JUTE’s innovative touring program gains recognition

JUTE Theatre Company’s collaborative partnership with Planz Town Planning, Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council and playwright Isaac Drandic has culminated in a national planning award for Back on Track – an innovative touring project promoting road safety and behavioural change using the power of theatre.

The award coincides with this week’s 2022 Back on Track launch comprising a 10-stop tour starting in Mossman and including week-long residencies in some of the remotest parts of Far North Queensland including Bamaga, Mapoon, Weipa, Aurukun, and Lockhart River.

Representing Back on Track’s fellow collaborators, Cairns-based, Planz Town Planning Director, Nikki Huddy travelled to Tasmania to collect the Community Wellbeing and Diversity award at the Planning Institute of Australia’s 2022 Awards for Planning Excellence held in Hobart last week.

Ms Huddy said she was thrilled to receive recognition by the country’s peak planning organisation for creative industries, and the role arts plays in building better places, connecting communities and influencing change.

“Back on Track shows that there is real strength in cross-industry collaborations and making a positive impact.

“Using a creative approach to communicating important road safety messages has been a bigger success than any of us could have anticipated.

“And yet, Back on Track is much more than providing entertainment. It is about citizenship and within that context, giving agency to children and the valuable role they play in communities,” Ms Huddy said.

JUTE Theatre Company’s Artistic Direct and CEO Suellen Maunder said winning the national title is the ultimate endorsement for the impact theatre can have in the lives of young people in remote centres.

“Back on Track is what happens when people work together for a unified purpose. It was Nikki Huddy who saw the power of JUTE’s Dare to Dream remote tour and residency program and brought communities together to develop a road safety focussed program.

“We are so proud of this project and the way it beautifully connects and resonates with audiences living in regional and remote communities,” Ms Maunder said.

“On the strength of the original touring project, the Department of Transport and Main Roads has now funded the program for another four and a half years,” she said.

Written and directed by Noongar man, Isaac Drandic, Back on Track launched the first of JUTE’s two, 2021 Dare to Dream touring projects that comprised weeklong residencies in Kowanyama, Mapoon, Pormpuraaw, Yarrabah and Djarragun College.

JUTE Theatre Company’s Dare to Dream touring and residency program was established in 2016 with the objective to support, engage and inspire Indigenous students, living in the remote and far reaches of Far North Queensland, to think and express themselves and aspirations through theatre.

Dare to Dream incorporates the creation, development, production, and touring of motivating, meaningful and message driven stories made for First Nations audiences by First Nations artists. The key to the program is the all-Indigenous cast and crew and four-day intensive theatre residency in each community.

To date, JUTE Theatre Company’s Dare to Dream series has presented Proppa Solid (2016 and 2017), Bukal (2018), The Longest Minute (2019), Back on Track (2021 & 2022) and Get Your Geek On (2021).

Back on Track is a two-hander production featuring actors, Taeg Twist and Leonard Donahue, with music by David Hudson and costume and set by Cairns artist Hayley Gillespie.

Back on Track is about a young boy who lives with his grandmother following a road tragedy that killed his mum and dad. The young boy, who harbours his own dream to by a world champion moto-x rider, is working hard to attain his goal, but almost comes a cropper when he himself, has a riding accident. While battered and bruised, his life is spared thanks to his good sense to wear a safety helmet.

Find out more about the production and award on JUTE’s website.

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