Message from our Patrons – 2020
Chris Hill and Gwen Knox are delighted and honoured to be patrons of Shinju Matsuri this year. It is a significant part of the 50-year celebrations, of one of the oldest Festivals in Australia.
Gwen’s connection with the Festival goes back to the ‘Ship of Dreams’ (1968) in which she played the part of a ghost and her mother was the on ground ‘go to’ person. The success of the play by Mary Durack gave the civic fathers and mothers the idea, that they should create an annual event that celebrated the unique community of Broome. This would allow the celebration and sharing of the blended cultures, emerging arts scene and our fantastic environment, while also encouraging more tourists to visit the town. In 1969 when it all started, Broome was a small remote place at the end of dirt road with a population of a few thousand people.
Phyllis Knox and a group of other civic minded people started the first Shinju Matsuri Festival, and as her child, it was impossible for Gwen not to become involved. In fact, the whole family have been immersed in Shinju Matsuri in many ways, especially the Float Parade. When Phyllis died the family created an Art Award in her name, for the Shinju Art awards, an event in the Festival program that was very dear to her heart. There have not been many Shinju parades where someone in the family, and sometimes the whole family, has not been involved since it began. Gwen left town at the end of the 70’s to return at the end of the 80’s, after several years at university with Chris Hill. The combination of Chris’s degree in fine Arts and Gwen’s, in Social Science, made a team with a deep commitment in the value of the Arts, in building strong communities.
They have always been heavily involved in creating visual and performing artworks for Shinju Matsuri which ranged from creating community participatory, large musical lantern productions on the foreshore of Town beach, large floats for the parade, and coordinating the artistic look and feel of the festival.
Chris’s involvement began when he became member of the legs team for Sammy the Dragon in the 90’s, while Gwen, also a puppet builder, began doing all the major repairs on Sammy, who takes a battering during each float parade. Chris took on the role as Festival artist for many years with his artworks gracing the streets and stages of the Festival. Originally a Fine Artist, with several successful art exhibitions, he gradually became more involved in designing and constructing theatre sets especially for Broome’s iconic events such as Theatre Kimberley’s Worn Art, Sandfly Circus, Bust Out and Goolarri Media’s award winning Kimberley Girl showcase.
Gwen worked as Artistic director of the Festival for couple of years. Her Big MAMA- a 4 metre high puppet, built with Barbara Richards and Kirsty Maley, took out the major prize for the float parade in 1993. Other floats include a giant bilby, pursued down the road by a giant well-endowed tom cat, a monster barramundi, and the Good Ship Shinju – a large lantern lugger. She developed Theatre Kimberley as artistic director and was integral in the creation of ‘Worn Art’, ‘Sandfly Circus’, ‘Bust Out Cabaret’ including a revival of ‘Ship of Dreams’ in 2008.
Shinju Matsuri has played a huge part in the lives of kids who have grown up in Broome and people who have made the long – term commitment of making this place their home. It is such an important Festival for its role in developing community cohesion and wellbeing. The Festival belongs to all of us and I hope we all continue to embrace it, get involved and keep it going for many years to come, and have fun doing it.
Congratulations to the Shinju Matsuri Board, who all volunteer their time to steer this wonderful beast. May your commitment, planning and hard work, culminate in a very happy and successful Festival.
Chris Hill and Gwen Knox