How the ‘We’re All Going To Die’ Festival Was Born (and Why You Should Go)

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For those who fear and dream.

Photo by Jack Shepherd

“Fear less, live more. We’re all going to die either way.” So says Stefan Hunt, the artist and filmmaker who successfully crowd-funded a festival called We’re All Going To Die into existence. Using the topic of death to shift our perspective on fear (and, hopefully, loosen its hold on our lives), the celebration will see international artists lend their talents to panel discussions, interactive installations, a mini film-festival and some mysterious undertakings including “judgement baths” and “death mediation”.

“The whole thing is an amusement park for your soul,” says Stef, currently in the throes of preparing for the festival’s Sydney launch at COMMUNE this week. “[There’ll be] stuff that will make you weep silent tears, roar with laughter, ponder the meaning of life and hug your friends.” With plans to roll out a series of WAGTD themed events across Australia and internationally, here’s what else this creative had to tell us…

Why is fear an issue that you wanted to tackle?

Fear sucks and needs to be kicked in the nuts. There’s the wellness industry that thrives on packaging an unrealistic image of happiness and selling it to you for lots of profit and then there’s those government mental health platforms with bad websites and beige copy. I wanted to create something that used art, creativity and a sense of humour to reach out to people like me using the language we spoke.

What’s your personal experience of fear – and how have you overcome it?

About two years ago I suffered from crippling anxiety. I ended up on the Camino de Santiago, which is a five-week pilgrimage through Spain. I walked up to 12 hours on some days through the Spanish countryside with blistered feet and all my belongings on my back. There was no set deadline to finish and my body was in so much pain that on some days it was just about getting one foot in front of the other. So it became about the journey, not the finish line, and that became a powerful metaphor for following through with creative projects and life in general – sometimes you gotta keep at it, even if your feet are blistered.

How did you come up with the idea for this WAGTD?

A few months before I walked the Camino, I was told by a friend that a great way to deal with my fear of the unknown is to write. So one day, sitting on a cliff and looking out over some bloody beautiful Aussie ocean, I penned the poem, We’re All Going To Die. As soon as I wrote those words, I had found certainty – I found the one thing that I was guaranteed in this life. This caused an insane perspective shift on my little day-to-day internal fears. Also it’s catchy, you can’t ignore a title like that, so it’s a rad way to start a conversation.

How did it come together – and what were your biggest fears around making it happen?

Six months ago, I illustrated my original poem and turned it into a children’s book for adults. I was floored when it got picked up by an American publishing company Inspire Goods. I then decided that, since I’m a filmmaker, I wanted to turn the story into a short film. Fast forward another few months and we’re gearing up to fill COMMUNE’s labyrinth of warehouse spaces for this festival with over 100 artists, volunteers and producers. It’s become such a huge project that I’ve had to quit freelance work for the year and pour my entire savings into this. So do I have fears? Of course I do. Fears that no-one will turn up, fears that everything will go wrong and fears that I bit off more than I can chew. But even if I fail it all, well… we’re all going to die anyway, right?

We’re All Going To Die debuts in Sydney on Friday November 17. Buy tickets here.

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