Sunday, November 30, 2014


The ABC - what can be written that hasn't been written before!?!

I guess I can only give my personal experience, which started when I was very young.

I grew up on ABC comedy - Norman Gunston, Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones, The Big Gig, Ab Fab, The Late Show, Frontline, Blackadder, The Chaser just to name a small handful. Homegrown and from overseas. ABC knew what was quality.

ABC also produced my beloved Andrew Denton, national treasure and hero to all Australian geeks.

And great drama and documentaries. Hello Colin Firth in THAT shirt in THAT pond in Pride and Prejudice. Early classical yearnings with Derek Jacobi in I Claudius. Attenborough documentaries. Doctor Who. Redfern Now. Again, too much to even begin listing.

And then there was music: Rage, Rock Arena, and my beloved Countdown.

There is a line in Seinfeld where Elaine says to Jerry, "All your knowledge of high culture comes from Bugs Bunny cartoons." Well, all MY knowledge of any culture comes from ABC.

As I got older I tuned more into news and current affairs programs, ever since news interested me I have ONLY EVER retrieved it from ABC. To me their commitment to truth and transparency is not only the singular way one should receive news but the gold standard.

And in the last decade or so, I have tuned into ABC radio. Local ABC radio and learnt more from the fabulous commentaries by fabulous commentators. People who seemed like my friends, and certainly felt like family, and some even became my friends.

1233 Newcastle is more than valuable to our region, they ARE Newcastle (and The Hunter). They inform and entertain us - in good times and in bad.

I really do not think anyone can mention the horrific Pasha Bulker Storm weekend without simultaneously thinking of 1233 ABC. Stunning work around the clock by dedicated professionals.

Everyone that works there, the names and faces we know well, the ones we hear about, and those that tirelessly work behind the scenes ensuring we the listeners get our radio delivered in that professional way...they are all superb, considerate human beings.

And so these cuts to ABC in general and specifically to Newcastle are beyond devastating. There's nothing I can say about that, that others have not said before me. I'm gutted and cranky!

But let me add my own extra personal spin on it.

Over the past few years I have had the absolute pleasure to work with some 1233 ABC staff and their kindness and knowledge and generosity and supreme professionalism have consistently blown my mind. I want to thank them here, and pay homage to their skills and assistance.

I guess this means I am going to single out a few people, which I am loathe to do, when really 1233 ABC are a team of people who work beautifully together.

Sophie Elinor has written a superb piece about those who did loose their jobs, please read it here.

My first experience with 1233 ABC was roving reporter, Anthony Scully, heading out to my library to do an interview and report on a youth art collaboration my team had completed with the local high school. I was nervous, this was my first experience with being interviewed, but Anthony was so laid back and cool about the whole thing I soon forgot what we were doing would even go on the radio. It was great exposure for my library and for my team and the community. I will always be eternally grateful. This is the kind of thing 1233 ABC does ALL the time.

Years later I got to know Anthony through Twitter and his new project ABC Open. He came out to do a workshop on the 500 Words Project. This project gives a voice to anyone in the community and allows them to publish online autobiographical pieces on a particular subject. I gathered a group of locals I thought would be interested in the workshop and joined in myself. What a blast, so much so I have continued with the project monthly for the past two years. During this time Anthony has been an awesome mentor and a friend, helping promote the project and assisting me with the group.

The project also produced a superstar in my beloved borrower, James 'Doug' Cunningham (a few months off 98 at present), and Anthony championed him as I knew he would. This is what 1233 ABC does!

This is the short film Anthony shot in Swansea Library with the group and Doug a few years back.

Some of our group also were selected to read a story each at last years Newcastle Writer's Festival, what a thrill and a privilege. And all due to 1233 ABC. So to Anthony and to Bronwyn Purvis (who filled in for Anthony some months back) I consider you friends and colleagues, and I am eternally grateful for your assistance and kindness.

I have also had the pleasure of 'working' briefly with Jenny Marchant and Sophie Elinor on the most wonderful Treasure Hunter...a right of passage for all Novocastrians. If you don't know Treasure Hunter, shame on you!! It's an entertaining program produced every Saturday between 10am and 12noon, where two people in the studio try to solve cryptic clues (along with the valuable 1233 ABC listeners and staff in the ABC car) that take you all over the Hunter looking for 'treasure'. And so some months back I got 'hoodwinked' into joining my friend Robert LIVE on air. I was so nervous but ended up having a blast due to the professionalism and friendliness of Jenny and Sophie, and of course the knowledge of Robert and the wonderful 1233 ABC listeners.

And finally I don't even have words that describe how I feel for the beautiful, intelligent, and talented Carol Duncan. Carol is an engaging and charismatic announcer I have had the pleasure of listening to for many years. When I joined Twitter she was someone I followed, and I never thought for a minute we would become friends, but life is funny and strange and wonderful like that sometimes. I followed her because she had an excellent grasp on social media and I felt I could learn something. In my own vocation it was obvious social media was the place to be and who to learn from but people who really knew their stuff. And Carol Duncan really knew her stuff!!!

