Trailblaze 2016 Report


Trailblaze 2016 brought together elderly people, those with a disability and young people, in skill based workshops in dance, photography, film making to explore the concept of trails.

The project will engaged RSL Pioneer Aged Care Centre, Longreach, 60s and Better Winton, Winton Hospital, Winton Neighbourhood Centre, Bluecare Mackay and Mackay Christian College.

Creative workshops culminated in public performances and screenings within each community: Winton 60s and Better, Longreach RSL Pioneer Aged Care Centre, Winton Outback Film Festival and at the Mackay Arts Festival.

Workshops in all locations involved: creative dance, music and rhythm improvisation, digital storytelling and the exploration of local history and memories of the once vital community event: the Saturday night dance.

A description for the process and participation is below along with a summary of the project outcomes.



Process and Participation:

Trailblaze intended to acknowledge these elders, who have gone before and pioneered our community, through the development of active creative environments in which the elders can make new art and new connections with each other and community.

Artists, Steve Mayer-Miller and Clare Apelt travelled out to Longreach and Winton across two stages to engage the seniors and elderly of each community through dance, photography, storytelling, music and rhythm.  Clare and Steve worked with residents in both group and individual contexts, exploring memories and local history, discussing their favourite music, creating stories from historical photos, exploring percussion, movement and dances.


Project dates:

Stage 1:

Longreach: 4 – 9 April; Winton: 9 – 16 April

Stage 2:

Winton: 5 – 11 June; Longreach: 12 – 16 June

Longreach Trailblaze 2016


Longreach Stage 1: 4 - 9, April 2016

RSL Care Pioneers Age Care Centre

Trails of Memory: Re-Creating to Re-experience and Remember

To encourage the trails of memory to emerge and be lit up in memories once again we used music of the residents’ youth to begin our process and to get to know each other.   To acknowledge them as elders and trailblazers of the community we remembered their names and spent time learning about their lives.


Daily Structure:

Whole community: 9am – 12pm

· Chair dance exploration of music of youth, and discussion about memories of Saturday night dance.

·Timeslips: using a random historical photograph, participants brainstorm what they see in the photo: characters, internal worlds of characters, relationships between, stories happening within image etc.

·Musical improvisation using technology that makes music, rhythm and composition accessible e.g., beams, Trope, easy to hold shakers, clap sticks, chimes, sing a longs - Dave


Special Care Unit: 2 – 4pm

·   Small group engagement with Dementia affected residents through music of their youth and rhythm. Inspired by personalized Music & Memory program and research documented on Catalyst, music preferences were gathered by artists in morning sessions and specific playlists created over lunchtime or overnight.  These playlists were then transferred on to three iPod Shuffles and given to the Lifestyle coordinator for future individual work.

·  Longreach Historical Society afternoon tea sessions.  Steve and Clare joined this group to listen to their recollections particularly around their experiences of the Saturday night dances.


Through the above processes, we researched the residents’ memories of the regular Saturday night dances that brought the rural communities together socially. 


What dances were danced? Which dances were their favourites? Which bands were playing? Which local musicians played? What drinks were served? How were the halls decorated? Who organized the dances? How and how far did people travel to the dances?  


The concept of the ‘Dance Card’ was used to document each resident’s name, musical and dance interests and memories.


The information gathered allowed us to develop music playlists particular to the residents within our dance circles, so as the days progressed the residents became more and more meaningfully engaged which was demonstrated by the great attendance and by the fact that “just about everyone moved within their capacity” Juliette Janke, Lifestyle Coordinator.


Stage 1 participation and attendance:

Across the first week 25 – 30 residents participated in morning activities each day, 7 residents in dementia Special Care Unit participated in music and rhythm workshops and

8 residents participated history group

10 - 15 friends and family participated in the dance circles

8 lifestyle workers got meaningfully involved.

Total attendances: 180


Planning for outcome in Stage 2:

Based on the above experiential research, a participatory performance structure was developed around letters composed around stories gathered and old time dances remembered.

