There’s no money in poetry…Supporting local arts and tourism from burlesque to the spoken word…

So it's been awhile readers and I've unfortunately been too ill to blog or adventure much. The last events I attended as the Lonely Archaeologist were all at the Nexus Arts Centre including the Deco Dolls and World Gin Day, Once Upon A Teaser (both curated by the talented Miss Viola Verve) and Club Gotham by the JustAss League in late June (all pictures below are from the various events mentioned).

I intended to do a feature blog on each of these events but illness is a time consuming hobby and I've largely been regulated to questionable viewing habits formed on Netflix while resting & testing goes on and disturbing my therapy animals with my ideas of home entertainment! Part of that of that is the pursuit of spoken word and the pub poetry scene (as both a performer, audience member and writer), it's actually influenced my documentary research project that I'm making as part of my screen and media studies as my archaeology masters elective. This has changed my viewpoint on being artist myself as you'll see below.

Once Upon A Teaser, Nexus Arts, June 2017.

Once Upon A Teaser, Nexus Arts, June 2017.

Gin tasting platter on World Gin Day, Nexus Arts, June 2017.

As much as I enjoyed attending the events as an audience member, my perspective really began to change as I got more and more involved as a novice poet in Adelaide's underground spoken word scene. From my own fledging endeavours since late last year, I appreciate the work that goes into creating a performance let alone curating an entire show. For me, thankfully, it's a reasonably cheap art form to practice and rehearse since I'm a *collector* of notebooks and pens are affordable and my writing group are generous with their time. Plus a huge thanks to the people who organise open mic events like Soul Lounge and Dithyrambia plus Spoken Word SA that have created environments that nurture poets and other wordsmiths as well as featuring local and Australian talent regularly. They are all volunteers with projects, lives and day jobs of their own and you'll find that with many of the amateur acts in SA's cultural scene.

I really realised the cost of time that now goes into then making your performance the best it possibly can be after seeing Charlie Brooks, Alison Bennett and Matcho Cassidy workshop and choreograph their show, URI: To Burn, performed last week at the Jade as part of State Variable, which was free in spite of months of work going into it. So tonight, I was pretty upset to see one of the upcoming lights of the Adelaide burlesque scene explaining on social media that performers were being compensated less than $30.00 per show. That's the average price per ticket of a medium sized Fringe show according to my *research* (shows I went to see last year or tried to but I was really perfecting the art of ill timing literally). We joke in the spoken word scene that there's no money in poetry (apart from the Slams which I'll write about next week), but the other creative performing arts are not cheap pursuits even just as a hobby (I spent a lot of money on music and dance lessons first hand growing up) and if you are paying money to be an audience member in a show that a performer is good enough to be paid for, they've got the right to be compensated fairly like any other employed work.

Often people will ask them for free art or gigs because they'll "get the exposure" and think this is fair payment when they don't realise the hours of practice, years of lessons, time taken away for rehearsals from other things including better paid employment, travel costs to venues, make-up and costumes, equipment such as sound and lights along with someone to operate those sound and lights, refreshments and bar staff if the venue is catered or the cost of up fronting catering with no guarantee they'll make it even let alone profitable and then there's legal & insurance…

Why am I ranting about this when, as Tink, I'm only a poetic novice who hasn't released a book or been a featured poet (yet) and as an archaeology student, I don't perform for a non-academic audience? I write this blog for free and the reason is that, rarely does it contain my original work or ideas, it's usually blogging about someone else's achievements in the arts and tourism products that I've consumed. I do it for free but I know the value of what I see on my lonely adventures, I pay full price for my tickets because I value the arts culture and as an unpaid reviewer, I do it because I love what I see, but know I need to pay for its consumption like I need to pay at restaurants, because it wasn't MY hard work. The wonderful people who agreed to be interviewed here do it because they care about their art. Not for exposure.

We need to encourage local arts production and entertainment tourism in SA because it is good for other local industries such as hospitality, other tourism sectors like heritage, sport and ecotourism and things you wouldn't even necessarily like education. We are actually lucky to have musicians of Slava Grigoryan's calibre involved in teaching guitar students in South Australia! (Learned that at last year's Guitar festival!) If we don't pay our local performers properly for their work and in a timely manner, we lose them to other bigger arts festivals such as Edinburgh or Perth when they gain recognition and fame.

