First On The Ladder is a three-year, art-meets-sport collaboration between Polyglot Theatre and Beyond Empathy, in partnership with Rumbalara Football Netball Club in Shepparton, Victoria and the Moree Boomerangs in New South Wales. The project centres on the young people from these two Indigenous sports clubs – celebrating their culture and achievements through a range of creative experiences including filmmaking, street art, radio broadcasting and play workshops.
The opportunity for Polyglot to work collaboratively, to co-create and exchange would not be possible without the infrastructure, generosity and vision of Rumbalara Football Netball Club and the Moree Boomerangs Rugby Club. We are privileged to have access to the strength of family and culture, to the power of sport within regional communities, to the breadth of engagement these clubs make possible. For Polyglot, these Aboriginal–led organisations have opened up new understanding and appreciation of how art can speak, work and act. They are game changers.
2018, the second year of the project, has been action-packed and hugely exciting. With the season running from March to September, the footy boots in both Shepparton and Moree have now been hung up for the year. First On The Ladder will kick off again in March 2019 for its final year.
Game days in Shepparton saw participants engage with Jaimie-Lee Hindmarsh, Zak Pidd and Ian Pidd to facilitate and broadcast Rumba Radio 88.8FM. Regular segments included Ivy’s Corner, Tanner’s Time, Sauce or Gravy On Chips and Radio Karaoke. Over the season, Rumba Radio was broadcast eight times around the ground on home games and on spreaker.com. Play workshops offered participants an opportunity to express their creativity as they worked with artists Dan Goronzsy, Ashlee Hughes, Briony Farrell and Sue Giles to paint flags, and create costumes and puppets from paper and tape.
Belinda Briggs, of Rumbalara Football Netball Club, writes, “First On The Ladder has increased the opportunities for young people to express themselves, and provided a new way for them to participate in the social and cultural fabric of the Club. Some children play both netball and football, then they’re on the microphone commentating games or dj-ing and singing along to favourite songs. Overall, First On The Ladder adds to the atmosphere of the Club, and promotes joy, fun and a sense of freedom through the use of imagination and self-expression.”
In early March, First On The Ladder also presented a bespoke project as part of Shepparton Festival – the Rumba Scavenger Hunt. 150 participants in 35 teams completed fun challenges in Shepparton CBD, like finding hidden artworks, hitting a strike at tenpin bowling, trying to win a custom-made Adam Briggs soft toy from an arcade game, and more. Participants also had to collect twelve Yorta Yorta words (one at each stop) that embody the values of Rumbalara Football Netball Club. These included Yakapna (loyalty), Galnya Yakurrumdja (respect) and Balagamdail (determination). Rumba Radio broadcast live, and the special after-party featured an awards ceremony, with the fastest team getting a banner run-through.
In Moree, participants worked with Jerome Smith, Dekquitah Taylor and Ian Pidd to create and share Boomerangs Broadcast Corporation (BBC) Radio. Featuring the regular segment Aunties Hour, BBC Radio was broadcast six times over the season. Play workshops were also very popular, with participants engaging with artists Tamara Rewse, Caleena Sansbury, Aunty Paula Duncan, Aunty Val Pitt and Aunty Mandy Haines to create flags, costumes and puppets.
School holiday intensive workshops were also held in both towns. In Shepparton, participants enjoyed an animation intensive with filmmaker Georgia Lucy in April. A seven minute animated film was conceived and created, and the participants had a wonderful time developing characters and recording voiceovers and sounds. Later in the year, a Song, Dance and Film intensive took place, with participants working with renowned hip-hop artist Philly (Phillip Murray), musician Neil Morris, choreographers Amrita Hepi and Jonathan Homsey, and filmmaker Alana Tompson of Black Ant Films to write and record a song and accompanying dance, and then put it all together into a video clip. The Shepparton intensives were popular, with over 30 attendees in each. Local community leaders Ella Crumpen-Winmar, Tammy-Lee Atkinson and Jaimie-Lee Hindmarsh assisted with the facilitation of both intensives.
A Song, Dance and Film workshop was also held in Moree. 35 participants worked with Naomi Wenitong and DJ Jay Tee of legendary hip hop group The Last Kinection to write and record a Moree Boomerangs anthem. Accompanying dances were created with artists Jazi Othman and Shae Duncan, and then these were put together in a video clip with filmmaker Polly Armstrong. Skyela Gillon collaborated with the artists as workshop assistant during the week.
Overall, 138 children were involved in the creation of content and broadcasting for Rumba Radio in Shepparton, with 202 children engaging in the play workshops. In Moree, 100 children were involved with the making of and broadcast of Boomerangs Broadcast Corporation, and 169 children enjoyed the play workshops.
Project Director Ian Pidd reflected on 2018: “One of the most important and inspiring things that we have learned this year is the extent to which local artists and producers in these two communities have taken the lead in the various projects. It’s so exciting to see the Aunties in Moree take control of the play workshops. Similarly, the way in which Jaimie-Lee now essentially runs Rumba Radio (obviously with the input of a million kids!). There are many more examples from our work over the season. We are certain that this process will only increase in 2019. I think that this ownership of the project by the community has led us to hear so many great local stories this year. Whether through the hip-hop songs, the animations, the radio broadcasts or the output from the play workshops, local voices and stories (particularly from girls and women) have come to the fore.”
First On The Ladder is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.