Monday, September 26, 2011

Stories in Bunnings

I had been looking forward to this gig for a while.

Might not be for everyone but I am wedded to the idea of taking stories out of libraries, schools and dedicated performance spaces and delivering them in the streets, markets and other places where folk gather.

Eastern Regional Libraries invited me to take my tale telling skills to the Bunning store in Scorsby. Yes!!

Maria, who was working on family activities, had arranged a space for me in the outdoor furniture department. It was perfect - right next to the nursery.

For almost 3 hours I had the pleasure of sharing the best of my stories with people who might not hear them otherwise. A tale well told will weave its spell wherever it is unleashed.

I also learned something. The Bunnings' staff are just like in the ads! They are the friendliest, sincerest folk you will find. And that's a true story.

Cut flower farms in the Dandenongs c1920 -30

Still researching for my book Lyrebird! It's never ending ...

In trying to grapple with what a cut flower farm might have looked like back in the the 20s - 30s I have been emailing and driving and googling!

Friends suggested I visit Cloudehill - nursery and gardens in the Dandenongs.

Jeremy Francis responded to my emails with warmth so I made the journey to speak to him face to face. Cloudehill is breathtakingly beautiful but I was there on a mission. I will return and devote a day to exploring these gardens and I will return again and again.

Jeremy has built Cloudehill out of an historic working garden originally created by the Woolrich family in the 1890s. The top half of the property was a cut flower farm for many years.

In my true story, Edith Wilkinson's cut flower farm was on the west side of the mountain facing towards Port Phillip Bay. Her property was probably burned in the 1962 fires and is now part of Parks Victoria. She'd cleared a small swathe in the forest for her business. This photo, taken at Cloudehill shows a bulb meadow behind which you can see the blackwoods and the mountain ash. Did Edith's property have a similar margin? I suspect so.

The book: Cloudehill: A Year in the Garden by Jeremy Francis

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lyrebird! Behind the scenes, behind the book

It takes a team to make something really special. And yes ... in case you had forgotten ... it's all about birds!

After working for several years on the text of my next book, we are finally moving onto the next stage. With the support of Melanie Raymond (publishing Museum Victoria) and independent editor and author Nan McNab, the words are done! But the next phase is inviting an illustrator on board.

We are delighted to have Tasmanian, Peter Gouldthorpe on the project. Peter is a well loved and highly decorated artist. Peter's work reflects a deep respect and wonder for landscape and the animals and people within it. His talent for capturing Australian subjects with warmth and accuracy is wondrous.

In a flying visit to Melbourne to visit family, Peter and partner Jennie, managed time to visit Museum Vic and explore the bird collection under the watchful eye of Wayne Longmore, senior collection manager, vertebrates.

While Wayne wheeled out the specimens, Peter took pictures and I finally got to the bottom of my confusion - 'bell miners' and 'noisy miners'!! Don't even think about it. Scientific names are long, hard to say and remember but common names do your head in with common misunderstanding!

There is melancholy behind those doors in the Museum, where all the dead and stuffed reside but there is also great beauty.

Learn more about Peter Gouldthorpe here.
Museum Victoria Books here

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kamishibai spotting

I'm told that some folk like to spot trains - spotting the Kamishibai is a much more interesting pastime in my view.

Here it is in Ballan. This little town turns into a story town once a year for National Literacy and Numeracy Week. The first pic is Hagrid having a go at telling a story. Not sure if using his wand as a pointer is wise!

Fairy Amanda looked a picture next the K and bike. A little unstable on the sloping path, I couldn't have told my stories without the help of a kind fairy

I'd like to say that I rode my bike and the K to Ballan but it is 80 ks and I was due to start at 10.00am so I confess - I cheated.

It is my joy to take stories out onto the street and test my metal as a storyteller. The street was good enough for Shakespeare!

At a more serious event at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Bernard Caleo presented a brilliant session for secondary students. A tough audience they say - Bernard had these young people spell bound. And how beautiful does the Ted Smith Kamishibai look floating in classic black?


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