Not long ago, I wrote about how local and medium sized acts were being driven from last year's Fringe Festival, that the smaller official venues were having trouble retaining acts and staging performances through poor ticket sales and smaller-medium sized performers being ousted from free tickets and better publicised productions – not made in SA. They were lost in a sea of larger international marquee shows like notorious touring comedians, because the much smaller shows were less attended and less well advertised and not due to lack of program quality.

Beers About Songs by Ryan Adam Wells (of Sound and Fury fame) was run here 2 years ago and now is getting international acclaim at Fringe festivals all over the Northern Hemisphere. Many international former Fringe acts of that quality aren't coming back because they were running at too much of a loss to make money, not having enough people attend to have a guaranteed audience at every show to make performances worth doing and to offset the financial and artistic costs of being in SA in high Australian tourism season, in short making being their being here less worthwhile. Their loss hurts the local economy as well as South Australia's because Mad March is when we as a destination see our highest income from out of state visitors who come for the combination of high and popular arts, culture, sports and heritage tourism unique to SA. So we need to really encourage and throw in with local cultural industry creators, artists and venues NOW. Not just during the Fringe or Cabaret Festival or the Tour DownUnder.

As a cultural hub, Adelaide has been compared to cities with reputations in the creative industries like Portland in that various arts festivals are on here all year round – currently SALA and Guitars in Bars are running as I write this and it's also National Science Week, I believe – but if we drive out the producers of culture industry content, we are removing a huge source of revenue for the state. We have the potential it has been argued to be Oz's cultural capital all year around in the Guardian – but we can't do it at the expense of not paying smaller acts to develop into recognised medium productions and then into performers of the calibre to have international recognition -that brands SA as cultural and artistic haven- is as the case with the internationally acclaimed, Anya Anastasia (currently getting positive reviews in Edinburgh! You go, lady in red!). Former interviewees Anya Anastasia like Sapphire Snow, and names from 2017 to watch such as Viola Verve and Diana D'Vine (to name a few brilliant local women) curate quality shows all year round in the city (and last year Anya in the Hills) that have nurture new and upcoming talent, show cases local stars as well as bringing in headline quality performers all year around and exposes venues to new audiences.

Many larger independent acts bypass Adelaide on tours because have gained the reputation we don't pay for tickets until the last minute and try to get the best deal, not actually what the performance and performers deserve to be compensated. Adelaide this is not a good look for the state. It was by demand last year, that Post Modern Jukebox and 2Cellos, even came here at all on tour to sold out shows. We won't be able to sustain larger state arts institutions like the ASO and bringing in international quality shows like the David Bowie tribute collaboration that visited Adelaide with them in January this year at the Festival Centre, if we also don't fund local arts and it's creators & producers.

The cream rises to the top as my friend Kami says, but if we remove the smaller ponds for the fish to grow in, middle sized lakes for them to be seen and an ocean of creativity to release them into, we are never going to sustain an arts and creative industry in Adelaide that encourages local talent to stay, grow and mentor in fellow generations of new artists. If we want to create a viable cultural industry and enjoy the thriving performing arts culture of a capital city, we need to put our money where our mouths are. You need milk churning to be able to get to the cream.

Clara Rose Santill, all photos copyright, 2017. Thanks to Nexus Arts, the artists and interviewees past and present that continue to inspire this blogger!

The future of Archaeology’s heritage and antipodean myopia in accessibility for all. 

Indiana Don’t!

Welcome to tonight’s actual accessibility archaeology post from me as the Lonely Archaeologist. I started this blog because I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with the way archaeology was practiced in Australia if you weren’t *normal* and I had significant challenges to overcome but I saw my tenacity and persistence as character traits a good archaeologist needs along with the communication skills to explain to a diverse public and community what we are doing. 
Don’t get mad, write a blog post.

