NORPA Quarterly — Why NORPA? by Tiffany Lucas

observations by our new board member

I roll down the window to let the warm breeze inside my rental car. Breathing in the sweet, fresh air I gaze out at the passing macadamia fields. “It’s really beautiful here,” I think to myself as I crest another hilltop, “a landscape of inspiration”.

It’s my first time visiting the Northern Rivers (having lived in Melbourne and Sydney – and now Melbourne again) and I am immediately won over by its natural beauty. But natural beauty is just one drawcard of the area. Its bubbling arts scene is another. With the second-highest density of creative industries in NSW (after Ultimo in Sydney’s west) the Northern Rivers is a hotbed of artistic action. I’m excited to be in the region, attending my first NORPA Board meeting.

Why am I joining NORPA’s Board when I don’t live here? Because NORPA is doing work that I think is vitally important. It’s making theatre in regional Australia and bringing local voices and stories to life. As one of only a few regional theatre companies in Australia that creates original works, NORPA embraces and reflects the diversity of the region, its people and its history. I believe this is something that all Australians should care about exploring, understanding and preserving – not just those living in the Northern Rivers region. After all, what is art if it’s not a way to better understand our collective culture.

This is a major reason why I’m excited to join the Board of NORPA. To help advocate for keeping regional voices alive. Which, of course, is neither an easy (nor an inexpensive) task. For NORPA, like every nonprofit arts organisation, a large part of its ability to continue to create original works that tell local stories rests on finding the funding required to support local writers, undertake R&D and work with artists on development.

All Australian preforming arts companies are reliant on government support, but metropolitan companies also rely on corporate partnerships and private funding in order to thrive. Luckily, NORPA’s Board and management, are incredibly aware and alive to this issue – and are focused on NORPA’s need to grow income from corporate partnerships and philanthropy to ensure sustainability and growth.

Over the past few years NORPA has put in place solid framework and initial programs to grow its privately sourced income – including building new partnerships with local businesses and establishing the NORPA Foundation. But, NORPA’s work in this area is just beginning – and we will need to work creatively and strategically to build a robust development program at NORPA. This is an exciting challenge – but a challenge indeed.

In order to be successful, I believe that NORPA will need to not only deepen its engagement with its current audiences and local businesses in the Northern Rivers region, but also build its case for support Australia-wide. Undoubtedly, this won’t be an easy task, but NORPA is well-positioned to succeed. Its artistic product is outstanding. NORPA has Djurra, a new dance theatre work sharing a Bundjalung creation story in rehearsals and due to premiere on 29 November; Cockfight (a work created in collaboration with The Farm) touring the UK; Wildskin in R&D stages, and three works by NORPA Associate Artists also in development. Its education program is robust and it’s deep connection to Bundjalung culture is tangible — driven, empowered and inspired by Bundjalung artists and elders.

NORPA is a regional theatre company, telling stories and making theatre that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else in Australia. I see NORPA as a conduit to share a unique aspect of our culture – helping form a deeper sense of our national identity and our collective understanding of what it means to be Australian. To me, regardless of where I live in the country, NORPA’s work remains relevant, exciting and essential.

As I drive towards the airport and away from Lismore (for the moment) I carry with me the smell of the countryside, the inspiration of the landscape and most importantly the unique stories that emanate from this region. I’m sad to depart from this beautiful part of our country, but excited to advocate for NORPA — to help tell these stories and share this unique culture, nationwide.

by Tiffany Lucas

Image | Kate Holmes