FAST CARS is a brand-new Australian play with songs that premiered in Bathurst March 2023 – but its development stretches back three years of solid community engagement and artistic development.
FAST CARS by Bathurst-based creator Kate Smith is an hilarious romp about wannabe winners, family feuds and dirty deals staged at a special site at the base of the beating heart of Bathurst, Wahluu/Mt. Panorama.
This Local Stages at BMEC production was a 3-year long project. We want to share with you some of the back story as an excellent example of embedded community development and artistic collaboration across artforms. It’s also a great case study to look to for those building large community projects in terms of breaking down the project into fundable stages and then finding those different pots of funds.
Arts OutWest was involved as both funder (via small grants) and later as production partner managing some of the behind-the-scenes production admin including artist contracts and wages.
Collaboration and creative development
The Fast Cars project has developed throughout a series of regional creative residencies over two years. These residencies have supported eleven professional artists to develop the production design, set and costume elements, lanterns, storytelling, scriptwriting and the creation of an original score and songs for the site-specific performance.
In March 2021 the community were offered the opportunity to join a free weekly drum circle led by musician Rob Shannon. Two years later the group is still going strong and performing regularly beyond the Fast Cars project at local community events.
Community artist Phil Relf (Ikara Celebratory Events) led master classes with teachers from small rural schools Raglan, O’Connell and Perthville Public and three community lantern making workshops at Tremain’s Mill.
In response to Kate’s comedic script, designer Annemaree Dalziel chose seven birds whose spots, stripes, and speckles create a palette of colour to adorn the sides of the lanterns. This selection was guided by local twitcher Tiffany Mason. Students used coloured paper to add birds on one side of the lantern and painted their own ‘story’ of the mountain on another side. Cross-country runners, helmuts, mountains, race-tracks and giant sneakers were some of the drawings they created to show their connection to the mountain. Three hundred school students and one hundred community members participated.
Workshops facilitated by Ikara Celebratory Events resulted in a three hundred strong crowd joining the Fast Cars Drummers to parade lanterns down Keppel St Bathurst despite the snow and sleet! Spectators were greeted at Tremain’s Mill by fire-twirling, poetry, and live music and digital arts works.
The ‘Fast Cars Yarners’ knitted galahs and crocheted ‘flower’ hubcaps to adorn the set of the stage play. Ledby artist Leanne Wicks and Jo Albany from Kandos and Rylstone, individuals and groups across the central west participated including; New Horizons Aged-Care Support Group facilitated by Michelle Bolt and the Bathurst River Yarners. In future the RiverYarners will care-take the ‘flock’ of birds as a creative way to raise awareness about protecting wildlife.
Production design saw the collaboration between interdisciplinary artist, designer/maker Annemaree Dalzeil and sculptor of large scale works Harrie Fasher.
The final FAST CARS was presented as a play with music in a site-specific location of the 1850s Agricultural Research Station at the base of Wahluu/Mt. Panorama. Lanterns and the yarned birds made in the course of the project became part of the set and the outdoor site decorations. Elders Wirribee Wiradjyuri (Aunty Leanna Carr-Smith) and Dinawan Dyirribang (Uncle Bill Allen Jnr) welcomed audiences to country.
The exquisite moving image artwork ‘Wiradyuri Ngurambang Ngayirr – Sacred Country’ screened as the moving opening to the show. A collaboration by artist Nicole Welch, and Wiradyuri Elder Wirribee with drone footage by Henry Denyer-Simmons and sound by Tim Roebuck, this work explores shared understandings between First Nation and Non-First Nation women, connecting to the landscape from Tarana along the Wambuul/ Macquarie River to Wahluu/ Mt. Panorama. It offers a space for contemplation toward a healing of people, community, place, and shared stories. Elder Wirribee voices part of the narrative of Custodianship of Country collaboratively working with visual artist artist Nicole Welch, whose world-renowned work is linked to care-taking the environment.
Although rain prevented them performing each night, the community drumming group played before the show. Short films by Jock Alexander screened during interval. Wiradjuri Gadigal vocalist Akala Newman performed pre-show on the final night.