So I started this blog as a way of practicing those skills in heritage appropriate and adjacent areas for a disabled archaeologist because in the current system of culture heritage management in Australia, I’m broken goods and let’s not pretend I’ve been denied field work opportunities because of my situation. I found some smaller demonstrations and presentation work but I’m unable to find places as a volunteer to excavate or do survey work or I can’t dive medically or even participate in a conservation fieldschool in Australia last year because I wasn’t physically able enough. I can’t even get work as tour guide at a library, local museum or any other state institutions I applied for despite doing extra training and being in the leadership program run by Flinders careers called The Horizon Award. That’s me with the head of the SAM at a Night Lab event in 2016, one I volunteered less than half a week after being hit by a tram.
Curious Beasts Night Lab event, 2016.
I spoke up on this little blog about my difficulties in finding acceptance at Flinders by other archaeologists & students. As a result, Enabled found me, a dis/Abled and Enabled community of archaeologists and students from a wide international context and I learned about a model of archaeology that aims to be inclusive and accessible for all in so many ways across so many branches that is a whole lecture. I’ll detail them over the near future if I can get my ten minutes of fame at Flinders, but if you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know I’m a gigantic academic fan of Doctor Who and time travel in general. In fact last year I almost had a chapter published based on queer attitudes in archaeology and in science fiction in Beyond Indy and Lara but missed out due to my university’s inaction to remove a stalker from a group project in an elective subject and unsupportive lecturer whose teaching pedagogy was incompatible with Enabled student accommodation against disability service’s advice, they aggravated my newly diagnosed but not managed fibromyalgia. That is me on a ghost hunt at the Old Gaol trying to get review experiences of Haunted Horizon’s award winning tour.
But the thing is, when I was studying Doctor Who’s vision of archaeology in the future, I was encouraged because the most well known archaeologist, River Song, was a psychopath and antiheroine (with Time Lord DNA making her as different from neurotypical like me). There was also Jack Harkness, a pansexual time agent who was pretty close to Lara Croft in attitude and black market antiquities, deviated from the Indiana Jones stereotype and of rugged Howard Carter manly adventuring tomb raiding mythology (even poor Lara had to be more macho than the men and was prey to toxic masculinity). Here are some famous British examples of archaeology of the speculative future and neither of them are like the models we have in Australia. We get the Man From Snowy River. River Song had fought against her mental illness/injury all her augmented life span and Jack’s inventive approaches to illegal artefact acquisition and selling were anything but conventional. 

We can all change.
These two characters and then add Berenice Summerfield in the Big Finish extended Whovian universe, hold space (quite literally) for diverse Enabled archaeologists like me. I can’t see how the EAF started in Britain isn’t part of this shifting in position of accessibility in archaeology and expanding the experiences and diversity in the heritage of the discipline. Still some of the archaeology establishment don’t have the foresight to see this how times are changing. I’ll post more on this ams how it all relates to a book with the title “Time travelling and the future of the past” by Professor Cornelius Holtorf and how my ideas were received in conversation around the visit to Flinders about these changes happening all over the world. I imagine after looking through Holtorf’s book that lived experience and the futurism of archaeology is going to be a fascinating conversation.

Time agent, Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who.

Clara Santill, 2017

In case of a mental health emergency, someone is watching, caring and available to you! 

Sharing this here, please spread it widely it if you were intending to spread the “Someone is always watching and cares!” memes. I do care 💚.

This has updated and comprehensive information on managing a mental health crisis including depression, anxiety, self harming, disturbing thoughts and suicidal feelings IN AUSTRALIA.  Many of these services also include chat features but you need to visit the websites to find out. It is okay not to be okay! It is even better to find help and access your options because talking about depression, PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks, self harming, suicidal thoughts and other disturbing ideas doesn’t mean you’re more likely to act on them. It actually gives you the power to start a dialogue and access your options. Wellness and recovery are possible with the right combination of help and support. Sending you 💛. 
In Australia, for a mental health crisis emergency the first number you call is 000 (or 112) and ask for an ambulance. Or go to the Emergency Department of your nearest hospital. The Mental health acute care team is available at 131 465 is also available day or night. I’ve used them myself. 
In Australia, the number for the free counselling service at Lifeline is 13 11 14, any time, night or day. 
There is also the Suicide Callback Service has a 24/7 hotline that can be reached at 1300 659 467. They also have a website at:

