Disaster recovery stories eNews: 11 December 2023
The townships of Loxton and Waikerie are the main service centres in the Riverland of South Australia, around 200 kms north‐east of Adelaide. In 2021, the Riverland was drought declared, with population, economic and environmental challenges evident.
Little Town Productions saw an opportunity to leverage the annual Loxton Lights Up Festival to bring new people to town to boost the local economy, as well as connect and engage locals, while also building skills, especially among the young people in the region, and having some fun.
The District Council of Loxton and Waikerie received a $55,859 Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) grant on behalf of Little Town Productions, enabling them to bring their ideas to fruition.
Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Lights Up Festival, Little Town Productions created and coordinated a spectacular and innovative illuminated production featuring a unique animated projection mapped to the façade of the historic St Peter’s church. The first of its kind in Loxton and the Riverland region, SHINE ran for eight days in the lead up to Christmas and drew thousands of visitors from Adelaide, regional South Australia and interstate.
The management team was very focussed on utilising and developing local talent, with a view to building skills and training that lead to career and employment pathways for young and unemployed people. The project provided the opportunity for these people to work alongside a key partner – world renowned illumination creative artists Illuminart, who advised on creative design, direction and animation services, immersive and interactive concepts. They also mentored young people and others in the community on technical and creative installation, and conducted training workshops to help build skills to seek employment in animation, theatre, leadership, music, digital sound and technology and production management.
The creative team was set up and led by a local 19-year-old and included other local artists, musicians and representatives from Loxton High School. Several year 11 and 12 students, and their teachers, played a key role in creating the animations, projections and filming of the event. Five of the seven artists who created the background illustrations for the animation were from the Riverland, and three of these were from Loxton. With input from the creative team, two 2020 Loxton High School graduates undertook the storybooking of the animation, working closely with and being mentored by Illuminart animators and illustrators. They were both subsequently offered contracts with Illuminart to work on similar projects while at university.
The local input extended to the music, with all the music in the production composed and recorded by Loxton’s Karyn Skewes. Others involved included the Loxton Community Choir and the Lead Principal of Opera SA. Many of Loxton’s service clubs, community groups and residents were involved and contributed in various ways, including an enthusiastic group of older ladies who created a floral display inside the church, one of the key venues. Artworks related to the project, as well as other art produced by members of the local community, were displayed in Peace Hall on all the nights of SHINE, showcasing the amazing talents of the community.
All this work was captured by Six Foot Productions, who worked with and mentored the town’s young people to create a mini-documentary of the project from start to finish, with behind-the scenes footage capturing the passion and enthusiasm of all involved. The file was posted online a week after the event, reaching 30,000 people, with 12,700 views on Facebook, 264 likes and was shared 89 times.
The TTTT grant, which was funded by the Australian Government, contributed to engaging local companies to provide event equipment – audio, filming, lighting, security, event hire, container and marquee hire and contributed towards creative design by Illuminart.
Andrew Waters from DCLW said that there was no doubt that SHINE was an outstanding success, both for the local community and for the people it drew to the town to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Loxton Lights Up. While COVID presented challenges with restrictions, capacity limits and check-ins, it wasn’t a huge factor, given the event was held outside. A plus to come from it was that the organisers were able to obtain a relatively accurate count, with the registration app indicating that more than 6,000 people were present within the church grounds during the eight days of SHINE!
Andrew said, “On the final two nights we reached a near COVID-capacity of 1,000 people at any one given time. Total numbers on these nights would have been greater, as people came and went throughout the night. The project provided new opportunities to showcase the talents of local artists, musicians, actors and dancers and provided greater opportunity for the community to access the arts… a visual and auditory masterpiece.”
Beyond this, the project addressed the economic decline and disadvantage brought about by extended drought conditions across the Riverland Region. It was a celebration of creative and cultural experiences that are the lifeblood of the region, and was a key driver in re-activating the Riverland arts and entertainment industry. The project directly benefitted the region’s businesses that had been economically impacted by drought, injecting an estimated $1.8M into the local economy and creating new jobs in hospitality, retail and the arts.