Hello and welcome! Or should I say ជំរាបសួរ និងសូមស្វាគមន៍?

I’m Alyson, a very Welsh sounding drama facilitator based in Sydney, Australia with a focus on community arts and cultural development. Currently I coordinate Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre’s arts and disability program, I’m a Teaching Artist as part of Sydney Theatre Company’s education team, I project manage activities for Darwin Community Arts and independently facilitate drama workshops for a variety of community arts orgs. And as if that wasn’t enough, I’m about to go on a very exciting adventure….

This year I was lucky enough to receive a Community Partnerships grant from Australia Council of the Arts to undergo professional development within the community arts sector. I am so grateful and happy to receive this grant as I believe it is incredibly important that we as community arts practitioners take time out from our practice to go and spend time with other artists and organisations. I really think we need to recognise the importance of undergoing professional development for a period of time, and not relying on attending a conference for a few days once a year to make us feel refreshed and inspired. With PD that lasts at least a few weeks we can fully take time out from our own work to immerse ourselves into the work of others, and with a grant to cover my basic needs I am thankful I am able to take time out without the worries of financial strain.

So, my professional development… Following 3 years facilitating drama programs in the Northern Territory with young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, with adults from refugee backgrounds and in remote Indigenous communities I came to Sydney feeling tired, uninspired and to be honest, a little burnt out. My time in NT was the best of my life, but as with all artists, a prolonged period of working with marginalised communities without a break leaves you feeling a little flat. Recognising this, I applied for the grant and – fast forward a few months later – in one weeks time I am heading to Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), a community arts organisation that was born out of a refugee camp based in Battambang, Cambodia.

PPS’s vision: Phare Ponleu Selpak passionately believes in the power of the arts as a tool for human development and social change.

Seems like the perfect fit….

Make sure you click on the link to find out about the amazing projects they do, which range from circus, visual arts, music and more. The focus of my trip will be the theatre department, where I will observe the rehearsal process and first few performances of an awareness theatre play based on safe migration. I am particularly interested in how they safely work within a rehearsal room with topics that directly affect the actors, and see the engagement of these performances with in the heart of a community.

I’ll be there for 6 weeks, and throughout my visit I will blog about my experiences to share with you the new things discovered and the challenges faced as I experience community arts in a new cultural context.

Now to start packing….