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An interview with Amelia Murray - Visual Artist / Community Organiser

November 12, 2018


Tell us about yourself in your own words.

My name is Amelia Murray. I do a bit of art and design, I play guitar, and I also organise shows for different bands and musicians. I’ve lived in Sydney my whole life and I studied art education at uni. I guess I’m interested in bringing people together through music and art, and the community it builds; but also helping others find their strengths and giving opportunities to people who may be traditionally overlooked.


Can you tell us about the shows you organise through Nightcrawlers?

The reason we started it was because we were getting anxious about the state of Sydney’s live music scene. It was sort of around that time when all the venues were closing down including Black Wire, and we wanted to make sure that shows kept happening. We decided to start Nightcrawlers as a non-profit kind of company. I never really wanted or expected to make any money out of it, it was more of a way for us to support bands we loved. We try and focus on making all of our shows inclusive - making sure there are women, non-binary and POC on the line-up. Basically just giving a voice and a place for people that perhaps wouldn't feel confident enough to organise their own show or to put themselves out there. I run Nightcrawlers with my friend Mat and we’ve been doing it for almost 2 years.


What are some of the challenges you face and lesson you have learned through your work on Nightcrawlers?

It can be very difficult sometimes just booking the show. You have an idea of what you want it to  be like and it doesn’t often work out that way because it really depends on which bands are available. You want to make sure that she show is inclusive, and you want to give opportunities to newer bands, and at the same time you want to make sure there's going to be lots of people coming to watch. Sometimes it can be difficult dealing with certain bands because they’re not very organised and just getting together a backline for the show can be a bit of a challenge too. We’re lucky at the Petersham Bowling Club where we organise shows, they’ve got a bit of a backline so that works out well usually.

What’s the most rewarding part?

When the actual show comes together and just seeing all the people that enjoy it. Especially if you’re supporting younger people or people from interstate that don’t know Sydney very well - they are always very thankful and that’s basically why we do it. We all like seeing people feel proud about their bands so hopefully we can help them feel that way.

You’re a visual artist as well. Tell us about your art?

It’s a weird thing because I go through stages with my art where I feel really motivated and then sometimes I don’t at all. Sometimes I don’t do art for a long time but I found I’ve really enjoyed making posters for the Nightcrawlers shows because it’s a bit quicker than doing an illustration. I really enjoy doing illustrations, but I like things to be fast and I don’t like working on the one thing for too long – I find it frustrating.


What’s your creative process?

I don’t really work in a certain style. I guess I have a certain style of illustration but I like to chop and change with my art. Usually I’ll see something maybe in nature or maybe someone else’s art or a really interesting colour scheme and that will usually motivate me to start a drawing. Normally, in terms of making posters for example, you’ve kind of got a brief already - you’ve got to have the band’s names on the posters and stuff. I guess I do a lot of experimentation as well and I will draw things and put them away and then reuse them later. I don’t really have a process, I think I just like to do it a bit differently every time.  


Has it always been that way?

Yeah, I think I’ve always been slightly bored with routine and have found it hard to stick to the one thing.


You studied to be a teacher is that right?

Yeah I did, but never actually officially worked as a teacher besides a few months as a student and a couple of one-off classes. Unfortunately, living with mental illness made it hard for me to do this kind of work, but I hope to do more teaching in the future. I was lucky enough to be involved with Girls Rock Canberra and Sydney and had a lot of fun teaching workshops on art and design.


Do you find that your mental health is a challenge when it comes to working on your art and Nightcrawlers?

Definitely. I’ve had to have a few breaks over the years. It can get a bit much sometimes all the organising and people messaging you constantly. You want to give people support but at the same time you have to be well enough to do that. If I am not feeling great, usually I'm not motivated and I don’t feel like doing art at all. So that’s difficult because sometimes you just have to make a poster even if you’re feeling shitty, but luckily I’ve got a lot of people around me. If I need a poster made I can always contact someone to help - there’s lots of other people I can reach out to so that is good.

What sort of themes do you like to explore through art?

I guess nature. I love being outdoors and I love small objects like leaves and flowers and animals. Also, a lot of my work I’ve been doing lately has been based on Russian constructivist art - so all the old soviet era propaganda posters and things like that. I’m really interested in the colours and composition.


What do you stand for as an artist and a booker?

I just like things to be fair. I try and treat people with respect and I try and sort out issues as quickly and easily as possible. There have been issues in the past where there have been certain people in the scene that have made other people - usually women - feel uncomfortable so there have been times where I’ve had to ask those people not to come back or just to make them aware of their behaviour. I think everyone should have an equal chance and especially in the music scene, as you know, it’s dominated by men. It’s really nice to see it changing so quickly as well.


What is the biggest obstacle you face in your work as an artist and a booker?

Definitely my mental illness. I think in very black and white terms a lot of the time and I have to remind myself not to do that. It’s a weird concept because when you’re doing art it’s not a black and white thing, there are grey areas. Just reminding myself that nothing is ever really good or bad and everything is kind of in between and not to take things so seriously sometimes. I think it can be really hard being an artist or working in creative fields because you don’t have a lot of stability and you often don’t know when you’re next pay-check is coming. You don’t know in 5 years time where you’re going to be working and that can cause a lot of distress sometimes. You don’t know how you’re going to pay for stuff or how you’re going to be living and I find that really difficult to deal with sometimes. I need to remember that having that freedom is what I want and being tied down in a full time office job would drive me even more insane. I think just being able to sit with that not knowing and just taking things as they come and going with the flow a bit and learning to do that which I don’t think comes naturally to me but I’m getting better at it.


Do you want to elaborate at all on mental illness for context?

I won’t go into so much detail, but I have depression and anxiety, and they affect my ability to regulate my emotions.


What is the best piece of advice you could give to young women and queer folk who want to make art or music or just be seen and heard?

Find like-minded people, and never let anyone tell you or make you feel like you can’t do what you want to do.

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