Aligned and Thriving Podcast | Strategies for Work Life Balance

From City Lights to Country Nights: Kerry Comerford's Tree Change Journey

April 01, 2024 Judith Bowtell | Career Development for Achieving Work-Life Balance Episode 14
Aligned and Thriving Podcast | Strategies for Work Life Balance
From City Lights to Country Nights: Kerry Comerford's Tree Change Journey
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of the Aligned and Thriving podcast, host Judith Bowtell interviews Kerry Comerford, an accomplished non-executive director and former CEO in the global arts and entertainment industry. Judith and Kerry met through their work in the arts sector, with Kerry serving on the board of Circa, an internationally renowned contemporary circus company, while Judith was running Milk Crate Theatre, which works with artists with disabilities.

The conversation explores Kerry's diverse career journey, spanning roles in theatre administration, tourism, and the arts. They delve into the lessons Kerry learned about work-life balance from her mother's experiences, her own struggles to find equilibrium while navigating demanding roles, and the significant life change she underwent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The episode offers insights into the challenges and rewards of pursuing a passion-driven career while maintaining personal well-being.


Podcast episode summary

  • Kerry's early influences: Her mother's work ethic and the value of education shaped Kerry's beliefs about work from a young age.
  • Career path in the arts: Starting as a receptionist in a theatre, Kerry rapidly progressed through various administrative roles, eventually becoming the CEO of Andrew Lloyd Webber's company, the Really Useful Company.
  • Work-life balance challenges: Kerry's demanding job required extensive travel, often separating her from her partner, an artist. She constantly sought ways to recalibrate and prioritise self-care.
  • COVID-19 impact: The pandemic prompted Kerry to reevaluate her priorities, leading to her and her partner's decision to purchase a bed and breakfast in South Australia's Clare Valley.
  • Embracing change: Kerry navigated the transition from a high-profile CEO role to running a small business, finding joy in reconnecting with the arts and the local community.
  • Future endeavours: Kerry continues serving on boards, including Circa, while actively engaging in the tourism industry and promoting the Clare Valley region.


Battunga Cottages https://battungacottages.com.au/  

Circa Contemporary Circus. https://circa.org.au/

Outro

Connect with Judith Bowtell on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judith.bowtell
To learn more about how we can work together:
https://www.albanylane.com.au/

Come say hi on:
https://www.facebook.com/AlbanyLane/
Let’s be Instagram friends:
https://www.instagram.com/judithbowtell/
Let’s stay connected on:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/judith-bowtell-4977a04/

Don't forget to rate, review, or drop your questions on:

Apple podcast

Spotify


[00:00:00] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Hello, everyone. It's Judith Bowtell, the host of Aligned and Thriving, here again to explore with another fabulous guest about how we may or may not be able to achieve work life balance in our busy lives. I'm coming to you from Cammeraygal land in New South Wales and I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and the elders past and present. So today with me I have Kerry Comerford. Hi Kerry!

[00:00:38] Kerry Comerford: Hi, Judith. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:41] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: So lovely to have you here and to see you as well in your new environment which we'll talk about a little bit later. It's probably not so new now. Anyway, let's get on with finding out about all about Kerry. So Kerry Comerford is an accomplished non executive director on public and private boards and in the not for profit sector. She's a former CEO in the global arts and entertainment industry. With extensive strategic and operational experience across Asia. A highly skilled senior executive with over 30 years proven leadership, working in culturally diverse and politically sensitive localities. As a highly regarded leader and chair, she has been a successful initiator and driver of organisational change across commercial and subsidised sectors in tourism and the arts. She has been a specialist advisor, a mentor, a consultant and collaborator with a proven ability for delivering strategic plans in often complex and challenging environments. She says that she is outcome driven, yet able to assess complex stakeholder issues and work cooperatively to develop shared goals and viable objectives. She's having led both subsidised and commercial organisations, she's familiar with the complex and often conflicting driving forces behind both business models. Her experience as a non executive director and executive director provides her with a sound knowledge of the vital role boards play in strategic planning and a strong commitment to good corporate governance and ethics. The only thing Kerry has left out there is that she's just a lovely person and somebody who is just a joy to work with. So I'm going to just editorialize and add that to there as well. So Kerry, welcome again. And what have you done lately for your work life balance?

