I met Anne-Marie Wiles during a short writing course I enrolled in when I first came to Sydney. It was in Hurstville, 20k south of Sydney in the suburbs where we still live. She wore fiery red horned glasses and lipstick to match as she spoke passionately about how people should mix with others with no barriers. She was a straight shooter and thankfully, there was zero bullshit about her.
I liked her from the start.
She was talking about the scriptwriting course Scripts to Screen for the Hurstville City Council (now Georges River Council) and how it included people with mental health issues and some who did not identify as such. The program was aimed at making the group mix as budding writers, giving each other constructive criticism. It was an amazing experience, not without its challenges, but amazing.
Fast forward a few years and some fantastic collaborations for her, I thought I’d honour her boldness and inclusiveness in a story for International Women’s Day. Here’s the write up so far:
As a professional young actor, Anne-Marie Wiles would get up before the crack of dawn, don a boiler suit covered in soot and join her colleagues from Sidetrack Theatre to perform plays for Railways workers in the outskirts of Sydney.
It was a bold move in 1980s Australia, when ‘arts and culture’ was largely imported and performed on glossy stages in the affluent, inner city areas.
(…which it still is )
Anne-Marie was one of two women in an otherwise male performance group made up of a mixed bag of nationalities from the suburbs hoping to change the script on themes reflecting immigrant, blue collar Australia: job security, wage equality, clash of cultures, and disruptive technology.
Anne-Marie Wiles is now an award winning Arts Co-ordinator from Georges River Council south of the city, who discusses whether she still thinks the arts can be an agent for change.
There needs to be more stories about talented people like this who can mobilize, connect and inspire people within local communities.
The story will be up the week of March 8