A concerned friend or family can call the police for a welfare check on someone (no matter how long or little time they have been missing despite what TV tells you, 24 hours is not necessary for asking for help) on 131 444. If you are worried about their health, state of mind, haven’t heard from them or they are behaving out of character, the police these days are trained to be first responders to this. I’ve even been taken for an assessment based on a worried phone operator and the worst outcome is you waste a bit of your time at the emergency department but get medically accessed. It’s better to go and not need it! 
The next best personal option if you feel mentally unwell, is to contact your family or a personal GP or the local community health centre (or a walk in medical centre if you don’t have a doctor). They can write you a referral you to appropriately qualified professionals and often free resources, though there can be a demand on them so if it’s an emergency or you feel urgently unwell, please got to the ER. They will have the doctors on hand. 
If you have a bit more luxury of time with yoor condition if you feel unwell but are not in immediate danger, generally living in a place like a city or regional centre, there is private help or hospital outpatient programs. These have access to qualified professionals like psychiatrists, counsellors, mental health nurses, social workers, NGO case workers and psychologists. If you see a GP, you can usually see them under a mental health plan for 10 sessions a year or have them put you in a program to help you change your life for the better for minimal cost. I use a psychologist and psychiatrist who work with my GP. 

A lot of bigger employment groups have EAP (employees assistance schemes) you can access mental health care with and some places like universities or TAFEs have their own counselling and medical services for students. 
Other web resources for Australian mental health and suicide awareness include:
•The Black Dog Institute:


•RU Okay:

•Sane Australia:

•Mind Australia:

•Kids helpline:

•Project Semicolon:

Clara Santilli, 2017. 

Rebuilding Rome: A life in ruins but hey we still have the plans for that fancy aqueduct and the soap…

My life as a background Slytherin in May 2017…

Where have I been and have I been on any adventures worthy of the Lonely Archaeologist? I did attend the Wizardfest Adelaide night at the Producer’s Exchange Hotel in May 2017 and I’m happy to report butterbeer was everything I’d imagined it could be and came with frothy cream and edible gold stars. I was also background Slytherin dancer on the disco floor but I’m proud to say that I did get Michael Jackson’s Thriller choreography down with Voldemort and the Death Eaters…

But largely, I’ve been living a life in ruins: academic, archaeological, personal and my dis/Abilities took me very very far from where I started when I first moved to Glenelg in 2016 and experienced the first freedom I’d had in years. The summer of Adelaide Fringe (2015-16) with my favourite artists, Ryan Adam Wells, Patrick Hercamp, the fabulous Anya Anastasia and Sound & Fury, was the first taste of being liberated from chaos and sorrow in a decade for me. Ryan in particular gave voice to my pain in Beers About Songs, gave me the strength to leave that past behind and freed me from the old shackles you carry when you’ve been abused. I’ll be reviewing it after some more therapy this year because it’s that sort of important epiphany! Darling Pat entertained me as only Pat can and rekindled my love of the Bard in Half Hour Hamlet. Anya gave this blog one of our first proper interviews and taught me that this was a tease, it wasn’t burlesque. Plus those red shoes, milady! 

These artists had opened the door to so much more than personal interest blogging for me, it got me involved in trying to support the local arts agenda and the larger arts productions because Adelaide does have the potential to be an artistic centre in the Southern Hemisphere all year around. We need to create small and medium venues to nurture local talent to bigger venues and Fringes such as Perth and Edinburgh. I’m excited to see what is coming under the production of Anya and Jennifer Kingwell this year! 

From Sapphire Snow, Viola Verve and Dulce Esperanza, I personally learned so much about body positivity, the arts of cabaret and burlesque (and boylesque). I learned I was perfect the way I am. Thank you, ladies for teaching me I was lovable and how to use glitter effectively. 
It even gave me the courage to unusual forms of local tourism – I got to try ghost hunting at the Old Gaol and a dark history tour at the Adelaide Arcade with the award winning tourist operation, Adelaide Haunted Horizons last year. I got done by the ghost sheriff…

 I reviewed some movies and television in my down time as a dis/Abled individual while being diagnosed with fibromyalgia when ghosts weren’t hand cuffing me at the Old Gaol in winter. 

  I had the time of my life at the SA Museum’s Night Lab event (where I meant the fabulous Tamara at Animals Anonymous!) and volunteered with 28 different kinds of flour…please don’t eat the demo damper! Like a hundred different people had touched it! 

