I was never an Urban Myther through my youth, but in 2012, the company allowed me my first chance to Production Manage a show professionally when I also stage managed their premiere production of The Girl Who Was 100 Girls at their (then) brand new home the Goodwood Institute.
I’d been chatting to Glen about the show, and chance to work with him and his company, for a while, and after having seen the cramped but well utilised original location in Unley, I knew just a little what a big exciting step forward the move to the under utilised, beautiful, hidden gem of the Goodwood Institute would be for Urban Myth.
Extra rehearsal spaces, galleries, a new performance space or two, a new and excited council and community to engage with, employment opportunities for a host of locals to run, manage and coordinate it all, and the prospect of oh so much more.. the Institute was just what Urban Myth needed to step up and develop the next phase of its existence as not just the place young people could go to play act and learn about theatre, but which would support them for as long as they wanted to be engaged with the arts. And boy, did these young people want in to the arts.
Over more than 30 years, Urban Myth has been providing a home for young people across Adelaide to feel safe, creative, and learn all about the team work, confidence and skills involved in both performing and working in the creative arts. Through games, trust exercises and just making good (really good) theatre, the company has franchised the disenfranchised (if that’s a term) put smiles on faces and helped create a LOT of the faces which have gone from Adelaide to all the best arts training colleges around the country.. then come back for their industry start, and to give back to the little company that gave them theirs.
In my experience, Urban gave everyone a great, safe, space to explore and grow. With likeminded folk all around, and all supportive, everyone thrived. Engaging with some of Adelaide’s finest designers, directors, and creative personnel to deliver workshops and create new and innovative works, all involved learnt heaps, and found themselves giving back even more. Inevitably, productions were top notch, and – though biased because I worked on it – there was something extra wonderful about 100 Girls, a work new and written specially for the ensemble.
But I speak with too many ‘was’es and past tenses. Too much like Urban Myth is a gone dead thing of the past. And I don’t want that.
Unfortunately, news out of the company lately has suggested this might soon be the case, with the following issued as part of the press release detailing the impending meeting to discuss the voluntary winding up of the company.
“After having 63% of their funding cut when Australia Council withdraw their triennial funding in 2011, a lot of companies would not have been able to keep their doors open. Urban Myth has done everything it can to stay alive over the last 3 years for its members and community by trying to build alternate sources of revenue including moving into the Goodwood Institute.
Unfortunately, on the back of post GFC, 2 elections (state/federal), pressure on corporate sponsorship dollars, competitiveness with grants and a variety of unforeseen challenges with licensing/WHS and heritage restrictions within the Institute, the company has not been successful in building alternate revenue streams fast enough. While it has decreased reliance on government funding to less than 25% which is incredibly unique for the not-for-profit space, unfortunately cash flow constraints have led to the making of this decision.” [Source: http://urbanmytheatrecompany.blogspot.com.au/]
I hope it doesn’t come to this because young people need spaces and places like Urban Myth to discover themselves, build confidence and grow into active community members. (Hell, I wish I was an Urban Myther when I was growing up!)
Sure, Adelaide now has the True North Youth Theatre Ensemble, [http://truenorthyouththeatreensemble.com.au/], and Cirkidz [http://www.cirkidz.org.au/], and others, all of which are Awesome at doing similar things to what Urban Myth has always done (I specifically, as an adult, attended class at Cirkidz and LOVED it!) but there is an energy, and a heritage, about Urban Myth that takes a very very very long time to foster. Cirkidz have it too, but they don’t do theatre like Urban Myth does theatre. There are generations of artists who got their start there, found their essential selves within its walls, and put themselves back on the rails when they found they were at risk of going off. If it goes, Urban leaves behind an awesome legacy, and a new generation of disenfranchised youth. If we lose it now Adelaide will never have another theatre focussed youth group quite like Urban Myth. So lets hope it stays shall we? For our sakes, the mere mortals staring in wonder at the achievements and storytelling of the stellar individuals within it.
And then there’s the theatre. Adelaide needs the 212 seat Goodwood Institute Theatre, its incredibly deep stage and just a very short tram ride away from the CBD location. With a revitalised Adelaide arts scene, regularly open bar/cafe and forward planning, the Institute is the venue Adelaide vocally craves, and with some work to help it and Urban out of the funding shortfall, it could still, very very easily become profitable, and Adelaide’s answer to the Malthouse Theatre, with everyone in the state reaping the rewards of a richer creative scene and venue for hire.
So this, I guess, is my contribution to the staggering number of messages, comments and passionate pleas currently going around about Urban Myth.
Adelaide needs Urban Myth. We need what it gives to the young people who come through its doors and walk taller on their way out. We need our creatives nurtured. We need it to exist, and we need it to be financially stable and sustainable. Better minds than mine know how to accomplish this best, but I for one would like, before the company dies, every effort at every level made to secure it the stability it needs to exist long into the future.
Alas, I don’t know how we do that, but if you have any ideas, money or know of powerful people who could help, please get in touch with the company via its website.
- Stephen Moylan, LinkAdelaide founder and Freelancer