Like most of us, comedian Chris Ryan hasn’t had a very funny year.
Her parents lost their house down the coast in the Black Summer of bushfires and COVID-19 took away her live gigs. Her first national tour was cancelled, and she’s been anxious that as a live performer the connection with her audience was at real risk of evaporating.
But Ryan is the happiest she’s been in months after she was named among the recipients of a second tranche of ACT Government HOMEFRONT funding for the Canberra arts sector.
She’ll use the money to film her show professionally and put it online. That will fill the void left by “absolutely no festivals” this year, and filming is a step she would never have been able to afford otherwise.
“More than that, though, I feel so supported and encouraged and seen by the community at large”, she says of the funding’s impact.
“Artists have been hit very hard and are not rich to start with. To get some recognition feels like people care and makes a huge psychological difference. I feel really encouraged and excited to receive a grant.”
The HOMEFRONT program has been expanded by $450,000, enabling funding for 59 more local artists to continue their practices throughout the pandemic. Additionally, there’s $375,000 for the new Creative Recovery and Resilience program, supporting more than 30 jobs in the sector.
Minister for the Arts, Creative Industries and Cultural Events Gordon Ramsay said artists and the arts perform an essential role in our society, and the government recognised that the sector has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The ACT Government has now committed more than $6 million in economic stimulus to support Canberra’s creatives through this period”, Minister Ramsay said.
“This funding has supported a wide range of creatives across comedy, dance, fashion, literature, music, theatre, screen and visual arts.”
The Creative Recovery and Resilience program is being developed using feedback from artists across a range of mechanisms including Canberra Arts Action Group feedback, engaging with arts organisations and recommendations from the Minister’s Creative Council.
Chris Ryan, who was part of the closing Girls Night Out panel for the Canberra Writers Festival, says she can now get down to work on making relevant content for the online offering.
She says comedy is about more than just the laugh out loud bits, a point affirmed at a Writers Festival panel that included luminaries like Jean Kittson, which had some profound moments about the need to care for each other and reach out to community during hard times.
“It’s been a dark year,” she says. “That means there are conversations we need to have.
“I’m not sure where this new material will go – we’ll mash up some favourite bits and get it out there to keep people engaged. I’ll be using a local film crew and we’ll probably just film it in a lounge room.
“That’s been one of the things we’ve learned during COVID. We’re all the same, we just live in different houses.”