the community. Camille is working towards setting up a Yarning Circle in the library, where people can come and share their cultural stories. There are several Aboriginal groups in Swan Hill, as well as families from Mauritius, Sudan and Afghanistan, all with wonderful stories to share. The idea was first suggested to her by an Aboriginal uncle, who has now passed away. Camille is dedicated to carrying out his idea, and we can’t wait to come back to Swan Hill and see the Yarning Circle in full swing. It is sure to be a beautiful thing.

What a day – scary, exciting, exhilarating and rewarding. We are so excited for our professional development workshop tomorrow. But, first things first – time for coffee and recovery from our amazing rock and roll morning at Swan Hill Regional Library.

A big thanks to VicHealth, Arts Victoria, The Australia Council for the Arts, Public Libraries Network Victoria, and the Australian Institute of Social Relations for helping us to bring Nanna to the road.