David is the Head of Marketing at a major Melbourne arts festival and a curator of good times. We crept into the magical Redwood Forest of Warburton to listen to Enya and discuss the importance of art and artists.
a/s/l: 28/male/Princes Hill, Melbourne
Saturn return: December 2017
What does your Saturn return mean to you?
I’ve just discovered that my Saturn Return will go for one month in December 2017. It means reflecting on the 28 years up to that point and reflecting on what’s to come. I think it’s a moment to pause and I’m kind of glad that mine is only for one month because I’m not particularly good at reflecting. I’m partly apprehensive and partly excited about this astrological return.
What did you study at university and what did you do afterwards?
I did half of a Network Engineering Degree and then I decided that IT was a hobby, not something that I wanted a career in. I wasn’t really enjoying university and discovered if I moved to Communications I wouldn’t have to do exams, so I moved into that and ended up with a major in Journalism. From there I fell into doing PR for independent arts projects.
How did you get into PR?
The first PR job I did was back in Perth for one of a close friend’s theatre shows. At the time, there weren’t that many people doing PR for the independent arts, or willing to do it for profit share. I was at uni, I didn’t need that much money to live off and I wanted to be a part of the theatre scene without having to get on a stage, and I had a knack for the job and was satisfied working for myself. Perth’s arts scene is small and the independent arts are crucial in nurturing emerging artists and I felt I could supporting those artists around me through my work in PR.
What happened next?
I worked for the Perth International Arts Festival for a couple of years looking after their digital marketing. I loved the festival world; it’s addictive. My metaphor is that you push this giant ball, the festival, up a hill and you get to the top, you push it off the side, the festival opens and suddenly it has a life of its own. It rolls down the hill and there is no stopping it. When it finally hits the bottom, you start pushing it up the hill again. After a few years I decided it was time for me to leave Perth. My parents are originally from Melbourne and every time I visited the city I felt a real spiritual connection to the place. I got a job with a major festival in an entry-level marketing position and was instantly part of the arts landscape in my new city. When I started I set myself a goal: one day, I wanted my boss's role. I worked hard. I made the most of opportunity and have dedicated a lot to this career, and I’m proud to say I achieved that goal. I'm thrilled.
What's been your greatest achievement at your current job?
In 2015 we celebrated 30 years of the festival and in doing research for the milestone, I had a realisation that so much had come before my time at the organisation and so much more would come after me.The organisation is so much bigger than the people that work there at any one time and your job is to hold its hand for a while. The achievement for me was that I have played some part in three decades of supporting artists, engaging audiences and sharing the magic of art with literally millions of people.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is the most rewarding part - convincing people that their time and money is worth spending on the art that we are presenting. Often we present work from artists you've never heard of before, doing something you never thought you would be interested in. The ultimate joy for me is when an audience member sends a tweet or a letter saying, “I never thought that this was for me but I went to see it and I loved it.” My worst fear is someone leaving a show feeling indifferent about it, the beauty is in audiences feeling something. Indifference is not going to get us anywhere.
Have you ever seen a piece of art that has changed your perspective on something?
The Belarus Free Theatre. They are performance rebels in Belarus and make their art in sheds, lounge rooms, totally underground. They talk about the corruption in Belarus and their members are regularly thrown in jail. They are smuggled out of the country to present their work to the world, putting their lives on the line. Seeing their work really changed my perspective, in that art is absolutely critical in changing the world, and we must support artists: especially those who are not free to express themselves.
Do you think art needs to be political to have that effect?
No. Art for entertainment can be just as powerful.
Do you think you're political?
I see my political engagement as activism on a small scale. Don’t underestimate the power of conversation. Talking to your family members and talking to your friends about what politics means to you is so important. I heard this surprising statistic at the last election that a lot of people who want to vote Greens don’t because they don't know anyone else who does. But we still see voting, our generation not so much, but for our parent’s generation, as really private. Why should politics be private? It affects your life in a really public way and we need to talk about it more. You're not going to see eye to eye with someone in every conversation, but we live in a democracy with the freedom to talk about politics and we simply don’t do it enough. We can only be better humans attempting to understand other’s perspectives.
Has anyone or anything shaped who you are today?
I think family have played a big part, especially my Mum. We are very close. She is an inspiration and she instilled in me what I see some of the most important human qualities like gratitude, sharing happiness, appreciating the small things and learning from opportunities. Plus she taught me how to cook, and I find relaxation in cooking, especially for a group of pals. I need to give her credit for that!
What keeps you busy when you’re not at work?
Curating good times. I love bringing people together to experience something, anything. Art. Conversation. Nature. A high quality aged cheese paired with a good red wine. I see my purpose in life as being a storyteller, and creating those stories with people goes hand in hand with that.
Have you made any positive changes for yourself recently?
When I started thinking about what I wanted to achieve in 2017 I realised I had been in Melbourne for nearly five years and had not seen much of Victoria. My whole life is within a 15 minute radius of my house and I have this incredible state to explore. I made a decision to break out of the city and explore more of the country. I’ve had the best summer and can’t wait for winter adventures.
How would you describe yourself right now in three words?
Happy. Grateful. Adventurous.
Photography / Julia Petricevic & Simone Ruggiero
Words / David Geoffrey Hall
Location / Redwood Forest, East Warburton