Struggle for creativity won with move to Northern Rivers

TRIPLE THREAT: Ilona Harker is a local artist, singer and performer.
TRIPLE THREAT: Ilona Harker is a local artist, singer and performer. Donatella Parisini

ILONA Harker, artist, singer and entertainer grew up in Darwin and Armidale.

"I was the daughter of a policeman who later became a fireman," Ilona said.

"There were six kids and my mother was a clothing designer and an artist, who also had MS. At the same time, my father had undiagnosed bipolar.

"It was a pretty traumatic childhood.

"I went to about 13 schools and then I went to art college and later, at JMC Academy, I studied music business management. I was too old by this stage to study a musical instrument. After that, I managed a music shop and fell pregnant. I was living in Sydney but I left that job and had a baby and moved to Brisbane. I was basically a mother for five years, but my mother was also sick at the time, so I was also looking after her until she died.

"I was still trying to keep my hand in music, so I was doing art and my music. But it was hard in that city environment to look after my son and be creative.

"The shop I was working in closed and I was offered a job doing set design for a feature film.

"Just before the film was to start I came to visit my best friend who lives in the Northern Rivers. We spent this beautiful evening together and watched the sunset at the Brunswick Fish Co-Op on the river and ate fish and chips. In that moment, I made the decision that I couldn't live in the city any more and two weeks later I moved down here! I didn't even get to work on that film.

"For the first year I was still quite uptight, getting around in my high heels. But I slowly started to notice that there was a raw beauty here, and I started to meet some beautiful, kind people who are still my friends today.

"And of course, living here, I started doing a lot of personal work that has helped me come to terms with a lot of pain from my childhood. I don't think I'm alone in this; I think a lot of people move to this area broken and find something here that heals them. For me, it's a great place to slow down and come to a place of quieter understanding and self-acceptance.

"Right now I'm finishing my new album and writing two shows for the Byron Community Centre. One is for my alter-ego, Mae Wilde and the other is about my father's mental illness and my own dabbling in the pools of depression.

"I'm also working with some lovely local fellas, where I play June Carter in the Johnny Cash show - and that show is going to be on at the Star Court Theatre next Saturday, August 10.

"There is absolutely no way I could be in this current creative space without the support of the beautiful people who live here with me in this lush and wonderful environment we call home."

Ilona's tips

  •  Go to the amazing Protesters Falls to see the beautiful, rare frogs.
  •  Spend a day and exploring the shops in Brunswick Heads.
  •  Eat at Rock and Roll Cafe in Mullumbimby!

Topics:  seachange

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