Four Winds music festival began in 1991 in Bermagui, a fishing village of 1536 people off New South Wales’ South coast. Built entirely on community support and arts grants, it has grown from an annual Easter concert to operate globally all year long, still underlined by the same core mission: “Always committed to new works, always working with our Indigenous community, always caring about our musicians.”
But this growth didn’t just happen at the snap of a finger. It would be indulgent to put on lovely classical music festivals and expect everyone – not just the certain few – to see its value. When Sheena became Chair of Four Winds in 2006, the challenge was clear: how could Four Winds develop a sustainable and flexible system of community support that opens, inspires and invigorates all involved?
It is easy to fall into the trap of cynicism when appealing for support. Aspiration is far more powerful than desperation, and will ripple out across all aspects of one’s work. It was a key element of Four Winds’ strategy, which was not just a plan but a rigorous process of defining the organisational values. Determined to reject a future in which its offer would only be for a certain group of people, Four Winds chose to grow by strengthening its bond with the people in the local and broader arts community.
The team consulted locals in the region to ask how could we contribute to community development work through the arts? Opening the organisation’s values to the people sparked conversation about how it could contribute to enriching their lives, inviting people to feel it was as much theirs as anybody’s.
Gaps in skills experience can lead to anxiety and vulnerability among team members – understanding the difficulties that staff can meet in their work led to external appeals to fill the gap. And most often those you ask want to help! People love being recognised for what they can offer, and invitations into bold and adventurous projects can excite everyone.
Four Winds’ aspirational pursuit found a power and a voice which inspired believers to lift it up as a national arts institution – one that just happens to be in the regions. 330 donors came forth to create Nature’s Concert Hall, a permanent performance site in Bermagui. There are now hundreds more working towards the purchase of a grand piano and an expansion of Four Winds’ education projects.
- Being at the top doesn’t make one a leader – generating spirit and possibility does.
- Aspiration upholds energy. Desire to thrive rather than survive.
- There is no separation between being a supporter and being a believer
- Human communities have an amazing capacity to shape their futures.
- Nurture your team – talk, reflect, and find the opportunity in difficulty
Download Sheena’s presentation and notes