Out And About
This morning we met up at a theatre, perfectly apt for the more outgoing of us to finally have a chance to get up on stage and strut the boards... Although we didn't actually do that, but rather enjoyed a delicious breakfast followed by a talk from Gorkem Acaroglu, Creative Director at Metanoia Theatre in Brunswick. If Gorkem’s surname sounds familiar, it’s because she is in fact Leyla’s older sister. Gorkem is a creative powerhouse in her own right, and talked us through some of her more challenging and fascinating projects—particularly The 24 Hour Experience. The two 24 Hour Project’s took place in Melbourne and Ballarat (a town in regional Victoria). They both involved 24 performances that took place over 24 hours in one city across multiple locations that patrons had to travel between to experience a variety of immersive (sometimes literally) theatrical interventions. Gorkem’s talk focused on the experience of curating art experiences within a collaborative framework and community specific, and how she worked with a wide range of community groups and members to bring this ambitious and fascinating project to life.
We then walked up the famous Sydney Road in Brunswick (that will actually take you all the way to Sydney if you follow it for long enough) to Petrucci Studios where one of our Un-School producers Simone, runs a co-op creative studio space. Petrucci Studios works as a collective design studio incorporating all kinds of designer-creators with a large emphasis on making. We were given the grand tour of the whole operation by Tim Denshire-Key, an Industrial Designer who holds a keen interest in social and sustainable design practices. Tim talked us through his process of using recycled and found materials in his work, and showed us his incredible animal sculptures that are made of found and recycled materials.
As we started our walk towards our next surprise mentor studio visit, we did a quick impromptu detour to The Commons building, located adjacent to the bike path at Anstey Train station in Brunswick. Koel, one of our fellows who works in Urban Planning, gave us a quick run down on the amazing building design, with it's high level of sustainable and community building principles. Just as we were about to depart, one of the residents came out and offered to take us all on a tour of the rooftop gardens and tell us a little more about what it's like to live there (he LOVES it) and all about the ethos of the building. We were all pretty chuffed so we stopped for a quick photo with our new friends (as well as a great view of Melbourne’s skyline).
Leaving sunny Brunswick, we headed (on foot) to even sunnier Coburg, walking in the hot summer Australia Day sun all the way to Monkey Marc's portable solar and wind powered recording studio built in a shipping container that is currently touched down somewhere in the back streets of Coburgistan 😃
Marc regaled us with tales of his most recent and absolutely incredible and inspirational projects working within remote Aboriginal communities to record important cultural narratives through the elders of these communities while at the same time engaging younger generations in the reimagining of the stories using video, music, and hip hop. Marc relocates to these remote aboriginal communities for months at a time and is taken to sacred and important sites by and for these elders so that they can share their stories within their place. The stories are interpreted with music and visuals created by the local youth. Marc facilitates these knowledge transfer workshops through story and music making and works with elders to ensure the integrity of the story is maintained throughout the entire process. By implementing this particular method and process of working, Marc is engaging local youth with exciting new and valuable skills, and often leaves resources behind for them to continue to use and learn.
We listened to two inspiring video/music projects, and checked out all of Marc's great vintage equipment! Then it was time for lunch!
After a delicious picnic lunch from Brunswick institution A1 Bakery, we left the magical Monkey Marc, and meandered our way back downstream via Merri Creek, a tributary of Melbourne’s famously brown Yarra River, checked out a native vegetation garden and continued on to our final destination of the day, the wonderful and world renowned CERES Environment Park.
Our first adventure at CERES was guided by the amazing Stephen Mushin. A magical thinker and fantastical designer, do-er, maker, bio-imagaterian and dreamer. First up he gave us a tour of the park, where he had worked for several years with a team of other engineers and designers to build and test a range of technological interventions for sustainability.
It's very hard to describe exactly just how engaging and creatively stimulating Steve is. He shared a series drawings from the book he is currently working on ‘Now if what when’, a fantasy world where he can do whatever he wants, including creative propositions such as “The ethical polar bear burger and hoodie company inc”. After we had the creative possibility section of our brains activated, we jumped into playing someDesignercise with Leyla where such things as; Rhinos in tutus, People losing arms, Being chased by axe murderers, divergent thinking and storytelling games. Fernando and Juliet was played out during the creative ideation toolkit game.
Our final Mentor of the day was Simon Griffiths, the founder of SheBeen (bar/restaurant/live music venue) and toilet paper subscription company Who Gives a Crap. We had to use all our tech skills to Skype in to CERES from his current location, Nairobi, Kenya. Simon is over there checking out the programs that his social enterprises donate to. Both of Simon’s organisations provide profits back to communities via Water Aid and other small NGO’s around the world.
Having earlier in the week been to Shebeen for dinner (and loving everything about it) we were given a rundown on Who Gives A Crap—from it’s foundations in his mind (and his Dad’s garage/distributions centre) to what it is today, a highly recognisable brand that works with artists and other like-minded souls to promote clean water and hygiene to developing countries.
We also heard about some of the harder times both businesses faced, both in the initial stages and (occasionally) still does. Simon was honest about his struggles with finding the right funding model for the businesses, his backflip into the not for profit sector—which wasn't quite right either. He talked about the impact game—not impacting millions of people, not making enough impact to satisfy his goals. He discussed how and why Shebeen works—you are not asking people to change their behaviour at all, you are just giving them the option to spend their money on something that does good. This model breeds success—if you can create positive change with minimal change in actual behaviour, but a pay off to the part of people that want to do the best thing for the world, you are already winning. The idea that alcohol can also be used as a tool to do good work appeals to him.
Lastly, Simon talked us through his work on Who Gives A Crap, including the ingenious guerrilla marketing campaign that got it started—the idea of sitting on a toilet until the first 50,000 rolls of toilet paper were sold through crowdfunding (read about how that worked out for him here and here)… He discussed the importance of hiring great people for his team and the way he does that—by giving them a project and asking them to come back with a solution. Through this he has created an exceptional team of people who can all do exceptional things, this is important because if the whole team isn’t on board it can damage the people on the team who are exceptional. Simon explained how his team work completely remotely, how he focuses on customer happiness rather than simply service, that we shouldn’t ever get caught up in corporate structure—rather each business should decide how much you want to donate and just do it.
Following Simon’s talk, our merry little band disbanded for the day and everyone had a free evening to do whatever caught their imagination… Tomorrow will be another big day...