Next Wave farewells Lauren Clelland

Lauren grew up in Brisbane on Turrbal/Yuggera country and has always had her eye on Next Wave. In 2010, as an emerging artist and arts worker, she moved to Melbourne with a drive to become involved in a supportive and critical arts ecology that nurtured different forms of creative expression emanating from a multitude of voices. She’d always had her eyes on Next Wave, and set her sights on becoming involved.

In 2010, she got involved with Next Wave as a volunteer performer on the work, I thought a musical was being made by Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with the Parachutes for Ladies. The piece explored the effect that group behaviour has on an individual’s perception of reality through live soundscape and small on-the-street movement sequences. From this, Lauren’s enthusiasm for Next Wave and her passion for working with curious and innovative artists led her to again intersect with Next Wave in 2012.

At the 2012 Festival, Lauren worked collaboratively with Dan Koop, Andrew Bailey, Georgie Humphries, Jamie Lewis, Penny Harpham and Max Milne to create The Stream / The Boat / The Shore / The Bridge, a site-specific show that asked patrons hard questions about their relationship to the city and each other as they journeyed around and across the Yarra River. The show sold out and was picked up for Junction Arts Festival 2013, then accepted into the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) Showcase in 2014. Lauren recognised this as one example of how a Next Wave premiere can be a national and international jumping off point for artists and their work.

In 2013 she applied for an Associate Producer role but was unsuccessful, and wants that noted as she believes it is important to recognise that an individual’s relationship with an organisation can be long and multifaceted over time. In 2015 she was appointed the Operations Manager at Next Wave and then following Next Wave Festival 2016, took on the role of Business & Operations Manager. She came to the job with a creative mind and knowledge about independent practice, and applied that with strong festival operations skills to a role that requires absolute precision and attention to detail. Lauren has also been a strong advocate in implementing measures to make Next Wave a sector leader in inclusivity and accessibility and has also contributed to growing our environmental sustainability policies and activity, including transitioning the organisation away from a paper-based book-keeping system and carbon offsetting our office operations and organisational travel.

Lauren has been an absolute asset to Next Wave, and we will miss her dearly. We interviewed her before she left, and heard about the highs, the lows, her inspirations and some parting wisdom.

What’s been your favourite work you’ve seen during your time at Next Wave?

L: I don’t want to play favourites but what I will say is that some of the works I most connect to are those that surprise me with their attention to detail, and where the artist has really stuck to their creative vision of the work and worked hard to realise it across eighteen months of development. I recall watching The Second Woman in its premiere season and realising how special it was. Sitting in the audience of Lifestyles of the Richard and Family was also completely enjoyable; from initial conversations with Harriet (Gillies, lead artist) describing how she wanted the audience to feel like they were “inside the internet” to witnessing the reality of how that had been realised, was such a ride. Then there are works that integrated access services in really creative and interesting ways, like Geoffrey Watson’s Camel, as well as exhibitions and events like Shireen Taweel’s tracing transcendence, and the first iteration of Hannah Bronte’s FEMPRESS – the list of extraordinary work goes on.

This year’s Festival centres around artists forming their own Government. If you could change one thing about Australia’s current government, what would it be?

L: The current government.

One of your favourite interview questions for applicants wanting to join Next Wave has been “What’s the worst day you’ve ever had working on a Festival?” So Lauren, tell us, What’s the worst day you’ve ever had working on a Festival?

L: Working in festivals for over ten years I’ve definitely had a few, so I have ‘bad day’ categories, recognising particular days as ‘the wet weather bad day’, ‘the issue-with-a-major stakeholder bad day’ or ‘the artist-relationship-gone-sour bad day’. I’ve seen so much. Off the top of my head, one example is that when working at The Garden of Unearthly Delights at Adelaide Fringe, we knew that the park floods at some point every year. What we didn’t anticipate was all the power going out at 7.30pm one night, before over 2,000 people arrived for the 8pm shows, on a site of around 15,000 people. We didn’t know when the power would come back on, but you deal with things like that. There’s always a team working together in those instances. It didn’t even feel like that bad of a day; it was practical, active, everyone did their jobs and eventually, the power came back on.

What is something you’ve never done that you’re now going to try?

L: I’ve been thinking a lot about getting a ClassPass so that I can try a whole bunch of fitness things I’ve never done before, like a weightlifting class or a barre class.

If you could give the Lauren who started working at Next Wave any advice, what would it be?

L: You’re going to be working with some incredible people and one of the best things you can do is learn from them at every opportunity. Theoretically and intellectually you have an idea about what putting on a festival of 100% new work by emerging artists will entail, but get ready for reality to hit you in a number of different ways. The ride ahead is going to be wild but so exciting. The opportunities to grow your skills, knowledge and experience will be unparalleled.

What song should we listen to in the office to remember you?

L: I’ve been in a power-ballad mood recently, related to The Good Room’s work I Want To Know What Love Is (which – plug! – is coincidentally touring nationally for the second time from August to September this year), so I’d have to say Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. It’s an eight-minute megamix that will always start your day in the right way.

What’s hot on Lauren’s list? Shows, artists, books, music and works to watch out for?

L: Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu is a book that everyone should read and that I think should be included in any Australian History school curriculum. I think Aboriginal Culture and History should be taught in all schools generally speaking, but until that happens, individually self-educating through books and other avenues is important. Apart from our Next Wave 2020 artists’ work, I’m excited by work from Meagan Streader (such purposeful interplay of light/architecture/negotiation of space) and Anna Seymour (more Deaf-led dance parties please!)

Any parting words of wisdom?

L: As the footer of risk management national treasure Bill Coleby’s emails says, ‘for every problem….there is a solution’. I would spin off that and say anything is possible…with time and planning. Horses in heritage listed venues, ecosexual encounters, audiences tied up or getting married, whatever it is at Next Wave – clear communication and empathy for the person or situation on the other side of the table has been key.

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  1. Lauren Clelland.