Friends and family were to be invited into the “Saturday Night Dance Circle” so they could participate in re-experiencing the accessible process themselves. 

On the last day of Stage 1 we ran through this structure using adjusted choreographies of a progressive Barn Dance for wheelchairs, Pride of Erin, Quick Step and Foxtrot.  All enjoyed this experience and the Lifestyle team committed to keep the music exploration going with residents and to collaboratively create the streamer decorations for the “Saturday Night Dance” in June


Professional Development

Juliette Janke, RSL Care Lifestyle Coordinator, participated in workshops whenever she could, observing process and taking notes.  She would then ask questions and in response to these questions convenient tutorial sessions were arranged to teach her skills in the different technologies/applications that she was interested in e.g. Beams, Trope, iTunes and ipod, chair dance choreography.


Most significant change of Stage 1:

Longreach Stage 2: June 12 - 16, 2016

RSL Care Pioneers Age Care Centre

Re-meeting and remembering:


“The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings—


From The Walrus and The Carpenter

Lewis Carroll (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

Stage 2 of Longreach Trailblaze 2016 was about re-meeting, remembering and rehearsing with residents for the participatory performance, planned for 15 June.

Juliette, true to her word, had kept the music and dance explorations going.  She had been so inspired by the proceses of Stage 1 that she had created 4 new activities for the residents: music and dance, Music of Slim Dusty, Music, and Poetry.  She had produced a little poster for the participatory performance, which she titled “ The Pioneer Dance”.   She had also facilitated a couple of residents to create some colourful crepe paper decorations as an effective focusing activity that helped with anxiety.  So we went about reconnecting and rehearsing for this event.

Daily Structure:

Whole community: 9am – 12pm

·      Chair dance exploration of music of youth, and discussion about memories of Saturday night dance.

Special Care Unit: 2 – 3pm

·      Small group engagement with Dementia affected residents through music of their youth and rhythm.

Professional development: 3 – 4pm

·      One on one sessions with Juliette Janke going through her questions about her developing ideas and process

·      Choreography sessions – Juliette and Clare choreographed several seated dances for future use with residents

Participatory Performance 15 June 9:30 – 10:30am

The Pioneer Dance was staged at Longreach’s Pioneer Aged Care Centre.  Created collaboratively by the residents, staff and guest artists from Crossroad Arts, this participatory event showcased the re-discovered rich experiences of the ‘Saturday Night Dance’. 

Both residents and family members enjoyed a seated yoga and dance warm up.  Then with the help of both staff and family members residents participated in a wheel chair adaptation of Barn Dance and seated versions of old dance favourites such as the ‘Pride of Erin’, Heel and Toe Polka, Quick Step and Foxtrot.  A proud march was also stepped out to ‘Scotland the Brave’. A morning tea followed the dance.




Stage 2  Participation and Attendance:

Across the week 25 – 30 residents participated in morning activities each day, 7 residents in dementia Special Care Unit participated in music and rhythm workshops and

10 - 15 friends and family participated in the Pioneer Dance Performance circles

8 lifestyle workers got meaningfully involved.

Total attendances: approximately 145


The outcomes of the Longreach Trailblaze were:

·      Great engagement and attendance by residents

·      Improved mood while participating in workshops

·      Improved participation by clients with dementia in the Special Care Unit

·      Increased community connections between nursing home and general community – Ebony, Dave, Bob, family members enjoying the performance

·      Professional development of staff

Connections made with larger community:

Stimulated by the stories shared within the process we made contact with the extended family members, Longreach Town Band, Longreach Dance School and Longreach Historical Society.

Four contacts stand out:


To help with sustainability and encourage more cross generational work, we attempted to contact the Longreach Dance School but since it was school holidays we were unable to.  However, it happened that a resident had a granddaughter who was one of the dance teachers so she invited her in.  Ebony, 18 years old, was very excited to participate in our dance circles and to learn about how dance can be applied in the context of the nursing home.  Ebony assisted Clare in facilitating the dance circles and also led a hip hop dance circle with the residents.


