The lessons we’ve learnt over our 15-year journey

15 December 2022

Image of The Tragical Life Of Cheeseboy on the Her Majesty’s Theatre stage.

This year we celebrated 15 years and with that milestone we reflected on our wins over the years as well as all the lessons we learnt. Here’s a snapshot of the lesson from throughout the years.  

An inflatable tent is not a good solution to providing a black-out for in-school touring. They are very noisy, very heavy, very collapse prone and not necessarily flameproof…  

The incredible timing of an international event in your hometown in the second year of company operation is lucky. Making the most of that opportunity by boldly announcing your ambitions to the world would seem hopeful…but wise. 

It is a very long commute from Glasgow to Ceduna if you want to see two different Slingsby shows on different continents within 48hrs. But it can be done! 

If you cover the entire floor of the Space Theatre with real turf for a week, there will be some critters that take up long-term residence in the venue. We hope the lawn beetles and their offspring’s, offspring’s, offspring are keeping well despite successive renovations at the Festival Centre. 

Patience is a virtue. After initial interest in 2008 for a USA tour of The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy, it didn’t eventuate until 2011. Through this time, we built rich relationships with venues, resulting in long term partnerships and warm friendships that last too today. Who could ask for more. 

As a small company we are incredibly dependent on presenting partners. Ode to Nonsense was due to premiere in a major interstate festival in 2012, but due to matters out of our control that didn’t eventuate, leaving us to re-budget and reschedule the premiere in Adelaide the following year. Through this series of unfortunate events, we found ourselves with a more than two-year gap between new works. 

Moustache Wax and head mics don’t mix! This project was a mammoth undertaking for a company with two and half part time staff, we remain astonished and proud that we pulled it off with such aplomb! Audiences were variously deeply moved, and equally confused. Perfect Nonsense! 

In our planning for The Mouse, The Bird and the Sausage we designed a show to perform in the beautiful venues available in some schools. However, we were so ambitious with the technological design in the show, that with all that bumping in and out, it was impossible to refine the show while on the road. We had great ambition but it was tricky to realise. 

Never be afraid or reinventing everything, from the ground up. The new Paths Less Travelled process was informed by everything we had learnt in the first 8 years of the company, but it also risked it all with a radical new approach. 

This is the year we discovered just how much our audience and community love Slingsby. In May 2016 we learnt that our federal funding through the Australia Council would not continue, a result of the ‘Brandis raid’ from the previous year. Incredibly, our audience took us by the hand and danced us across the line, donating more than $80,000 to keep the company alive. 

It pays to back yourself. Despite funding challenges, we believed in the work we had made and were delighted by the international response. A special mention to our donors and Arts SA who doubled down on their support of Slingsby, enabling the future success of the company. 

We can forge new ways to operate and still make something distinctly us. Adjusting to our new funding situation we needed to find new ways to create shows on a tight budget, that could be easier to tour. Songs for Those Who’ve Come Across the Seas was a bold experiment, different in form, but maintained the emotional impact we aim for – who knew a song about an adolescent Seal could be so tear-inducing! 

Commitment to making distinctive theatre with a focus on excellence in relationships with audiences, presenters and touring artists pays off. 2019 was a beautiful culmination of more than a decades focused work, building an international, national and local audience. None of this is possible without a passionate and brilliant team and the guidance of a phenomenal Board of Directors. 

We thrive in trying circumstances. With the Board of Director’s committing to honor the full contracts of the planned North American touring team, and the delivery of federal COVID initiatives, our team grew, allowing us to explore new ways to undertake remote long-term research into new works while maintaining artist employment. What we learnt through this phase lead to the establishment of the new ensemble that shaped the company’s next two years work. 

We can collaborate with international colleagues online, even if we may prefer being face to face. The creation of The Boy Who Talked to Dogs, our first international collaboration, required us to build trust and exchange ideas and content online. We are forever grateful for the relationships and methods that we developed in the process. Ways of working that will continue to allow us to engage internationally without always jumping on a plane.