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  • Performing alongside Australian trumpet virtuoso James Morrison is a unique opportunity for Logan city’s aspiring musicians. (File)Source: File
Queensland’s Logan City caught national attention in 2013, when two families in the suburb of Woodridge got into a four-day fight. Media coverage of the incident highlighted Logan as a troubled city, fuelled by racial tension and violence. Two years on, the city is eager to change its image in a major community musical produced by the Queensland Music Festival.
By
Amy Chien-Yu Wang

27 Jul 2015 - 8:54 AM  UPDATED 13 Nov 2015 - 4:14 PM

Performing alongside Australian trumpet virtuoso James Morrison is a unique opportunity for Logan city’s aspiring musicians.

They’re launching a brand new musical called Under this Sky for the Queensland Music Festival.

It’s the city’s biggest ever local production, with over 700 performers and original music written by and for the community.

The two free shows will be held in Logan on the first and second of August.

James Morrison is the festival’s creative director.

He describes how the musical follows a day in the life of Logan city. 

“Out of each of those parts of the day, the morning, the afternoon, and the evening and the dawn we sort of look at the kinds of stories that come out at that time of the day. When it starts in the morning there are people going to work, there are mothers pushing prams, there are people doing exercises in the park and all these sorts of things and of course that turns into a dance that turns into a song and it talks about Logan its like any where else. People go to work, people go to school, people do things and as the story goes on you find that it’s not like everywhere else.”

Creative director of Under This Sky, Sean Mee says the show’s narrative evolved from countless conversations with the cast.

“They wanted to from a point of healing, begin to tell the stories of Logan that they were proud of, that were the heroic stories, the ordinary heroics of living in a place like this with its history, and with its story and with its circumstances, given that it's a place of starting. This is where people start their lives, whether they be, coming from low socio economic areas, or they're coming from overseas or they’re coming from refugee communities. This is where they start.”

The city of Logan sits between Brisbane and the Gold Coast in South East Queensland. The Logan Local Government area includes 64 suburbs covering urban areas, woodlands, waterways and wetlands.

According to the Council it’s one of the largest and fastest growing cities in Australia. However the 2013 Wooldridge street brawl dented Logan’s image.

The incident involved violent clashes between neighbouring indigenous and Pacific Islander families, off the back of simmering racial tensions in the community. At one stage, typing ‘Logan City’ in a search engine resulted in a confronting photo of the fight.  The uncomplimentary photograph outraged the community and Logan City Mayor Pam Parker got Google to eventually remove the picture.

Mayor Parker hopes Under this Sky will change public perception of Logan.

“This is about showing the people outside of Logan that Logan is more than one incident, it’s more than two families. It’s about a whole city coming together to celebrate a day in the life in Logan.”

Rona is one of the show’s performers. Born in New Zealand of Samoan descent, Rona has lived in Logan for twenty years. While she has seen criminal activities in her neighbourhood, she says she has always felt safe.

“I’ve lived in Logan for 20 years now and I’ve never been scared even though since I’ve lived here there has been lots of stuff that we’ve witnessed and heard on the news and you know, murder around the corner from where I live, domestic violence all up and down my street, drug dealers across the road, everybody getting robbed and for some reason I love living in Logan, I never saw those things as threatening to myself or my family.”

Rona’s act in the show is to tell her own story in her own voice as a Logan resident. 

“I came here with my husband and our two babies and my husband’s family had already moved here and were happily living here in Australia, you know looking for that beautiful Australian dream and we thought we’d come and share of that as well and time went by, we bought a house quite quickly actually, eighteen months after we moved which was a really, really big move. I had two more babies and my husband got sick and he had cancer and he passed away when my youngest baby was 6 months old and my oldest child was nine.”

After losing her husband, Rona struggled to bring up her four children whilst studying for a social worker’s qualification. It was a neighbour she had never spoken to who became her biggest support.

“We all coexist in the same community and people across the road from you go through stuff and sometimes it can just nail you down or having somebody to just give you a hand can just bring you up and get you going again.”

Sean Mee says the production is about replacing the negative narrative of Logan with stories that reflect the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. 

“There’s lot of quiet heroism and industry and commitment and sacrifice to the community in very difficult circumstances. I mean there’s constant waves and waves of refugees and migrants and this is one of the places in Australia they come. And they survive, they settle and they prosper. And their children move into the world with confidence and with an education and that's a great story, that’s the real story of this place.”

The musical showcases an 86-piece orchestra, a 25-strong core choir, 10 community choirs and 240 school children - all of whom are involved in creating ‘Under this Sky.’

James Morrison admits involving this many people in shaping the production can sometimes be challenging.  

“It’s always inspiring. Sometimes scary because you go, ‘is this going to work? Like it’s getting out of hand!’ But out of those things always seems to come something new and even better.”

The cast consists of professional and aspiring performers from all walks of life.

“There’s a lot of school kids, there’s a lot of community choirs, people who are retired or people who have another job and they just like to get together and sing on a Wednesday night, now they’re in this big show. That’s the wonderful thing about it too. It’s not just a range of different cultural identities, it's a range of different ages, it's a range of different musical abilities, everything. It really is very inclusive and yet at the same time achieves this great excellence.”

Mayor Pam Parker says the show’s cast is a testament of the city’s cultural harmony.

“There’s 217 different cultures in Logan and they’re all going to be singing with one voice, telling the story of Logan. The people of Logan get on harmoniously and they want to be able to show the world how they get on well. And the strength of Logan is our amazing and caring community spirit and it’s going to shine more brilliantly than ever on this particular evening where people can show the warmth and the family and the community connectedness they have.”

‘Under This Sky’ premiers August 1 at the Wembley Road Football Field in Logan.