Interview Meagan O’Connell / Images Syrenne Anu/supplied
We are excited to welcome the latest member of the 107 team, Jennifer Noorbergen! Jen will be taking over as the Community Engagement and Venue Manager at Joynton Avenue Creative Centre, and has already dived right into the deep end with a busy program of crafty community days over the next few months.
Jen’s been working in the creative industries for quite a few years, and has her own independent magazine under her belt, as well as a tonne of other accomplishments. To welcome her to the team, we sat down to get to know a little more about her.
Hi Jen! How would you describe what you do?
I have a varied creative background – I started in design, visual communications and marketing, and then jumped into indie publishing, which lead me further into event curation and community programming. But the thing that’s always flowed throughout everything I do has been about connecting people and designing meaningful experiences.
Whether it’s about designing something physical, or curating an interactive experience, I’ve always had a focus on engaging with the community to create something that is purpose driven and genuinely valuable to the people it’s created for.
What’s most important to you in your work?
It’s really important to me to make sure I am working on something I believe has a positive impact. I love building relationships and meeting passionate people, and it’s really rewarding to work in a space that provides opportunities to help people connect, explore and collaborate. That’s when all the best things happen!
You started your own creative arts magazine called Kaleido. Can you tell me more about that experience?
Kaleido started as a result of a year-long research project exploring the challenges of entering the creative industries. It was a four-part print publication, online mag and ongoing event series to help share industry knowledge and bring people together. The first publication and event looked at the transition from study to employment, the second looked at how to build multidisciplinary and collaborative networks, the third was about creativity as a catalyst for social change, and the last looked at mental health in the creative industries.
Coming from a design background, I was surrounded by incredible creative people, but I began to see the same kind of difficulties for people transitioning into this field. There was a recurring barrier that people needed experience to get a job, but they needed a job to get experience. With so many creative opportunities being born out of strong relationships and personal recommendations, I really saw the need to help emerging creatives develop multi-disciplinary networks to help them collaborate to build their portfolios, self-initiated projects and establish a support base.
Kaleido acted as a platform that helped to bridge that gap for Sydney creatives trying to get experience by facilitating collaborations, interactive events and genuine networking opportunities, and tackled some important industry issues along the way.
What inspired you to write and why?
It was actually my passion for print design that inspired the magazine as an output for my research. It was a tangible and personal medium, something you’d sit and read start to finish. You’d delve into stories and advice, be inspired by powerful work, but it also provided a space for emerging artists to have an opportunity to have their work published, often for the first time.
Writing was never my main passion, but I learned to love the process of storytelling through interviews for the magazine when launching the first edition. I love meeting one on one with people and helping to discover all the hidden gems from their experiences, and shaping it into a story that connects with others. It was important to me that all the interviews and columns were authentic, that they didn’t sugar coat anything and reflected the voice of every individual, but always had an end purpose to give people learnings to take away to improve their own approach and feel motivated.
We hear that you like to travel. What’s the coolest place that you’ve traveled to?
The coolest place would have to be Iceland. It was on my list for a long time, and it blew my mind every moment. I would love to go back there again to keep exploring. The natural beauty is out of this world, I kept feeling like I was on a set for a movie on Mars. Being surrounded by all the volcanoes, glaciers and mountain landscapes was surreal, it’s a great place to make you feel small and to appreciate the quiet. I was also amazed by Reykjavik’s creative community, and how they foster creative industries in general. I can see why it’s such an inspiring place to create!
As well as publishing your own magazine, you’ve also been a part of a few bands. What was your first and what kind of music did you play?
My first band was my high school rock band, covering female-fronted grunge songs and some embarrassing covers for end of year Christmas concerts. After that I did backing vocals for a few bands around Sydney, and now I sing vocals with Bad Bitch Choir.
Bad Bitch Choir is a group of 20 female and non-binary singers, full of diverse voices, body percussion and beatboxing. We cover all kinds of “bad bitch” anthems, rework tunes, and write some originals. We’re definitely not a traditional choir and everyone gets a chance to bring their own style into the songs they love. A lot of the songs we perform are nostalgic 80’s and 90’s R&B and rock jams. It’s quite a diverse lineup, but that’s part of what makes it special.
What do you love the most about what you do currently?
As the Community Engagement and Venue Manager for Joynton Avenue, I get to bring a lot of the things I love together: building community, creating diverse programs, and making a positive impact. It’s an exciting time to be coming on board, building up our internal resident community full of creatives and socially driven businesses and facilitating new collaborations, as well as getting to play a role in developing and strengthening the wider local community and responding to their needs as this area evolves.
Before working with 107, you worked at Commune. What was your favourite part of that job?
Aside from managing the design and marketing across the business, managing the co-working venue and community was a particularly rewarding experience. I loved being able to bring different creative freelancers together and watch people’s passions and businesses grow, and to be able to support their journey along the way. Another big highlight for me was curating and producing the major Our Hood program, which supported alternative culture in Sydney. I was able to develop and showcase diverse lineups of some of the best emerging live music, dance, art installations, workshops, talks, wellness and food – all things I’m super passionate about.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
Bad Bitch Choir is a big part of my life with weekly rehearsals and gigging, but also because they are the most wonderful and fierce people I’m lucky to know, so we’re always supporting each other’s side projects. Everyone in the choir is an inspiring babe!
I would always much rather be busy than bored, so I often try to find new workshops, exhibitions, and local live music to check out. Apart from that, it’s lots of brunching and cuddling my fat rescue cat!
[Editor’s note: Jen’s cat Herbert has an Instagram and you should definitely go follow him.]
We also know that you love dogs. What’s your favourite breed?
That’s the hardest question in the world! I feel like I have a top ten list that keeps on rotating, and every time I meet a new pup it changes all over again. But growing up in the country with lots of space, I always had super active dogs like kelpies x border collies, and they are the most loyal, good-natured dogs, so I will always have a soft spot for them. But I’ll take them all please.
What’s your favourite thing about working in Green Square?
I’m really enjoying the discovery of it all. I have worked and lived amongst the outskirts of this area, but before starting here, Green Square was still quite a mystery to me. I’ve learnt so much already about the future vision for community in this area and I believe Joynton Avenue Creative Centre will play an essential role in the ongoing creative, cultural and educational development with the community.
What makes you feel creative about the space that you are working in?
Well you only have to see Joynton Ave Creative Centre from afar to start feeling inspired – it’s a remarkable building and it really takes your breath away when you first walk in. It has a great history, character and sustainable features that capture you. I love the archways and the natural light and of course the view of the dog park from my desk, but at the end of the day it’s always the people within a space that make me feel most creative and inspired.
What are you excited to make happen at Joynton Avenue Creative Centre in the next year?
I’m excited about everything right now! I’ve loved meeting and moving in new creative residents to fill up the beautiful offices with amazing people and businesses, and I’ve got lots of upcoming projects in the works with our new residents already. I’ve dived into quite a lot of community programming and collaborations for upcoming events as well, so I can’t wait to see them roll out.
We just had our STEAM event for National Science Week which was amazing – so many robots, and I have a huge Craft Day coming up on September 21, as well as our Art Somewhere program rolling out in Green Square, a huge month of programming as part of the ‘Cartographica’ exhibition exploring the art and science of mapping in October/November, and there’s even a Jazz Festival in the works. So really looking forward to experimenting with new kinds of programming and getting to know more of the local residents and businesses to work together. //
If you see Jen around Joynton Avenue Creative Centre be sure to say hi! You can also get in touch with your ideas about what you’d like to see on the Joynton Avenue program here.