The Road Ahead : February March 2008
FEB/MAR 08 31 Some RACQ members are helping to take the arts on the road to Queenslanders. features STORY HILARY BEATON Travelling long distances with family in the confinement of a vehicle is not everyone's idea of fun, but for two families, touring is a way of life. With some planning and the security of RACQ membership, they wouldn't have it any other way. The Harris and Jackson families (above left and right respectively) are passionate about arts and learning. On the road again in 2008 with the Queensland Arts Council, they present two of the 31 productions that tour statewide. Covering from Mount Isa to the Gold Coast, these shows clock up more than 35,000 km a year visiting 500 schools, performing to more than 75,000 school students. Suzanne and Mark Harris, with daughters Jacinta and Jamarla, have been travelling players for nearly 10 years. Their home is the dirt roads of the outback and the bitumen highways of the eastern seaboard. Their backyard is the mining, indigenous and farming communities of Australia. Suzanne Harris is a writer, actor, teacher and mother. "Our van is our sanctuary," she said. "It is filled with the smell of home-cooking and the sound of laughter. The van also functions as a school room, a sound studio, an office and the place where we recharge. "And we travel with our dogs (as many as five)." Husband Mark does most of the driving, although it is shared amongst the family. "We travel in all weather, sometimes under extreme conditions," he said. "We've always been members of the RACQ. We call them to help with burst radiators, flat tyres, keys accidentally locked in the car and those times when the engine just won't start." Both families have encountered snow, hail, cyclonic winds, the aftermath of floods and the desert on hot summer days, travelling west into the sunset with a broken airconditioner. This is long distance driving, Queensland style. Knowing help is never far away takes the stress out of the rigours of touring. Jacko Jackson, who with wife Karen and sons George and McKenzie has been travelling for nine years, admits that while it helps to have a good vehicle, breaking down comes with the territory. "The RACQ is our family's best friend," he said. According to Suzanne Harris, life on the road is a team effort, as the days tend to be long and often challenging. But as performers, keeping each other entertained is less of an effort. Many kilometres are accompanied by music and singing, but a long drive for these families is the chance to share their ideas and dream up new performances. "Every day is a new adventure," Suzanne said. "We have learnt to live without separate rooms where no-one talks to anyone else. "Some of the places we stay in are spectacular. To live on the edge of a volcano one day or an ocean front with the sound of the sea crashing on the rocks the next, or driving west to Mt Isa on a road that stretches endlessly before you, listening to Graham Rodger playing Waltzing on the Matilda Highway, is a lifestyle you can't beat." The Harris Family is currently touring with Fractured Tales and Funky Fables, and the Jacksons are musicians with The Electrifying Violin Show. For more information about the Queensland Arts Council 'Ontour inschools' 2008 season, visit www.qac.org.au.
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April May 2008