On the Couch with Martin Paten

Martin Paten Arts Review On the CouchWho is Martin Paten?
I am a 50 year-old Maltese/Australian boy from Airport West. I grew up among many weekends spent in Altona amongst the intensity, bonds, fun and flavour of a large extended Maltese family. After a trip OS backpacking at 19, I returned certain the arts was going to be my thing. I commenced studying photography at Victoria College, Prahran in 1986 under luminary photographer and teacher, John Cato. After a period of commercial and journalistic photography with The Age, I eventually cut my Festival Director’s teeth on the Moonee Valley Festival. Then to the City of Melbourne to be part of extraordinary experiences and collaborations across public art, Melbourne’s laneway commissions and some of the city’s most iconic events – Melbourne International Jazz, Midsumma, Comedy, Melbourne International Art and Melbourne Fringe Festivals, amongst others. In 2008 I moved with my wife and daughter to the tiny former gold-mining town of Vaughan, near Castlemaine ‘for a bit of a break’. Plans shifted when three weeks later, I landed the job as Festival Director of the Castlemaine State Festival. After almost 10 years I will be finishing with my fifth and final Castlemaine State Festival in March 2017.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
If I could, I would be more philanthropic. My work connects me with individuals and philanthropic foundations who give to others in need. I would love to be more generous.

Who inspires you and why?
I know it is more what than who, but living within and surrounded by nature and the bush is very inspiring and feeds my imagination, gives perspective and creates possibility.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Magically convince everyone to consume less.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Our place in Vaughan backs onto the Loddon River – where I swim every day in summer – and we are adjacent to the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park – where I love to walk. A bit further afield, I have a real soft spot for Barmah in far northern Victoria, up on the Murray River. My parents have had a small block up there for 35 years and I have grown up holidaying at the Barmah Lakes and in the Barmah Forest, the largest red gum forest in the world. Overseas – it would have to be Malta. My mother was born in Malta and I have a deep love of the place. It is ancient, familiar yet exotic to me, rocky and arid, surrounded by azure sea. Pretty retro too, sometimes it seems to be stuck somewhere vaguely between 1950 and 1985.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
On a Saturday in summer – I would start with a swim at Golden Point Reservoir, a coffee and dumplings pick-up from Wesley Hill Market, a stroll and then lunch at the old Castlemaine Woollen Mills, a wander through Castlemaine’s Botanical Gardens and then an evening at the Theatre Royal.

What are you currently reading?
Stan Grant’s Talking to my Country.

What are you currently listening to?
Norwegian singer Ane Brun. Saw her in concert recently in Melbourne and was swept away.

Happiness is?
A full-house at a live show with an ecstatic audience.

What does the future hold for you?
I turned 50 on 31 December, I bid farewell to the Festival in June, and so I’m ready for anything.

The Castlemaine State Festival runs 17 – 26 March 2017. For more information, visit: www.castlemainefestival.com.au for details.

Image: Martin Paten