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Arts Ablaze conference and regional arts festival

Part conference and part festival, Arts Ablaze 2019 attracted delegates from across Queensland and the Torres Strait and featured a free community celebration, creating a legacy for future arts conferences



The three-day Arts Ablaze conference and regional arts festival explored the transformation of regional communities and arts practice, with a focus on attitudes, access, people and place. 

The first state-wide regional arts conference held in five years, Arts Ablaze offered an opportunity for sector networking, addressing key issues impacting upon regional arts, and an community celebration that was free and open to the public.

A critical component of the celebration was the development of a community-led dance project, the Mununjali Burreebun (Mununjali Dreaming), which saw the uncovering of an old creation story, Gullaninni the Water Hen. 


When and where

Arts Ablaze was held at Kooralbyn Valley in Queensland’s Scenic Rim region from 2 to 6 October 2019.


Key stats

The Arts Ablaze Conference 

  • attracted 450 delegates from across Queensland.
  • delegates included program presenters, artists and performers. 
  • program included 314 activities over the five days 
    • 17 site activations 
    • 93 performances  
    • 100 presentations 
    • 28 mentoring sessions 
    • 15 Traditional Owner ceremonies 
    • five exhibitions 
    • 56 workshops
  • attended by Officers and Councillors from 27 different Queensland councils, who had travelled from all eight Regional Arts Services Network (RASN) regions.
  • the five-day conference and festival program included: 
    • 376 artists 
    • 147 presenters 
    • 91 arts workers 
    • 130 volunteers including 20 local First Nations volunteers 
    • 53 people employed as paid contractors including 22 local First Nations people 
  • audience numbers: 
    • 337 conference delegates registered including people from 27 Councils 
    • 2,350 festival attendees estimated over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights 
    • 86 attended via the live stream with 350 viewing recorded sessions 
    • Instagram – 330 followers, top post 63 likes, reached 346 with 533 impressions


Arts Queensland investment 

Arts Ablaze was organised by the Scenic Rim Regional Council and supported by the Queensland Government with funding through the Queensland Arts Showcase Program (QASP) and through the Regional Arts Service Network (RASN) with RASN providing funding, in-kind support and input into the conference design, programming, promotions, and implementation. Four RASN providers contributed over $110,000 to support the conference program. 

RASN travel bursaries of over $40,000 to support 58 regional artists and arts workers to attend the conference.  

RASN staff time and expertise including: 

  • RASN State Coordination Office provided marketing and promotion support for Arts Ablaze
  • RASN Regional Arts Officers attended a 3-day planning workshop and contributed to the conference program
  • RASN providers actively promoted the opportunity to their networks, encouraging regional artists to submit EOIs to the creative program and providing bursaries for attendance

The Regional Arts Services Network (RASN), an initiative of the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, is a new approach to delivering state-wide arts services. 




RASN helped to attract a more diverse range of people to the conference by: 
•    providing media and promotion, 
•    helping artists to develop and showcase work, 
•    providing travel bursaries, and 
•    assisting the First Nations and Youth on Fire programs. 


Diversity and Networking 
The main outcome of RASN’s investment in Arts Ablaze was a more diverse participation in the conference, including through the First Nations Program and the Youth on Fire Program. 

The conference helped artists and arts workers to develop their networks.  

For Officers and Councillors from 27 different local Councils, RASN SWQ facilitated a RADF forum and panel discussions. 


First Nations Program 

The First Nations program was a priority, and over a six-month period from April to October 2019, the production team worked together to build relationships with the Mununjali community, activating their ownership of, and participation in, the Arts Ablaze event.

There were several positive outcomes for local Mununjali artists and community: 

  • RADF applications were developed for four projects from the Mununjali community including professional development, workshops, public art, filming and performance projects, as a result of Arts Ablaze. 
  • A community-led dance project, Manunjali Burreebun (Mununjali Dreaming), was developed with the Mununjali Community, Beaudesert State High School (BSHS), Mununjali Ngari, Mununjali elders, local Indigenous arts workers and Indigenous producer Alicia Melonie Jones which resulted in skill development, cultural training and project development. 
  • The Mununjali community were in discussions with Ramada Resort Kooralbyn Valley about an Artists Residency and possible employment opportunities at the resort. 
  • Hosted at the local library, ‘Corroborate’ started at the conference, with sessions for First Nations and non-Indigenous people including drawing and painting. This was led by Kim Walmsley, of the Mununjali people, who is a mural and community artist. 

RASN State Coordination Office helped artists from outside the Scenic Rim Region to engage in the First Nations Program alongside the Mununjali people. This included artists from RASN North Queensland (Townsville), Central Queensland (Woorabinda), Western Queensland (Barcaldine, Longreach), South East Queensland North, and Far North Queensland (Cairns, Cape York, Torres Strait). 

The positive outcomes for the wider Indigenous community included: 

  • RASN bursaries enabled two Torres Strait Island arts workers from the Moa Arts Centre to attend the conference and be welcomed by the First Nations program. They learned new silver-smithing and tie-dying techniques, which were shared with their communities at workshops when they returned. 
  • Nine ‘Big Eye Theatre’ dancers from Townsville participated in the conference. They met the traditional owners of Beaudesert, sold their art works and connected with other artists from across regional Queensland. 
  • First Nations producer Alicia Jones gained work with SWQ RASN in Roma after meeting them through Arts Ablaze. 


Youth on Fire Program

The impact of aging regional communities on regional arts was identified early as a key issue for Arts Ablaze, and the Youth on Fire program was devised to bring youth into the conference and show them pathways for their artistic work. Identification of young people and bursaries was supported by RASN.

Produced by Andrew Wright, CEO and Artistic Director of Goat Track Theatre, Youth on Fire provided opportunities for 20 young people to participate through creative collaboration and performance, mentoring, and providing a youth voice during the conference.

Positive outcomes reported from the youth program included: 

  • Participants have been booked for gigs, applied for new jobs and project funding, joined music ensembles, established ancestral cultural connections, and researched concepts because of their training at Arts Ablaze. 
  • The program inspired some new ideas for the NQ Young Artist Camp supported by NQ RASN. 
  • Goat Track Theatre received several enquiries to develop or tour the heARTh youth space across regional Queensland. 


Kooralbyn Community 

Scenic Rim Regional Council (SRRC) estimated the economic impact of the conference upon the Kooralbyn region to be $223,000. 



Learnings and reflections

Diversity and Networking 

“(The best thing was) the networking and connecting to the Mununjali Elders and community, local community, country men and women from around Queensland.” Conference Delegate 

“(He) thoroughly enjoyed his time at Arts Ablaze – the creative atmosphere – the ideas – the connections …” Tania Fraser, Community Development Officer, North Burnett Regional Council 


Youth on Fire 

“The Youth on Fire Program opened my brain up to so many indispensable business and marketing techniques that artists NEED to make a successful career.” Youth Program Participant. 

“The Youth on Fire Program. Step outside your comfort zone and things will start to change” Youth Program Participant. 

“A lot of us came not knowing what we wanted to do with our art – or knowing what we want to do not how to get there. He was able to guide us in the right way.” Youth Program Participant.  


What next?

Public art works have been installed at the Kooralbyn community centre, and a sculpture was installed at the local park, all as a legacy of the creative work of Arts Ablaze. 

As a result of attending Arts Ablaze, the Western Downs Regional Council hosted their own regional arts conference – Arts on Top – in May 2021.