Any creative will know that fear is a common obstacle to success but what if you could have someone to work with – to support and champion your ideas, give constructive feedback and generally become a sounding board for your artistic endeavours?
This is the aim of a new Sydney-based ‘unconference’, aptly named Make Nice: An Unconference for Creative Women, which is part of Vivid Sydney‘s upcoming Vivid Ideas program. But what exactly is an unconference?
“An un-conference style event is an informal exchange of information and ideas between participants,” Make Nice co-director Ngaio Parr tells Collective Hub. “We have an amazing line up of presenters and panelists, but we also know that the attendees in the room have a wealth of knowledge and we want to engage with and take advantage of that breadth of knowledge. We want our attendees to feel like they’re an essential part of the event, part of the movement, because they are.”
This free exchange of ideas between panelists and attendees is the model of creative support and collaboration that Ngaio and co-director Alexandra Winters, who are both multidisciplinary artists, felt was lacking in Australia when they compared the industry to their experience of creating in other countries. Both Ngaio and Alex spent considerable time living and working in New York and when they returned home, they struggled to find their place in the creative sphere. “We experienced an enormous amount of generosity of knowledge and network sharing that we found really difficult to create in Australia,” Ngaio explains. “Returning to Australia, we both had to work really hard to make any kind of real camaraderie and support.”
“I don’t know if it’s because the market is so competitive, or because work is often isolated and on the fringe, but we didn’t want it to be as difficult for other women. We wanted to model the same kind of support here in Australia and work towards a more collective approach.”
The girls decided to pool their collective frustration and create the very community they felt was lacking.
“At first we just complained amongst ourselves,” Ngaio says, “But we realised after a while that no one else was going to do it and that we needed to ‘walk the walk’ and create something to make a change.”
That was just over a year ago. Now, the unconference is in full force ready for launch on June 2nd, with a broad spectrum of creative women in attendance to draw inspiration from and have a chat with: there’s LA-based set designer and art director Adi Goodrich, who has worked on Apple campaigns and music videos with Macklemore, as well as French graphic designer, illustrator and art director Leslie David, who counts Chanel and The New York Times on her client list.
“Alex and I… both felt drawn to these women for the scope and integrity of their practice,” Ngaio explains of their line-up of international and local speakers. “What we love about all of our speakers is that they are have stories and insights that are applicable across multiple creative fields, whether the attendee shares the same role as them or not. What was essential to us is that they were willing to share their knowledge and experience across the full three days. Our presenters will be participating and engaging in the whole event, right alongside our attendees.”
That spirit of support and collaboration will be carefully fostered too: at the end of the unconference, event attendees receive exclusive access to an online platform where their new contacts will be easily accessible, in order to continue the exchange of ideas and knowledge after the event wraps.
“We want the women who attend Make Nice to recognise that they are a part of an exciting moment in their industry and are empowered to be the game-changers that they want to see,” Ngaio says.
The three days of keynote presentations, panels and round-table discussions will also be supplemented with opening drinks at the new inner city cellar door of Cake Wines in Redfern, friendly breakfasts as well as coffee and tea chat time and a dance party so attendees can meet and secure friends as well as new collaborators.
The decision to have the festival as female-focused was a deliberate attempt to foster the securing of a fresh new support group for female creatives. Even the name of the event, Make Nice, is also a play on the idea of both the creation of nice things and the building of a genuine relationship
“Our priority is to build a supportive female creative community in Australia, and we feel making the event for those who identify as female is central to this. It isn’t about providing a female perspective on the industry, rather we want to create time and space for women to address their concerns and re-imagine their role within the industry as a whole. We believe that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ and want Make Nice to be the platform where we can model this.”
As two creative working women themselves, Ngaio and Alex are in the perfect position to know exactly what creative women need to move forward creatively and vocationally.
“Support networks and collaboration are important because we work in an industry whose different areas – be it photography, publishing, design – have very specific skill sets,” Ngaio explains. “These specialities and bodies of knowledge usually take years to master and then additional years build a name and reputation in the industry. We really believe that pooling skill sets, knowledge, networks and connections when collaborating leads to higher quality work, diversity of practice, as well as exponentially increasing your reach and visibility.”
As for fear?
“I’ve been working successfully in the creative industries for over a decade and I’m still scared almost every day,” Ngaio admits. “I don’t think the issue is being scared, I think what is important is learning to be comfortable sitting in that uncomfortable feeling.”
And a great new group of creative friends can certainly help with the comfort factor.
Make Nice: An Un-conference for Women is part of the Vivid Sydney’s Vivid Ideas program. To see more inspiring events from the Light, Music and Ideas schedule (27 May-18 June) and purchase tickets, visit Vivid Sydney.