The journey continues for arts, culture guru

Ashwini SaseedaranSouth Western Times

Joel McGuinness’ ability to juggle a gaggle of responsibilities, events and positions as Bunbury’s arts and culture guru is testament to his running away at the age of 14 to join the circus – where he literally learnt how to juggle.

Many know Joel as the face of inclusive events and creative ventures, but only a select few would know the cheery-faced multitasking community personality is a true circus boy at heart.

When the International Clown’s Convention came to his hometown of Nannup, young Joel pulled a movie-like stunt and spent his childhood clowning around.

But from the early days of being young, wild and free, a deep-rooted passion for all things arts and culture emerged to push Joel to new heights.

At 16-years-old, he became the youngest committee member of the Denmark Arts Council and it was not long before university life in Perth came calling.

“I got into the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts and did a degree in Performing Arts which meant I spent many years away but I was always drawn back to home in the South West,” Joel said.

With a degree, experience and steadfast passion in hand, he returned to the region in 2011 to oversee the Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre expansion as general manager.

Joel’s desire to boost the CBD led to a Bunbury city councillor position where he worked hard to offset old-school rural attitudes.

“I did the hard yards to earn the respect of the older-school Bunbury – I got into the Chamber of Commerce, won the Business Person of the Year award and became a councillor,” Joel said.

These positions meant Joel’s creative flair started to be taken seriously and he soon became a key identity behind Bunbury’s events, communications and collaborative changes.

Those who met Joel were quickly introduced to his dashing laugh and smile that brightened up a room regardless of the constant internal stresses he faced from juggling his numerous professional positions.

This admirable ability to be a conscientious happy-go-lucky man while running around managing events and then some, was definitely proven on one occasion when he was BREC’s general manager.

“Not many people would know that BREC’s rebrand launch began with me on a trapeze,” Joel said.

“I had a Madonna headset on, the lights came on, the curtains went up and there’s the general manager up on the trapeze.

“People’s reactions were priceless.”

After leaving BREC, Joel ventured out on his own and built his own arts management company JAM creative.

“It’s been amazing – I’ve worked with about 30 arts organisations in WA over the past two years.

“From Bunbury and Broome to Kalgoorlie and Merriden, I’ve seen the richness of these little towns with amazing arts centres and how central they are to the community.

“The inspiration was to work with grassroots organisations and actually have an impact on how they do business.”

As he takes his next steps as Geelong Performing Arts Centre’s chief executive officer to oversee a $40 million expansion, Joel fondly looks back on his legacy in the South West and hopes he will see a thriving arts and culture scene on return visits.

“I worked through the rebranding and expansion of BREC, I’ve started Fringe Fest, worked with Bunbury Men of Song, CineFest Oz, the Multicultural Festival, Albany Entertainment Centre and Aboriginal Medical Services among others,” he said.

“I’ve also been vocal about marriage equality and been passionate about having diverse voices seen and heard.

“That sense of helping Bunbury be able to be proud of itself and have an identity of who we are as a city has been great.

“Where Geelong is at now is how I would like to see Bunbury in five years – a creative hub with collaboration, laneway projects and an incredible waterfront development.

“This opportunity is a big change for me but I feel it’s at the right time.

“Bunbury is here and now and I hope that it continues to grow.”

Joel will step into his new role on March 13 after ending his Bunbury stint on a high with the Fringe and Multicultural Festival.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails