The five university students were standing and sitting around a very low sofa. I started chatting with them and found out they were all studying the dramatic arts, majoring in singing or dancing, and all but one of them lived together. I explained that, as part of the Anywhere Festival, I was listening to people’s stories of belonging. They instantly got it and started sharing their experiences, particularly in relation to performing. I wrote their conversation down as it happened, not noting who said what, partly because it all happened too quickly.

“I find belonging from people, from other artists.”

“I feel I belong a lot more with people who have similar interests, passions, and then those people start to feel like family.”

Do you get a sense of belonging when you practise your art?

“We had a dance assessment today and I felt so much like I did not belong, so disengaged. Our teacher is very stand-offish. I learn much better in a helpful and nurturing environment. Then I went to acting and I felt so cared for. Nurtured. So I felt I belonged.”

“Yes, during rehearsals and on stage when the whole cast really works together I feel a real sense of belonging, but not during auditions. It’s too competitive.”

“When competition fades that’s when the magic happens.  When you get the role or the part, that’s when it moves from competition to working together and that’s when you belong.” (Jake)

“I love the feeling straight after a performance when everyone has pulled together to make something.”

“Belonging to me is something else. You’ll never truly belong until you’re confident in yourself. For me it’s going against the standards. Breaking the rules and doing what’s best for me. My motto is be happy and make others happy. Each night I make sure I go to be happy with a clear mind.” (Tayla)

“But you don’t like getting up in the morning.”

“No. I love sleeping.”

“Even if your groups things you belong, if you don’t think you belong, you won’t.”

“You’re expected to feel your belonging in your family but it’s not like that. I love my family but they are so different to me.”

I met Kirra, Jake, Tayla, Jahla, and Laura at the opening to Dolores as the Pop-Up Story Catcher for the Anywhere Festival, Tylor King Gallery, 5 May 2016.