But sometimes, you can’t plan for catastrophic events and in life, it all comes tumbling down around you unexpectedly and fast. The hoard of space junk crashes into the place you’d been laying out the plans for that shiny aqueduct that would make your Roman ancestors proud. I can say I honestly tried to publish a paper on queer archaeology and Doctor Who, attend Flinders university where my tourism Hawaii assignment attracted more than Maui’s attention into my personal life and then live a normal functioning life while the steaming pile burned away and polluted the air, then scorched the earth of my well laid plans.

I’m pretty sure I know how the dinosaurs felt after an asteroid impacted the earth (as the darkness filled the atmosphere and it got really really cold). I really was a broken archaeology student in January 2017 with a proximal radial fracture on my ulna to prove it along (with a broken heart, an investment in triple milled soap production and a whole lot of nausea when I smell rotting piles of trash). It was after yet the final disaster in my book of sorrows – that was the first half of this year (where you’ll see I reviewed ’13 Reasons Why’ off Netflix) because I was suicidal and making the case for why Hanna was wrong and that I had options in place of self annihilation. Why all this now? I was tired of living in fear, under a rock and having my freedom & safety in jeopardy. I’ve had to leave some things behind to ensure I’ll be fine but it has awakened my love of adventure, science communication and writing again. 
Because the blog is off hiatus, I woke up and worked out what I needed to do to love my city again and my next blog interview will be with a Spoken Word poet of great talent. This year I hope to do a focus on various local writing and poetry as an art form alongside the beginning of my archaeology research into accessible archaeology in semester 2. Thank you for the patience and let’s get this party started again!

Clara Rose Santilli, 2017
Initial photo property of Wizardfest Adelaide by Colin Peevy, 2017. Special acknowledgement of copyright (under fair use for review by Colin Peevy, 2017). 

All other photos bar initial shot, copyright Clara Santilli 2016 and 2017. 

13 Reasons Why: when life is a mirror to Netflix.

Netflix has produced a series based on the young adult novel, 13 Reasons Why, which has started a dialogue on mental health and trauma among all ages and in the media. It was a very mature production for such a young group of actors and it was a great adaptation of the book by Jay Asher, I recommend getting the expanded version with a forward and essay by Asher. Here are a few of my thoughts on watching it while I’m working on what accomodations can make archaeology accessible for me with mental health condition type dis/Abilities. Part of what helps this process is writing about my experiences in a larger context and having it thrust into popular culture is very validating of my lived experience.

Hannah is the protagonist of the television series and book, who takes her own life and leaves a recorded suicide confession on seven cassette tapes. She was bullied, stalked at home and online, sexually harassed and objectified, had her reputation assassinated at school, raped, abandoned and vilified to the point she feels like she has no option but to kill herself because she can’t live with it. These aren’t isolated incidents in her life but interlocking events that cause her to feel reality is reflective of her compounded emotional trauma. I’ve lived a lot of what was in both the book and TV adaptation and survived it because I was given choices and options when I made my last ditch attempt at giving life a chance unlike Hannah who really didn’t make the most of what she decided was her last chance. For me, 13 Reasons Why articulates the things that went wrong in my adolescence and how they can be avoided now people are talking and paying attention and holding space for me when I feel like I’m thinking of giving life once last go. The trauma hasn’t left me though I’m trying to work through and make sense of it rather than letting me swallow me whole, but it’s easier to do now as a mid thirty-something than a teenage girl. 

First I have to say this is not a comprehensive treatment of all the material and issues covered in Hannah’s posthumous revenge by mixed tape on the people she attributed to her death to. That was the twisted plot device of a sometimes unreliable narrator, because suicide never brings about true resolution for the victims or those left behind (unless you view your death as being a success) and while the television series seems to give a kind of narrative resolution for Hannah, that is by the way of story-telling rather than resolving her issues successfully. I understand the magical thinking of the adolescent brain and how Hannah tries to punish the people about her with her choice to die because I had that exact fantasy as a depressed 14 year old. Maybe not with the death note by mixed tape, but I did actually sit down and plot an elaborate mind map of who I thought was responsible for my suicidal impulses – and in the process I had a grim sort of satisfaction of how living with the remorse of my death would give me some kind of justice from the grave. I don’t relay these experiences because I think everything about teen mental health is about me and how I lived with it, but to add to the fact that this type of magical thinking is actually a reality in a suicidal adolescent brain and drive home it’s not just a clever fictional device like completing Hannah’s narrative arc. 

