Tuesday, April 26, 2016


It was 1984, I was 13, and heard the following:
Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time,
But I’m here 2 tell U
There's something else
The afterworld
A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night
...and on it goes, and yes I could pretty much type that from memory!
I was gone, gone to a world of purple, paisley, funk, groove...and sex!
Well, I was a pretty innocent 13 year old, so whilst I knew some of the songs on Purple Rain were a bit naughty, I didn’t really realise how so, lol!

Listening to this album as I type this up I am a little shocked I was allowed to play this album over and over as I did with no retribution, maybe my parents just didn’t listen to the lyrics hard enough. Although compared to some songs I hear today, it is really not that bad.
Prior to this awakening I knew Prince, any self-respecting, music-loving teen in the 80s did. 1999, Little Red Corvette, and Delirious were the 1/2/3 smash hits from the album 1999. Everyone couldn’t wait till it was 1999 to sing that song. (and indeed we did many years later and it was still cool!!!)
When Doves Cry was the first single from the Purple Rain album/soundtrack and had the most fabulous film-clip. We saw it a lot on Countdown. I remember being embarrassed when my Mum proclaimed she loved that song and the film-clip. She was younger then than I am now..isn’t life a curious thing!?
I loved that album so very much, 9 songs, and all perfect in their own way. It is funny thinking back to that time. 1983/1984 was a seminal time for music, THE crossover year of the decade, without a shadow of a doubt. I cannot tell you how HUGE Purple Rain was, albums just don’t present themselves these days as they did then. It is difficult to describe. He was an immediate star, the musical genius thing came later. Whilst he went on to do many more magnificent albums, it is Purple Rain that will forever be entwined with his image, and my memories
And his image was something else. I liked his odd style, I wouldn’t have said I was in love with Prince like I was with Bowie or David Bryne, but there was something appealing and magnetic about him. Quite possibly, for me, it was as simple as purple. I had always loved the colour purple, according to my mother drawing in black and purple from a very young age (I am sure there is much to be made of that psychologically!) I wanted his long, flashy, studded purple coat so very much.
So I loved Let’s Go Crazy, but also The Beautiful Ones and Baby I’m A Star. I knew every word to Darking Nikki, which I feel terribly uncomfortable typing now, that song was indeed an awakening of sorts within me, not so much sexually, but along the way to it, I knew it was sexy, but maybe not exactly how.
The sound of Purple Rain and Prince’s voice itself was something else, it was shrieky, sexy, choral, sublime. And that electronic style of pop with added guitars was something new for me to like, let alone love. I am playing the album now as my soundtrack on my new portable turntable, it’s speakers are tinny and therefore the sound would be similar to my old turntable I had as a teen. I cannot begin to tell you the memories that are flooding back. Hormones starting to kick in, boys, that feeling of having a million friends one day, and then being isolated with none the next day. Locking myself in my bedroom, reading the album cover over and over again – it had the words to each song listed – as I played the album over and over again. Still in pristine condition too, not a scratch on it!!
And so the album ends with Purple Rain, I wouldn’t have called this my favourite song of his, but since his passing, it is has pretty much been the main song playing on the jukebox in my mind. It Is indeed his masterpiece, a great song, with an epic guitar solo and a sign of things to come.
His follow up album, Paisley Park I loved. Very psychedelic loads of fun, yet not as well received as Purple Rain. It brought forward what I call the holy trinity of Prince: purple, paisley, and (raspberry) beret. Things I still hold dear to my heart today. I loved Paisley Park, Raspberry Beret (I now even own one!), and Pop Life.
Next up was Parade which I hated at the time, it was a change in pace, a little deeper, I was still a kid, I wanted more Paisley Park and Purple Rain.
But then came Sign O’ the Times, oh my!!! This was his first – in my opinion – genius album. Great lyrics, deep music; it featured a whole range of diverse styles, going back through his past and new styles too. It was a well formed album. With great tracks like The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, Starfish and Coffee, my favourite, If I Was Your Girlfriend, and of course Sign O’ The Times. I had just not heard music presented in this way before, my mind was blown.
Then I went off Prince for a bit, he released some albums, I didn’t really listen to them, unsure why, I did like the Batman theme.
But late 1991 he brought out Diamonds and Pearls and it was love at second sight, and I was back in my lovers arms, this time in a much more adult and sexy way. Gett off and Cream, well and truly making the lyrics on Purple Rain look G rated. We danced and grinded to these songs at clubs and loved every minute of it!
In April 1992 I headed to Sydney Entertainment Centre to see the Diamonds and Pearls tour. I had only seen a handful of concerts at that point in my life, so I simply was not prepared to be blown away as I was. Firstly, he played a great set and every song sounded as they were meant to and actually better. He was something else on stage, very sexy, very confident, and an amazing musician. The show was a spectacle with a huge flying bed, that Prince and Diamond and Pearl sang and grinded on as it flew up and out over the audience. The whole thing was completely mind blowing and became my favourite ever live performance for a long, long time, only to be ousted to No.2 by...Prince, in 2003 for his World Tour (Greatest Hits).
I have tried to explain the Prince Live experience to those unlucky enough not to have seen him over the years. And they look at you like maybe you are a little nutty. He is not my favourite artist, but there is NOTHING like Prince live. I’m pleased to see in the past few years this knowledge has become well known.
Every bit of energy, musicology, genius, sexy, charisma, vocals is transformed together to produce something so fucking perfect there are no words. Every single person who HAS seen Prince agrees, there is no comparison or equal to him live. He remains my No. 1 and my No. 2 all time favourite live performance and I knew (unless I saw him again) that no one would ever be able to change that. And this was before he died. And I have seen a LOT of live performances by some pretty amazing people, artists who I love more than Prince.
After Diamonds and Pearls came Love Symbol and Slave and a whole lot of wacky. I moved on, Prince was not for me anymore. I listened to his albums but they did nothing much for me.
Prince became a bit of a joke, and I guess it was sad. Then somewhere early in the new millennium he started to come back, not so much with albums, though they were certainly there. But with these live performances, in odd places and odd times, sometimes not even billed as Prince, and the buzz returned. By the time I saw him in 2003, the word genius and Prince were inseparable.
The performance I saw that night in Sydney was nothing short of spectacular, it was hit after hit after hit after hit. He danced, he played, he killed!!! Watching Prince play guitar is simply the most mesmerising thing, effortless, flawless. We were on our feet from the very beginning of the show and dripping in sweat by the end exhausted but willing to keep on going it he did! Driving home we were listening to a best of mix and we realised how many songs he didn’t play, there were plenty. We were gobsmacked, it was almost like Prince had produced so much brilliance and we had just not realised until that moment!

