Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wordplay@Artplay: Book Week Celebrations 2010

pic: Bronwen Bennett and Pia Butcher working to promote the love
of books and literature in young people

Storytellers are busy during the Melbourne Writers' Festival

This year the Children's Book Council celebrations - BOOK WEEK - are part of the Melbourne Writers' Festival.

Book Week is the longest running children's festival in Australia, celebrating its 65th birthday in 2010.

Each year, many schools and public libraries from all over Australia spend a week celebrating books and Australian authors and illustrators. Classroom teachers, teacher librarians and public librarians develop activities, offer competitions and tell stories relating to a theme to highlight the importance of reading.

The theme in 2010 is... across the story bridge.

While big folk gather at

Federation Square to hear author talks and assemble for literary tours of Melbourne, smaller people congregate at Artplay at Birrarung Marr along the Yarra River. Here there is a program of brilliant workshops.

When I arrived on Saturday, Doug McLeod had a group spellbound with his writing work shop. Following on from that, it was a privilege to take to the story chair in a space beautifully arranged with cushions and soft light. Leigh Hobbs arrived and further inspired the children with a fabulous session on illustration. ArtPlay is where learning, imagination and play come together to expand the minds and lives of our youngest generation.

My Bookweek tips: I strongly recommend Mr Chicken goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs and Kip by Christina Booth and so do Bronwen and Pia. But then I have a thing for poultry!

Bronwen Bennet is a tireless promoter of literature for children and a driving force behind the CBCA. Her agency Show and Tell arranges speakers for all occasions around Australia.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Words in Winter Daylesford 14 - 15 August 2010

The Magic Lantern and Music show

Words in Winter is a celebration of words in all their forms and expressions throughout the Helpburn Shire. This year the Storytelling Guild was proudly associated with two events.

On Saturday David Demant was kept busy with three of his Magic Lantern Shows. He packed the Daylesford Town Hall - full to overflowing with children who delighted in the old technologies.

In David's words, "In the 19th Century, there was no TV, 3D, computers or Blue-ray. But there were other things that were just as special."

We were treated to music stored in pins and sounds stored on cylinders of wax. David is Senior Curator Information and Communication at Museum Victoria. He is also a member of the Storytelling Guild of Victoria.

David believes that storytelling is the most effective form of communication in museums and everywhere else.

Before there
were books, there were storytellers

John Bowers dressed for the occcasion

On Sunday, The Ballarat Story Tellers played host to over thirty guests who ventured to the Daylesford Historic Court House. A freezing and wet afternoon, we were overwhelmed by the interest in our artform. Hosted by John Bowers and supported by Rheta, Jan
and others, there was much panic in the kitchen as we wondered if we had enough food. Once again Claudette from the Vic Guild had donated chai and we managed to consume 6 litres!

The BST are outstanding yarn spinners and as the event progressed, several of the guests spontaneously took to the story chair. Stories ranged from the improvised, the autobiographical, historical and fanciful.

I look forward to 2011, another bucket of chai and more fabulous stories.

Thanks to all the Ballarat Storytellers who worked to make it happen at Words in Winter.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alison Richards: Last Tango in Frankston

Last Tango in Frankston

Saturday 9 October
Theatre Works in St Kilda

I’m working on a new vocal piece with my pal Alison Richards. Just a little something that could come to life and fly like Tinkerbelle if it gets enough applause, who knows?

Alison and I met many years ago at NIDA and presented a very successful season of Peter Handke’s Self Accusation at the Pram Factory back in the 70s. Goodness, how time flies! This new piece is a spoken word number for four mature female voices. A trio really, because one of them isn’t there. She’s late and so the others chat away about life, sex and things that really annoy them while they’re waiting for her to turn up. There’s a twist, of course ...

We’re having a lot of fun with the vocal rhythms, the characters and their points of view – and we’ve got a date for our first gig!

‘Last Tango’ will have its premiere at 3.30pm on Saturday October 9, as part of the Instability Tango! concert at Theatre Works in St Kilda. Presented by Blue Straggler Productions, the concert is part of the season for Alison’s new theatre piece Instability Strip, showing at 10pm from October 4-9 as part of Theatre Works’ Girls at Work season, which is part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival! Phew.

If you want to know more about the concert, Alison’s show or the Girls at Work season, check out Theatre Works’ website at or their Facebook page!

And for those of you with an astronomical bent, a Blue Straggler is a star that just won’t act its age ...

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Last Outlaw: 30 years on a re-unioun 6 - 8 August

The Ned Kelly Weekend Festival is in its 7th year. Widely regarded as the country's most important annual celebration of the Kelly legend, this year the event commemorated the 130 year anniversary of Ned's committal hearing held in the Beechworth Courthouse. In addition, the Festival committee arranged for a re-unioun of the cast of The Last Outlaw, as it was 30 years since the series was filmed.

A four part mini series created by the late Bronwyn Binns and Ian Jones, this landmark production remains unmatched by other
attempts to tell the story. Everything from
location, costumes, buildings and props was represented as accurately as possible.

It was an eye-opener learning that people from all over Australia had travelled to Beechworth for the Festival. The locals and guests donned superb costumes - many of the women's dresses being made by a local seamstress with an extraordinary attention to detail. These were no ordinary frocks!

As for the cast of The Last Outlaw - we have all aged as you can see in the pics - but fit and well nonetheless! As Annie Kelly I died in episode one - sadly as a result of giving birth. So I was not on the set long. But as Ned's big sister and Ellen Kelly's eldest child, I was one of the family.

This was truly a very special event and I thank Adam Jenkins, the Festival committee and the people of Beechworth for their generosity and hospitality.

Jackie (Annie Kelly), John Jarratt (Ned), Ric Herbert (Steve Hart), Elaine Cusick (Ellen Kelly), Gerard Kennedy (Harry Power)

The Kelly women: Debra Larwence (Maggie), Sigrid Thorton(Kate). Kaarin Fairfax (Grace), Elaine Cusick (Ma Kelly), Celia De Burgh (Catherine Lloyd)

The Festival committee gathered together the four suits of armour which were on display all weekend in the Town Hall. (Imagine the cost of the insurance. ouch!)

Researching a Ned Kelly story: a green sash, a little boy, a bridge in Avenel

The story of Ned Kelly rescuing little Richard Shelton from drowning in Hughes Creek in Avenel is a favourite with storytellers, especially in Victoria. A big story, The Kelly uprising frames a period of history that embraces the tensions between the squatters and the selectors, debate around the notion of a Republic, the gold rushes, Chinese miners, Catholic and Protestant animosity ... Travelling up the Hume Highway the string of towns along the way are rich with stories of struggle, oppression, rebellion and hardship on a scale that is hard to imagine. For a while now, I have been telling the story of the time when young Ned Kelly rescued Mr and Mrs Esau Shelton's son from drowning. It was a brave act - and the Shelton's rewarded Ned with a green silk sash with gold braid tassels. It's interesting to speculate what the sash meant to Ned in a life so hard and bereft of anything other than the necessities for survival. He was wearing the sash under his armour when he was captured at Glenrowen after being shot 28 times. The bloodstained sash can be seen today in the Benalla Museum.

These pics were taken late in the day so they are a little dark. But they show the beautiful stone bridge across Hughes Creek. Probably little Richard fell from a temporary bridge a bit further along the creek. The 'Royal Mail Hotel' (now called The Imperial) has a bullnose verandah addition but you just see the older building behind. The hotel is still owned by a 'Shelton' - Richard Shelton and leased to the current managers.

You can read my story on my website Click on stories and you can't miss it.

If you would like to read the sign, click to enlarge.



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