Magazine article Metro Magazine

Singing a New Story: The Logan Project

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Singing a New Story: The Logan Project

Article excerpt

This two-part SBS documentary recounts Logan's event Under This Sky--held in the city as part of the Queensland Music Festival--and showcases the experiences of select cast members from audition to performance. According to Rebekah Brammer, both the film and the festival highlight the power of the arts to bridge cultures and bring people together.

[It's] about reclaiming and taking ownership back of our story [...] being able to tell it the way we want to tell it. --Mad Mike, performer, Under This Sky

The Logan Project, a two-part television documentary, was screened on SBS on Australia Day 2016. It chronicles the biennial Queensland Music Festival (QMF), a major event that takes place in various Queensland regions and involves 'large-scale engagement and community participation' in 'music-making and performances that reflect local culture and tell local stories'. (1) In 2015, the chosen destination was Logan, a former fringe shire of Brisbane that was declared a city in its own right in 1981, (2) Over a period of eighteen months, the QMF team worked with Logan locals to create the public live-music event Under This Sky, held over two nights in August to an audience of over 15,000. The lineup showcased over 700 performers, (3) including schools, community groups, local choirs, and a cast and orchestra whose members were selected following auditions shown in the documentary. Unlike previous QMF events, Under This Sky showcased all-original music written by local singer/songwriters with assistance from QMF mentors, stemming from the Song Trails workshop series. (4)

Although the documentary features interviews with key QMF staff who worked on Under This Sky, including artistic director James Morrison, creative director Sean Mee, music director Morganics, choral director Cath Mundy, writer and assistant director David Burton, and producer Tara Hobbs, The Logan Project primarily tells its story through the eyes of a selection of performers. These include people of all ages and from a range of cultures: a schoolgirl and her self-confessed 'stage mum' (who is also a local police officer), aspiring musicians from Indigenous and Islander backgrounds, single mums and dads, and migrants and refugees. The documentary presents viewers not only with artistic journeys, but personal ones as well, as we are taken into the homes of each featured cast member, meeting their families and learning more about their individual struggles. The cross-generational and cross-cultural mix is reflective of the community itself, which the documentary claims has more cultures than New York City, with a quarter of its population born outside Australia.

The first episode opens with vox pops involving a number of the festival's key players, which introduce the background and ethos of the project. Mee states that Logan can be seen as a 'microcosm of Australia' and that the city wants to 'change its narrative'. These sentiments underpin the documentary's aim to show both the diversity of participants in the Under This Sky project and their need to tell a new story about their city. Details regarding Under This Sky's development are juxtaposed with news and other media footage of negative stories of Logan, including 'gang wars' between groups of young people of various racial and cultural backgrounds. Interestingly, all the clips are from commercial news and current-affairs shows, and highlight the fact that sensationalist coverage of such events can reinforce the negative reputations of localities such as Logan. For those outside it--in the greater Brisbane area and beyond--such stories cement the image of the city as dangerous and not somewhere one would opt to live. Whether or not the documentary's featured artists chose to grow up or reside in Logan, they have certainly decided to remain there as residents, and their interest in the project grew from the opportunity to not only celebrate their city, but also pursue their own artistic dreams and take part in a collective creative experience that will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for most. …

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