[00:02:34] Kerry Comerford: My big change is going back to something I used to do all the time, which was, I used to start every day with a cup of tea and start writing in my journal. And over the last few years, I've just got out of the habit of doing that. And I've got up every morning and I reach for my iPad while I've had my cup of tea.

[00:02:58] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: none of us 

[00:02:59] Kerry Comerford: I'm, so I've just started that process in the last few days and it's sometimes a challenge because I think, oh, I just need to look that up. But I'm hoping that I will get back into that rhythm.

[00:03:13] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Fantastic. I love that and I'm more than happy to be a bit of an accountability buddy for you on that. I think it's so lovely when you start your day without immediately jumping onto the social media and checking your emails. I'm not going to say I do that, but I think it's really nice when you do that. I think the only time I do that is when the phones run down overnight. And I have to recharge it and then I go, Oh, okay. Oh, it's quiet. So thanks for sharing that. And I think it's a great habit, especially with the journal and cup of tea. Let's go back a bit, Kerry. What did you learn as a child growing up about work? What were your early influences?

[00:03:54] Kerry Comerford: The biggest influence was my mother. I grew up in a fairly complex family environment where my mother went back to work when I was six weeks old. And she virtually, she very much held the family together. So she was working a lot. My father came in and out. Up until I was about five years old and then he disappeared for 11 years.

[00:04:21] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: okay.

[00:04:21] Kerry Comerford: just kidding. I'm just kidding. And then he came home and my mother remarried him. But during that time that's a whole other story.

[00:04:30] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: A whole other story. That's a whole mini series, Kerry.

[00:04:33] Kerry Comerford: So during that time, my mother worked my entire life. So she worked as a comptometrist. I don't know if your listeners will even know what that is. That's someone who works in the finance area. It was a mechanical calculator and she worked in a range of jobs. And it works whatever the weekly Monday to Friday doing those jobs and also during the end of financial year, she used to work at home. So I grew up very much aware that work was a very important part of life. It was for her, it was very much about security and keeping her family together. But then interestingly, when she turned 40, and she had educated all her children. She said, I'm not doing this anymore I'm going to become a nurse. And she went off to train as a nurse.

[00:05:23] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: wow. Oh, man.

[00:05:24] Kerry Comerford: So it was interesting in that I suppose she introduced the idea of doing something that you want to do but when you have the security to do it. 

[00:05:35] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Work hard. Make sure you've got all the security there, take care of other people because she made sure you guys all had your education and then do something that she

[00:05:44] Kerry Comerford: that she wanted to do.

[00:05:45] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah, does she do nursing and work as a nurse as well?

[00:05:50] Kerry Comerford: She did. It did get complicated, however, because then my father came home.

[00:05:55] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, okay. Okay. I went back to the mini series.

[00:06:00] Kerry Comerford: We're back to the mini series. And so their life went in a different direction. She did nurse for a few years. And then they got to the age where they traveled around and did a whole range.

[00:06:11] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Okay. Okay. Thank you.

[00:06:12] Kerry Comerford: season two. That's

[00:06:14] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: So you've heard the pitch. If anyone wants to pick that one up producer, a film director and producer writer who I want to have on this here. So I'll let her know. So isn't it interesting many people on this program in the interviews I've done and some of them that I've recorded and will be coming up soon, how often it's especially for women, it's their mother working that has the biggest influence on them.

[00:06:40] Kerry Comerford: Yeah I think it was very clear to me from a young age that I would work.

[00:06:46] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yes.

[00:06:47] Kerry Comerford: I didn't have any thoughts that I would not work, but I didn't feel like I would have a career. My big ambition. So when I finished high school in fourth year and this was the year my mother was going nursing, and I totally agreed with this, I went to business college and I loathed it and I cried every day for six weeks until my mother could stand it no more and sent me back to school. But my thought at that point had been that I would go to business college and I'd become a receptionist because it was the 70s and there was a big push on TV all the time, they ran these ads for the receptionist center and it looked like a glamorous job to be sitting at the switchboard just taking calls and sipping coffee. Yeah so that was where I thought I was going to go. But I ended up going back to school and then I went to university and I got interested in drama. Yeah,

[00:07:51] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Okay. Yes.

