The Cassettes perform in the The Quad for Artstate 2017 in Lismore.
The Cassettes perform in the The Quad for Artstate 2017 in Lismore. Alex Clarke

Artstate gives Lismore a shot in the arm

IF YOU weren't aware of the part The Lismore Quandrangle is going to play in the life of our city, you will be now.

For me, it was this new space in the CBD that was the star of the festival during Artstate 2017 this past weekend.

Everywhere you looked, there were children and elderly, rockers and classical lovers, arty peeps and members of the LGBTI community. The heart was beating in the middle of town and the New Regional Gallery was going off.

As elder Poppy Harry Mundine Walker said to the crowd in the opening ceremony made up of our regional folk, indigenous mobs, Artstate administrators and dignitaries, "welcome to all my people, and I mean everyone because we are all here together.”

There was atmosphere and wonder in the air. Everywhere you went people were commenting:" Isn't this great; this is just what Lismore needs. Things are changing."

The shops around the block were all full and buzzing; new galleries like The Outpost, in the Old Post Office, and the Bundjalung Art exhibition, where the pet shop used to be on Keen Street, were popping up in unused spaces all over the place.

I felt just one frustration; I couldn't be everywhere, all at once.

It was great to see such a large turn out for the opening on the Thursday night. I felt we were all cicadas in chorus waiting for Rhoda Roberts' choreographed Djanda Mandi Gingerlah show to begin. Things looked perilous when the heavens opened up soaking all but the pollies on stage. We were tested by their speeches but, like true Far North Coasters, we prevailed through the drenching.

We believed it when Poppy Harry Mundine Walker instructed the leader of the ceremony to make the rain stop for the performance. And, it did.

"Grandfather was just making sure we'd all had a bath before bed time,” he said. Rhoda Roberts later described it as "a cleansing".

Suffice to say, everyone was blown away by the performance. Roberts really did manage to remind of us all of the Bunjalung magic that exists within the "fabric of our region”.

We then swung on with the Spaghetti Circus at the 1920s Swing Party and "Got Physical" with The Cassettes.

On Friday I managed to get to NORPA's performance of Djurra but that was not the end of the evening's drama. In our CBD lanes was The Overtopping, a new work created for Artstate by RealArtWorks Inc, combining almost every creative incarnation on offer to and from our community of people of mixed abilities. The passion with which they summed up all we went through in the floods, was so evocative and true.

National Disability Day fell this week. The Overtopping showed we were doing a pretty good job in Lismore of engaging our diverse community.

I made ade sure I was at City Hall first thing on Saturday to catch the "Creative Partnerships" element of the convention.

Karoline Sofie Tveitnes Trollvik is the director of the Riddu Riddu Festival celebrating the Sami people in Norway.

The message was: give First Nations communities artistic expression and you champion a culture and create cross-indigenous dialogue".

There was no forgetting our children over the weekend. Colours performers played a mean game of grandmother's footsteps at The Con and Bunny Racket created a mean mini moshpit in front of the stage while Keen Street hummed to the sounds of the Quad at the vintage market.

Like a homing pigeon, I was back at The Quad for drinky poos in the late afternoon. This got me very excited, especially when I heard that Slate Cafe were applying for a liquor licence so they could provide on-going evening atmosphere in the centre of town to just relax and chill. The bar, set up by The Gallery, was a total hit.

I wished I'd been able to stay for the evenings' program - which included the likes of Blackboi with orchestra and The Wharves - but I had to put in an appearance at The Artstate dinner at The Workers Club. On the way I checked out the action at the Transit Centre. Teddy Lewis King got a crowd of Hip Hop junkies - youths and kids alike - up and spinning in front of hooting onlookers. It really was cool.

My festival ended in in hysterics at The very Cheeky Cabaret at The Star Court followed by a night cap at the Lismore City Bowlo, still pumping tunes of Tullara at midnight.

Lismore, you exhausted me.

But no rest for the wicked in our new space in the centre of town.

From 6am Sunday at The Quad, Macca and the Australia All Over team are doing their live ABC broadcast from the Gallery. The Lord's Tavener's will be providing a BBQ breakfast, and Slate cafe will be open from about 7am for coffee.

Might see you there.