Written by Carly Baker-Burnham
As the 7.35am Flinders Street Station train rattled into the regional village of Stratford I reflected on the mystery and anticipation of the ARLP experiences. Always expect the unexpected!
Cohort 29 travelled the line with chatty zest and rhythmic vibration which mimicked the clackity clack of the swaying train. We were enroute to Bairnsdale. However we arrived at Stratford.
‘Stratford’ I thought. ‘Stratford-upon-Avon’ I made the connection. When visiting the UK as a young fresh-faced traveller I stumbled upon Shakespeare’s hometown. How inspired I felt to know I stood on the very earth the great playwright, poet and actor had once claimed as his homeland.
And snap – suddenly my thoughts were centred on bus logistics, apps to inform our next route and before I knew it we were on foot to an unknown destination. Always a surprise of the very best kind when participating in these immersions. As we crunched gravel underfoot, session 2 was well underway.
An immersion it was as we travelled deep into East Gippsland from the ocean edges to the high lands and valleys in between. We were inspired by many stories of innovation, community connection and personal recovery and courage. We were enlightened and welcomed by First Nations people. We were educated and evoked. Assumptions were tested, biases were noted.
The emotions and inter connectedness of our group ebbed and flowed. Sitting in self and what it means for me, shifting to group and learning how we function as a whole.
All of this exploration underpinned by the theme of connection and mobilisation.
It was ten days that felt like a short lifetime of adventure. The days blended into each other, the somewhat vague schedule would morph into interesting and exciting experiences.
Day eight we met with the wonderful Clare Moss who led us through a story telling piece which provided fun and lifted our spirits. Those spirits soon to be fragmented when we were advised we had one day to brainstorm, write, cast, rehearse, promote, cater and perform a theatrical piece in front a group of ticket-booking-strangers.
A theatre production is such a great metaphor for working in a group. Who takes the lead roles? Who writes the stories of the journey? Who directs the group? The drama is always present. How do we mobilise our talents and skills? How do we find our voice and express our selves? How might we be of service to our community?
As we arrived at a heritage theatre named the Court House in – Stratford, we suddenly realised we had completed a full circle. We were the local Shakespearians after all.
It took some time and patience for Cohort 29 to find the trust and rhythm required to perform. What I recall most rewarding was the support for each other – the space provided to those who needed to write the stories, take the roles, choose the menu and so much more.
Hard work and divine intervention saw our group perform like never before. Co-ordinated, synchronised, creative, in-flow, respectfully and energetically.
Talents were revealed, comfort zones stretched and bonds deepened. We soon discovered our immersive experience and exploration of service of leadership throughout East Gippsland manifested in the ultimate display of service leadership.
A group of smart, creative, empathetic, driven and strategic individuals performed a theatrical piece that was emergent and meaningful. It was cathartic for not only us as participants telling our story through the lens of the lands we had travelled – the story was of benefit to the audience also.
How inspired I felt as we became mobilised in service to more than ourselves. How proud I felt as we expressed authentic leadership.
Budding actors, baristas and musicians have been identified – soon to be seen on Broadway.