Disarming and disruptive

24 July 2017

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It’s all about disarming assumption, unravelling expectation and provoking curiosity at the fourth Disrupted Festival of Ideas. Seesaw’s Amy Wiseman caught up with Festival curator Sarah Rowbottam to find out what to expect from the immersive experiences, keynote speakers, discussion panels and conversations that will be part of this year’s event.


That’s the theme of this year’s Disrupted Festival of Ideas, and it’s “a millstone as much as it is a milestone” according to Sarah Rowbottam, the Festival’s curator. “We start the Festival by really digging into what resilience means with wordsmith David Astle and linguist Daniel Midgley,” she explains. “In this session, David and Daniel unpick the etymology of the word and how it has become a secret playbook for getting on with it. From here the weekend of conversations starts to look at resilience and some of the most important questions facing Australia today, such as why keeping traditional language alive matters, ways we can change the conversation on refugees, how artists can show us ways to be more socially conscious to climate change and whether our values match our politics.”

In her second year as curator, Rowbottam says she is always thinking, dreaming and investigating possible guests or topics that could be explored. “I spend a lot of time talking to people, researching and attending other Festivals and events to brainstorm ideas,” explains Rowbottam. “I really enjoy the diversity of people this program draws; one day I will be talking to a Paralympian like Brad Ness, who provides sporting opportunities to Indigenous Australians with and without disabilities, and the next I’ll be talking to a young hip-hop artist like Ziggy Ramo whose passion is to give voice to issues unheard.”

Brad Ness
Brad Ness with fellow Australian Paralympic team members at the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London.

It seems, in essence, that selecting the content is rather like putting together a complex jigsaw puzzle. “I’m interested in creating a conversation between people who are working in different fields but share a similar goal,” says Rowbottam. “Sometimes this means putting unlikely people together – an artist using dance to explore climate change with a biologist. It’s these conversations that can take us down a tangent we wouldn’t have considered before.”

With so many unique viewpoints combined with a multitude of opportunities to take part in critical debate and creative experiences, how do you navigate the event itself? Do you plan ahead, or simply follow your nose?

“It’s a condensed weekend so it is worth having a look online before you come along,” suggests Rowbottam, “but there is something of interest, guaranteed, every hour of the day. One of our special projects involves donating a vessel of water to the Museum of Water, which is a collection that tells stories of the people across WA. Before coming to the Festival I urge you to consider being part of water history and bringing a sample of water for the Museum which means something to you. This could be any water – from the cup at your bedside table, to a favourite swimming spot or perhaps something you’ve been holding onto for a long time which you want to find a home for.”

…Tara Moss will discuss how we can maintain energy and optimism in an age of ongoing inequalities with Words Matter: the Power of Speaking Out…

And which aspects of the program is Rowbottam looking forward to most?

“I’m particularly excited to let loose in Amrita Hepi’s Power Moves for Perilous Times dance class and learn some moves by Grace Jones and Rihanna; to learn to sing in Nyungar, a language from the oldest living culture with a unique community choir called Madjitil Moorna who sing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander songs; and to hear from our keynote speakers. Kon Karapanagiotidis will challenge us to rethink the conversation about refugees in A Fair Go, Tara Moss will discuss how we can maintain energy and optimism in an age of ongoing inequalities with Words Matter: the Power of Speaking Out and Tiernan Brady will share his thoughts on how a minority right can become a majority opinion in Share the Love Mate.”

Tiernan Brady
Tiernan Brady will share his thoughts on how a minority right can become a majority opinion.

The program is intentionally interactive, encouraging visitors to actively consider their place in these conversations. In addition, a youth led radio station called MYRadio is featured, with local teens interviewing the Disrupted program speakers. “What I love about this station is that it gives youth an opportunity to speak candidly and open up a dialogue that might not happen on stage,” adds Rowbottam.

Amy Wiseman

The Disrupted Festival will be held on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 July 2017 at the State Library of Western Australia. If you miss out on a session or want to access the Festival outside of Perth, the event will be streaming online for regional and national broadcast. Visit https://disrupted.slwa.wa.gov.au/ to view full program. All sessions are free but some have limited capacity – check the website for all the info.

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Author —
Amy Wiseman

Amy Wiseman is a WAAPA dance graduate who enjoys working in a variety of roles as a teacher, projects manager, performer/collaborator with Unkempt Dance and occasional writer. Her favourite piece of playground equipment is the triple horizontal bar.

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