On the Couch with Roderick Poole

Roderick Poole Arts Review On the CouchWho is Roderick Poole?
He’s either a farmer in charge of an arts festival or a festival director running a farm. Either way, it could end badly.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I’d probably do less. The farm is down in the Southern Otways and has beef cattle, sheep, chickens, horses and old-breed pigs. All the animals are free-range. Some a bit too free-range! The pigs are mischievous and challenging. It’s like having 50 Herculean toddlers on your hands. There’s also a truffiere – a spread of oak trees producing splendiferous black truffles. I’m handling all this by myself, so taking on the first WinterWild Festival as well was possibly Quixotic. When all else fails, I eat well.

Who inspires you and why?
I get a lot of inspiration from my animals and this splendid environment I work in. Animals, particularly pigs, are honest and refreshingly direct. The more time I spend with people, the more I appreciate my animals. That said, I’m also working with some terrific people. The festival team here is a gift from heaven; committed, inspired, selfless people that work like Trojans. The local community really knows how to support an event like this. Whenever there’s a problem or a gap, someone or something nearby is almost instantly proffered to solve the problem.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
We all make a difference. The key is to make it a positive difference and not make things worse. I’d like to think I’ve moved out of the problem camp into the solution sector. If we all have access to good art and good food, many of the problems are already solved. Providing, of course, that these are produced without a cost to the environment.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I live in my favourite holiday destination. Which is just as well because I never have a holiday. I’m here in the Otways, overlooking the ocean, just next to the rainforest and communing with my delightful animals. When I need to unwind, I head to Melbourne and stay with my family in the CBD. Obtuse? Quite possibly.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I love to walk friends around the farm. In a one hour walk we can take in the views, the truffiere, meet the pigs, the chooks, the cows, the sheep, the horses, the alpaca, a bit of rainforest and the waterfall just near the house. That’s attractive enough, surely? They don’t have to go much further to see the magnificent coastline that has a different character for every day of the year. And if they’re here during WinterWild, then there’s a whole extra layer of fun to be had.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished the Brain that Changes Itself (Norman Doidge) and Gut (Giulia Enders). You could be forgiven for thinking I’m obsessed with my insides. Know thyself, I say. I like to alternate fiction with non-fiction. On the fiction side of things I’ve just launched into Michel Houlbeque’s latest, Submission. He’s a troublesome fellow. I’ve also just started John Pilger’s autobiography, Heroes. More trouble, but good trouble.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m listening to a whole lot of music that’s been lined up for WinterWild. It’s a very diverse bunch. There’s Mick Turner (Dirty Three), there’s Puccini’s Tosca, there’s Laura Jean, the Sand Pebbles, Sui Zhen, friendships, Jess Cornelius. We’re blessed with a really rich music culture.

Happiness is?
A full day’s work on the farm with no disasters. It’s gorgeous here, but I’ve found farming is a long series of disasters punctuated by the occasional catastrophe. My background includes  nearly 20 years in street theatre. I didn’t think there was an area in which you could find more surprises. But then I discovered farming. The stories I could tell…

What does the future hold for you?
One season at a time. Getting through an Otways Winter is a challenge in itself, but doing so along with the birth of a new festival is quite enough for me. Spring looks to be a long way away, but it will be very welcome when it comes. Very welcome indeed.

The 2017 WinterWild Festival takes place over 4 weekends celebrating the beauty of the elements: Water: 1 – 2 July; Earth: 15 – 16 July; Air: 29 – 30 July; and Fire: 12 – 13 August. For more information, visit: www.winterwildapollobay.com.au for details.

Image: Roderick Poole