During Tuesday morning’s dance circle it was announced that is was Bonnie’s 101st Birthday!  Her son in-law, Dave, arrived with a big cake and balloons.  We all sang her Happy Birthday and shared the cake for morning tea.  Dave stayed for our Timeslips activity, which explored a black and white photo of couple, in formal dress dancing.  This photo brought many memories back about dancing, the Saturday night dances, and Cloudland.  Dave shared his story of dancing at Cloudland and meeting his wife Betty there and how Bonnie travelled from Longreach to Brisbane to ‘check out this young fella that her daughter was smitten with’.

Dave came back each day and helped the process by leading sing-a-longs to old favourites.


John had some very clear memories of “Mrs Doug Graham’s” dance band that use to play at the different dances around Longreach and Isiford.   To investigate this memory further we made contact with the Longreach Town Band but they were unable to help.  We then made contact with Eva from the Longreach Historical Society.  Eva was running a history group at RSL Pioneer Age Care Centre and so we attended and discussed these memories.  She took notes down and started to investigate further.


Bob, a resident in the Special care unit, use to play the bagpipes and whenever we played music and danced with this group, Bob would go to his room and bring out his bagpipes.  He was proud to show us but sad he couldn’t remember how to put the pipes together.   So we suggested to Juliette to make contact with the Longreach Pipe Band to request a member come down to centre to help Bob remember the bagpipes.  This connection is now in process.  His passion for the bagpipes inspired the march Bob and Clare danced to ‘Scotland the Brave’ during the Pioneer Dance performance.

Most Significant Changes:

When asked what was or who experienced the most significant change over the both stages of the project Juliette said:

“Me.  You’ve actually been teaching me.  Basically I’ve been able to learn from the Trailblaze project so it gives me the resources and ideas so that I can implement them everyday.  I’m getting more an more ‘light bulb’ moments … we’ve done music and dance and film and photography … what I’ve loved is that it’s opened my mind to how I think and create now, so I’m having all these ‘light bulb’ moments because of what I’ve learnt in this.


It’s been journey where firstly I’ve seen how much music and dance enables our residents to come out themselves and participate and music to me, I can see the real benefits in therapy and now this morning was just amazing with participation, so yeah it’s help me implement this when once you go I can keep it going.


I spoke to a resident this morning who was feeling quite sad, her mood was very down, so I said to her about today, the dance group and she was like all eager to come, so there are moments like that you think this is all really worthwhile.  Also, I can now teach them, the residents to be creative, so it’s not just about what I’ve learnt but now I can teach them.”



Stage 1: April 9 – 16

Participants: 60s and Better members and clients of

Aged Care Services at Hospital

Venue: Winton Shire Council Supper Room

Although Crossroad Arts had worked in Winton previously, community links were still in development and we arrived very much into the unknown.  All we knew was that we were to work with the 60s and Better group and that we would be using the Supper Room as a venue.  So we set about getting involved in the community to meet and get to know the community.

We discovered that the Trailblaze project had been promoted in the local newsletter but the locals were quite confused.

On Sunday morning 10 April, Clare discovered she had distant relations in Winton that provided a great opening.  Clare’s aunt was able to connect the project to Stephanie Greenwood the day we arrived.  Stephanie, 81 years of age, was a central figure in the town and the 60s and Better group.  She also ran the seniors fitness group.  So on Sunday afternoon, we knocked on her door to introduce ourselves and consult with her.   This meeting gave us a clear structure of how to move forward with the 60s and Better group.

Later that afternoon, while training in the local park, Clare met Caroline who worked at the Neighbourhood Centre.  Caroline had heard about the Trailblaze project and was keen to participate as someone just over 60, however she couldn’t attend as she was working.  Clare arranged to do two morning seated dance exercise sessions with her and other staff before work.

Steve made contact with the Winton Hospital and arranged three afternoon sessions within the aged care unit.