I never danced so much at a concert, nor felt as much joy as I did that evening, if you could bottle the feeling and vibe of that concert, no one would ever feel unhappy or down ever again!
2014 saw the double release of Plectrumelectrum and Art Offical Age which I have been playing constantly since. Great albums that hark back to the late 80s and early 90s. There are apparently loads in the vault, hopefully we will hear more.
And so it comes to that Friday that I woke up to my phone buzzing with the news of his demise, I was shocked and confused. Prince seemed indestructible, he was always going to be there. He wasn’t even 60, he was still very relevant and keeping everyone guessing. This was so very wrong, at the time of writing, it looks like a self inflicted demise, which makes me very shitty, I hate the death cliche, it sucks and is wrong.
I wanted to continue to listen to his output, hear what he wanted us to hear, buy his albums (I loved his stance on copyright for musicians, frustrating as it can be, but he was a man of principles!).

But what a legacy we do have.
One thing I have always said about Prince is if the only thing we heard from him was Sinead’s cover of Nothing Compares 2 U, that would be enough.
Because it was.
But we got so very much more than that, and we should be grateful.
I got to see him live TWICE, and I am eternally grateful for that. He – along with many others – shaped my teenage years, I thank him for being him.
This is what is sounds like when Cathy cries...I was not as upset as when Bowie died, but I was upset. Losing a celebrity, someone you didn’t know, it’s a weird thing, I am loving the love for Prince I am seeing everywhere. Loads of purple, loads of tributes. I am mourning what we will never get to hear, more genius, he had decades left, this is terribly unfair. Maybe one more live performance, would it too greedy to get a new No 1 live performance...maybe it was...
Dearly beloved Prince, I wish you a world of never ending happiness in a purple, paisley, funky afterworld.