“FAST CARS has invited community participation every step of the way. From yarning with the Bathurst Wiradjuri elders; to local crafters knitting galahs and crocheting flower hubcaps; school children parading handmade paper lanterns at Winter Festival; to the Fast Cars drum circle creating a joy storm every time they perform. This project lives and breathes ‘Bathurst’ with all the quirks, complexities and characters of our city,” Kate Smith said.
The FAST CARS story began (outside of Kate’s head) back in December 2020.
“I approached then Local Stages producer Kylie Shead and BRAG Director Sarah Gurich to discuss the seed of an idea – Brock -The Musical. They loved it and supported me to apply for local, state and federal funding,” Kate explains.
“My intention was to creatively respond to recent controversy regarding the proposed construction of a go-kart track on a sacred women’s site at Wahluu/Mount Panorama. Whilst this important conversation was in some ways divisive; in powerful ways it served to unite many voices in the community. A myriad of stories emerged about why people love the iconic mountain. And love of place is indeed at the centre of this project,” Kate said.
“Thank you to the fabulous array of professional creatives – performers, designers, musicians, visual artists, directors and writers who joined us along the way. Our wish is that this beautiful project
speaks to the beating heart of Bathurst- the iconic mountain Wahluu/Mt. Panorama and what it means to us all,” Kate Smith said.
Timeline of process:
|December 2020||Creative consultation at BMEC; school teachers, Directors, performers, community artists, actors, poets, writers, musicians.|
|January 2021||Consultation Bathurst Wiradyuri elders.|
|February 2021||Draft One script stage show. Smith research script through interviews with elders, Mark Skaife and Brad Coles.|
|March 2021||Creative Residency Hill End; 12 artists engage for a weekend of collaboration, script development, cross-art form conversation.|
|April 2021||Fast Cars Drumming – Free drumming group commences with Rob Shannon.|
|May 2021||Local Stages Lantern Making Masterclasses with teachers from Perthville, O’Connell, Raglan Public School at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery.|
|Creative Development; Script and costume and set design development and Community Lantern Making Tremain’s Mill.|
|Ongoing yarns with the Wiradyuri Elders group|
|Arts OutWest COVID Recovery grant supports podcast/oral story telling with Wirrribee WiradyuriAunty Leanna Carr-Smith & Maureen Bates-McKay.|
|June 2021||Lantern-Making in rural schools. Ikara Celebratory Events Community Lantern Making.|
|Creative Development script devising BMEC.|
|Public showing of lanterns at Tremain’s Mill.|
|Community Choir Eklektika record composition by Tim Hansen BMEC.|
|July 2021||COVID prevents Stage One showing Online script reading of Script for Stage play|
|Sept 2021||Funding success for Stage 2 – CreateNSW & Regional Arts Fund. Project continues.|
|Dec 2021||Creative Development Song writing.|
|April 2022||Creative Development songwriting with elder Yanhadarrambal Flynn.|
|Play rescheduled Feb 2023 (COVID)|
|May 2022||Yarn with elders & script development.|
|June to Oct 2022||Kandos based visual artist Leanna Wicks facilitates Fast Cars yarners to craft set and costume pieces for the stage play.|
|July 2022||Mountain Tales Bathurst Winter Festival at Tremains Mill. A night of storytelling, DIY films, lantern parade, live music and celebration.|
|July – Oct 2022||Screening of Wiradyuri Ngurambang Ngayirr – Sacred Country – A moving image artwork by Nicole Welch, Wiradyuri Elder Wirribee. Speakers Aunty Leanna/Wirribee Wiradyuri and Mauren Bates-Mckay, poet Alice Blackwood. Nationally reviewed in The Conversation.|
|Sept 2022||Script Fast Cars completed.|
|Feb 2023||Yarn with elders to invite Wiradjuri Gadigal vocalist Akala Newman to participate.|
|Mar 2023||Premiere of Fast Cars.|
IMAGE: Fast cars. Photographer: Pat Greer, Greer Films.