Art and Sport: First On The Ladder

First On The Ladder ­is a three-year, art-meets-sport collaboration between Polyglot Theatre and Beyond Empathy, in partnership with Rumbalara Football and Netball Club in Shepparton, Victoria and the Moree Boomerangs in New South Wales. The project centres around the young people from these two Indigenous sports clubs – celebrating their culture and achievements through a range of creative experiences including zine-making, street art, radio broadcasting and play workshops.

After a boisterous and successful first year, the final goal has been kicked for the 2017 season of First On The Ladder. The project will re-commence in February next year for 2018.

In Shepparton, Melbourne artist Michael Fikaris and local Yorta Yorta artist Tammy-Lee Atkinson worked with participants on game days at the club to create zines, stickers and large-scale paste-ups that were displayed in community. Four editions of the zine Rumba were published, and 54 paste-ups were exhibited in laneways and on buildings. 13 community partners were involved in the project.

In Moree, local artists Janelle Boyd, Aunty Paula Duncan and Darlene Gillon, together with Project Coordinator Skyela Gillon, facilitated workshops at the Barwon Learning Centre post-game days to create paste-ups, zines and animations. Two editions of the zine Boom were published and 18 paste-ups were exhibited. 10 community partners were involved in the project.

Two radio stations, Rumba Radio in Shepparton and the BBC (Boomerangs Broadcast Corporation) in Moree – have been established. The radio broadcasts were facilitated by the Director of the project, Ian Pidd, to provide participants the opportunity to deliver live FM broadcasts on game days, building their skills in sports commentary, DJ-ing and audio production. Rumba Radio broadcast live three times, and BBC broadcast live five times. Broadcasts were also recorded and are available to listen to through

Creative play workshops for younger children in each community saw participants harnessing their creativity through drawing activities, developing characters and storylines, and constructing sets (including a complete café), costumes, and parades of strange and wonderful creatures. There were six play workshops in Shepparton and three in Moree.

In total, over 150 young people were engaged in First On The Ladder, across 45 separate workshops in Shepparton and 24 separate workshops in Moree.

Of the project, Kim McConville, Executive Director – Beyond Empathy, says, “First On The Ladder is an exciting articulation of two arts companies combining their distinctive practice and unique areas of expertise to activate a new space for the expression of community and its inspired arts practice. The partnership draws on Polyglot’s ingenious practice in devising immersive children’s theatre experiences with Beyond Empathy’s expertise in community development, working with disenfranchised and First Nation communities to create a ground-breaking and compelling art meets sport collaboration.

Project director Ian Pidd goes on: “First On The Ladder is such a joy to work on. These two sporting clubs are key institutions in their respective towns, and having the opportunity to collaborate with them, in such an open ended way, is a rare opportunity for all of the artists involved.  The works we have created together so far are playful and grounded and have established a great connection between us all. The plans we have hatched for next year will build on those connections and reach out further into both communities in ways that we think will really turn heads. Watch this space!”

First on the Ladder is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.