Churchill Fellowship for Tumut playwright

22 Sep 2019

Churchill Fellowship for Tumut playwright featured image

TUMUT playwright Michael McSweeney’s head is still spinning after he was awarded a Blakeney Millar Foundation Churchill Fellowship.

The scholarship will allow him to spend eight weeks travelling overseas to further his knowledge of community theatre.

“Oh boy; it feels fantastic and it is a great opportunity,” he said.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to pursue your passion, and to be supported in doing that. The Blakeney Millar Foundation as the sponsors of the scholarship have given me a job to go and develop my understanding of community theatre and innovations around the world and bring that back to the community.

“The application I made to the Churchill Fellowship, it was around engaging isolated and diverse people in the community.” Michael feels he is accepting the scholarship on behalf of the Montreal Theatre community.

“It’s a community thing; we had 60 people involved in our latest production (Skeleton Crew). It’s not a personal profit but it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s something that I’m going to bring back to the community and hopefully contribute to theatre.” Michael has been involved in theatre in some capacity all his life, but it has been since he moved to Tumut 14 years ago that this involvement really took off.

“It wasn’t until I came to Tumut that I got the opportunity to write for local theatre,” he said.

“There had been people that had done wonderful things in the past here in community theatre, like TPAS (Tumut Performing Arts Society) and TPAS kids; there had been wonderful productions put on, but when I got here nothing was happening, as many people had moved away and some people had passed away, so I asked why wasn’t anything happening, and they said okay what do you want to do, so they put it back on me here at the theatre, and I followed

through and wrote a play about the Snowy, and we put that on, and the next one about my imagined version of Miles Franklin’s life, and then we made a movie, a feature length movie with about 50 people involved in it, and then this one (Skeleton Crew.” Now, Michael and his Montreal compatriots are talking about setting up a more consistent approach, with a roster of programs and activities.

“So every year there is a play, maybe a sing-a-long movie night for the members of TPAS, also maybe a weekend workshop every year, and maybe the formation of a committee to deliver this and get it organised.” Michael is delighted that the community has such a facility as the Montreal.

“It is a magnificent asset to be used for community theatre,” he said.

“Churchill Fellowships recognise people with passion and drive, providing an unrivalled opportunity and freedom for people to experience world’s best practice on issues that matter to Australian communities,” said CEO of the Churchill Trust, Mr Adam Davey.

“I would like to thank the Blakeney Millar Foundation and Winston Churchill Trust for this opportunity,” Michael said.

‘Oh boy; it feels fantastic and it is a great opportunity. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to pursue your passion, and to be supported in doing that’ – Michael McSweeney Blakeney Millar Foundation Churchill Fellowship recipient

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