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Performance anxieties
Great ape inspiration
First came the lockout for the creatives and audiences at Sydney’s Carriageworks, the former trackside railway workshops reborn in 2007 as an arts precinct. Performances and exhibitions were cancelled at the end of March and onsite artists forced from their studios, soon after the Covid-19 isolation requirements were announced.

The Sydney Writers’ Festival, due in May, was scrapped for the year and relaunched as a series of podcasts. Carriageworks’ famed Saturday morning farmers’ market first thinned, then vanished, and with it another source of income crucial to the venue’s lifeblood.

The first time Melbourne photographer Ian Bickerstaff volunteered to work at the Mefou Primate Park, a sanctuary in the hot, humid equatorial rainforest of Cameroon, he was entrusted with caring for 10 chimps aged three years and younger, all orphans whose parents had been violently and illegally slaughtered for bushmeat and pet food.

Bickerstaff would make a bottle of milk for each chimp each morning, put food out, clean their enclosure and night cages. Later, having fed them lunch, helped with their grooming and checked them for wounds, he would photograph the primates alongside staff and fellow volunteers going about their rescue and rehabilitation roles for Ape Action Africa, a British charity.

Steve's essays Bent Man Running published in Growing Up Queer in Australia and Stream drama in Meanjin autumn 2020.
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