And so one afternoon, Carol tweeted and I replied and she replied back! Gobsmacked, that golden voice took time to type something to ME! I shouldn't have been so surprised, this is what Carol does best.

Sidebar: As I am typing this, Carol is making friends online with someone who is a friend of a friend of mine in Melbourne, and saying well Michael is a friend of Cathy's and she's my friend!!! This is why we love you Carol (and Twitter!!!)

And so the conversations continued, and through Carol (and another lovely Tweep, Sarah) I made some of the very best friends I have ever had in my life. And of course got to meet her in person, and she is even lovelier than she is on air. The first time I met Carol, she gave me a present of her amazing honey...who does that!?! Through Carol and other tweeps I was introduced to Anita Heiss and managed an author tour with her earlier this year and Carol jumped at the chance to assist me and officially launch Anita's book.  Carol has even interviewed me on air about the Bruce Springsteen concert. And she has always been an avid supporter of public libraries, for that I am eternally grateful.

But mostly she has been a friend, and one I cherish and adore. And she is always there to listen and offer advice or a hug - she gives the most amazing hugs, even when she is going through crap herself she will always put others first. We have all seen that this week, when going through such a dark period in her life, when others would run for the covers, she spends her days being interviewed by the masses and becomes, unintentionally, the face of ABC cuts. I know her family, her husband and her two remarkable boys, and they are hurting for her as we all are. But she is a strong, independent woman and she will go far.

And yet she starts this up, a project, Love Your Aunty, for the 'fallen' 400 to place their names and skills on a database and hopefully gain employment. Bloody hell, if that is not Saintliness I don't know what is!

I think what I will miss the most about my friend Carol on air is her Friday afternoon music show. All her interviews and insights are divine, but her knowledge and love of music is superb. She champions local musicians of all types and allows them to share her airwaves and showcase their talent. This is almost unheard of elsewhere and now will be gone, shameful and upsetting. But her legacy will live on in those she assisted. She should be so proud of all she has achieved at 1233 ABC, because I was proud to listen to her way before I knew her personally, and like everyone else this week my heart was breaking for her loss.

I could go on but this post is already much longer than I intended. I also know there are a zillion television programs I have omitted above, trust me, I've seen anything seminal or important or indie or cult that ABC has ever produced, I just didn't want this to be a list of TV.

So what can we learn from this or do to help?

Vote with caution and consideration (thank god I always have, but sometimes even that is not enough), praise your local ABC wherever you are and complain long and hard!

I attended the Newcastle rally a few weeks back but was unable to attend the Sydney one or the one at 1233 ABC studios last week. If any more of these are organised, I feel it is our civic duty to attend them if possible.

You can write to your local member or email:

And you can lodge a complaint here:  

And most of all, as Carol Duncan says, Love Your Aunty!!!!!!!

Monday, November 24, 2014


I've been back from Melbourne a week and it is still in my heart. It is my favourite place to visit in Australia. I love it's laid back feel, the fact most places do not open until 10am (I'm so not a morning person), it's streets stay alive at night, the food is remarkable, the people friendly, the shopping excellent (and I call myself someone who does not like to shop!). and it's magnificent architecture. It is a really cosmopolitan city with a European feel.
Mostly I just feel at home, especially now I have found a private apartment that I stay at each time I visit.
This trip I had fewer 'missions' than previous visit and was meant to be a bit more laid back but I really did pack a lot in! I did manage plenty of quiet, naps, reading, and watching the world go by though.
My main missions were to see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition, Les Miserables (show and exhibit) and the new musical, Once.
I saw the movie Once years back and fell in love. It was a little Irish indie musical about an out of work muso and an immigrant who fall in love via their shared love of music. And so years later it is made into a stage musical, and it lends itself so beautifully to that. I headed off to a matinee of it at The Princess Theatre. The cast were superb, most importantly the two main characters. They needed to be able to sing and act and play musical instruments, and they were superb. The set was simple but worked well. It was a full working bar that encouraged the audience to come and order drinks from prior to the show, which was a great concept. Like the movie the show has heart, is funny, and also poignant. If you're in Melbourne, you simply must check it out. Though I am sure it will travel to other states soon.

I also caught up with Stop Making Sense on the big screen at ACMI and Intersteller on the IMAX screen. I love a good movie about space and Intersteller is one of the best I have seen in a long time. It's plot is simple in that it is set in the future (never says exactly how far in the future), and the US (where it is set) has returned to the Dustbowl of the 20s. An ex-astronaut (Matthew McConaughey, superb as usual) 'stumbles' across a NASA co-operative (NASA is no longer meant to exist in this future) trying to locate a new planet for earth to inhabit. But it is sooo much more than that, and I kinda wish I had paid more attention to physics at school. With twists and turns including a lot of time bending, this is just a great story with fantastic acting and amazing visual effects.

