One Quarter Journal


Making Arts Accessible


Phil Heuzenroeder


Wild@heART and the 2Hot2Handle hip-hop crew

Wild@heART is an arts programs for people with disabilities and those who suffer mental health challenges. Wild@heART employs professional artists to work collaboratively with participants to create projects like dance parties, music videos and bands. I met with Phil, the artistic and managing director of Wild@heART, to find out a little more about how to organisation came into being.

How did Wild@heART begin?

We started in 1998, with a group of musicians called the Big Bag Band. The band involved people with disabilities. We wanted to provide an opportunity for people with disabilities to get together in a fun social setting. We also wanted to create a space where the band could perform regularly. So we started off organising dance parties under the name Club Wild.

We would facilitate dance parties in Melbourne and Geelong. They were huge events, usually involving around 300-400 people. It is unusual to find an occasion where this hidden demographic comes together in such an exuberant and joyous kind of way.

When did you get involved with the organisation?

I studied music, but my background was in social justice and community development. I was looking for a work placement as part of my music studies, something that could suit those particular interests. Initially I worked as an event planner and project organiser for the dance party events.

I noticed during the dance parties that we were still bringing in professional crew to run the events. What I was interested in was handing the reins over to the participants so that they could run these events themselves. That’s when I started to become more involved.

How did Wild@heART transform from the Club Wild dance parties to the fully-fledged organisation it is today?

When I became more involved in the early 2000's we went a bit crazy for the first five years. We ran heaps of programs, taking participants to events like the Moomba parade, running song-writing workshops, starting a choir and a rock band. I created an events team that would do the events organisation themselves. They would call the suppliers, to get quotes, and to organise dates for gigs. Organising the events gave the participants both a sense of responsibility and a feeling of ownership.

What are the core values of Wild@heART?

My interest is in being a progressive organisation; we don’t want to be institutionalised. The goal is that people with disabilities can take part in the whole of community life, just like anybody else. We’re not interested in just staying in the disability sector.

Events like the dance parties have such a brilliant environment; there is such a sense of acceptance and a lack of judgement. It’s a beautiful thing.

How does the hip hop crew 2 Hot 2 Handle run?

The crew started about 4 years ago. We bring in professional artists to work collaboratively with the participants. This includes song-writing MC's, choreographers, and filmmakers for projects like our recent video clip.

What does the future hold for Wild@heART?

We are very interested in the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). It could have a very positive impact on our work.

I am hoping the scheme will provide greater economic freedom to people with disabilities. This will enable us to build a broader base that will help us with our ultimate goal; to involve people with disabilities in the life of the broader community.

Interviewed by
Annie Ferguson

Photography by
Marie Lafferty

Wild At Heart
2Hot2Handle hip hop crew - Bullying Song on YouTube