The Big Cheese

Life in the time of COVID-19 with Vivid Sydney’s Gill Minervini

This week, The Nibbler caught up with Vivid Sydney’s festival director, Gill Minervini, to find out how she’s been faring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are you reading?

I’ve had a very full schedule lately with Vivid Sydney 2021 fast approaching!

When I manage to have some downtime, I’ve been fascinated by Craig Silvey’s latest novel, Honeybee. It’s a heartbreaking, perception-challenging and breathtakingly beautiful story about compassion and overcoming trauma, and I’m looking forward to hearing Craig discuss it in depth with multi-award winning “trans queen” Glace Chase as part of Vivid Ideas Exchange. I also managed to finish Barack Obama’s autobiography which I loved.

What are you watching?

I just finished watching Catherine O’Dwyer’s critically acclaimed 2020 documentary Brazen Hussies, who will be speaking at Vivid Ideas this year. It’s an enthralling and deep exploration of the history of the Australian Women’s Liberation movement in the 1970s, inspired by the Women’s Movement in America. Other favourites this year have been Call My Agent! and Pose – both heartfelt and inspirational.

What are you listening to?

My music world has exploded lately, as I’ve been making my way through the Vivid Music 2021 Spotify playlist featuring all the artists performing at the festival this year. I’m loving the underground music scene we’re offering this year, and it’s been a wonderful reminder of our vibrant and diverse creative community. From R&B and soul queen Ngaiire to Aussie hip-hop icon Briggs and psychedelic jazz group Mildlife, we are spoilt for choice with local talent.

What are you cooking?

Cooking is my go-to stress reliever – particularly Italian food. I bought a pizza oven last year, so still perfecting my dough, and cooking pizza at 400 degrees is an ongoing challenge!

How are you staying fit both physically and mentally?

Every morning, rain, hail or shine, I walk in the rolling hills of Sydney Park, a stone’s throw from my home in Erskineville. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful green space right in the middle of the Inner West; teeming with native birdlife (I’m a magpie lover) and, of course, lots of dogs. I also get to the gym three times a week – it keeps me sane!

After the hardships throughout COVID-19, keeping the issue of mental health in the public eye is more important than ever, which is why it’s one of the key themes of Vivid Ideas this year. We’re hosting a line-up of unconventional speakers to unpack mental health, including The Trauma Cleaner Sandra Pankhurst and Genevieve Bailey, creator of the award-winning documentary about men dealing with mental illness, Happy Sad Man.

What’s the one thing keeping you sane?

My work requires constant thinking outside the box and a wild imagination – daring my mind to go to places never visited before keeps me inspired and motivated. Cooking, walking and time with my besties is also a great sanity check!

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the coronavirus hit?

It’s been heartening to see the amount of solidarity across our city; local communities coming together, neighbours getting to know each other and people supporting local business like never before. What’s been a silver lining with our closed borders is that all the artists in this year’s Vivid Music program are homegrown talent. I think this crisis has forced us all to look inwards and reaffirm what we have on our doorstep – an incredible country and creative community.

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

I’ve learned that having time can spark the greatest ideas!

What’s your advice for others in the MICE industry on coping with the crisis?

Be resilient and always be ready to adapt because, as we’ve all learnt, things can change drastically from one minute to the next. We’re all in this together, so always try to have perspective, be a problem solver and get creative if you have to.