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Arafura Pearl: A Festival of Women

TOP ENDERS ARE in for a treat early next month, with the inaugural Arafura Pearl: A Festival of Women in the Brown’s Mart Courtyard precinct.

Emceed by comedian Amy Hetherington, the all-female program includes musician Serina Pech, comedian Danielle Andrews, and Shayne and Treacey – the bogan alter egos of local actors Gail Evans and Nicki Fearn, as well as guest speakers.

We caught up with Arafura Festival Producer, Stage Manager and Performer, Tracey Bunn, for a chat.

Tell us about Arafura Pearl Festival!
It’s something that’s been brewing for a while in my mind. I’m a strong advocate for gender equality, particularly in the music industry, myself being performer for over 30 years, and I’ve come across that inequality through my own touring and travels. I feel Darwin has an incredible field of amazing female talent and they haven’t had the opportunities that male performers might get.

It’s not about being anti-male, but it is about the stats. You just have to look at any event poster – take the men off and see how many names are left.

We’ve tried to get a good balance of age, genre, experience, so there’s something for everyone!

What has the response been like?
The response has been overwhelming! So many women want to be involved as performers, but I’ve had to knock half of them back due to funding limitations. We’ve got a full program, and that’s without interstate or international performers.

What are some of the  opportunities for women?
The festival is a celebration of women in Darwin – not just creatively, but in production roles.  I want to be able to grow this festival to provide mentoring opportunities for women. We’ve had some really great support from Kelly Blumberg from Brown’s Mart Theatre and Teghan Hughes from Happy Yess, who have provided the venue and support. 

A top up on cash from Gender Equity for production costs has meant we can pay our female production team on par with what men are paid. Each production staff member will pair with a young woman for mentoring in that area.

With everything that’s happening in the world right now, what are some of the challenges the festival is facing?
The good news is we have received our funding, so everyone will get paid whether the event can go ahead or not. We have some strategies in place for containing the spread of germs. We’d like to have a cashless bar so there’s no exchange of money, and will have signs up to promote hand washing. People need this stuff right now.

They need to be able to have fun and enjoy life, and not be anxious all the time. 

Lastly, the festival’s name –  Arafura Pearl – tell us about it!
The festival was named after Kathy Mills’ song, Arafura Pearl, which is listed as an icon by the NT Heritage Society. I hadn’t settled on a name, and a few people suggested it because of its connection with Darwin – it’s very local and has a very strong sense of place.

It also comes from an incredible family of women, the Mills family. I spoke to them about it and they were very happy to have the name used. June Mills will sing the song after doing a Welcome to Country.

Due to a change in circumstances, this event has been postponed and will be held at a later date. We thought you'd still enjoy the read!

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