Do you know the hoarders next door?

Hoard: a supply or accumulation that is hidden or carefully guarded for preservation, future use.

I have always been slightly obsessed with hoarders and what makes them tick.

It’s something that exists in each of us, the need to hold on to certain items. I have a weakness for books. I have boxes of them, most of which my husband quite rightly asserts I have never read (but please don’t tell him he’s right about that). I love buying them, thinking, “I’ll get around to reading that one day” and I cannot part with them. I hate the idea of throwing away words, of throwing away information.

Hoarding was the original inspiration for this year’s ASPIRE production, The Hoarders Next Door. It features a lovable elderly couple, George and Mavis Smith, who live in a fairly regular Australian street and who have a story to tell about every piece of ‘junk’ in their possession. To them, everything evokes a memory, a part of their history and because of that, they cannot part with anything.

As the script developed, however, the other characters on the street became as important as George and Mavis. The script became a piece about community, something I worry we are losing in this technologically charged world. I found myself looking more at the way we interact with each other, make friends, break friends and pass through our lives, our day to day interactions with the people around us.

Some might say we have created in the script an aspirational world where neighbours have grown up together and where everyone knows the local postie. Ladies in their active wear gossip about what is happening on the street. People take a moment to say hello to each other rather than buzzing off in their cars without a word. It’s the kind of community that we need to hold on to, I believe.

I am very lucky to be a part of many of the school communities in our diocese. I spend a great deal of time visiting schools and creating theatre with the students there. Every school community is a bit different but the willingness to participate in creative arts activities is consistent. Students are willing to share ideas, work in teams to put their ideas on stage and, most importantly, support and give each other confidence.

Each community has an abundance of stories to tell about what needs to be shared with local audiences. Holy Cross, Glendale, has written a play where dreams are the starting point. St Joseph’s, Merriwa, has created a play about the need for resilience in the school setting. Students of St John Vianney, Morisset, have written a politically charged piece about Donald Trumpet, the mayor of Fairytale Land. Each school contributes to the writing of its script and each script is unique, like the school community.

Assisting students in putting these stories into a script is a very happy responsibility of mine. It’s a constant inspiration to me, as is the effort put in by staff in schools to develop further and rehearse the scripts with their students.

In addition to this I have been inspired − well actually, blown away − by the fact all three of our matinée productions have nearly sold out. We added an extra matinée this year to accommodate schools that wished to purchase tickets and the demand has been overwhelming. I am very proud to be able to work in a community that values the creative arts in this way.  

Now the very real (and sometimes scary) job of preparing a polished production is upon our talented cast and crew to ensure our audiences take something away from The Hoarders Next Door. I’m sure people will recognise characters from their own parish, school and wider communities in the production. It’s a script that I hope will inspire our audiences in the same way that I am inspired by our community every day. 

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Anna Kerrigan

Anna is the Artistic Director of ASPIRE, an audition-based drama, dance, music and creative and performing arts program produced by the Catholic Schools Office of Maitland-Newcastle.

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