Looking on the bright side and bringing colour to Allora


By Tania Phillips

Allora is the friendliest place that mural artists The Brightsiders aka Jordan Bruce and Steve Falco have ever worked.

The pair are the artists behind the region’s latest tourist attraction, the new mural in Allora – due to be officially opened next month.

Allora is famously known for being the birthplace of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and now boasts the new piece of public art, made possible through community spirit and collaboration.

The project was the brain child of University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) Professor of Arts Education, Curriculum and Pedagogy, Margaret Baguley who is Warwick born and bred, and Associate Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Martin Kerby.

The pair worked with the Allora community for nine months to make this project a reality and now are looking for funding to create their next project – a mural on the town’s large silo.

In fact Professor Baguley said the idea for the mural in the town came from the Australian Silo Art Trail.

“I am very interested in artistic collaboration and had been exploring silo art in Australia, and how artists and communities work together to create something neither could do on their own,” Professor Baguley said.

“At the same time, I was also undertaking a research project on the artistic collaboration between P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, and Mary Shepard, who provided the original illustrations throughout the books.

“One day I saw a beautiful aerial view of Allora with the silos that were quite prominent, and the idea came to me to include the Allora silos on the Australian Silo Art Trail and, at the same time, heighten the important connection Allora has to the Mary Poppins story.”

The idea quickly turned into action, with people from all over the community (and beyond) eager to lend a hand. And snap: The job’s a game!

The pair are now trying to source funding, support and a crane (if anyone knows someone with one) to start the silo project and The Brightsiders are more than keen to be involved again.

“There’s something about the place,” the duo said.

The Brisbane-based pair have been working together as “Brightsiders” for the past four years, a job that has taken them all over NSW and Qld from Cowra to Casino to Texas and Thargomindah and all-around Brisbane.

Allora was their first project in the Southern Downs and Granite Belt and they are hoping it won’t be the last.

“Out of all the little towns we’ve worked in, Allora probably had the most friendly people,” Jordan said.

“Everywhere we go people are friendly and cool but that town had something next level. “People would just come out of the shop and give us a drink or some kid bought us iceblocks.

“Everyone we spoke to was nice, from all different walks of life too.

“It wasn’t just the old people, it was the young people, the beer drinkers and farmers.

“It was a beautiful place, the fact that it was at the IGA where everyone shops meant that we met a hell of a lot of people.

“We took it in shifts, sometimes Steve would do more talking and sometimes I would, everyone was very keen for a chat and it was an awesome time.”

“There was an amazing lady in town who gave us free accommodation in her granny flat – that kind of generosity, that kind of attitude,” Steve said.

The pair obviously love what they do, coming into the job through a both surprising and totally unsurprising way.

“Originally we started by being graffiti kids and found a passion for painting walls,” Jordan said.

“We always did a little bit of art on the side, so we eventually found a way to do murals and and get paid for them. We swapped our careers as housepainters to painting murals.

“It’s been a long-road and it hasn’t happened over night, but we probably would be painting in some form anyway. Becoming mural painters I think was a matter of timing and good luck, as well as passion and dedication that’s all culminated in making us successful.

“But we’re not the only ones and there’s a growing interest and capacity for people to have murals in their local areas, in city areas but also increasingly in smaller town.”

Steve said it was a full time job and they were producing anywhere between 10 and 30 per murals a year.

“It depends on the size, we might get some really big ones that take over a month,” he said.

“Usually those are pretty monumental too but then we might just do a string of small ones which are only like a day or two each. So I’d say we create around the 20 mark a year.”

And while silos seem to be the big the mural canvas of the moment, the Brightsiders have only done one – but it was a beauty and one of the best-known. The eight silos in a row at Yelaborn are a tourism attraction in their own right and often featured in photographs.

“We do a lot of water tanks, large water tanks – basically a silo filled with water,” Jordan laughed.

“A lot of the things we do, it’s down to the people power behind it, we’re lucky enough to do the painting but often there’s a whole group of people or a few very passionate people behind the scenes that have been working away at it for a long time. There’s a lot to it so the people power thing has a lot going for it and when you’ve got that many members people start to listen.”

People like Allora facilitator Professor Margaret Baguley who is now a big supporter of what they do.

“She came out of nowhere and said she’d seen our work and said I want you do to this project and I’m going to help you do it,” Steve said.

“She saw some of our work and liked it. The way she came into our lives she was like a whirlwind,” he laughed.

“Just from that we’ve had that one amazing opportunity and there are more amazing opportunities to come.”