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The power of listening: The Nightline



Australians are facing yet another summer devoid of the usual barbecues with friends, holidays away and general social buzz since the arrival of Omicron. Even though the regular programming has been disrupted, certain events have slipped through the cracks; namely, The Sydney Festival. The Festival celebrates the Arts throughout January via a range of events—choir performances, installations, plays and more— and has once again revealed the power of creative industries to unifying an audience.


The Nightline, set in the history-ridden walls of the National Art School, is a powerful interactive exhibition that uncovers the troubles people mull over during the late and lonely hours of the night. Upon arrival, we were firmly told that there was to be no talking for the duration of the show, and if we needed to leave the room there would be no re-entering. With these instructions in mind, we marched into the room in an orderly manner, laden with excitement and anticipation.


Each of us sat at a single table with nothing but an old-type telephone, switchboard and a desk lamp. The phones played over 600 voice messages left by those who just needed someone to listen while the rest of the city was asleep. No two attendees heard the same messages or had the same experience; it was intimate and private. The voices of burnt-out shift workers, concerned single parents and professionals who couldn’t let go of regret, interwoven with a delicate sound score, trickled through the receiver. Some rambled, some cried, some hardly spoke and some couldn’t stop. I had expected it to be a confronting and solemn affair; however, I was overcome with a sense of comfort. These messages were reminiscent of my own early morning thoughts when my mind wouldn’t quieten and my body wouldn’t sleep. They were foreign yet familiar, a stranger’s train of thought hardly differed from my own. It was a lens into peoples’ lives that you would never normally look through. People talked unselfconsciously; they just needed to talk. All I had to do was listen.




While the 40-minute exhibition had some surprises scattered throughout it (that I have refrained from sharing), the walk out of the exhibition was shrouded in an overwhelming sense of hope, a sentiment shared by all those I attended with. The Nightline highlighted that no problem is too ridiculous to be understood or helped and even though loneliness is an all-consuming feeling, it is temporary. Sometimes all you need to do is pick up a phone and talk.


The Nightline has now ended for the Sydney Festival but will be running at the Adelaide Festival from March 4th-20th and at Rising in Melbourne throughout May and June.


If you wish to call The Nightline you can reach it on 0457 910 843.

Lifeline: 13 11 14


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