Red Centre Dreaming Aboriginal Dance Group 8 Month tour of Europe 2002


First published on Let’s Tour UK


Alice Springs-based international Aboriginal dance group Red Centre Dreaming (RCD) successfully completed a 8 -month (Feb-Sept 2002) tour of Europe and the UK, promoting Australia and Aboriginal culture to the

This was the largest and longest Aboriginal cultural performance every undertaken in Europe and full credit should go to the performers Turtle Tamwoy, Mathew Brady and Darran Williams, described in a tribute from sponsors QANTAS as “the great ambassadors for Australia and Aboriginal culture in Europe”.

Since 1997 Red Centre Dreaming has performed at the partnership operations of Aurora Resorts and Hotels and the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre in Alice Springs, who have won many national and world tourism awards for their cultural tourism and performances. As a result of these awards Red Centre Dreaming was selected for the 2000 Sydney Olympic broadcast to 176 countries and also to appear on approximately 60 international television programs ranging from Sesame Street to Lonely Planet.

From 1999 to 2001 Red Centre Dreaming continued this media-blitz with the support of Qantas, the Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) and over 20 Australian tourism groups to tour Italy and France , appearing at cultural festivals, trade events and on approx 30 television programs, often dancing live-to-air with audiences of 10 million viewers.

Tour group

Group Leader/Dancer: Arthur Thukabi Turtle Tamwoy, Pitjantjara/Yankunjata Song Man:/Dancer: Mathew Mananj-Diwanba Brady, Ku-Ku-Yallangi

Didge Playerdancer: Darran Gag-Gara Williams, Wiradjuri Dancer/Singer: Reuben Doolah

Kakatsitsi Master Drummers From Ghana (Financed Separately) Tour/Marketing/Media /Sponsorship Manager: Colin Cowell

Uk Booking Agent: Indigenous People , London.


As a result of this success the ATC approached Colin Cowell, an Alice Springs-based marketing consultant and Turtle, the group’s international leader, to put into action a 7 -month 2002 international tour.

Stage 1: Italy/Germany/Holland/Denmark/Sweden/Norway Feb-May 2002 (major sponsors Qantas/Australian Tourist Commission/NTTC/My Planet).

Stage 2: UK tour festivals/schools coordinated by Indigenous People London (major sponsor Qantas/UK Arts Council)Touring with Kakatsitsi Master drummers from Ghana(14 members).

Colin Cowe ll’s responsibility was to plan, market and source sponsors for the tour that costed approximately Aus $275,000 (in cash/kind).

The objectives of the tour were clearly defined at the outset, and were:

  • To promote Australia as a tourist destination.
  • To promote Aboriginal cultural tourism products.
  • To work closely with the Australian High Commission to provide an Aboriginal component/representation to the Queen’s Jubilee year celebrations and the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
  • To establish an UK/European network of performance/cultural venues for future tours by Aboriginal artists, dancers and musicians. In Europe, interpreters were used for trade schools and festivals but in theatres the whole show worked in a visual sense without “talking heads” interrupting the show.
  • To work with UK/European record producers to introduce both traditional and contemporary Aboriginal music to the “world music” industry.
  • To establish an international network of indigenous musicians and tour operators.
  • To establish Aboriginal cultural workshops in UK schools.


A long tour can be hard on any group of performers but being away for so long in foreign countries, in bad weather and on tight budgets can really test any group. Of the 200-odd performances only four performances encountered difficulty in providing a full contingent of dancers .

Each performer was an ambassador for Aboriginal culture, a nd that motivated the touring gro up.

Good communications between all group members , at all times, is essential to maintaining group cohesion.

Artists considering a tour need to ensure adequate funds to travel and eat sufficiently well. Food, especially in Paris, Rome and London is very, very expensive, for instance coffee or beer AUS$10, evening meal AUS$30.00. The ATC and Qantas were very supportive but in the UK the RCD was expected to travel on AUS$8.00 a day when a hamburger was $15.00. This caused more pain than any other issue.


RCD understood the need to work to a budget but in the UK, when joined on tour with other groups, there were up to 20 people in a room, which was stressful.

Make sure to confirm, and to confirm again, staging requirements in advance. In Rome organisers had RCD dancing on AUS $3000 worth of non-toxic Kitty litter! Plan ahead to avoid this kind of complication. Also, ensure promoters understand the length, structure and composition of the performance, in order to avoid scheduling difficulties. RCD provided all promoters with a full marketing and tour requirements kit that spelt out all aspects of our cultural touring so there were no misunderstandings.

Another word of advice if you have an offer from overseas: ask the promoter to give references from previous touring performers . This may prevent you working 24 hours a day for peanuts.

This tour was achieved on an absolute ‘shoe string’ ($275,000) and in hind sight was far too long. The huge interest RCD generated fo r event bookings throughout Europe in 2003 cannot be met without support from Australia Aboriginal art and cultural tourism funding bodies.