These days I know much better that the sole responsibility around managing my mental and physical health is actually mine – blaming other people for my thoughts and feelings is unfair to them – but that’s the result of maturity and experience of living through my trauma and sitting with it in therapy. The important take away from this is that the decision to die was Hannah’s alone, but it was also on her to get help  and the failure to do so was not solely Hannah’s. It was the adults around her as a teenage brain is not fully developed and able to deal with the consequences of this kind of decision making. 

13 Reasons Why also addresses the paradox of Amy Bleuel of Project Semicolon’s recent death by suicide in that Amy and Hannah’s messages are not negated by the method of their deaths, but if anything the message is amplified by the people around them discussing and discovering what they can do differently going forward with the benefits of hindsight. I disagree when two of the characters say that they were all responsible for Hannah’s death, they may have unwittingly contributed but it was the adults around them that failed. Until recently, most adults weren’t aware of teen mental health and trauma having never grown up with it being in their lexicon of their adolescent experiences as something they could change. Amy did something about suicide awareness by giving the semicolon a new meaning for a group of suicide survivors in highly symbolic language that said surviving meant your story wasn’t over. I can tell you as someone who was living with fully disclosed bipolar disorder and complex post traumatic stress disorder, that I talked about it more openly than most, that these were revolutionary ideas for the time. 

With campaigns like Project Semicolon, Hannah could have been alive if she’d known to take a few actions herself beyond leaving the counselling session because further help is available, I did it tenaciously and I survived but only because the people around me lived with the challenge that I presented to them: my life didn’t have to be like this if I was given help. She did not have to die alone. 

One really important facet of the television series is seeing people of all ages take responsibility for the trauma they inflict on each other by recognising it and changing how they behave. While you are never directly responsible for someone else’s decision to take their own life, you can mitigate the damage by being kind and aware of how your behaviour effects other people but also by not being a bystander. The Bystander effect is essentially when otherwise good people witness an abusive behaviour right in front of them and do nothing about it. I found when it happened to me recently when I was harassed on public transport, the fact that no one stepped in to help me when it was happening and then some adult people actually laughed at what had happened to me for the entirety of my trip, was just as traumatic as being victimised in the first place by my harasser. 

13 Reasons Why brought up the different types of abuse that happens in modern life and what the consequences are for the abuser and abused but also calling out the bystander effect on both teens and adults alike. It’s true to some degree that Hannah was failed by the people around her through inaction. One coping action that can change the balance in a real way that the television show called out and equipped the audience to do straight away in their own lives, that requires no special mental health training or learned skills, is to not be a bystander if they see someone suffering abuse and to actually ask “Are you okay?” So beyond RU Okay Day, ask the people around you how they are doing and refer them to appropriate help (see below). 

One thing I feel the need to further draw awareness to since I feel in 13 Reasons Why  they didn’t address this as I am an adult, not a vulnerable teen, is not letting yourself be a victim of the bystander effect if you have the presence of mind to be able to proactively ask for help from a bystander if you are in trouble. Two years ago, I was being relentlessly stalked by a local man to the point just getting bread & milk was an awkward and unsafe experience in situational awareness. Somehow I found myself (in a comedy of errors) in broad daylight where it was just me, the abusive creep and a local teenage kid from a nearby high school in an area of low pedestrian traffic, therefore immediate help. So I approached the young man the on the pretext of getting the time and explained quietly I was being harassed by the older man and asked if he minded walking with me to the main road near by. The young man was very understanding, no violence was committed by my harasser as most bullies are reluctant to act in front of a witness and I was not the victim of the bystander attack that day. While it’s a calculated risk, most people are willing to help you get help or at least to a safe environment. 

I think that the Netflix series is a necessary resource in this age to address the mental health crisis going on, I certainly don’t want anyone else living through what I suffered without knowing there are other options to deal with mental illness & injury and trauma than killing yourself. I live with both a psychiatric illness and injury and often I question what my life would be like if I had to live with the bipolar disorder alone. I fantasise about having moved through my PTSD and living a normal life. It’s wishful thinking for me, but it could be closer to reality for the next generation of young people. Talk about it with everyone, suicide doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone, any time. The more we shine a light on the dark places, the more we open a dialogue about these hard and uncomfortable truths, the more we are able to bring about change and new approaches to mental health. 