Activities and meetings:

Monday 11 April: 

Informal meet and greet at 60’s and Better Card Games session – 8 residents.

Steve successfully engaged the group by creating a little movie about local resident Bert and his Bike.  Steve used a still photograph of Bert on his bike, added the Ken Byrnes effect in iMovie and added a voice over that he had recorded in conversation with Bert.  This captured the rather skeptical group and most them agreed to attend the seated dance, photography and music workshops the following day.

Tuesday 12 April:

Clare attended Stephanie’s seniors exercise session to meet more of the 60s and Better group and encouraged them to attend the workshops that day. 7 residents.

Chair Dancing Workshop 9:30 – 10:30am – 8 residents including 60s and Better members and residents being supported by Neighbourhood Centre HACC program

Morning Tea: 11am

Music Improvisation: 11:30am – 12:30pm – 5 residents from 60s and Better

Photography and Digital Storytelling: 2pm – 3pm – 3 residents from 60s and Better


Wednesday 13 April

Seated Dance Exercise session at Neighbourhood Centre 8 – 8:30am – 4 residents

Chair Dancing Workshop: 9:30 – 10:30am – 8 residents

including 60s and Better members and residents housed in the Hospital Age Care unit.

Morning Tea: 11am

Music Improvisation: 11:30am - 12:30pm - 5 residents from 60s and Better

Seated Dance and Timeslips at Hospital Age Care Unit: 2pm - 3pm - 5 residents and 5 Staff

Hospital Staff were very keen and enjoyed the processes, particularly the timeslip game and the beamz and visual music software on the ipads. 

Dance Improvisation and Photograpy in the landscape: 5pm – sundown at ‘The Boulders’ 5km out of town – 2 residents – 1 dancer and 1 photographer.

Thursday 14 April

Chair Dancing Workshop: 9:30 – 10:30am – 8 residents

including 60s and Better members and residents housed in the Hospital Age Care unit.

Morning Tea: 11am

Music Improvisation and Digital Storytelling: 11:30am - 12:30pm - 5 residents

Seated Dance and Timeslips at Hospital Age Care Unit: 2pm - 3pm – 5 residents and 5 Staff.

Local History interviewing technique: 8pm - 9pm - 2 residents Steve and Clare attended a participant’s home to help her record her husbands story about the family shop: Searles.

Friday 15 April

Thursday 14 April

Seated Dance Exercise session at Neighbourhood Centre 8 – 8:30am – 3 residents

Chair Dancing Workshop: 9:30 – 10:30am – 8 residents

including 60s and Better members and residents housed in the Hospital Age Care unit.

Morning Tea: 11am

Music Improvisation and Digital Storytelling: 11:30am - 12:30pm - 5 residents

Seated Dance and Timeslips at Hospital Age Care Unit: 2pm - 3pm – 5 residents and 5 Staff.

Meet and Greet with locals at The Winton Club - 10 residents

Across all these chair dancing workshops we explored and played with

·      Memories of dancing

·      Music preferences

·      creating a rain dance using sound scapes and gestures

·      open improvisation and extending out of our comfort zones

·      structured improvisation and finding comfort in the unknown e.g., using a rhythm/movement frame to give space for a solo, framing a body part so that dance can emerge from a small movement

·      sharing dances such as Boot Scooting Boogie, Pride of Erin with broom sticks

In the music improvisation workshops we explored:

·      creating soundtracks to images using chimes, hand percussion instruments, and the ‘beamz’ instruments and software;

·      improvising on keyboards with software that created a musical structure in terms of instruments and musical keys

·      singing partner songs.

Four residents really engaged with the digital storytelling process, seeing how the technology made it really easy and accessible for them to document their own family and local histories.  Steve and Clare assisted these residents with their story/movie construction depending on their time and abilities.

Possible Performance Outcomes:

As the week progressed the group discussed possible performance outcomes to perform/show in Stage 2.

