1. The Geert Escape

‘Escaping twice’ was going to be the concept. The escape from my daily world, the stress and the release into the open was the first one. Escaping the island of Koh Rougniev, after being found in the bush, the other. Loosely based on the film ‘The Great Escape’, with Steve McQueen but when I left a poster with that title in the third-year studio at work, my students had crossed out the ‘rea’ and replaced it with ‘eer’. I decided to accept that marvel of conceptual thinking. I also like to add that I consider myself not even being even close to Steve McQueen, but it just seemed an appropriate title.

The idea for the fund raiser came from a friend after I had explained to her that I intended to come out with my story. Just back from the trip I was full of beans and I needed to share it. The events on Koh Rougniev, the hospital and consequent understanding of the unfairness of our world needed to be brought back into perspective. The other reason for organising this was that I have had many adventures before but always felt shy or uncomfortable to talk about it. In the Hinchinbrook saga in 1997 it was guilt that stopped me from talking about what happened. Not so this time! I was alone.

I started to look into a few small venues like pubs but knew I wanted the attention of an audience, that they were comfortable, and that I could house a fair number of people. I had presented in the same Main Theatre at the ACArts building in the city of Adelaide on an Open Day for TAFE so I knew the venue. I asked for it and got it for free, except for some technical costs. That was a huge bonus and from that moment on I started to think and concentrate on what I wanted to tell and how.

I contacted a few cycling organisations and friends in that field, AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) who put it on their website, and Youth Mental Health organisations. I made a link with my own bouts with mild depression versus the student’s mental well being. I see a lot of anxiety and some depression in education and hope that young people know where to go and where to get help from if they are in a bad way. Out of that darkness come beautiful things. Often introspective but always good.

Posters, postcards and a website were designed, printed and distributed and I used social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn to promote the evening further. All I could do was hope and wait nervously whether people would turn up and that I was not making a huge fool of myself by stepping into the spotlight into an empty theatre. Many people rsvp-ed, many didn’t. People that rsvp-ed did not show up. Others did. It is the way these things go but it is a nervous time. I knew in my heart that I was going to be OK. Convinced in my drive and urge to share the good and some of the bad with the audience I worked on this massive project with gusto and drew support from many people and sources.

A short story format seemed the best way for two reasons. Firstly because I wrote short stories whilst I was on my trip. The feedback from these stories was huge and inspired me to go and write even more. The other one was that I instinctively felt that I needed to build some safety guards into my presentation. It is too easy to get lost in the moment and I wanted to avoid that I was going to waffle.

I designed the presentation with large typographical ‘dividers’ and left clues on the slide before that telling me when a new subject would come up. That way I was in control and the individual slides also helped me through the night. But I could not have done this without the support of good people. I pray I have not left anyone out who helped me.

I like to thank the following people and in no particular order: Becky Gacono, Rita and John Siow, Jenny Tuck and Splash Out, Tim Saunders, Bob Miller-Smith, Matt Sarre, Abigail Jones, Mette Krogh-Jespersen, Mandi, Mike, Joe, Angus and Jessica, David Blaiklock, Lynne Dickson, John Kiely, The Gacono family, the van Keulen family, Robin Eley, current and past students at TAFESA and UniSA, Graham McArthur, Josh Jarvis, Jordan Graetz, Jerome Lyons, Kellie Campbell-Illingworth and AGDA, Patricia Howes and Omnibus.

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