Creative arts reflect the soul of the Northern Rivers
The tunes from the stage bounce across the streets of Lismore with a rhythm that reflects the flow and grace of the logo on the adjacent sign.
Performing is Tom Mwanza, a Southern Cross University music student in front of the Eat The Street festival crowd due to the University’s support for the event. The adjacent logo is also part of the University, its distinctive green, blue and yellow swirls wrapping to create a star, like its namesake constellation.
But it is more than a logo to Southern Cross, this year celebrating its 25th anniversary. Supporting this event is just one of many connections the University enjoys with the Northern Rivers creative community.
Eat The Street was held to coincide with Oaks Oval hosting the pre-season AFL game between the Swans and Suns, attended by more than 5000 people. The University was also a sponsor of the game that showcased the revamped city sporting stage.
“It’s not because we want to simply promote the University brand,” explains Southern Cross Vice President (Engagement) Ben Roche. “It’s because we are deeply embedded in the Northern Rivers community and as it grows and changes, so do we as a University,” he says.
“We lived through some tough times together like the floods, but we have also celebrated some truly wonderful highlights too. The creative arts is synonymous with the Northern Rivers and is an area of the University we are most proud of too.”
The University offers degrees in visual arts, design, contemporary music, creative writing and digital media and communications.
Southern Cross was a founding sponsor of the Byron Writers Festival in 1997 and has just committed to a further three years, which represents a 25 year landmark partnership for the Region.
“The Byron Writers Festival brings together some of the greatest literary minds in Australia and I think we underestimate how many of them call the Northern Rivers home,” Mr Roche says.
“It makes perfect sense for the University of this region to be so enthusiastic about such thought leadership and creative expression.
“Supporting that creative expression in a tangible way is something Southern Cross takes very seriously. It is more than just sponsorship, it is about activating the University’s mission for student learning and research that is grounded in the needs of our communities. “
Southern Cross University has been an active partner for many years of NORPA, the leading performing arts institution in the Northern Rivers. It has been a partner of the Mullum Music Festival for more than five years and extends its involvement to staff and students helping bring the event to life.
It has also been a partner in the science tent at Splendour In The Grass, bravely mixing higher learning and exploration with tens of thousands of music lovers.
Some of Australia’s leading musicians have been brought onto the Lismore campus to mentor students in song writing as part of a partnership with APRA and AMCOS.
“Equally, the University’s partnership with The Quad at the Lismore Regional Gallery is about fostering ideas and exchange on the big issues that we all face as a community, whilst activating the Quad as Lismore’s creative playground.” Mr Roche says.
“We have been doing this for two years now and it is so inspiring to see the partnership help empower debate through our Thursday Night Live series and then support creative expression in all its forms, including the most recent Indigenous art project that projected huge images on to the Lismore library building.
“This is what is so great about Lismore and the Northern Rivers – it is authentic, creative and eclectic – it isn’t afraid to push the boundaries. This is a community that embraces non-conformity and experimentation and those values sit very well with Southern Cross University.
“And so they should. This city gave birth to Southern Cross and we are proud that the intention with which the University was created is preserved in our Founding Act – to meet the needs of our communities on the North Coast of New South Wales. That is a responsibility that weighs heavily on us and one that we relish each and every day.”
Mr Roche said more than 64,000 students had graduated from Southern Cross and a critical mass of alumni now existed across the region, across Australia and overseas.
“We’re on to our second generation now. Sons and daughters of students from 90s are emerging among our current cohort. It’s wonderful to see.”
And growing alongside the University all that time has been the Lismore Lantern Parade, also celebrating 25 years in 2019.
“It is a great example of what makes this community so special,” Mr Roche said. “It has evolved from a truly grassroots origin to something the whole region looks forward to every year now.
“We have staff and students involved every year and it epitomises the creativity of this region.”
And of course, Southern Cross has been a partner over its proud 25 year history as well.
“We can’t be part of everything of course, but in this community, everything is part of us.”