The Big Anxiety Festival

2RPH has partnered with The Big Anxiety Festival in 2019 to bring listeners interviews with festival ambassadors, artists and advocates discussing a range of mental health experiences.

Week one: Artistic Director Jill Bennett

The Big Anxiety Artistic Director Jill Bennett discusses the 2019 program and how the arts are the best means we have for sharing complex experiences. They show us what we don’t know about ourselves and others. They shine light on the relationships and social settings that help or hinder mental health, and they are a means to transform those relationships. Jill talks about the six-week Festival, spanning mental health month (October) uses 62 projects, 25 venues, 9 exhibitions and 8 Ambassadors, across multiple creative platforms including immersive media, visual art, conversation, film, multi-media, performance, poetry, song, and virtual reality to explore various ways for us to connect, hear and be heard; and to make change by breaking down barriers people experience and through building better futures. This interview was in conversation with 2RPH presenter and producer Barbara Sullivan.


Week two 30/09/19: Festival Ambassador and Comedian Nat’s What I Reckon

Nat’s What I Reckon talks about his love of taking the playful and thorough piss out of his surroundings. How his tongue-in-cheek social commentary video’s follow Nat as he uses humour to find entertainment in weird and seemingly mundane experiences. Nat talks about how he likes to hold a mirror up to bizarre masculine culture and societal politics. With Bec he also talks about his experience of being an anxiety sufferer himself, and being an Ambassador for The Big Anxiety. This episode was in conversation with Dr Bec Dean.


Week three 7/10/19: Festival Ambassador and Poet Omar Sakr

In this podcast Omar talks about how he has struggled with an anxiety disorder and depression for most of his life; and how in his work, he interrogates the conditions that have shaped him. Omar Sakr is an award-winning Arab Australian poet. His debut collection, These Wild Houses (Cordite Books), was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize, and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award. His new collection is The Lost Arabs (UQP). His non-fiction has been published regularly in such places as The Saturday Paper, The Guardian, Kill Your Darlings, Meanjin, Archer, Junkee, The Star Observer, and SBS Life, among others. This episode was in conversation with Dr Bec Dean.


Week four 14/10/19: Festival Poet, Ambassador and Writer Evelyn Araluen

For this podcast Evelyn talks about how she writes openly about anxiety, isolation, and the complexities of Aboriginal identity in her work, as well as her role as Ambassador for The Big Anxiety as Festival Poet. Evelyn hopes to bring language and poetry to the messy and at times overwhelming task of articulating the self in a world that seeks to silence the visceral realities of mental health.

Evelyn Araluen is a poet, researcher and educator working with Indigenous literatures at the University of Sydney. Her writing has been widely published internationally and in Australia, in journals such as Overland, Sydney Review of Books, Cordite, and the Western Humanities Review. She is a co-coordinator of Black Rhymes Aboriginal Poetry Night, and has spoken at over a dozen literary festivals across the East Coast. Her writing has been awarded by the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, and a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter fellowship to develop her debut poetry collection Dropbear, to be published next year. Her work mediates on the pride, poetics and play of Aboriginal culture and identity. Born, raised and writing on Dharug country, she is a descendent of the Bundjalung nation. This interview was in conversation with 2RPH presenter and producer Barbara Sullivan.


Week five 21/10/19: Festival Ambassador and Artist John A Douglas

John A Douglas is an organ transplant recipient who identifies as an artist with chronic illness/non-visable disability. During this podcast John talks about the experience of how transplant patients incur a life long range of physical, mental and cognitive impairments. John believes that a connection to a creative community with similar lived experiences including those with mental health issues can improve both quality of life and longevity. The opportunity to connect to a sustained and empathic community can be of great benefit to the individual and to society as a whole. This episode was in conversation with Dr Bec Dean.

Listen now (to come)


Week six 28/10/19: Artist Debra Keenahan

In this podcast Debra talks about her two new creative virtual reality works Being Debra & #belittled.

Employing Virtual Reality (VR), Being Debra offers the audience a taste of the embodied experience of being a dwarf in contemporary Australian society (with all its challenges, ugliness and triumphs). Shot from a first-person perspective with a 180 degree camera, the project was initiated by artist Debra Keenahan who lives with achondroplasia dwarfism. The VR experience includes flashbacks to Debra’s memories of school, dating, and engaging with authority figures, including doctors, as well as her routine daily encounters in a park.

As an artist, psychologist and academic, Debra’s work focusses upon the personal/social impacts of disability. She uses 2D and 3D art methods to represent the manifestation of dignity in the disability aesthetic. Debra has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions and her work is held in a number of private collections. Debra lectures at Western Sydney University in Humanitarian and Development Studies, her first PhD was in Psychology on the subject of Dehumanization. Debra is currently studying for her second PhD in Visual Arts at Art & Design UNSW, her research focuses upon developing a Critical Disability Aesthetic through the representation of the female dwarf. This interview was in conversation with 2RPH presenter and producer Barbara Sullivan.

Listen now (to come)


Week seven 4/11/19: Festival Ambassador, Actor/Life Coach Will Centurion, Dr Theron Schmidt and student Imogen Barker

In this podcast a panel discuss ‘What are some of the problems with the ways in which universities acknowledge and support mental health issues?’, ‘How theatre practices can exacerbate mental health issues, and also how they be healing and spaces of resilience’, and ‘What are some ways that we can make space for difficult conversations? In our rehearsal studios, in classrooms, in our lives’. This interview was in conversation with 2RPH presenter and producer Barbara Sullivan.

Guests Include:

Will Centurion is a 2019 Ambassador and advocate for Mental Health in the Performing Arts and a qualified Counsellor/Life Coach for Actors, Singers and Dancers. Will uses his lived experience to create industry informed services that provide artistic minds the support needed to navigate their creative journeys.

Dr Theron Schmidt who’s research and publication areas include contemporary theatre and performance, particularly the political and interventionist potential of theatre and performance practices, as well as using ideas from theatre and performance to read and shift our understanding of broader political questions.

Imogen Barker – Theatre Student UNSW

Listen now (to come)


Week eight 11/11/19: Festival Ambassador Sandra Pankhurst

Sandra is the ageing ambassador for the Big Anxiety Festival, an exemplar of transforming one’s earlier life experiences into a productive and purposeful life extending her lived experience as compassion and encouraging others to be their best selves in the face of tragedy and trauma.

Sandra Pankhurst is truly label-defying. A transgender woman, Sandra has lived many lives, rising above adversity. Sandra (then “Peter”) was adopted into an abusive family, relegated to a backyard bungalow, malnourished, excluded from family-life and escaped home in his teens. Marrying young, he soon realised it was not possible to continue his life as a husband and father – so he left that life to become Sandra — drag queen, sex worker and a gender reassignment patient in the early 80s. Sandra got on with her life. With an enviable work ethic, she went on to become Australia’s first female funeral director and later the CEO of her own business trauma cleaning. An active advocate for aged care rights, disability, mental health and ethics, Sandra has recently been an Ambassador for ‘Becoming Colleen’, a documentary about a woman who transitioned at 82. Sandra wants to make a positive impact on the welfare of people of all lifestyles in the aged care and mental health sector. This interview was in conversation with 2RPH presenter and producer Barbara Sullivan.

Listen now (to come)