[00:07:52] Kerry Comerford: Went in a different direction.

[00:07:53] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Very different directions. Back to school, into university. And can I say that wasn't such an assumed path for us people in coming through the 70s and the 80s, maybe a little bit more when the free education came through, free tertiary education here in Australia. But I know my mother she would have loved to have gone to university, but that just wasn't in, the schema for her at the time. It wasn't free. A whole lot of reasons why she didn't go, but it was like she would love to have done university. And so she became this big advocate for the daughters to go to university. Yeah. 

[00:08:33] Kerry Comerford: I was actually the only member again, the complexities of my family, but I was able to go to university under the free education scheme. But I didn't stay, I dropped out.

[00:08:45] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, okay.

[00:08:45] Kerry Comerford: But it was a fantastic opportunity and I did drop out. So my story goes that I dropped out of university in the morning and in the afternoon I walked into the theatre world in Sydney and I got a job as a receptionist.

[00:09:00] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: So it all connects. So you got involved in drama and theatre and never really left.

[00:09:06] Kerry Comerford: No and yeah, no, I still haven't really. like to think I have, but I haven't yet. So that was how I got into theatre. And interestingly enough, I think what really held me in good stead was that even despite my tears, at business college, I'd learnt to type. And so I was able to take on more tasks within the theatre Royal. And I also worked as an usher, so picking up on some of my mother's approaches to work. I had two jobs. I worked as an usher at night and I worked as a receptionist during the day. That's where our life became work.

[00:09:42] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah. Okay. So you had a pretty strong work ethic. And as you said, your life became work because it seemed to be all consuming. But theatre, glamour, job everyone would die for. Is that what it was like?

[00:09:57] Kerry Comerford: It was quite interesting because I thought that theatre was all about being an actor. So I'd been doing amateur theatre and then got the job as a receptionist. And then I discovered once I was actually working in a professional theatre environment that there were all these other jobs. And these other roles that help support the performers in creating the theater. And so I just followed that path. And the path was pretty fast, really. When I look back on it, I worked at the Royal for two years. Then I worked at Active Equity. Then I came to South Australia and I worked with a state theatre company and I changed jobs every two years in Adelaide for a period of time, just going into more senior administrative roles. Now I was at Perth for a couple of years and then I came back to Adelaide and then eventually I was working with the Adelaide Festival Centre in their commercial division and that's when then the former general manager of the Festival Centre had gone to work with Andrew Lloyd Webber's company and I then joined him and worked there for 24 years.

[00:11:08] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Wow. Wow. Okay. So what supported you through all of this? What were your internal beliefs and motivations what otherwise we call our values. But what were the sort of things that supported you through this rapid advancement in a very complex and changing environment where things probably happen quite quickly.

[00:11:29] Kerry Comerford: I think there was a general commitment to work. Just doing whatever it took. Some of my early mentors were great supporters of the artists. So that was a really important value that when you were working in this industry, you were there to help support the creation of the work. And so that became a big role and often I moved on so that I had better opportunities to work more closely with artists. There was just a passion and a commitment to what I was doing, I think. And a desire to learn something new constantly. So oh, I can do that now. What else could I do? I think it took me quite a while to start to think. Oh, I could be the boss.

[00:12:15] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Right. Oh,

[00:12:17] Kerry Comerford: I think I thought for a long time that I was a good support person and I was good and I was reliable and all those things were important to me that I was a reliable worker.

[00:12:29] Yeah.

[00:12:30] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: So lots of great values there. The work ethic, the commitment, the passion, the love of the arts and the love of learning. That was all supporting you in these quite, anyone who's worked in theatre know it's a pressure cooker environment. And everything is very serious when it's over, except when it's not, but people take this stuff very seriously. And because it's not just about making a product, it's about somebody's vision, it's normally quite personal. And the artists have quite a bit at stake and they do need to trust the team around them to hold that vision and ensure that it is what they want the world to see. And that collaboration. So that's all terrific. But when did you have that thought then that maybe you could be the boss?

[00:13:16] Kerry Comerford: I think if I started to work through various organisations and I took on a few two IC roles. So I was stepping in occasionally and then I was able to go and work for some small arts organisations. I went to Perth and worked with a puppet company called Spare Parts. Puppet theatre, and then with deck chair theatre, and those were the roles where I became the general manager. Still working very closely with artistic directors, but becoming that central person. And then, from there I came back to South Australia and I went into kind of a tourism cultural job for a period of about 12 months. And then I was appointed director of Tandanya, the National Aboriginal Arts Centre here in Adelaide, which sadly no longer exists, but anyway I was there and from there I went into the commercial area. Yeah, 

[00:14:14] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Which a lot of arts administrators, arts managers, arts leaders, CVs can look like that. It's never a vertical progression. Very rarely.

[00:14:24] Kerry Comerford: And then in those 24 years at the Really Useful Company, I went from executive to director to general manager to CEO. It was a long progression.

[00:14:33] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yes. In Australia, in the arts there are some companies that do have that some sort of a corporate ladder you can climb, but it's normally a job, not several options. And also normally I've coached so many people in the arts. It's normally a sideways step is needed before you can go up again. So that's often the way people do things. Or you just go and do something different. And develop new skills that way.

[00:14:58] Kerry Comerford: The opportunity for me to become CEO happened because the then CEO stepped aside. I say to people it was not assumed that I would have that job. And I had to go London and say, no, I want you to consider me for this job. Yeah.

[00:15:15] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, absolutely. And how's your work life balance through all of this?

[00:15:20] Kerry Comerford: Ooohh..

[00:15:22] Good days and bad days.

[00:15:23] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:15:26] Kerry Comerford: On a personal level, my partner is an artist who worked in theatre. That makes for interesting work life balance. Because if it's not your show, it's their show. That you're juggling. I think, particularly with the Really useful Company. I was traveling an enormous amount. So in a funny sort of way, the traveling probably helped me to start to focus a bit on the need for work life balance. Every now and again, there'd come a point where I'd go, ah, this is impossible, I've got to start exercising, I must get back to yoga, I should be doing more journaling, all those things. And some of those goals, those lessons you learn, you may not do them all the time, but you do come back to them, and you do know when you need to come back to them, I think. I think that's what the secret is. One of the things that took me years of traveling before I would do things like go to an art gallery when I was in a new city, and then I learned that, Really? I could do that for an hour and a half. The world was not going to collapse.

[00:16:31] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:16:33] Kerry Comerford: And things like that made a huge difference myself.

[00:16:37] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah, fantastic. So it's that sort of inner knowing that when you need to recalibrate a little bit. But it's also, I love that you're not like there's not a rigidity about it or a perfectionism about it. It's that learning that when you need to perhaps focus a bit more inwardly or into moving your body. But it doesn't need to be a perfectionist approach to these things. 

[00:17:00] Kerry Comerford: I have to say the biggest change in the last four years has been sleep. But we'll get to that.

[00:17:09] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah. So I got to know Kerry she'd had some of these very big high profile jobs. And at that time I was running Milk Crate Theatre and Kerry was doing, you're just about to start work with accessible arts. 

[00:17:27] Kerry Comerford: I think I was just in that process of leaving the Really Useful Company.

[00:17:30] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah, maybe you

[00:17:32] Kerry Comerford: And,

[00:17:33] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: yeah, and you were also coming onto the board of Circa, probably about that time. Yeah. So we just, got to know each other as, women who work in the arts. And then.

[00:17:41] Kerry Comerford: So I left the Really Useful Company thought I'd go back to the arts, because that's where I'd started and I did a contract position with AusDance for about a year, AusDance National, and then I took on this CEO of Accessible Arts, yeah, and I think, we worked together at Accessible Arts, which was great.

[00:18:01] What a really good project. Yeah.

[00:18:04] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: so Kerry's works as well as Milk Crate Theatre. Milk Crate Theatre works with artists with disabilities. So there was an obvious connection there. I think we did some projects together and supported each other. And then I pitched a program to Kerry to do a leadership program with women with disability in the arts. And if you want to go back and listen to the episode with Casey Gray, you will hear from a graduate of that program. And yeah, but then something very interesting happened in about just after we graduated the first lot of front and centre graduates. There was a certain worldwide incident, shall we say COVID hit. And I think Gary is still at Accessible Arts, so we're still in contact. And I remember you saying to me, and I remember this very clearly, you saying, Yeah, COVID sucks. But I'm so enjoying being able to have dinner with my partner, with my husband and I was like okay that's as such a, it was wonderful positive outcome but it was like, oh, this hasn't been a normal part of your life, obviously, up until now. Now, because you've, as I said, you're balancing two shows, you're traveling, he's probably traveling, et cetera, et cetera. Is that how it was for you guys?

[00:19:18] Kerry Comerford: So the big challenge was when I joined the Really Useful Company. Mark is an artist and he can work anywhere. And he makes ceramics and paints, so he needs a studio space. We would often live outside the city. And when we moved to New South Wales, we lived at Lake Macquarie. So I commuted to Sydney for five years and then I went mara, which is what I say. I was traveling five hours a day as well as traveling overseas. We were able to buy a little cottage in Redfern. And so I lived down in Redfern during the week, and I was only home at weekends when I was in the country.

[00:19:57] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah.

[00:19:58] Kerry Comerford: And so we did that for 24 years. And then even after I left Really Useful, with the jobs I took on, I found myself back in Sydney all the time. And so COVID really was. The first time we had spent lots and lots of time together. And I just, halfway through that process, I said, I don't want to go back to working in an office.

[00:20:23] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Wow. Wow.

[00:20:25] Kerry Comerford: And so we did a crazy thing. We put our house on the market. We didn't tell anyone, we put our house on the market thinking, oh, this could take forever. But it didn't. We sold our property in Lake Macquarie. And there was a plan at one point that we might go into Sydney and squat. We didn't think it would be somewhere we'd want to stay for a while. But then COVID kept continuing and Mark had a project. He was designing Calm and the Opera for Cockatoo Island, which only happened in 2022, so it took a long time.

[00:21:00] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

[00:21:02] Kerry Comerford: Yeah, so we were planning to go down to Sydney, do that, see where we were going and work out from there, but all that went to pieces. And so we kept looking at properties. Thinking, what will we do next? Let's have an adventure. And we bought 86 acres in the Clare Valley online.

[00:21:23] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: There you go. So what do you think was the underlying motivation for that one.

[00:21:31] Kerry Comerford: We played around. We joked occasionally about buying a property somewhere. Oh, I should add, the 86 acres has a B& B, four B& B cottages on the property. So we joked about doing something like that over the years. Four cottages was not what I had in mind. I was thinking one.

[00:21:53] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah.

[00:21:53] Kerry Comerford: And we had met in South Australia, so there was a sense of at least we know people in Adelaide. Neither of us had ever been to Clare, however. We packed up our house, we cleared out our house in the city, we avoided lockdowns or we got approval to cross the border at 9. 15 the night before we were crossing the border and we got into South Australia. We drove into this beautiful property in Watervale in the Clare Valley and here we are four years later.

[00:22:28] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Wow. So in some ways you've done the dream. You've done the move to the country dream and run the B& B and be in the vineyard area. And Mark can continue to do his artwork. Is that what it's like?

[00:22:45] Kerry Comerford: Most of the time,

[00:22:46] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, wow. Okay. It can happen.

[00:22:51] Kerry Comerford: They were couple of really good things the business was already up. And so it had been running as a business, the original owners of this property had booked the house and the cottages. So that was there. I told them I didn't want to do anything for the first few months so we closed down the business and then I did some rebranding and we did some refurbishing and a few things like that and then I said we'll just take this really slowly. But it was COVID and the Adelaide people were desperate to travel and we didn't really get to take it slowly. It took off there fairly quickly. So I learned a lot very quickly.

[00:23:31] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yes. Yes. Yes. I know some people with Airbnb, huge success. Other people couldn't wait to get out of it quick enough. So I'm glad it's working out for you. Yeah. Is it, has it supported a better work life balance for you?

[00:23:46] Kerry Comerford: In some ways, sometimes no, sometimes finding that balance. We're very much doing it as an old style B& B. So people can't just walk up and walk in and go in without me knowing them and seeing them and greeting them. My husband bakes bread, so we greet them with fresh bread. And I've tried very much to pick up on all those years of travel, all the things that used to drive me crazy in hotel rooms, and I've tried to address all those. 

[00:24:14] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, yep.

[00:24:15] Kerry Comerford: Get lots of tea bags, not two. You get a full litre of milk. Not those awful little long lasting and I love that people often leave me notes saying, oh my, my God, you've thought of everything.

[00:24:33] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, coat hangers.

[00:24:34] Kerry Comerford: Coat hangers? Real coat hangers?

[00:24:36] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah. Real coat hangers. Not those ones that are imprisoned in the cupboard. Yeah. Yeah that's my bug there. And not having enough also. What else is one of mine? Oh, the tea babes and the milk. Yes.

[00:24:47] Kerry Comerford: Teabags and milk, or I'll be crazy. I'll go, wherever I go, I will walk straight to the general convenience store and buy milk. And I leave home with a plastic bag full of teabags.

[00:24:57] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah, I agree. Something else. Oh, my husband's a doesn't like dunas. So it's always trying to get a proper sheet on a bed. Not just duna cover.

[00:25:07] Kerry Comerford: I miss you.

[00:25:09] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh, wow. This is such a treat. Travel is great, but there are sometimes

[00:25:17] Kerry Comerford: Yeah, we've all got, we've all got great stories. Yeah.

[00:25:21] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: So Kerry, were there any other challenges that you found in making this transition?

[00:25:28] Kerry Comerford: I think the challenge of dealing with a change in identity, having been a CEO of a big organization, and then moving to a small regional area and taking on another role, and being aware that, in a regional community, tourism is some people are very supportive of tourism and other people aren't so supportive of tourism. They feel like that's taking away from what's important in the region. I also think, I went through a bit of a period where I thought I should just leave the arts alone. It was time for me to just move on. And I've had to accept the fact that I do still love the arts.

[00:26:07] And, 

[00:26:07] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: yeah.

[00:26:07] Kerry Comerford: it's still there. Maybe I'm not going to be at a show every week anymore, but I'm, now I feel more comfortable in returning and going back and seeing them where I did go for a period of time where I'm not going to go. I'm being part of, I stepped away from a couple of boards when I moved here. But I have stayed connected to CIRCA it's, such an extraordinary company and that's really good because it also keeps me mentally dealing with strategic planning and particularly during COVID adapting and changing direction rapidly.

[00:26:43] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: It is a whole other conversation about Circa. Maybe we'll have it one day, it's an amazing arts company and a lot of its business model is based around touring. As well as performing locally. How would you describe Circa? We'll put a link to it. Yeah, 

[00:26:56] Kerry Comerford: It's one of Australia's great arts exports. That's what it is.

[00:27:00] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah,

[00:27:01] Kerry Comerford: An exceptional international touring company doing extraordinary work. Now with its First Nations company based in Cairns, now doing Circability, working with people with disability, and an extraordinary company doing extraordinary work.

[00:27:18] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: It truly is. It's something we should all be very proud of, particularly the people who've actually had contact with it and have worked so hard to make it what it is. It had very humble beginnings and now it's as Kerry says, it is one of our great international cultural exports.

[00:27:32] Kerry Comerford: It's our 20th birthday.

[00:27:34] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Wow, okay. 20 years isn't that long when you think about the impact the company has had. Yeah yeah. So we will have a link to Circa if you want to check it out. Because it is extraordinary. So I think you'll see the two sides of Kerry's life represented in Battunga Cottages and in Circa. And it shows how passion, commitment, hard work can lead you to some very extraordinary places.

[00:27:59] So what's next for you?

[00:28:00] Kerry Comerford: I'm still working on boards. So I'm still on the Circa board. I was up in Brisbane last week seeing a sensational new production by Circa. And I'm trying to work closely with the tourism community here in Clare to build that destination marketing activity here because I was on the tourism board in New South Wales before I left. And I found that really interesting, and it's held me in good stead, I think, in moving into this area and this business. Watervale's a tiny little town. It's got a fabulous award winning restaurant and pub and lots of vineyards. And we're on the Riesling Trail, which is a major cycling trail around,

[00:28:50] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh,

[00:28:51] Kerry Comerford: round the Clare Valley. And in fact we've joined what's known as the Clare Valley Wine and Wilderness Trail, which is a hiking trail, and people can actually hike through our property as part of that trail. It's a hundred kilometre walk around the Clare Valley.

[00:29:06] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Wow. Oh, wow.

