The Boneyard Sessions, a collective of musicians who play together and showcase music being made in and about life outside major cities have recently taken the concept on the road, thanks to funding through the Regional Arts Fund (RAF). The aim of the tour was to share live music with audiences that can’t access entertainment as easily as their urban neighbours, and showcase local musicians on stage and through digital content created along the way.
The roadshow toured across four communities, starting in Broken Hill, and then making its way across to Dubbo, Bourke and finishing in Wilcannia. Each destination saw a live, two-hour show of storytelling and music, with six touring artists, and one locally based artist from each community. Each show was opened with a welcome to country from local traditional owners. With a focus on showcasing original music, each performance was done as a songs-in-the-round style, giving each artist the opportunity to perform their original songs to a new audience.
“A few of us had grown up out here and really lamented being young and not being able to get out and see original music very often and not having new people come to town, and so we were keen to offer that to surrounding communities as well,” says Aimee Volkofsky, project lead and featured artist.
The Boneyard Sessions tour and video series created paid performance opportunities for regional musicians and entertainment professionals involved, who have limited chances to perform and tour. It also provided an invaluable opportunity for the participating regional musicians to gain exposure and build a fanbase in new regional communities.
“Part of why I wanted to do the songs-in-the-rounds style was that I found often in little towns like this where you don’t get the opportunity to perform original songs, musicians might only have one or two originals, and so asking them to do an entire set might not be possible,” says Aimee.
“Our local artist from Bourke, Robert Knight, performed a song that he wrote back in the 80’s and it’s an amazing song, that might not have really been heard because he didn’t make an entire album. There are hidden gems like that all around these places.”
The tour brought together communities that were recently recovering from the effects of a long-term drought and then a global pandemic, creating an opportunity to reconnect and enjoy the performances as a collective.
“Obviously during COVID-19 and lockdown everyone was really missing those community gatherings. When we were in Dubbo, we heard so many stories like that from the community, of people just being grateful to be together in a space again. It was really beautiful,” Aimee reflects.
“Maari Ma Health, the local Indigenous health support service in Wilcannia put on a barbeque for the whole community. We didn’t even ask them to, they just made it happen. It really felt like the community really gathered around us wherever we were.”
Another important element of the tour was to create videos of each musician performing their original music, showcasing each location through film, and bringing the tour back to its original roots of filming artists in the bush.
“I got each artist to take me to a spot that was really special for them, and so we got to visit some really cool parts of the bush to make those films,” says Aimee.
The online content created from the tour has given each artist the opportunity to gain exposure and new audiences, attracting thousands of viewers from across the country, with most in Regional NSW and Victoria.
The RAF funding allowed the Boneyard Sessions to create 17 employment and professional development opportunities for local artists and elders. The funding also paid for travel, accommodation, filming and production, and most importantly, cultural consultation and planning.
“Ticket prices alone don’t cover it, so it really would be impossible to do without a grant,” says Aimee.
“The main benefit of the funding was being able to pay the artists, musicians, traditional owners, and all of the local creatives who are trying to carve out a living in these regional towns.”
The touring aspect of the project allowed Aimee and the other touring artists to build relationships with venues and creatives across Western NSW, which has created the opportunity for more collaborations and performances in the future.
To check out the videos created throughout the tour, visit The Boneyard Sessions on YouTube.