Mark Reedman passed away in early February last year. As a small but heartfelt memorial, we’re asking anyone to contribute a memory or image of Mark on AUH’s Facebook post. Here’s current Executive Director John O’Brien’s contribution:
A few months before he died Mark Reedman, my predecessor here at Arts Upper Hunter, asked if I’d like to be the writer on a project he’d been wanting to produce for years. Well, it was a very exciting project intellectually and creatively and I reckon I got more excited even than he did. He’d also managed to get a musician and a director involved. But we couldn’t make the grant deadline in time, and then sadly he passed away. That was February last year.
Time flowed on, and by a quirk of fate I managed to get Mark’s old job (he’d have given one of his big generous laughs if he knew!). Mark didn’t like the term Executive Director, he stuck to Regional Arts Development Officer, which encapsulates the work we do, and kind of encapsulates him – he much preferred accuracy to high-falutin ism.
Five months in, it has dawned on me why he wanted to work on that project. Without giving anything away, it’s a story from history of an inventor, a searcher: a story of communication, innovation, heritage, history, long journeys looking for funding, of trying to make connections, of hunting for people to share a dream, of language, channels, distance, and above all passion for the creative possibilities of a new idea. That story was set in the 1860s, yet there’s such a similarity between that searcher’s journey and the job that Mark and I share. It reminds me that what touches us, what we love in an artwork or a TV show or a song (or a colour or a road trip or a sublime view or a room… or a mate), is that fragment of our own journey that we find within. That resonance.
I’ve also realised that Mark Reedman wasn’t only the searcher from the story, though he was that at times, he was the well of hope too. I felt the effect myself through the 2010s. Via Mark came occasional grants and work, creative work, and money, not a lot but enough, for my creative side, usually in leading workshops, and the work was always proffered with a great dollop of trust. He trusted my collaborators and I to deliver, he helped when needed but mostly he allowed us to do the work, teach the workshop, do our best to inspire and construct something special.
Picture him travelling the hills and roads of our region, by car or foot or phone or email, and offering people those connections, to eke out a grant, to work in the arts. Preferably, for Mark, in ways that might make a difference. Theatre that reached disengaged young men and women. Dance that was accessible to people with a disability. Speed-dating or Pecha Kucha talks where emerging arty types could get a leg-up in a world that distrusts anything outlandish. He didn’t love paperwork (“What, do I actually have to read it?”) and I’ll second that emotion. But he had a flaming go and wanted others to have a flaming go.
I have many solid memories of him but it’s in starting to do his old job, and discovering him still in it in so many ways, that I’ve found remarkable echoes and currents. I suppose I’m kind of channelling him, I guess. I hope he doesn’t mind.
(As for the project we’d started working on, well, maybe we’ll get back to it some day and give it a flaming go.)