Polyglot Spot – edition #5

Curious creative community during COVID-19

A Cerita Anak production photo. A woman in a red head scarf and striped shirt embraces a smiling child with dark curly hair. Stage lighting casts an orange glow.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

This week, we appreciate the power of community. Development Coordinator Liv Satchell reflects on the generosity that this challenging time has inspired, artist Stefanie Robinson transports us to the desert in Warakurna with her poignant memory of a creative collaboration, and General Manager Kath Fyffe shares a freshly brewed working-from-home tip. We hope that you’re enjoying the different perspectives that Polyglot Spot offers – please let us know what you think!

Photographer: Indra Wicaksono


Brain Food

Considered commentary – Polyglot and beyond

A Cerita Anak production photo. A group of adults and children throwing their arms up, smiling joyously. Blue silk billows above them.

Liv Satchell, Development Coordinator

“Despite this, we still have our spirit.”

This is something my Dad said that I recently rediscovered written on the margin of a page in my workbook. I must have written it down during one of our phone conversations – we talk a lot on the phone, or rather Dad talks, and I listen with my pen at the ready for gems like these.

I’m not sure what he said it in response to (that’s the danger of taking notes without enough contextualising details). I think it stands well on its own though.

It makes me think of how community reveals itself through crisis. We have seen the perfect example of this in recent days, as massive contingents of people mobilise to support the residents in North Melbourne and Flemington subjected to Australia’s first hard lockdown. Social media has flooded with bank account details for community-led relief and images of people forming human chains to deliver food into these buildings.

Think back also to our most recent fire season: comedian Celeste Barber’s $30,000 fundraiser finished at a staggering $51.3 million, and physical donations – those items we scrambled to find and send to the firefighters and the families who had lost everything – had to be turned away because there was such an influx.

The energy of these moments feels like a tidal wave – a great rush of support towards those most in need. What has so moved me during this current crisis is realising that these waves do not just gather around those most visibly in distress. They swell in a thousand small ways, all aimed at keeping each other afloat.

I came by this realisation through Polyglot. We’ve recently wrapped our mid-year fundraising campaign, which happens every end of financial year. In 2020, we had set a modest target to acknowledge a) how much support we have already received since first going into lockdown; and b) the financial insecurity so many people are now facing.

This campaign was to be a chance to connect with our existing donors, keeping them abreast of how Polyglot is managing the two-sided crisis coin of COVID-19 performance cancellations and our recent defunding by the Australia Council. We achieved this, and so much more.

There were three surprises in this campaign, and each of them blew me away. The first: we raised almost two-and-a-half times our set fundraising target. The second: a quarter of our donors had never donated to Polyglot before. Some of them were known to us, but many were not. They were family members, industry peers, parents – all hoping to invest in some small way in the creative future of children. The third: the messages of support and hope that came through with these donations. It’s possible to leave a note when you make a donation through Polyglot’s online donation portal. We are notified of these donations by email, and a huge percentage of the emails for this campaign had notes attached. Email upon email came in with the words “Be encouraged”, “Love to all”, “Keep up the incredible work” and “Go Polyglot”.

Polyglot experienced its own small tidal wave of support with this campaign. Our community revealed itself and that, to me, is the true light of this time. It shows us that, despite everything, we still have our spirit.

Photographer: Theresa Harrison


Story Map

Building a collection of memories to savour our history

A circle of blue tents around a campfire and a makeshift kitchen in the red Warakurna desert. It is sunset, and the sky fades from blue to purple, pink and orange. The tents are surrounded by tufts of brown native grass, and there are trees in the distance. People sit and stand around the fire.

Stefanie Robinson, Artist

We have created a circle of tents; behind this is a wall of branches, logs and brush to shelter us from the wind and to feed the fire that is in the centre. We are in the central desert, just outside Warakurna, pretty much in the middle of Australia. On the fire are kangaroo tails wrapped in foil. Several billies are boiling away on the edges. Later a goanna, masterfully hunted by Nancy, is added to the coals. The sun is setting and the heat of the day is very quickly disappearing; beanies, scarves and jackets are quickly added. CB, Dallas and Nancy are sitting outside their tents twisting Tjanpi grasses and layering stitch after stitch into them to create baskets and divine animal sculptures.

This camping trip is at the beginning of a two-week visit to Warakurna.  It is part of a gentle, slow, unravelling, collaboration between Polyglot, Tjanpi Desert Weavers and FORM that eventually creates a very special playspace installation called Manguri Wiltja.

I remember the deep honour I felt at being invited to sit on Country with these woman, to be invited to share this camping trip, stories, dance and time. The feeling of smallness sitting on the top of the vast land running beneath me and out into the horizon in all directions. The cheeky, delightful play of the children that becomes embedded in everything we do and create. The constant challenges to my understandings, believe systems, purpose. The relief (and loss) to surrender all of these constructs and attend purely to the task of stitching and weaving and sharing of time and space.

My favourite part of this particular evening? Us whitefellas, lined up next to Nancy, dancing with her, doing our best to follow her actions, in the light of the shared fire to the sound of laughter.

Photographer: Bewley Shaylor


Working with restrictions

Achieving and retaining clarity and focus while working from home

A smiling woman with brown shoulder-length hair holding a grey mug with white spots. She wears a black shirt and a maroon, pink and green woolly cardigan. A music stand and drum kit are visible behind her.

Kath Fyffe, General Manager

The pandemic sure has thrown up some tricky challenges these past few weeks. Taking in a lot of new information and decoding what it means for us at Polyglot has required a clear head, and to that end, an awful lot of tea. I really love the process of brewing and drinking tea, but in the early days of lockdown I decided to use up all the old miscellaneous tea bags in my cupboard in a misguided de-cluttering attempt. I’d sit down at my computer, take a sip and think, “Well I don’t hate it…” The idea was short lived. Tea has the ability to slow the pace I’m operating at, to provide calm and clarity amidst the rapid shifts of the pandemic. Brewing and drinking a cup of tea I’ll really enjoy helps re-frame the task at hand, putting me in a state of mind where I’ll be more productive and focussed. I highly recommend it.

Photographer: Lulu


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