Ideas were:

·      create a short film for the Winton Outback Film Festival about 60s and Better and the process;

·      create a couple of short dance / performances to show; and

·      project some of the local history pieces that residents were creating.

To this end, Steve documented the whole process on video, Clare and group explored many dance ideas, Clare and Karen improvised at sunset on The Boulders, Clare and Karen created a ‘Hand Dance’, and as said above Clare and Steve assisted residents in documenting their stories.

The Winton Outback Film Festival required films to be only 7mins long.  With this time restriction Steve decided that it was necessary to focus on one person within the 60s and Better group to tell an individual story within the context of the whole.  Steve agreed to come back in May to do more filming.


Overall Participation and Attendance:

·      60's and Better: 17 members participated in the process across the week

·      Hospital Age Care Unit: 5 residents, 5 staff

·      Neighbourhood Centre HACC program: 2 residents, 2 staff

·      Neigbourhood Centre Exercise Group: 5 members

Total attendance: 127



Stage 2: May 23 – 26, June 6 – 11

60s and Better

Venue: Winton Shire Council Supper Room

and 60s and Better Centre

May 23 - 28

Steve travelled up to Winton to do more filming in preparation for this submission date of the short documentary film.  By this stage it had been decided that the film focus on Stephanie Greenwood as a core member of the 60s and Better group, documenting her many community activities within the context of the 60s and Better group preparing for the Trailblaze performance in June.

While in Winton, Steve distributed a poster to promote the performance “Life to be Lived” scheduled for Saturday 11 June, 7:30pm, Winton Shire Hall.

Steve also met with the director of the Winton Outback Festival 2017 to discuss possible ways to contributing to the festival and community in 2017.   As a result of this conversation Crossroad Arts has proposed “Giants in the Desert” a project that will include creating a performance with giant puppets involving the elderly, disabled and young people.


June 6 – 11

Consulting 60s and better group:

We arrived on Sunday 5th June.  On Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th we consulted with the group about their thoughts and ideas about the performance.  The participants were anxious about the performance, they could not see themselves performing anything in the shire hall, which is a big space. 

The group articulated that the project had helped energise the 60s and Better group and they wanted the ‘performance’ to show the public what they had been doing.  So we decided to call the event a ‘sharing’ rather than a performance and encourage friends and family to participate. So the group decided to shift the venue and time to Saturday 11 June, 3pm, 60’s and Better Centre.  This then would attract family, friends and other public into the 60s and Better Centre demonstrating that the 60s and Better Group were active, creative and adventurous and not ‘boring, old people’.


Creating the ‘Sharing’ - Rehearsals and State Minister of Ageing

The core group decided to focus on the activities they enjoyed most from the process: body percussion, movement frames, chair dancing, singing, Boot Scooting Baby line dance and the film footage taken of process in Stage 1.


The Minister of Ageing had scheduled in a visit to Winton and the 60s and Better Group on Thursday 9th June, so the group made sure all extended members and friends were invited to meet the Minister and have a morning tea.  This meant that we could use this occasion to rehearse the Sharing.   Unfortunately the Minister did not make it to Winton but we had the rehearsal any way with approximately 30 people participating in the event.


Winton Club Kitchen Rules:

The local Winton Club was running Winton Club Kitchen Rules competition to attract new people to the club.  This involved different people, organizations or businesses ruling the kitchen every Friday evening.  The 60s and Better Group were cooking on Friday 10 June and so the group decided this would be a good idea to show footage of the Trailblaze process and promote the 60s and Better Centre to a new group of people.  The films shown were:



Swaggies Rest:

Clare worked with Karen Stockham to create a short film about creation of the Swaggies and their home the Swaggies Rest.  These swaggies were created to decorate the town for various Outback festivals.  The film used still photographs of the swaggies and the Swaggies Rest and Karen’s description of her creative process.


Sunset Hand Dance:

This short film showed Karen and Clare dancing with the sunset on a boulder about 5kms outside Winton.  This dance then faded into their shared Hand Dance.


