Michael Veitch shares his touring story to Flinders Island, Tasmania

Posted in Communities on 16/Dec/2015 15:00

I'd already played a couple of dozen venues across Australia  by the time we arrived on Flinders Island, but I'd been anticipating, and in a sense, dreading performing on this gorgeous, windswept jewel out in Bass Strait for weeks. I'd been there before, you see, a few years ago when writing a book about the little known (or for that matter, visited) Bass Strait islands called The Forgotten Islands. Now, I hadn't exactly been mean about Flinders Island when I wrote that chapter, but I did paint some of the locals as being, well, let's just say a little eccentric! I hadn't been back there since, and was quite unsure how they were going to react to their little island community being put in the spotlight by some blow-in outsider. 

I arrived with Dave (that's it, me and Dave. I act, Dave does everything else. Flak is not a big show!) at the little island airport on our bumpy propellor plane from Melbourne's Essendon Airport.  Immediately, all the people in the terminal started talking to one another, passengers, staff, pilots, everyone. I'd forgotten: Flinders is an island of just under a thousand people. Believe, me, everyone knows everyone. Dave and I were immediately met by Fiona who took us, not to the theatre, but to her house for a cup of tea (well, it had been a long flight of, um, 35 minutes after all). She then informed us that all sorts of people were coming to the show tomorrow night including one of my best friends from my time living in Hobart, Jane Longhurst and her husband Guy Hooper - lovely people and genuine Tasmanian theatre royalty. 'Oh', said Fiona, almost as an afterthought, 'she's also my cousin'. Of course she was!

The performance was a special one. It was actually Grand Final night, so it was deeply appreciated that so many Flinders Island locals had turned up. It's not a big place - the main town is Whitemark, but some of my audience had come twenty or so kilometres over dirt roads from all  parts of the island to see my tribute to the men who flew in the Second World War. The newish venue was basic but totally adequate for our needs, and I could tell being out there, that the audience were genuine 'listeners' - my favourite! 

Afterwards, we were feted, at someone's house, and then another, and then taken to the pub (there's only one) for a supper and a drink at the big long bar full of locals and fishing memorabilia. A couple of colourful local gents who I recognised as the folk I'd talked about in the book eyed me with an odd smile. 'Here it comes', I thought to myself as they sidled up. 'Loved the show, mate', said one with a thumbs up and a big grin. I hadn't even noticed them in the little hall were we performed, but gee I'm glad they were there. From then on, Flinders Island was smooth sailing. Can't wait to perform there again. 

Michael Veitch toured Flak - True Stories from the men who flew in WW2 to Flinders Island, Tasmania as part of Performing Arts Touring 2015 program.