[00:29:09] Kerry Comerford: So it's great because a large portion of our property is natural bush so it's with a little bit of get back to nature and lots of kangaroos that I adore. I like to take photos of when I can get them.

[00:29:25] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yes. Do follow Battunga Cottages on Facebook and Instagram. They're lovely photographs of very friendly looking kangaroos who do seem to well to welcome people into their 

[00:29:37] Kerry Comerford: I do like it when they turn up for their guests.

[00:29:40] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:29:42] Kerry Comerford: Try to arrange it, but can't guarantee it. Yeah,

[00:29:47] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: I think I'd like to show up, you've just got to get up early.

[00:29:50] Kerry Comerford: right,

[00:29:51] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: I'm not going to hang around for you, but yeah. Oh, wonderful. And from what you learned as a kid to now what's still supporting you as you go on on this change of direction. But also staying connected to the arts as well.

[00:30:05] Yeah.

[00:30:07] Kerry Comerford: Some of the early lessons from my mother who used to drag me along to her yoga classes with the WEA. She somehow convinced them to let her bring her child. Yeah. Don't know how she did it. Still don't know how she got away with it. But anyway, she did it. So I think that's try making time. You do have to make the commitment to find a little time for your own headspace. I feel very spoilt here because, if I'm feeling overwhelmed and provided I don't have guests arriving in the next hour, I can just go for a walk up the hill in the bush. Oh, we have extraordinary bird life here and take a breath.

[00:30:49] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: yeah.

[00:30:51] Kerry Comerford: Yeah they're the important things.

[00:30:53] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Yeah, I think people who live in our regional and rural communities, you deserve that because it's such an important part of our life. It's such a wonderful resource for people in cities to be able to access. You're hosting us in these spaces, you're you're helping to support the natural habitat and the regional economy. So if you get the bonus of being able to walk into upperhill and hear, listen to some birds, I think that's a fair trade off. My husband's relatives, they own a farm and they work so hard on that farm. And it is a beautiful stunning property. And I remember my sister in law saying, oh, but it's well, I can just come and walk through the gully that we have here and feel protected and, at peace anytime I want. You're doing really good things again for the local economy for the local region you're partnering with Indigenous people to look at their practices for fire prevention, all sorts of things that you do. Yeah, if you get to enjoy some beautiful scenery around you, more power to you. And that you're so willing to share it with other people as well.

[00:31:54] Kerry Comerford: Yeah. And it's lovely to share it and it's lovely to get feedback from people about how much they enjoy it. People who've in the few years I've been here we had three couples who now come every year because they just love, they know they've got the place to themselves. Because they can Yahoo quietly. And enjoy getting out of the city. It's really cool. 

[00:32:17] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Oh fantastic. Thank you so much for being with us today, Kerry. It's been a joy to talk to you. And I think we need to put Battunga on our bucket list because it's not that far from Sydney. And not that far, and my husband loves Adelaide I don't think it'll be a hard sell.

[00:32:36] Kerry Comerford: no.

[00:32:37] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: We'll have details about Batungga Cottages in the show notes. So if you do want to check it out and if you think that's something that'll interest you. There you go. You can find out all about it. And otherwise we say thank you to Kerry and wish her well on her tree change. But also thank you for sharing your lessons learned through your various and really interesting career but with a lot of hard work to make that happen. 

[00:33:01] Kerry Comerford: Thanks, Judith. It's so much fun

[00:33:06] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Good.

[00:33:06] Kerry Comerford: laugh.

[00:33:07] Episode 14 - Judith Bowtell: Excellent. Nothing else we can do. We could all have a laugh. All right. Take care. I love listening to your stories and getting to know you even a bit more. And we'll be back next week with another episode of Aligned and Thriving, where you'll learn even more about how you support yourself in your working life and find those moments where you can connect to yourself. All the best. Bye.

[00:33:30] Kerry Comerford: Thank you. Great to see you. Bye bye. 

Kerry's new morning routine for work-life balance
Influences on Kerry's view of work as a child
Kerry's career beginnings in the theatre world
Values that supported Kerry's career advancement
Work-life balance challenges during Kerry's career
Impact of COVID-19 on Kerry's living situation
Making the tree change dream a reality
Challenges in transitioning to a new role and identity
Values still supporting Kerry in her current path