The Most Remarkable Trip

Steffanni Gardener, 2018 Drama Scholar

In September 2018, I found out that I was to be one of the Awardees for Drama and was heading to the UK. As someone from a low socio-economic background and regional heritage this was a really big deal. I was so excited and ready for the experience; I was gone within the month, off on a fast-paced, whirlwind of an adventure. The whole trip has given me depth of experience and expanded my horizons to new ideas, cultures and what can be achieved by the Cultural and Creative Industries. It’s important to me to thank the entire team at BBM and anyone who has made donations. I also need to think the LHA department at the University of Wollongong, Tim Maddock, Carly Young and the entire SPILL Festival team.

Without this Award, it would have been impossible to go overseas. Moreover, it would have been impossible to go overseas purely to focus on my own development. Fully independent, in 2018 I found myself in a job I didn’t love and struggling to fit an art practice into my life. Every position I applied for knocked me back for one reason… experience. I asked BBM to give me that – the chance to see, listen and do – to gain valuable experience. I had a personal criterion for myself, to partake in as much as possible, flex my academic and networking muscles and build my foundation of knowledge as a director. Accessing these core goals proved both difficult and rewarding.

What did I do?

One of my major reasons for going in this time was to be able to volunteer at the SPILL Festival in Ipswich. I volunteered for the full 11 day program. I was the only one to do so, so ended up being quite a leader and had a lot of responsibility. I sometimes had impostor syndrome and felt like I’d tricked them somehow… I discovered this is part of the process, and it was something that I had to work on. It was hard not to be intimidated by all the amazing artists and managers, but it was far more connected and full of love than I thought. I got to meet so many people I looked up to, including the Forced Entertainment cast and the team at Dark Mofo. It was a huge experience, full of new skills and surprises. By the end, I was absolutely drained but walked away with a new family and a whole new skill set.

I think we did the maths and realized I’d done around 70 hours of work in 11 days! The element of tiredness and using team work to get through was a core element of growth. I learnt what my limit is and how to articulate this in a professional environment. Knowing no one was another big learning curve. There was no one to introduce you to someone else or any interconnectedness – it was just me. Learning the right way to introduce myself to different types of people is an invaluable skill. Another great thing about it is they gave me a lovely reference which is now on my CV.

Through this experience I learnt how to manage multiple performance timelines and respond to audience inquiries. I also got an inside look into how a professional arts team coordinates their staff and delegates roles for each performance. It was amazing to have a behind the scenes look at the day-to-day running of a festival whilst it was happening in real time. As I was a volunteer and traveled so far, the team was very gracious and let me really get an insider’s look, something that would be difficult to arrange back home – let alone take the time off work to spend 11 days with an organisation!

An Itinerary…

Shows and Art
  • Scratch Night Live 8 – Camden People’s Theatre
  • Café Otto – Experienced an experimental music night.
  • Modern Couples – Barbican
  • Kinky Boots – The Adelphi Theatre
  • Drag Night at The Glory
  • Drag Night at Royal Vauxhall Tavern
  • The Maids – at HOME
  • The Producers – at Royal Exchange Theatre
  • Cine Club – French film
  • Sightings – Caribou
  • Moulin Rouge – Paris
  • Film Festival at the Whitworth, Manchester
  • Manchester Art Gallery
  • Lightwaves, Manchester – digital and live art
  • Films at the Watershed
  • Lion King – Lyceum Theatre
  • Tate Modern
  • Bristol Museum and Gallery
  • M-Shed Gallery
  • Musee D’Orsay
  • The Lourve
  • Pomidou Centre

Additionally, these are the shows I saw and/or worked on through the SPILL Festival:

  • Clarion Call – Byron J Scullin and Supple Fox
  • Processions Exhibition – Artichoke
  • On/Off–Kopf Kino
  • Recount – Francesca Steele
  • Figure – Lanne Malaolu
  • Breaking Up With J.K Rowling – Libby Norman
  • Complete Works of Shakespeare–Forced Entertainment
  • Into the Cuckoo’s Nest – Martin Green and Copus Productions
  • Rituals in Romance – Shared Saliva
  • By Mushrooms – Yao Liao
  • Tell Me Again Why We Don’t Need Feminism – Get on the Soap Box
  • Imagined Touch – Jodee Mundy Collaborations
  • Foley Expression – Julie Rose Bower
  • Political Child – Pink Suits
  • Inter Versal – Carter Tutti
  • DefendsWounds–Philip Bedwell


