‘I tell you what. In a place like this the toilets are gonna be amazing.’ 9-year-old songwriter Steph walking through The Arts Centre
In 2015, Kids Thrive’s early intervention and community engagement program, Banyule Kids Thrive, focussed on building program sustainability: giving West Heidelberg teachers the tools to understand issues and behaviours of kids suffering trauma or neglect, and providing them with a kit of activities to use in the classroom when working with these children.
Artist Andrea Rieniets also worked with a group of budding songwriters aged 8 to 11 from across 2 West Heidelberg school campuses to create their school anthems. Students performed their Kids Thrive songs around town: at each other’s schools, at the Catholic Education Office’s Student Wellbeing Festival, and at community partnership celebrations, with the St Pius X Primary School Principal Barbara Gomez tirelessly shuttling them about in the school mini bus.
The songwriters were invited to record their songs at the Arts Centre, and tour the back stages and theatre spaces as part of the Centre’s wonderful First Call Fund, a program offering students from disadvantaged areas the opportunity to have up-close, behind-the-scenes access to one of Melbourne’s most-loved cultural institutions. The kids caught a train from Rosanna into town, and were taken on a guided tour of the Arts Centre. Every single surface had to be touched, felt and leant against. There was flock wallpaper that looked like wood, concrete that looked like stone, marbles that looked like walls… and a floor that felt like a bed so you could lie down and look at the ceiling.
The children were taken into Hamer Hall, the massive 3000-seater venue, where they sat and were gobbled up by the flip seats. The stage was empty but for a single black office chair, which was quickly transformed by the young students into a live commentary and reviews of ‘The Performance by Mr Chair’. (‘The movements are very slow, almost unnoticeable.’ ‘Actually, he’s moving so fast we can’t see it.’) When a stage manager crossed the stage wheeling an esky behind her she received a standing ovation.
Click here to listen to the songs they recorded at the Arts Centre.