By Kendrea Rhodes
Image: community volunteers from Fabrik Arts + Heritage, gathering on the green at the Lobethal Woollen Mill. Fabrik have been instrumental in the support for the fire affected community. Their final exhibition for the year, Regenerate, showcases the ways in which the community have responded to 2020 using creative practice.
As the year draws to an end there is a very good chance that 2020 will become an adage for disaster, a symbol representing a cascade of staggering events unfolding worldwide. There’s been Covid-19 of course, but also civil rights, human rights, politics, war, climate change, extreme weather, accidents, and natural disasters.
There’s one event in 2020 that is very close to home in the Adelaide Hills: the twelve-month anniversary of the Cudlee Creek bushfire. For many, 2020 is marred by the devastating effects of this disaster that are still felt emotionally, mentally, financially, and physically. Many are still living in temporary housing and have the arduous task ahead of organising permanent housing, whether that is buying, building, or rebuilding.
Occasions to gather, laugh, plan, create, and heal have been hindered by Covid-19 restrictions, but Hills people have found opportunities through the generosity of the Adelaide Hills Council and Fabrik Arts + Heritage (Lobethal Woollen Mill). These opportunities have created an escape from 2020 restrictions and are important for wellbeing and recovery within the community.
Fabrik Director, Melinda Rankin, has worked with the community exploring ways that Fabrik can aid and support people in their recovery after the bushfires.
‘The arts offer more than just a distraction—they provide a way for people to process what has happened,’ Melinda said.
‘Immersing in a creative project can work a bit like meditation, creating a space where you are totally focused in the current moment, rather than on anxieties and concerns. Gathering with others is also important, to share experiences and to give and receive support. Covid restrictions interrupted this process and our programs this year aimed to find ways for people to gather safely and supportively.’
In January 2020, people began to gather at Fabrik, and not just because the Bushfire Recovery Centre was there. Creative groups, strangers, and friends spent time together on their craft, weaving, drawing, stitching, knitting, painting, spinning, and writing. This grew out of a need to comfort and support one another, to regain a bit of ‘normal’ and for personal wellbeing. The first two groups to emerge were art and art journaling.
At the beginning of 2020, local artist and teacher Anne Griffiths restarted her art groups for children and adults. Anne has run local art classes for over a decade in Lobethal, and with Fabrik’s support, she was able to start her classes early and free of charge. This enabled creative expression and relaxed discussions that didn’t centre on disaster experiences or loss.
Adelaide Hills counsellor Rosie Rowlands facilitated art journaling shortly after the bushfires. Rosie has been involved with art journaling for many years and said, ‘research shows that keeping a journal can unleash a host of physical and psychological benefits including lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, improved sleep, dissipating anger, and easing depression.’
Fabrik Arts + Heritage has a loyal host of local volunteers who assist with gallery sitting, exhibition installations, hospitality, marketing, marshalling, and creative needs. At the volunteer Christmas party, Melinda Rankin commended the volunteers, explaining how the success of Fabrik, during a bushfire and Covid-restricted year, could not have been achieved without such dedicated volunteers.
Caitlin Golding is a student at Adelaide College of the Arts and has been a volunteer at Fabrik for almost two years. ‘As a volunteer, being socially involved in a place like this is regenerative in itself,’ Caitlin said.
Regenerate opens on 11 December and features work from community workshop groups, local schools (Lobethal, Lenswood, and Woodside), local artists, and outcomes of Creative Recovery workshops held at Fabrik. It is supported by the Bushfire Recovery Program.
‘At the one-year anniversary of the Cudlee Creek Bushfire, Regenerate shares ways in which our Hills community has responded to this significant event through creative practice,’ Fabrik website.
Regenerate will open every day, 11am-4pm, from 11–20 December. Please visit their website for more information: fabrik.org.au/ whats-on /#exhibitions
The Busy Kids Christmas Craft workshop is supported by the Bushfire Recovery Program and will run for nine days (12–20 December). Some children are missing their usual Christmas decorations because their shed or home was destroyed during the bushfires, so this workshop provides an opportunity for activity, creativity, and the practical needs of every home decorating for Christmas. Activities are free, but bookings are essential, so please visit the Fabrik website for more information: fabrik.org.au/ busy-kids-christmas-craft
Fabrik have worked closely with the Cudlee Creek Community Recovery team. Workshops such as Busy Kids Christmas Craft are part of their Creative Recovery Program, which has also included ceramics, mindful photography, and mandala making. Workshops will continue in the new year, so check their website for more information: fabrik.org.au/ creative-recovery-program
From 16 December, within the Fabrik buildings at the Mill, you will also find a crafting library for the bushfire affected community. The library is staffed by volunteers in collaboration with Fabrik.
Available for lending (either take home or use on site) are items for most crafts, including spinning wheels, books, a loom, sewing machines, and items for quilting (rotary cutter, cutting mat, rulers). The idea is to return the major machinery, books, knitting needles, but keep the consumables which include threads, material, and yarns.
One of the volunteers, Lobethal local Kirsty Emery, said that many people find themselves living in smaller accommodation, without room for craft machinery.
‘People invested a lot into their hobby before the fires, and when they lost everything, investing again in these major ticket items is a low priority,’ Kirsty said.
Space is available at the crafting library if people would like to pursue their craft outside of their home.
‘Crafting with your hands aids mental health, it’s also a part of who you are,’ Kirsty said.
This is a great idea for sustainability too if you have items to repair or alter.
The crafting library is open every Wednesday from 16 December, 10am–3pm, and everything is free of charge. Funding was supplied through Miranda Hampton from the Cudlee Creek Community Recovery Program (Dept. Premier and Cabinet).
‘We are thrilled to collaborate on this project. There is much evidence that engaging with the arts can benefit wellbeing, and the crafting library puts this into practice in our community,’ Fabrik Public Programs Officer, René Strohmayer said.