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RAF Case Study 1: Barking down the stigma

The Regional Arts Fund (RAF) grant program supports sustainable cultural development in regional and remote Australia. The latest RAF project has been two years in the making and has come from a very personal place, with an incredibly important message for young adolescence.

FLING Physical Theatre is set to present their new production My Black Dog this August in Bega. The production has been developed to support youth mental health in regional and remote locations, seeking to break down stigma and help generate conversation on an issue that is often difficult to talk about.

One in four young people will experience a mental health issue of some kind within their life. Many young people do not seek professional help out of fear of being stigmatized, bullied, or maybe not recognizing that they need support. FLING’s My Black Dog aims to address the stigma surrounding Mental Health and generate conversation within the community.

My Black Dog has been created with the FLING Company, directed by Melbourne based artist Kate Denborough, in collaboration with Co-Artistic Directors Gabrielle Rose and Rob McCredie. Denborough has a strong reputation for creating dynamic original works as Co-Artistic Director of KAGE, including works engaging with health issues with openness and sensitivity.

Denborough began working with the performers in July 2018, exploring their ideas and experiences around mental health issues affecting our community, aiming to reflect an honest and realistic depiction of a teenager’s experience. The process revealed that young people in the region know a lot about mental health, they are not afraid to talk about it, and they want to express their experiences.

Denborough states that “It has been a remarkable experience to witness the courage and talent of the cast of My Black Dog. They are committed to exposing truths by sharing their personal experiences to open up a conversation about adolescent depression and anxiety.”

FLING has partnered with mental health practitioners to support the safe delivery of the project including Jen Kieoskie from NSW Health and Liz Scott from Headspace Bega, as well as connecting with welfare officers from local high schools.

Gabrielle Rose, Co Artistic Director expressed how incredibly supportive Regional Arts NSW have been, “We have experienced RAF support on previous projects and this type of deep seed funding is crucial for regional creative projects like ours.”

As the play features high school performers it is difficult to plan a tour, however the second part of this program is that they are also developing Health and Wellbeing Workshops to be rolled out into High Schools around the Bega region.

These Health and Wellbeing Workshops are arrranged into four primary themes:

  1. Getting to know yourself
  2. Generating self-empathy and passion
  3. How we consume (e.g. social media, toxic vs positive)
  4. Practical tools and facts around self-care

My Black Dog is on from August 13-17 at 6pm at the Bega Showground Pavilion. For more information and tickets, go to FLING Physical Theatre.

Applications for Regional Arts Fund (RAF) Community Grants close 25 August 2019 for projects commencing in the following calendar year. For more information on the Regional Arts Fund (RAF), head to the Grants page of the website.

Photo credit: Fling Physical Theatre