Queensland Opera artistic director Lindy Hume is moving to the bush to join a growing regional arts movement she describes as a restless giant
It’s not a typical move for an artist who has built an internationally successful career directing festivals and operas in cities around Australia and the world.
She was raised in inner-Sydney but has steadily drifted to the bush, drawn by the “space to think clearly and creatively”.
For more than a decade she has been retreating to a bush block in the Bega Valley on the far south coast of New South Wales for “nourishment and escape” and “a different kind of creativity.”
Now she is preparing to leave her role as artistic director of Opera Queensland to move permanently to her rural home from where she will launch her next project, working with musicians from the nearby village of Candelo.
“I don’t want to make work that’s just local. I want to make work here in this part of the world that can be taken out to other parts of the world,” she said.
Hume has chaired the boards of Regional Arts NSW and also South East Arts, and this year published a paper titled Restless Giant, in which she advocates for greater recognition and support for regional artists.
She chose Candelo to launch a series of talks around the country about the opportunities for creative industry development in the regions.
The creative village connecting with the world
Candelo is a village of about 400 people that hosts a biennial festival and features regular music performances by local and touring musicians, organised by an arts society that was established more than 30 years ago.
It is also home to a number of professional musicians who are there for the same reason Lindy Hume says she wants to work in a rural environment.
“The abundance of time, space and silence makes living in places like ours ideal for creating new work,” she said.
“It’s definitely a phenomenon, the critical mass of excellent musicians who are based here.”
Heath Cullen and Lindy Hume outside Kameruka Hall near Candelo. (ABC South East NSW: Bill Brown)
One of those is Heath Cullen, who grew up on an old dairy farm near Candelo, and whose last album was recorded with Elvis Costello’s band, the Imposters.
His previous album was recorded in Los Angeles and New York with major US artists, Mark Ribot, Larry Taylor, and Jim Keltner, variously known best for their work with Tom Waits, Canned Heat, Bob Dylan, and many more.
“If you’re a travelling musician, anywhere can be home, said Cullen.
Working from a home studio and connected to the internet he is able to use file transfers and video conferencing to prepare for album recordings.
“I can work with collaborators across the other side of the world, and bounce ideas off each other in a matter of minutes, or in real-time. It makes the world a lot smaller,” he said.
Singer-songwriter Melanie Horsnell, another Candelo-based musician, also collaborates with artists around the world.
During one of her European tours she recorded an album in Paris with musicians she had met and performed with there.
Those connections led to her music being featured on the legendary pirate radio station Radio Caroline by one of its DJs, Mark Dezzani, who broadcasts his show from Seborga, an Italian village overlooking the Riviera.
Dezzani said he was then attracted to Candelo’s “concentration of talented, creative artists making some wonderful music”.
“Quite frankly, it’s just the quality of the music. I always put them alongside great artists, with Joni Mitchell into Melanie, or playing Heath Cullen into, you know, an obvious one would be Elvis Costello,” he said.
Mark Dezzani broadcasting on Radio Caroline from his studio in Seborga, Italy, looking over the border with France across the Riviera. (ABC South East NSW: Bill Brown)
It’s a connection that in turn has international musicians playing in Candelo.
Georgio Valentino is originally from Florida, now based in Europe and heard of Candelo from Mark Dezzani, and so he added Candelo to his recent Australia tour, bringing Australia’s Dave Graney and Clare Moore with him.
“They were just as interested as I was to see what’s going on here,” he said.
Graney, who with Moore, has carved a legendary status in Australian music said the pair liked playing to rural audiences who were there to listen.
Their tour with Valentino was the result of them working together last year in Melbourne with Mick Harvey, formerly with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
“There’s nothing like personal connections,” said Graney.
Valentino said that the connections were typical of networking and collaboration among artists seeking broader horizons and new audiences.
“Playing music, discussing enjoying and appreciating music, is about as close to human universals as you can get.”
Lindy Hume said there were a number of creative communities around Australia with similar productivity and global reach.
“There are little communities around Australia and the world where artists come together and something special happens, and Candelo just happens to be one of them,” she said.
She said one of the factors was that rural communities provided an affordable lifestyle in an environment that was also ideal for creativity.
“It’s here, away from the white noise of the urban landscape that we’re at our most productive, focussed and inspired.
“It’s not like I’m moving away from the world. I feel like I’m moving more deeply into my own creative sphere.”