Off Topic: Geordie Brookman

Off Topic and on the record, as South Australian identities talk about whatever they want… except their day job. Geordie Brookman, the State Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, grew up in a Utopian-like hobby farm community of artists in Kangarilla, a place that continues to play an important role in his life.

“Well, I started life in a shed,” Brookman begins. “A shed called the Jade Palace. I started life in the Jade Palace because my parents, Rob [Brookman, State Theatre CEO] and Verity [Laughton, writer], were one of three couples that bought this rural property out in Kangarilla, near McLaren Vale. They bought it in the late 70s and had this Utopian dream of creating a perfect community there and then proceeded to build the whole thing themselves, pretty much. By the time my older brother and myself came along they’d only got around to building the shed. We spent our first few years in a green corrugated iron shed. The house on the property slowly grew from that. “Out of the three couples there were three visual artists, an arts administrator, a writer and a businessman – he was the odd one out. It was an amazing mix of people with this very open, creative environment. All three couples ended up having three kids. I grew up with this set of surrogate siblings and we’ve all stayed incredibly close through the rest of our lives, even as we’ve spread out all over Australia. It’s a very special property in a way. And over the years lots of our dearest friends have become intrinsically linked to this property as well. It’s got the silliest name in the world, for some reason they called it Hunny Humm Farm, which is completely daggy. But it’s a beautiful spot in the dividing line between the McLaren Vale region and the Adelaide Hills region, just this little country town. Most people around there were either running cattle or sheep, very much a country community, and for a number of years we were gently known as the hippies on the hill. “It was a beautiful and warm loving place to grow up. A place I’ve returned to over the years. When my parents relocated to Sydney I took over the place from them when I was at uni and lived there with a bunch of mates. Eventually I left and went to Sydney as well and then when I came back to Adelaide in late 2007 with my partner Nicki, we moved back in and took it over again for another four or five years until my parents came back. It’s this kind of place that I continued to return to throughout my life. “It’s a place that plays an important part in my life and will continue to do so. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old Ted who refers to the place as Teddy’s Farm. As far as he’s concerned it’s built for him. So there’s this beautiful ownership through the generations. It’s funny, that sense of community is something that, to me, is really important in my work. I think that’s where it’s flowed from.” Brookman believes his parents and their friends decided to move to Hunny Humm Farm because they wanted to live in a “connected and sustainable way before the word ‘sustainable’ was out there and a fashionable term”. “They didn’t really know what they were doing or even quite why. But I think they worked it out as they went along. Somehow they managed to scrape it all together to make it work. There are beautiful bits of history up there because half of the houses were built from recycled materials from demolition sites. There’s this beautiful old church door in our house that remains one of my father’s regrets. When they came upon this demolition site, where they were taking down this old church, there were two of these doors for sale, and back then in the late 70s they were $10 each. One of his greatest regrets is that he didn’t buy both. “Even now they couldn’t pin down a single reason it ended up being that group of people or that place [that set up the farm] but that’s just life. It takes you down certain paths sometimes.” When Brookman and his partner moved back to the farm in 2007 they discovered a book while cleaning. “We were cleaning out the cellar and we found this book called How to Build Your Own Stonehouse. I rang my dad, ‘I just found this book in the cellar?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah that’s what I used when I was building the house’.”

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