Trailblaze Process footage:

This footage allowed viewers into the workshop space in which participants explored rhythm, movement, mirror dancing and improvised music.


Life to Be Lived:

Saturday, 11 June, 3pm, 60s and Better Centre.

The Life to Be Lived Sharing involved the group members leading the audience in chair dancing, body percussion, line dancing and a sing-along.  This dynamic, participatory performance demonstrated the amazing energy, creativity and community spirit of the women of the 60s and Better group.  Again, over 30 people turned up and participated in the sharing; dancing and singing with the ‘performers’ in the circle.  A luscious afternoon tea materialized with everyone bringing a plate to share. Four ‘Grey Nomads’ ventured up from their accommodation to participate and were really impressed with the activity and sense of community spirit.

When audience were asked how they found the ‘Sharing’ they said:


“I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was good to play ‘silly buggers’”

“I enjoyed being with friends and everyone enjoying themselves, it was good doing something different.”

“I enjoyed the music and the movement”

“I absolutely loved it!”

“The fact that it was something different made it good”

“It was fun, really good, everyone enjoyed themselves, the singing was good because I love to sing”

“I enjoyed it, getting together and having fun, the chair dancing was fun, we all be ourselves and have fun”

“I really enjoyed it, interacting with others, I am really low at the moment, so it was really good to be a part of it”



Confidence with technology and documenting local history:

Several of the 60s and Better group really enjoyed learning how to create small films out of still photographs and how to record interviews.  This process has inspired them to begin documenting their families’ history in an interactive way.


Increased Friendships and Connections

As the comments above indicate, the members of the 60s and Better Centre really enjoyed connecting and reconnecting with each other. As each person lives and ages differently the group members fluctuate in their ability to attend activities and connect.  The Trailblaze process provided a creative space for unfamiliar activities to be explored. This allowed individuals to learn new things about themselves and each other. 

Networking with the Neighbourhood Centre, HACC and the Hospital meant that members of the 60s and Better Group who had stopped attending activities due to isolation, health and mobility issues, were able to reconnect with their friends. 


Good examples of this are:

Coral, who use to direct the musicals in the Winton Drama Society, has been quite isolated as she now resides in the Winton Hospital Aged Care ward.  Hospital staff were able to transport Coral to workshops in Stage 1 and to the Sharing in Stage 2 enabling her to participate in the creative activities that she enjoys with her friends: singing, music and dance. 

Thelma, who also resides at the Winton Hospital, really enjoyed the chair dancing sessions we ran at the hospital and was keen to attend the Sharing.  At the Sharing, she spontaneously sang a solo that moved everyone to gentle tears.

Fay, whose husband had recently died, was very isolated due to her grief and age.  The HACC team were able to coax her our and bring her down to the workshops and to the Sharing, enabling her to reconnect with friends.


60s and Better Centre energized and promoted

The Trailblaze project re-energized the active members of the group and reconnected lapsed members.  The process and sharings at the Winton Club and 60s and Better Centre promoted the creativity and courage of the members and squashed the image of the centre being ‘boring’ and encouraged the local community to see their elders in a new way.


Three Short Films created – Swaggies Rest, Sunset Hand Dance and Plenty on her Plate:

The short film “Plenty on her Plate” by Steve Mayer-Miller won 2nd Prize in the Outback Film Festival.  Plenty on her Plate, documented Stephanie Greenwood’s busy life within the backdrop of the 60s and Better group preparing for the Life to be Lived performance. 

Watch it at


Overall Participation and Attendance:

20 members of 60's and Better participated in the process across the week, preparing the Sharing.

Audience Participation:

·      Approximately 40 people viewed the films at the Winton Club Kitchen Rules evening.

·      65 families and friends attended the Life to be Lived rehearsal and Sharing

This included:

·      2 residents, 2 staff from Hospital Age Care Unit

·      1 resident, 1 staff from Neighbourhood Centre HACC program.  Total attendance: 131






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