Polyglot Spot – edition #8

Curious creative community during COVID-19

7 Polyglot artists playing a game to keep a ball of masking tape in the air with their hands. They are smiling and in motion. There is a wooden partition behind them painted in pastel colours, and a wooden planter box with dark green rubber plants next to them.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

This week, Tirese Ballard offers some unexpected insights into life as a Polyglot Artist, Dan Koop remembers the final First On The Ladder weekend in Shepparton last year, and Marketing and Communications Coordinator Erica Heller-Wagner shares a working-from-home tip. We hope you enjoy Polyglot Spot edition #8 – please let us know what you think!


Meet Polyglot

Meet the team that powers Polyglot. CEOS, creatives, production, admin, board. We work together to keep the colourful cogs turning!

Name: Tirese Ballard
Title: Artist and Workshop Facilitator
Years with Polyglot: 23 (my first job with the company was in 1997)

A ‘behind-the-scenes’ photo from Paper Planet in Edmonton, Canada. An artist wearing a Polyglot t-shirt, dark pants and shoes sits cross-legged in a cave-like Paper Planet entrance made from brown cardboard and black paper. She is smiling and leaning forward.

What is the ‘elevator pitch’ description of your role at Polyglot?
I work as an artist, usually in a creative team with other Polyglot artists, touring and delivering collaborative performance and play artworks for kids; and currently I’m working in a small team developing an exciting new show. I have also been part of developing and running professional development workshops for educators and artists.

What is something about being a Polyglot artist that would surprise someone who doesn’t work in the arts?
We will wear each other’s costumes in a marquee festival tent crisis or hotel laundry emergency – the show must go on.

We make and throw a lot of balls made out of masking tape and have for many years. It makes our bellies laugh and our eyes water.

On tours we take group photos, pose like our lives depend on it, and make really cool album covers.

Once we did an improvisation in a car that lasted two hours.

Cardboard and paper are some of our best friends.

We meet at the intersection of organisation and chaos.

We don’t smell as bad as you’d think.

What part of your work with Polyglot do you most look forward to?
The play, the art and connecting. Immersing in these enthrallingly innovative ideas and play spaces with kids and seeing the artwork they make and the collective piece we build together. Visiting new places and connecting and working with new communities, children and their families, other artists and arts organisations.

What and where did you study?
I studied drama, media and design at Victoria College Rusden for four years and graduated with a Bachelor of Education. It was a really immersive hands-on course that nurtured and supported young artists and gave us plenty of opportunities, and I loved it and thrived. In later years I returned to formal study in music at TAFE and completed a 2-year course-based theatre making residency at Victoria University.

What are you missing about the Polyglot office?
Seeing staff that you don’t always get to see when you’re the artist on the road. All the mighty women who are the backbone of Polyglot, who create and make things happen with gusto and flare.

I miss walking through the Convent grounds, the sensational beauty of the office space, crossing paths with folks, patting staff dogs, and having meetings in the funny little room out the back!


Story Map Reflection

Building a collection of memories to savour our history

A First On The Ladder photo. An artist with dark hair in a bun sits behind a table, looking at one of the three children that surround her. She is holding a microphone to her mouth. The children are wearing blue Rumbalara jerseys. There is a white and red sign on the table that reads 'On Air'.

Dan Koop, Artist

On the final weekend of First On The Ladder in Shepparton, we stayed in town as we bumped our final festivities in and out. Coincidentally, Rumbalara Football Netball Club had a special film screening on, so we joined a bunch of Club members to watch The Final Quarter documentary about Adam Goodes’ incredible footy career and its shameful premature end.

The film is uncomfortable watching for any whitefella – there’s no doubt I experience a lot of privileges, while Aboriginal people continue to deal with systemic and overt racism everyday – and as a footy fan I’m still disgusted by the treatment a champion like Goodes’ received. We were all welcomed at the screening by the Rumba President, Paul Briggs, who reminded everyone of the history of the Rumbalara Football Netball Club. It traces its contemporary history on Yorta Yorta country to the 1890’s Cummeragunja team based on the nearby mission. Year after year Cummeragunja played against settler teams (and regularly won – after six premierships in 11 seasons they were dubbed The Invincibles), but were expelled from one league and shunted on to the next. Just like Adam Goodes, they refused to be diminished, they stood tall, didn’t back down and were hounded out of the game. Later, in 1939, they continued to fight off the pitch and the Cummeraganja community walked off the Mission in a landmark moment in the struggle for rights. In 1997 the Rumbalara Football Netball Club joined the contest for premierships on Yorta Yorta country.

If you haven’t seen the The Final Quarter, you must. It’s essential viewing for any footy fan, anyone interested in social politics and the media or really just anyone who lives in this strange country we now call Australia. No spoilers, but the most powerful motif is how children feature in almost every scene of the documentary. Sometimes they’re kicking a footy at the local ground, maybe they’re holding their father’s hand as they walk to a big match and in one pivotal occasion they’re directly in the middle of the controversy. Goodes’ support of that child is exceptionally generous and caring, the record has unambiguously set that lie straight.

As the First On The Ladder team drove into the Club for match day, our last home game and broadcast on Rumba Radio, the connections between our playful Polyglot projects, the Club’s wrap-around community support and the film’s hard truths were powerfully clear. On that day it was a particular privilege to play with the kids, both on the radio and with a footy between quarters. They’re good kids (aren’t all kids?) and whichever colour guernsey we’ve got on we’ve all got a role to play to ensure there’s a good world for every kid to play in.


Working with restrictions

Achieving and retaining clarity and focus while working from home

Two ceramic octopi, one purple and one yellow, sit on a wooden table. Behind them are a collection of colourful pieces of cardboard, a pink post-it with black writing, a Polyglot USB, a brown glass turtle and a small box painted with polka dots. In the very back is a pen and ink drawing in a gold frame.

Erica Heller-Wagner, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Something I did from the beginning of lockdown 1.0 was carefully delineate my ‘work’ space from the rest of my home. I set up a small desk in our living room, and I only ever sit at this desk when I’m working. As a result, I find it easy to settle into work quickly in the morning when I sit down, and easy to switch off when I leave my desk. I also brought a few of my office desk ‘treasures’ home when we packed up the office: a little card our General Manager Kath made me, two ceramic octopi that Rainbow and Sue brought back from Minami Sanriku, a post-it note of all my colleagues’ culture segments (#marketingnerd). They add a little splash of colour and joy to my workdays. 


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