It’s a curious time. Needs must as they say. The last eight months or more have seen me pause the IlluminOcean podcast and event activities I was so excited about, to immerse myself in my annual Underwater Tour co-founder responsibilities. Most folks would relate to the urgent need to do whatever it took to keep livelihoods afloat, to ensure our Australian annual touring speakers series continues in what ever form makes best sense. What a rollercoaster ride!
Here’s a bit of background since we first hit the road in 2018. We loved bringing the best Nat Geo underwater photographers, David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes from upstate NY to tour Australia - this was a personal career all-time high for me. We invited underwater film makers who’ve worked with Sir David Attenborough, award-winning conservation WWF photographers, ocean adventurers and marine scientists - who all delivered fascinating stories to our audiences. We’ll never forget William Tan, the specialist blackwater photographer who spends hours at a time drifting under the surface in deep, deep water in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night to take exquisite photos of planktonic critters smaller than a coin.
One of my ‘big things’ is always to work as hard as possible for our Partners who fund the series each year. I’m always thinking of their objectives at the same time as our own, so they all come with us around the country, to engage with our audiences. We’re like a rock band on tour. One night one city, next night next city etc - except we’re in the back of economy.
But uh oh! In March 2020 we had three incredible guests planned for May, one flying in from the UK and one from Singapore. We had flights and hotels for 16 people booked all around the country. We pulled the plug.
In a state of semi-paralysis, to keep our community connected we rolled out our first annual Underwater Tour Awards international underwater photography competition. Happy to report it was very well supported with amazing entries from photographers from 13 countries! And in August we invented the zoom-in black tie gala Awards evening before anyone else did!
In the meantime, the three scheduled IlluminOcean events in the Northern Rivers of NSW with accompanying podcasts had to be cancelled. What with 4sqm restrictions and guest speakers coming from only an hour away, the QLD border closures got us every time. Things were just too volatile.
With international borders shut tight as a cat’s bum and domestic borders opening and closing like gates in a cattle crush, we soon realised 2021 was going to be a challenge too.
We decided to deliver the Underwater Tour online, but as a high production value, broadcast quality talk show… to be filmed on set in Brisbane, using the wizardry of technology to beam in our international guest stars and broadcast to an audience comfortable on their sofas where ever they are.
So many decisions. So many different messages to create about ticket inclusions and value, So many copyright deadlines etc. Our international partners have done it tough. No budgets!
Where are we now? We are nearly there! In just over two weeks, the Underwater Tour SHOW goes live via a ticketed link. Please join us on Sunday 23 May at 7pm AEST - free tickets are available! There are also $15 and $75 tickets that include all sorts of goodies, and don’t worry if you can’t be watching live. There are other options! To find out more about the fabulous guest stars, their Spotlight Features, the quiz with a prize pool worth $20,000, tickets and much more, please head to the Underwater Tour.
And in 2022 let’s see what we can do… a hybrid tour perhaps but please come along on our journey. I’d love you to join in.
Thankfully, it’s now time to return to IlluminOcean, to continue what I set out to do in the first place. To deliver you wonderful stories from the sea. It’s good to be back - please stay tuned. Things could have been worse, all things considered!