Coming together to strengthen regional South Australia

Finding strength in art to pursue your passions 

Growing up in a country town in a family that loved the theatre, Aislynn Everett, 18, was naturally drawn to the Northern Festival Centre.

It was a welcoming space full of anticipation and excitement. Little did she know it would lead her to an impassioned career path.

“I remember when I was really little going and watching movies there and just absolutely loving it,” she says. “Walking in now the smell of the popcorn is just super nostalgic for me.”

When she was five years old Aislynn started performing gymnastics and her love of being on stage was born. She then picked up dancing and theatre.

The feeling of community connectedness and delight she gets from being a part of the Northern Festival Centre is something she wants to continue into her adult life.

“I think my passion for it really started probably even before I was born because my parents were both involved in theatre,” she says. “When my mum was pregnant with me she was on stage playing characters and after I was born I was always there at their rehearsals at the theatre watching them. So when I say I’ve been involved in the theatre my whole life, I really truly mean it!”

The theatre has always been a reprieve, a “safe place” for her to find out who she is and what she wants to become. When the stress of school, life and career decisions were taking their toll on her mental health, Aislynn realised that she could get some respite and clarity from the theatre.

“I think that having been so involved in theatre my whole life, it was really my safe place for me at the Northern Festival Centre, the community there really encouraged me to keep performing and expressing myself,” she says.

“Our school used to do a production every four years and we’d go to the theatre and perform it; and it was like all these kids who had never tried it before because either they couldn’t afford to be in theatre groups, or had never even thought about it. We were all getting involved and making different friends and joining the other groups.”

She even met her partner, fellow actor and now lighting technician at the NFC, through Youth Theatre.

Recently Aislynn joined the Northern Festival as Candy Bar staff and is being trained in ticket sales and box office, with the hope of one day being front of house staff.

“I found out about working at the theatre when I was way too young to start working and so badly wanted to work there, I wanted to do anything, it didn’t matter,” she says. “I just wanted to be there, to be part of that.”

She is still dancing and has moved up the ranks to become a dance teacher with Hip Hop Bounce at the Northern Festival Centre and in Minlaton. Not one to sit back, she is soon to tread the boards as Cathy in a community production of Singin’ in the Rain, alongside her partner who is playing leading man, Don.

While currently studying a Bachelor of Psychology remotely with the University of South Australia she plans to keep working at the theatre and teaching dance “as I absolutely love it”.

Having the Northern Festival Centre as the backdrop to her life since she was a baby has led her to seek a career that helps people express themselves and benefit from the Arts.

“I particularly want to do Arts Psychology, using things like drama, dance and singing, acting and drawing and painting…to help people with their mental health,” she says.

“I think that the arts, especially local arts are very much a safe space for a lot of people and a way we can foster so many interests and cultures. I would really recommend that if you have ever thought about joining but haven’t for certain reasons or wanted to try something like this but you’re a bit too shy, just do it because it really is an amazing feeling.”

The theatre and the surrounding arts community in and around Port Pirie have helped Aislynn navigate the decisions that will impact her adult life.

Finding strength in art when her mental health was suffering led Aislynn to discover a career path she didn’t know existed.

“When I was in school I loved theatre but I was also really interested in psychology and how the brain worked,” she says. “At that time I had not decided on my career, I just wanted to know everything about it. My school offered a Year 11/12 psychology course, so I decided to try that and absolutely loved it. I said to my mum I’d really like to keep dance teaching and being involved in the arts but it might be really difficult after I finish my pysch degree, I wonder what I can do?”

Aislynn and her mum went online and found a study showing the connection of arts and improvement in mental health. Through that article they discovered arts psychology.

“Mixing the arts and psychology together (I thought, that is really what I want to do because it will still let me have that creative outlet. I can still be involved in my theatre and dance and all my music but I can still do the psychology which I have suddenly found the passion for.

“The NFC definitely helped a lot with the scariness of leaving high school and not having that (school) structure everyday; going into adult life which is so daunting for me. I think that the people there and having the shows touring to Port Pirie has really helped pick me back up. For a little while I was in a bit of a rut with my mental health and I think that really solidified my want to do this arts psychology thing. It really just showed me how the arts really can help.”

Aislynn is doing her university degree 100% online so she can stay in Port Pirie and keep working, dancing and acting at the Northern Festival Centre.

“My whole want with this, which will definitely take a while, is I would like to bring arts psychology back to regional SA because there is not anything currently like that here. There is normal psychology but there is not arts psychology and it’s in quite high demand at the moment. The closest option is in Whyalla and Adelaide so it is quite a trek and some people can’t do that. I want to bring it back to regional SA.”

Thanks to the Northern Festival Centre and Country Arts SA, the curtain is rising on Aislynn’s meaningful career in the arts and psychology right where she wants to be, in her hometown of Port Pirie in regional South Australia.

To help young people living in regional South Australia access performances in their local area, please donate a ‘Ticket on Us’. Your support strengthens inclusivity within communities and reduces barriers to finding inspiration from the arts. 

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Photo credit: Kathy Gould, HIP Photography