Q&A with 2016 NSW Regional Arts Fellow: Lee Pemberton

Lee Pemberton in conversation with Don Asker at his studio in Kiah, NSW. Photo: Paul Hopper. Image courtesy the artist.

Lee Pemberton left Melbourne in 1999 to live in the Bega Valley where she founded fLiNG! Physical Theatre and remained as Artistic Director from 2001 until 2015.

The company’s work has since created a solid interest in contemporary dance and physical theatre in the region, and has become the State’s first professionally funded youth dance company.

In October 2016, Lee was one of three artists to be awarded the NSW Regional Arts Fellowship. We spoke with to Lee to find out what her fellowship involves and how this opportunity has supported her professional development and artistic practice.

How did the idea for your fellowship activities come about?

I’ve lived and worked in this area for seventeen years and have always travelled to the major cities for professional development. Now I am trusting my intuition trying to discover a practice informed by this region and have chosen to spend my time in an intense field of exploration settled in my own place absorbed in the local identity.

This came about because there are four mature dance artists and a musician living in the area who have had incredible experience working in the dance and music industry with a diverse knowledge of the performing arts both nationally and internationally. We also have an eminent historian living locally and I have? a growing desire in further exploring the region’s history and heritage.

I felt this knowledge and experience in the region was an untapped resource and a time of immersion in the people and place would give me a better sense of local culture inspiring me to create new work about the area.

How will this fellowship impact your professional development?

I am re-evaluating my working methods and motivations with the hope of finding new refreshed ways of creating and presenting work. I am also expanding my networks and relationships, developing new skills and deepening my understanding of practice. It is my hope that I can put this knowledge to advantage my work as an artist and continue to engage within the choreographic field.

How has living and working in regional NSW informed and inspired your work?

I have enjoyed the challenges of regional practice and always loved the natural beauty of the area and the community pride. I believe my work to date has been inspired by this community. I have been driven in the past by the spirit of the young people that live here and their need to be a part of an exciting evolving practice.

The advantage of living and working creatively in the country and being at a distance from urban trends supports the development of a unique voice and the intimate relationship with community offers immediate and honest feedback.

What other funding opportunities have you received that have supported your development throughout your career?

In the region, I have been supported primarily through Arts NSW and the Regional Arts NSW funds while I founded and developed a youth dance company in Bega. This practice supported my personal development and given me the opportunity to work professionally in a community exploring my art form in a related and engaged manner, something I value highly.

In 2017, what are you most excited by – as an Artistic Director or as an audience member?

Most of my working life as a choreographer has been based regionally and I have seen huge growth in regional arts practice leading to a growing understanding and respect for regional practice as a valid contributor to the national cultural identity. I am looking forward to seeing further opportunities for the work of our first people and Australian regional artists within the national and international conversation.

The NSW Regional Arts Fellowship is offered by the NSW Government (Create NSW) to enable an artist or arts/cultural worker from regional NSW to undertake a self-directed program of professional development.

Applications close: 21 August 2017.

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Published: 11 July 2017