Out in the country…

Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing in out-of-town venues. I’ve been sitting in the car, doing lots of driving (or being driven). I’ve seen some beautiful countryside – dry fields full of brown grasses, sparkling blue water, burnt bush-land, snow falling just as the light was fading. I’ve seen a lot of road. I’ve listened to some excellent podcasts (I’m turning into a bit of a true-crime-podcast addict, I confess…).

Whenever I play to audiences out-of-the-cities it feels totally different to, say, Sydney. There’s a real feeling of gratitude – I have trekked to wherever they are to play to them. And it makes me angry when I hear that money for regional touring from arts organisations has been cut. In previous years, Government finding bodies funded about 20% of applications. This year, they’ve funded 2.7%. (And yes, my decimal points are correct.) Where is the money going? To make a surplus? (I have no idea, and I’m sure someone will tell me.) Arts organisations, big ones, are cutting regional tours…

But here’s a thought…. You see, ALL of NSW is in drought. This is hard. There’s a lack of colour. There’s worry. Anxiousness. People are concerned. And concerts make you forget about stuff. You would all have experienced that – just for a small amount of time. And good music feeds the soul. It makes you happier. And I’m not just talking about classical music here – any music. SO why doesn’t someone, somewhere, making these types of decisions have a bit of think.

Hay, money, feed – yes, this is all totally important. I do not disagree. But balm for souls is also hugely important. Allowing young kids in the country access to arts and music and seeing live music is hugely important. Actually, not just young people…. I know there’s a huge amount of money needed for all sorts of stuff. But isn’t mental health just as important as a state in surplus?

Perhaps even more so?