The number for the free counselling service at Lifeline is 13 11 14, any time, night or day. 
The Suicide Callback Service has a 24/7 hotline that can be reached at 1300 659 467. They also have a website at:
Other resources for mental health and suicide include:
•The Black Dog Institute:
Clara Rose Santilli, April 2017. 

Life and death: Why I chose to stay. 

This post isn’t about archaeology or ghost hunts or my latest favourite thing. It’s going to be a bit dark and it’s going to be a bit scary but I feel like now is the time to address my past. I am a suicide survivor. 
It feels like an enormous risk to publicly say that and I know I’ll be judged and scrutinised, some people are going to call me selfish. A decade ago was my last attempt at killing myself, I don’t remember the details or particulars, I just remember how much pain I was in and how alone I felt. I am fine now; I relish my wonderful life and I have a great Team Me supporting me as I am recovering. 

Yet there have been periods over that last decade where I have experienced the darkest of suicidal ideations (thoughts) when I was stressed beyond breaking point and my entire life was falling apart so much  that I’d pick any other option than living my life. Rather bleak stuff. People appealed to my empathy and how my choice to kill myself would have knock-on effects for other people in my life with detrimental consequences. 

I now appreciate the sentiment but guilt tripping and emotional appeals to a suicidal person are not the way to get them to reconsider taking their life. I know back then I was only thinking of me, totally absorbed in my own pain and grief (it may even have been technically selfish; but in the same way breathing is). I wasn’t thinking about it. Just feeling it. It was all consuming blackness. 

I am offering the perspective of a suicide survivor here. I’m not a qualified mental health professional (I’ve listed some resources at the end). This is simply my experience of being depressed and suicidal but I hope what I’ve lived through can be useful to others. I want to help people who find themselves in my situation and I want to empower the people around them to help them. I want to enable you. Being suicidal is a state of mind, not a character trait or a situation where anyone should be inserting their brand of morality. People suffering suicidal thoughts need compassion and time and space to heal. They need help.

Using emotional appeals isn’t going to get people who are considering killing themselves to stop and rethink their plan. They are in so much pain that they cannot even begin to comprehend the consequences of their death on the people around them, they have lost the ability to see tomorrow. They just want anything other than the reality they are currently feeling. They need it to stop. Now.

The things that reached me through the darkness weren’t false hope and empty promises and nice platitudes, they were meat solid options that translated into real world outcomes that allowed me to function again. Little things mattered the most. Help calling a qualified professional to organise my treatment going forward or helping me pack to go to hospital if that’s what I needed and then arranging for someone to feed my cats while I was away.  Even just a lift to get groceries helped allievate the stress I felt as a suicidal person – the really important thing is that you offer relief tied to an action that actually helps them in a practical way. Offer them the means to recover their lost vision of the future. 

Suicide is the act of a desperate person who feels like they haven’t got options, they are trapped by their situation and the way to reach someone who is suicidal is to give them a door out, or a hand up, from where they are stuck. You give them a way to get out of the situation rather than using guilt to isolate them further than they already are feeling alone. Unless they are very perceptive and self aware, when they are that absorbed in their pain that they are planning their self destruction, they aren’t thinking of the other people in their life. 

I honestly think suicide survivors are the people we should be talking to about killing yourself. I’d be asking them what changed your mind, why are you still here and how? What changed my mind was knowing my reality isn’t always congruent with how I am feeling. I wasn’t really alone despite feeling that way and there were people saying I didn’t have to live like that who were approaching me with real options to change my stars. It doesn’t come easily in practicing these two things – remembering my feelings aren’t necessarily an accurate portrait of my life and being humble enough to ask for help from other people. 

I chose to live because I want to know what happens next. Why anyone else chooses to live is too much of an existential question for this little essay and I can’t give you the answer why other suicide survivors chose to stay. Ask them.  I will say knowing I have people who care enough to help me through the dark and scary world of mental health recovery is helpful in my decision to live and create a full life for myself. How I’m still here is that I’ve had a decade of therapy and medication and lifestyle changes – it wasn’t easy on me and Team Me, but it is worthwhile journey. Thank you to all the people who have been there for the last two decades, I really couldn’t have done it without you…

TL/Dr: Don’t preach. Give suicidal people options.

