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Small Island Big Song

Feb 19, 2019

Small Island Big Song is a multi-faceted project, collaborating with Indigenous artists sharing Austronesian heritage across the Indian and Pacific oceans.

The project is presented as a music album, concert, art installation and website.

The Australia Council supported the project with funding during the recording/filming process for work with Australian Torres Strait Islanders on Thursday Island, as well as with Indigenous artists in Papua New Guinea. A grant was also received to support a concert tour of Europe, to coincide with the European release of the CD.

We asked them about what it is like to submit a grant, and their tips for success.

Did you communicate with Australia Council staff for advice before submitting your application?

Yes, to check the appropriateness of our application. We have always found our calls to the Australia Council staff, supportive and helpful. Even if the advice was ‘sorry no’, we were given other pathways and options.

*Editor’s note: you can even call us toll free- details at the bottom of the page.

Did writing your grant application help you to refine the ideas and framework behind your project/work?

Practice makes perfect and yes ideas evolve and refine. It’s hard to say though what influences results, whilst we are working on the grants, I am also editing the visuals for the show, mixing the music as we organise the tours and future sessions. It all becomes part of the creative environment.

We purposely chose a large scale project beyond the scope of two to realise, to excite the imagination of others and to make it bigger than us so that others feel ownership and contribute. (Our fair trade music contract reflects this financially). The types of grants available do influence the trajectory of the project particularly when we are imagining big outcomes with numerous contributors over a long time.

Which assessment panel did you nominate and why?

Music – Arts projects individuals and groups. At its core ours is a music project and all the contributing artists are musicians. Although it does cross over into other fields.

Which of the third assessment criteria did you select?

International. From the start we approached this project from an International perspective, and with a strategy to fast track it onto the world stage. Principally because climate change is accelerating and whatever influence we may be able to have can’t wait for us to build a following the conventional way. We wanted to launch the project onto the main festival stages of Europe (one of the world’s biggest markets), starting from the top.

To achieve this we needed to show that we can not only deliver a world class main stage show with cultural integrity, but we can also manage the logistics of bringing 10 musicians from remote islands on the other side of the planet to the festivals, coordinating Visa’s, periderms, accom’, transport and wages.

With the support of the Australia Council we completed a five week tour with shows every second day (and more) which continued onto a sellout tour of Taiwan. On the success of those tours we have been able to coordinate European, US and Asia tours for 2019, with 2020 shows already being booked.

If you put yourself in the shoes of the assessors, why do you think your funding application stood out? Or: what do you think is unique or special about your project/work?

I’m just guessing, but I presume because it involves numerous artists particularly from cultures whose voices we don’t hear often, on a subject central to Indigenous cultures, our relationship to our homelands. (With particular regard to climate change). Also, that our contract and methods follow best practice as defined in the Australia Councils protocols for working on Indigenous arts projects by Terri Janke. We also designed a fair trade business structure acknowledging intangible cultural heritage. By that I mean, I know it’s essential for contributors to the project (creative and financial) to know the ethics and integrity of the project is central.

The Small Island Big Song album is now finished and packaged in a handmade paper envelope, alongside a 56 page booklet with full translations and a bamboo toothbrush.

European, UK, USA and Asia tours are on the way for 2019/2020. Stay up to date on their Australian shows.

The visual album, a feature film, will be premiering at the Ubud Indigenous Film Festival in May.

Contact and information:

Find more FAQs and give us a call if you have more questions.

Phone: 02 9215 9000

Toll-free: 1800 226 912