For some people retirement brings about a quieter life. Not so for Peter Lavery whose retirement to Maleny ten years ago has merely been a gear-change in a life of dedication to the arts.

by Jacqui Hensel

Peter Lavery began his career as an actor before  going to the UK to do postgraduate study in Drama Education at Bristol University. 

With over 30 years experience as an actor, director, teacher and professor at Queensland University of Technology, Peter has a wealth of knowledge and deep and abiding love of the arts – theatre and music in particular. 

Peter, and his wife Jacqueline, chose to retire in Maleny as much for the beautiful scenery and milder climate as for the people. They both enjoy the vibrant and active arts community that has become a highlight of living in the hinterland.

“When we moved here, we didn’t really know there were such wonderful, dedicated groups of people. It has been stimulating to join like-minded people who work incredibly hard to make all our events happen,” shares Peter.

As the current president of the Maleny Arts Council (MAC), Peter and his hard-working committee strive to bring high calibre shows to the hinterland. 

“For me it’s about the artists and the audiences. Even during Covid when we were so restricted in what we could present, it was always about bringing artists to our informed audience. We had some of our biggest audiences during recent times.

“Essentially, we foster the arts in the hinterland, supporting local artists tangibly, and we support other local groups by partnering with them to make an event happen.

“Music and theatre are our strengths, and our committee is very experienced in these genres. We have built some wonderful partnerships, and this means we are able to bring some exceptional works to our community,” Peter says proudly.

The MAC team aims to bring performances to the Sunshine Coast that would not otherwise come here, and they are grateful to the Sunshine Coast Council and the Queensland Government for their support in this. 

“In the case of The Year of Magical Thinking (by Joan Didion) we are bringing a work that is playing in Sydney and touring NSW and Victoria. This is Jillian Murray’s critically acclaimed solo show

“It is an important work on bereavement and hope, which I am very proud MAC is bringing to the community in July. Dideon is an extraordinary writer. The performance offers such a special insight that I think is relevant and will resonate with people.”

Even in the current environment Peter sees a chink of light, “I don’t think you could kill the arts with a stick,” he laughs.

“Bringing people together for an experience and giving them the space to gather and share their thoughts and insights is an especially important part of what MAC is doing. 

“For personal mental health and well-being, a group or communal experience of the arts is important. Isolation is not good for us. Connecting by phone is not the same. It’s not good for the sense of belonging, the sense of self. It’s a very deep need and it’s millennia old. 

“Neither government policies, the impact of Covid or the intrusion of new media take away our need for real connections. 

“We have a deep and instinctive need for connection and the arts is a way of bringing that about. We have to have it in our lives,” Peter says emphatically.

“MAC is proud to be supporting artists, presenting good quality works, and meeting our audience’s expectations, and we offer opportunities to engage the audience either through workshops, panel discussions or drinks on the deck after a performance. 

“Sharing the experience with others is important. People raise questions, meet the artists, express an opinion, mull things over, hear a different point of view, as well as the social side. 

“This is our first season since Covid and it’s really exciting to be able to plan ahead again. We have had the same difficulties with cancellations and postponements as everyone, but now is the time,” smiles Peter.

The upcoming winter season features a multi-media work, The Night Parrot, inspired by the discovery in regional Queensland of the bird thought to have been extinct for a 100 years. 

The performance is part of the Sunshine Coast Chamber Music Festival and features string quartet and soprano with a commissioned art film. 

The work was originally commissioned for the 2019 Queensland Music Festival and has been released on ABC Classics. The performance takes place on June 17, and the evening performance is preceded by a discussion panel featuring the composer Jessica Wells, filmmaker Craig Wilkinson, and Ken Cross, convenor of Birdlife Australia. 

MAC will finish their winter season in August with a performance by Gregg Arthur and his band. He is a world-renowned Jazz vocalist in the style of Frank Sinatra. If a relaxing Sunday afternoon with music and friends sounds like you then, Peter recommends coming along.

Peter gains personal satisfaction when he sees how an audience really engages with live work. “Resonance is what live performance is all about,” Peter says with conviction.

“Over the years I have seen a lot of theatre and there have been special memorable moments, but since I have been in Maleny I have experienced occasions that are really high on my list of highlights in terms of how works were received.”

Further details and tickets are available from the MAC website: malenyartscouncil.com

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