The number for the free counselling service at Lifeline is 13 11 14, any time, night or day. 

The Suicide Callback Service has a 24/7 hotline that can be reached at 1300 659 467. They also have a website at:

Other resources for mental health and suicide include:

•The Black Dog Institute:


Clara Rose Santilli 

Dark Tourism: Why I love spooky visitations and that’s just Alison from Haunted Horizons! Also My Fringe picks for 2017!

We all know by now I’m quirky with some hobbies of acquired taste such as dark history tours and ghost hunting with Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons and there will be more paranormal investigation this year. I’m going to quickly mention there’s Valentine’s Day events at Z-Ward for something truly unique for 2017 -check out the website mentioned below for details. 

Adelaide Arcade, 2016.

And I realised that I never published my adventures last year (2016) with Alison and Kag from Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons dark history tour of the Adelaide Arcade. They are the only company that can give you access to the old abandoned Tea Room under the Adelaide Arcade! 

Alison O’Born setting up paranormal investigation equipment in the Old Tea Room beneath the Arcade.

Exciting archaeology feature: original gold gilt paint in tea room.
Table base in Adelaide Arcade Tea Room.
Internal or infernal stairs to the old Tea Room.

And since it’s been a year, I’m going to do it again and remember to take notes this time since they were Best Tour Operator for 2015 & 2016 in the S.A. Tourism Awards! And this year, maybe go hunting for spooks at Z-Ward if I can only get my friends to agree and book with Haunted Horizons on tel: 0407 715 866 after checking out their cool website that also offer tours of the Old Gaol (read about me as the time I was the ghost bait).


But there are some nifty events coming to Adelaide’s Fringe and here’s my top predictions if you enjoy the quirky, macabre and historical. 

Anya Anastasia’s Torte-e-Morte and Rogue Romantic. 

Anya Anastasia’s Rogue Romantic preview in 2016.

I saw Torte-e-Morte last year and thoroughly enjoyed the life and undeath of Marie-Antoinette with her blend of historical humour and black comedy. Then I was lucky enough to preview Anya Anastasia’s Rogue Romantic (you’ll have seen her on a bus, train or train around Adelaide somewhere in the last year). She is a powerhouse in the international and Australian Fringe festival scenes and not only performing her own shows, she is cultivating talent by co-ordinating the entertainment at Stirling Laneways and check out the venue she helped create, Henrietta’s for the Adelaide Fringe (one week to go). I have tickets to both of her performances for this year! 

Check out her website: <;

Sound & Fury 

Sound and Fury performing Sherlock Holmes (picture used kindly with permission of Patrick Hercamp, 2017).

After years riotous Lord of the Thrones, US vaudeville comedy act, Sound & Fury, return with Sherlock Holmes. The thing to know about these guys is that anything goes with their blend of geeky satire and improvised comedy at the Tandanya Cafe, a venue I cannot recommend highly enough for pre- and post-show socialising. 

I’m also recommending here Patrick Hercamp’s solo performance, Half Hour Hamlet, because it is a pithy and delightful exposition of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Patrick is like quicksilver and the play is an engrossing half an hour of something I dreaded studying during my school days. I can sincerely say I have a greater appreciation of the original Hamlet as a result of Jeff McLane’s clever writing and direction at one of the Bard’s most complex and potentially dreary works. This play was selected as Mensa’s selection for the Perth Fringe and Patrick has been nominated for Best Theatre Award in Perth! 

Patrick Hercamp and myself after Half Hour Hamlet at the Producer’s in 2016.
Adelaide Cemeteries Authority Night Tour: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem Night Tour at West Terrace Cemetery. 

This is I show I’m planning on catching since going on a night tour of West Terrace Cemetery in 2014 as part of research for a tourism subject at university. Like the paranormal investigation and ghost hunts, cemeteries are dark sites historically and for those interested in dark tourism, West Terrace Cemetery is a major destination and is an eerie and compelling venue in the darkness. The previous tours I attended were professionally produced and the history is faithfully recorded. See you there? 


All pictures (other than those used with special permission) are copyright C. Santilli, 2017.