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Arafura Pearl

TOP ENDERS HAVE waited patiently for this one. Originally planned for May, the inaugural Arafura Pearl: A Festival of Women is set to take place in the Brown’s Mart Courtyard this month, featuring an all-female program including musicians, comedians and guest speakers. We caught up with Arafura Festival Producer, Stage Manager and Performer, Tracey Bunn, for a chat.

Tell us about Arafura Pearl Festival!
It’s something that’s been brewing for a while in my mind. I’m a strong advocate for gender equality, particularly in the music industry, myself being a performer for over 30 years, and I’ve come across that inequality through my own touring and travels. I feel Darwin has an incredible field of amazing female talent and they haven’t had the opportunities that male performers might get.

It’s not about being anti-male, but it is about the stats. You just have to look at any event poster – take the men off and see how many names are left. We’ve tried to get a good balance of age, genre, experience, so there’s something for everyone.

What are some of the opportunities for women?
The festival is a celebration of women in Darwin – not just creatively, but in production roles. I want to be able to grow this festival to provide mentoring opportunities for women. We’ve had some really great support from Kelly Blumberg from Brown’s Mart Theatre and Teghan Hughes from Happy Yess, who have provided the venue and support.

A top up on cash from the Office of Gender Equity and Diversity for production costs has meant we can pay our female production team on par with what men are paid. Each production staff member is paired with a young woman for mentoring in that area.

The festival was originally planned for May – how did you go with rescheduling?
I contacted our major funder as soon as I knew we weren’t going to be able to go ahead with the festival given Brown’s Mart was closing. We were given the option to digitise the festival, but the main project objectives wouldn’t be met, including creating substantial employment for women, providing mentorships for young women in hands-on production skills, and providing an event that would be accessible to the wider Darwin community – not everyone has access to a computer or sufficient internet for streaming.

I got the go ahead to reschedule and booked a date in September with Brown’s Mart, hoping things would be okay by then. Luckily for us they still are – fingers crossed it stays that way!

How has COVID impacted Arafura Pearl 2.0?
Unfortunately, we have had to cancel our stallholders to allow for more space for our audience, as numbers are limited due to social distancing. We will have a maximum capacity of 150 including artists and crew, so get there early!

Arafura Pearl: A Festival of Women

Photo: Alice Cotton by Foldback Magazine

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