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Lullabies: Bringing people together

Madonna Davies from Full Throttle Theatre in Townsville talks about the inclusive community project the Lullaby Movement….

While the numbers of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in Townsville is increasing, the visibility and opportunities for participation is limited except for the odd festival.

The Lullaby Movement was introduced as an intercultural all-abilities project aimed at using music, storytelling and visual art to connect isolated community members, including culturally diverse members. The project aimed to support this connection by proving a safe and creative environment to come together.

Why lullabies? I chose lullabies as the central theme as they are an inherent part of most cultures and therefore able to be shared and passed down from generation to generation, from culture to culture. Lullabies are things we are taught from childhood but are lost or forgotten as we grow. When we have our own children we revisit them.

The project was run for more than a week during the July school holidays, from 10am to 2pm and consisted of a number of workshops including:
•    Music: Participants shared lullabies that were sung and taught to other participants. 
•    Storytelling: Participants shared their bedtime stories or stories from their childhood with one another. 
•    Visual art: Participants created sculptures for the public performance, inspired by the lullabies and stories.

The workshops ran at the same time as each other so participants could go from one to the other as they pleased. This meant that there was a real transient collective nature about it. The storytelling, weaving, sculpting and screen printing added more points of interest and connectivity for participants. Interpreters were provided for non-English speaking participants. People came and went throughout the week, returning daily or just coming once or twice. 

Overall we had 95 participants from the Sudan, Congo, Korea, Malawi, Bhutan, Rwanda, Holland, Torres Strait and Aurukun. The ages ranged from infancy to 81 years. On one day we had four generations from the one family aged 13 to 71 years.

Not everyone remembered the lullabies. It seemed that there was a block in a lot of people’s memories. Despite this there was still active participation in story telling, visual art and singing of the shared songs.

Originally we were aiming for a performance piece at the end of the program but the nature and evolution of the workshops and availability of the participants were more suited to small showcases at the end of each day. On the Sunday a number of the Lullaby Movement did perform two of the Lullabies with angklung, at the NAIDOC Week open Mic and Market Day.

From the project we found that not all lullabies have words and are simple melodies that are hummed or given a da, da, or la, la. Many mothers simply made up their own lullabies. Our music facilitator Paul Longley was able to notate the melodies for those participants. 

Overall the experience working with the CALD community was extremely positive. I learnt that the approach needs to be consistent and little by little when working with the new immigrant refugees. Participants were worn down by the extreme change and the cultural gap that isolates. These types of projects, hopefully, will gradually bring us all together. It’s also important for the children to feel welcome, to give them a creative outlet, to not fear being different. One of the little boys from Malawi wants to be a dancer when he grows up, three of the Sudanese boys want to be singers and actors. We put the music on and all the children danced and sang for ages. They didn’t want to go home.

Although the Lullaby Movement project has ended, we are continuing to work with the community and have already got plans to do more workshops and community based activities with them in the future. Last week at the Riverway park, we revisited some of the lullabies with the Angklung and ukulele, had a dancing competition and a shared table lunch. In October we will take a weaving and screen printing workshop, on the 15th of October we will be hosting Disco Soup, International World Food Day event with the Townsville Food Rescue group. 

For more details about Full Throttle activities see their website.

Madonna DaviesMadonna has been working with Full Throttle Theatre Company and its predecessors for over ten years, and is now the President of the company. Madonna grew up in Townsville and studied theatre at JCU, where she worked under the direction of Dr. Jean-Pierre Voos, whom she continued to work with as her career progressed in the theatre industry.






The Lullaby Movement project was supported through the Regional Arts Development Fund and a Celebrating Multicultural Queensland Grant.


RADF logoThe Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) is a partnership between local government and Arts Queensland to support arts and cultural experiences across Queensland. In recognition of RADF's 25th year, Arts Queensland will be celebrating its successes by sharing the many activities, communities and people supported through RADF.