RCD participated in over 150 television/radio programs, print media interviews in Italy, Holland, Germa ny, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and England. Television, press and radio interviews were also conducted in other regions such as Poland, Spain, Greece, Asia and North America.

Over 14 hours of major events were recorded by Soula Films Cornwall who flew to Australia in November to edit the footage into a television documentary. A short edit (12 min) of school workshops in Cornwall was recently shown at a national UK teacher’s conference.

RCD appeared at many major international trade events including an ATC southern Italy road show, BIT Milano, ITB Berlin, My planet/ATC tour (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) and OZTALK London.

RCD toured the UK between May and September with 14 members of the Kakatsitsi-Master drummers from Ghana, appearing to mostly sell-out audiences at major UK festivals and major events such as the Lord Mayor of London’s concert in Trafalgar Square and the Rhythm Sticks Festival at the Royal Festival Hall London.

RCD utilised Aboriginal dancers from four regions/tribal groups in Australia so the diversity of Aboriginal culture was well represented in performance and media interviews.

Northern Territory: Arthur Thukabi Turtle Tamwoy, Pitjantjara/Yankunjata

Queensland: Mathew Mananj-Diwanba Brady, Ku-Ku-Yallangi New South Wales: Darran Gag-Gara Williams, Wiradjuri Torres Strait: Reuben Doolah.

The key issue in performing overseas is illustrating through dance, language and culture the diversity of Aboriginal culture and the fact that it is a living history.

The highlight of the tour for the dancers was being chosen to represent Australia in the finale of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee at Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace. It was an opportunity to show the world that Aboriginal culture has survived and is strong. RCD was also selected to represent Australia a t cultural events including the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the 150th anniversary of the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

The Cultural attaché to the Commission had advanced reports from the Australian Embassies in Rome and Paris about Red Centre Dreaming because on previous tours the Ambassadors at both Embassies had not only

been supportive but actually attended many of our performances and launched our tours. Commissions overseas will not endorse or recommend any group without the performers having a good track record.

RCD appeared in a wide range of theatres (seating 200 -600) throughout the UK and at major international festivals such as the Highland Festival at Inverness, Cornwall Heritage, Glastonbury Dance, Worcester, Chichester, Stroud and music festivals such as the Big Green Gathering and Earth Spirit.

The dancers worked on a fixed weekly fee throughout the tour and on average danced or workshopped 5 days a week. Some times RCD could be working three or four weeks straight and then get a few days off. If the work was there RCD did it.

RCD recorded with a number of UK-based record producers including ZION Train, Joe Partridge and the Rainbow Warriors. This material is currently being edited for release. A live concert album ”From The Palace To The Alice” was recorded on Pink Floyd’s ex-recording desk in Cornwall and sold very well at performances.

There are five equal shareholders in the project (the Ku-Ku-Yallangi community/the three artists and the manager). Every possible step has been taken to protect the traditional copyright of the owners.

RCD was able to establish an excellent network of indigenous musicians and tour operators in Europe, the Pacific, Africa, North/South America and Asia. In the future it is hoped to continue the process of working and touring with other indigenous groups. RCD would also like to assist some of these groups to visit or tour Aboriginal communities and tourism operators throughout Australia in 2003.

RCD travelled thousands of miles from Scotland to Cornwall working with an estimated 5000 school children in remote schools with 20 kids to major colleges and high schools with 700 students (All ready to backpack to Australia in a few years!!). RCD was fortunate to link up with Kakatsitsi Master Drummers from Ghana (16 persons) who had toured the school circuit for two years previously. The school program was usually a week in each remote region (From Lands End to John O Groates). Four dance rs and four drummers would spend a day at a school and then at the end of the week bring all the schools together for one big display in costume.


During the 7-month tour RDC:

Performed in 7 countries/Media coverage 15 countries.

Danced at over 200 individual performances.

Conducted over 150 media interviews.

Generated over $3 million in media coverage.

Performed to over 100,000 people in theatres and festivals.

Travelled 8,500 road miles in the UK.

Conducted workshops for over 5,000 school children.

Danced at the Queens Jubilee Parade at Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park concert seen by millions around the world. When the four dancers were chosen to represent Australia by dancing down the Mall and being presented to the Queen inside Buckingham Palace , it was to show the world (a billion viewers) that Aboriginal culture was not extinguished by the British occupation and had survived and was still strong.

Established a professional reputation for Aboriginal dance groups in the UK

Created a positive image for Aboriginal cultural Tourism in Australia.

Red Centre Dreaming has broken new ground for Aboriginal artists and tourism operators to capitalise on the growing interest in indigenous cultures.

Further information, or advice:

Colin Cowell: 0401 331 251

Red Centre Dreaming Management International



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