  • Adapt and Thrive: The Theatres Trust held a conference about how to make sure theatres responded to social, political and economic changes. Rubbing shoulders with the theatre elite in the UK was an eye opener and it was quite strange to be the only Australian in a room of 300! They had practical examples with open Q&A’s and I learnt probably the most from this out of all my experiences. It sharpened the reasons why I want to be an advocate for the performing arts. It was also a great supplement to my Masters degree, as it really investigated cash flow and capital gains, giving some real examples of how UK theatres changed the fortune by being a little more focused on their finances and the roll on effect of this. This also made me discover some of the differences between here and at home. I found this industry more traditional and focused on growth and longevity. They were very proud of their long-standing theatres. Australia, perhaps because of how big we are as a continent, imbues a lot of respect into the emerging and new ideas. Interestingly, our funding environments were quite similar, and they have experienced extreme funding cuts, too.
  • Cultural and Inclusion Conference: A wildly different approach, this conference was fueled by openness and debate. A lot of the sessions ended asking more questions than answering them and a very long journal entry followed. This was one of the only times on the trip I had to leave something early, as I was entirely overwhelmed by the openness, emotional and pointed conversations.


  • Had a meeting with Live Arts Development Agency (LADA) and got to borrow some of their published books and articles. Instead of doing a residency there, I got in contact with some of their members and got to talk to them about the state of ‘art’ in the UK and what is helping and hindering. These conversations helped me think about the arts scene in Australia, where we might be headed and what my role in creating this future will be. Having one to one conversations was vital, as it was an opportunity to understand personal experiences. Having big, fast-paced experiences was valuable. But having an intimate conversation with a variety of artists and makers is equally as important for growth and development.


  • Introduction to Film Producing at METFilm: This course was an eye opener. It allowed you to step into the business and finance behind getting a project off the ground. No question was taboo and the honesty in the room was palpable. Lead by an amazing female producer, the course really helped me to understand the ins and outs of the world and developed my arts management knowledge. It was helpful in the way that I learnt that I never want to be a filmmaker! Learning what I don’t like is something I struggled with back home, so being able to branch out into different fields only helped solidify my practice.


  • Adobe Editing Workshop at London Film: Editing is becoming one of those essential and necessary skills in both professional arts environments and the workplace. Not only was this course of a high caliber with full accessibility, it also really excited me. I discovered a new love and respect for the editor and would like to include it more in my practice. Before this trip, I never really considered how these types of skills could enhance and diversify my skills. In a competitive arts environment this is really helpful and it is something I’d never be able to book for myself because of the price.


  • Arnolfini Residency: I was lucky enough to get in contact with the Archives manager at the Arnolfini in Bristol. We corresponded over email about my interests and then I was given full access to the Arnolfini archive to search the materials from the 60’s until now. I was able to track the history of women’s liberation through the archive as well as track important art movements. It also gave me the opportunity to collate a list of influential artists as well as expand my interests. Being exposed to an archive environment was really helpful to my professional development. The processes they have, the way they store information and learning about the database system was a terrific expansion of my skills and something that will only help in the record keeping of my own work.


  • Natural History Museum
  • Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
  • Salisbury Cathedral and the Magna Carter
  • Stonehenge and Old Sarum
  • Warner Brothers
  • Chetham’s Library
  • Bristol Theatre Tour
  • Honey Art Show
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Montmartre
  • The War Museum
  • London Eye (and other attractions)
  • Tower of London
  • Science and Industry Museum

What’s next?

The trip has given me the push I need to really knuckle down and finish my Masters. It’s given me much more confidence to pursue the Cultural and Creative Industries in full force. I’ve already applied for a more scholarships, arts related jobs and call-outs than I ever had previously. This award hasn’t given me confidence on a silver platter but has made me recognize and appreciate my own strengths and weaknesses so that I can pursue my goals. I learnt that my key strengths are my tenacity and openness. I also learnt that I need to work on being more concise and back myself. This Award experience is like a crash course in getting to know and understand why you’ve chosen this path. Being in a completely new location with nothing else to focus on but your craft is a once in a lifetime experience.

I still am completely surprised that I got to go on this trip. The team at BBM is wonderful, generous and supportive and I thank them wholeheartedly. If you’re reading this considering to apply, do it. It is one of the most remarkable things I have done to date. If you’re like me, and know next to nothing about the UK or the international arts industry, it is a great opportunity to educate yourself and get inspired. I’ve come back from this trip more self-assured and ready then I have ever been before.

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