I spent a beautiful sunny day at St Kilda, wandering, shopping, eating, and just sitting in the sun and reading and watching the world go by. I think that is where I would live if I ever moved to Melbs.

I did some good shopping, I love the laneways and little alleys in Melbourne, you always come across quirky little stores with interesting things. I also checked out the new H&M and Emporium shopping Centre plus old favourites like the VIC markets, ACMI store, Readings, and Minotaur Books. And of course, the amazing strip of shopping at Acland Street, St Kilda. I managed a fair bit of Christmas shopping this time round plus a few goodies for me.

And as always I ate very well. I returned to old favourites, Time Out Cafe, Beer Hut on Fed Square, Caboose Kitchen, E-Dumplings. My friend M is lucky to work near the wonderful Sunny Boy Cafe which is but a block from where I stay, we I caught up with him there a few times and we lunched at the new hip dumpling place at the Rialto Towers, Mr Huang Jin. Oh my and caramel dessert dumplings!!!

And as usual I wandered the city, marveling at it's beauty and architecture.

And finally heading to Melbourne at this time of the year wouldn't be the same without Myers Christmas windows:

Saturday, November 22, 2014


After writing my last post about the Docklands Library it made me think about all the wonderful pieces of architecture that make Melbourne Melbourne!

I always take a lot of photos of these building and thought I would share a few here.

Let's start with old favourites:

This is my all time favourite building, The Royal Exhibition Centre.

Also, The Forum on Flinders Street

Flinders Street Station

And this gothic structure on has gargoyles!!

And this view back to the MCG...makes me play Paul Kelly songs in my head!

I always take a photo of this corner building, just near where I stay on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth. I have no idea what is in the building, there is an Optus store below, also as you go up Elizabeth Street, you can see a range of edifices of more amazing old buildings. 

333 Collins Street, has the most amazing foyer and dome, it is right next to where I stay, so I always love to look up and admire, here it is ready for Christmas.

I love this sculpture further along Collins

And the Block and Royal Arcades

And the spot where my beloved Degreaves Lane meets Centre Place

Here are some other amazing buildings I saw this time:

This unusual high flyer up Elizabeth Street

Fabulous colours, viewed from the NGV Sculpture gardens

New vs Old at the new Emporium shopping centre

Parliament House

Sheer glass up the other end of Bourke Street

This funky joint near Docklands

And this deco beauty on Queen Street

And a little bit of hidden Melbourne:
The first is the view from my apartment, you can see the gold of Flinders Station middle right.

Some lovely pieces with intricate work:

And some lovely Melbourne sky shots:

Friday, November 21, 2014


I headed out to Docklands on my last day in Melbourne to check out the new library there. I had heard great things and they were all true.
It was a decent walk on a windy day, so was pleased to finally get there.
The Docklands Library is a large three storey building, environmentally friendly too and it looks like they got that right!

I entered to a large space, cafe, and magazines on one side and small desk with staff on the other. Upon leaving I noticed the returns area behind this space with state of the art electronic returns.

State of the Art - pretty much everything in the library was this!!!
The ground floor had fiction, teen, and children's areas with activity rooms. All chock full of great titles, plenty of reading spaces, lots of colour (though a little bit too liberal with yellow for my taste) and lovely views of the water. Also plenty of computers, catalogues, and spaces to plug in or charge up.

Each floor had toilets, bubblers, and either stairs or lifts to take you between floors.
The first floor had non fiction and oh my so much amazing non fiction. I could have stayed there and read for years and years. Again plenty of reading areas, spaces to plug in and study.

There was also a quiet study room and a reading lounge along with a community languages area. 

The Gallery was great too, multi media, with screens of digital images on the floors, actual images on the walls, and a videoscreen playing too.

But it was the second floor that dropped my jaw. Firstly amazing views all round. A huge Makerspace - makerspace are the new things (well, actually not that new at all) in libraries, spaces full of technology to help people make things. Examples here were 3D printers. Loads of fancy computers with specific software on them. Recording studio and so forth.

Why would libraries provide such a service you might ask? Well, why not!?! Libraries have always been about providing - for free - opportunities to their community. These opportunities have always been literature and learning based and this encompasses so much more than books these days. So why not have a range of educational technology available in a library to try before you buy or simply to use. That way everyone in the community remains equal, there is no cultural divide, and those that may not be able to afford such luxuries need not feel left out.
Their AV collection of music and film was also on this level and again, it looked impressive.
There was also performance space and a games arcade - with pinballs, computer games, and a guitar hero. Also behind this area was The Terrace, an indoor/outdoor area with ping pong tables!

Throughout the Library were many large screen TVs, touch tables with information, history, catalogues etc on them, and quirky touches like the Dial-A-Story booth. You can pick up a phone and tell your story to be added to their historical files digitally.

I was very impressed with Docklands Library, it's pretty much above the benchmark for what a modern library should be.

Also well used, there were people in most sections of the building as I explored, but what really struck me was how incredibly quiet it was. I guess when there is that much space noise is hidden!

This is the view of their front lawn, and outdoor play area.