Bonnywood Rising

“Bonnywood Rising” is a live-cinema performance project produced by Grayson Cooke and the SCU School of Arts and Social Sciences for the Arts Northern Rivers multi-arts project “If These Halls Could Talk”. In this project, I was commissioned to  work with the community in the town of Bonalbo NSW to celebrate the histories – the true histories AND the slightly embellished ones – of the Bonalbo & District Memorial Hall.

Community halls play many roles for their people – as meeting places, as theatres, as rehearsal spaces, as sports clubs and, importantly, as cinemas. In “Bonnywood Rising” we imagine the cinematic history of the Hall, weaving a yarn that places the Bonalbo Hall at the centre of the largest Australian regional film corporation you’ve never heard of.

Part Melodrama, part Western, part Historical Epic and part Complete Fabrication, “Bonnywood Rising” is a celebration of the ingenuity, the resilience, the spirit and the humour of the peoples West of the Range.


The project received its world premiere performance on December 10th at the Bonalbo and District Memorial Hall. This live cinema performance featured a screening of the film with live narration by Ewingar resident Alan Highfield, and live music by post-rock band Amphibian.

Following are some images from the production and performance of the project. Images provided courtesy of Marion Conrow, Grayson Cooke, Rebecca Rushbrook and Arts Northern Rivers.



The Bonalbo Hall is a huge space – about 16 metres wide and over 22 metres long. Before visiting the hall I had had various ideas about what I might possibly do with this commission – but once I’d visited the hall, I only had one thing on my mind: cable-cam!

A cable-cam is a camera platform mounted on a set of cables between two points, with runners allowing the platform to move freely along the cable. The camera is usually pulled along by motion-control equipment – in this instance, the Syrp Genie, a fantastic motion control unit that I use on most of my projects these days. My genius colleagues Steve Kwan and Ian Slade got the cable-cam all up and running, and then it was just a matter of convincing the Bonalbo community to come along and do insane things in front of the camera for a few months!

In this project I have been ably assisted by a fantastic group of staff and students from Southern Cross University, as well as Marion Conrow as 1stAD and Community Liaison. A media artist in her own right, it was Marion’s letter to Arts Northern Rivers that got Bonalbo involved in this project in the first place.