Sunday, April 10, 2016


I won’t lie March began in a fog, I had way too much going on, and almost crumpled underneath it all, but I did my very best to decompartmentalise (I am getting sooo much better at this as I get older) and work through each issue one at a time and by the weeks end I had a plan, and with a plan I always feel better. I slowly recovered as the month progressed and am feeling much better than I have in a long time, 2 weeks holidays also helped!!
This was good as I had a big day out with A, J, and L at The Vineyards for an outdoor concert featuring Hoodoo Gurus, The Sunnyboys, Violent Femmes, Died Pretty, and Rat Cat. My review, Pure Pop for Now People can be read here.
The weekend was rounded out with a cleansing night swim at Merewether Baths.

I caught up with a French exhibition at Lake Macquarie Art Gallery, Impressions of Paris. It featured prints from Lautrec, Degas, and  Daumier and was lovely. I always love to wander around the gardens and lakeside area near the gallery. It is in the most perfect location.

I enjoyed catching up with A and B for cocktails and afternoon tea at the new bar in The Junction, Kokomo. Despite the cheesy name, it was a very relaxing and delicious experience, and of course wonderful company.

I saw Hail Caesar at the cinemas. I really wanted to love this film. I love The Coens and love this era of film making they based their film on. But it was flawed. There were moments of perfection in the film and I was in heaven. These were the little pieces of film within a film, every person cast perfectly, every shot exactly as you would imagine it being back in the 50s, it was funny and clever and brilliant. But unfortunately the over arching premise of the film (based on a noirish/cold war kind of plot) just fell short and didn’t seem fleshed out enough and muddled. Possibly I need to see it again, It did make me laugh very loudly at times but I wanted it to be more!
My holidays began with my first French Friday of the year with J and we had yummy Vietnamese prior. The film was Marguerite. Set in Paris in the 1920s it is about a wealthy Opera singer in a small country town. But the thing is she cannot sing, and no one has ever told her this. She gets a really good review, by some cheeky young bohemians who appreciate the humour of what is going on, and is invited to sing at the Paris Opera. Her friends and family and now concerned she will become the laughing stock of Paris, but how can they help her without letting on to her the awful truth. This is a beautifully written and executed comedy/drama. Full of colourful characters, stunning set design, and beautiful music. But the melancholy to Marguerite’s life keeps it from being a parody. There are times you a crying from laughter and times you are simply crying. This is mostly due to the magnificent performance by Catherine Frot, already established as one of the great modern French actresses, this is surely her best film to date.

The following day I set off on a road trip to Sydney with my sisters and a friend to see Madonna. We did a bit of shopping on the way, but finally arrived at our destination eager to see Madonna. You can read about our experience here.
The following day I recouperated watching the F1 and then headed up to Cessnock to stay with a friend and relax and explore the vineyards. After the busy couple of days it was nice to truly slip into holiday mode in the loveliest chilled kind of way.

That first week of my holidays was pretty laid back, sleep ins, walks, dvds, reading, naps. I also managed to squeeze in a lovely lunch date to Foghorn although I was struggling with a sinus infection. It truly has been a hectic start to the year and I need serious down time! The Easter weekend was fairly quiet with a family dinner, assisting my nephew with an assignment and catching up with friends.
The second week I was out and about more, doing long exploratory walks in my neighbourhood and in Newcastle. I finally walked the Anzac Walk, and spend time reading in King Edward Park.

I ended the month catching up with N and V for a lovely lunch at Warners Bay.


And some time to take photos!

Monday, April 4, 2016


Newcastle Writers Festival is possibly my favourite weekend of the year. I always organise to have nothing stop me from seeing everything I wish and then some. As a Librarian, reading and writing are my everything, and really have been my entire life. If you took that away from my I am unsure I would be able to put one foot in front of the other anymore. To escape into another world, learn something new, or just wonder at the brilliance of someone who can string some words together in a way that makes your heart skip a beat...that is the beauty of reading.
My preference is Non-Fiction or The Truth. I love factual writing, or opinionated writing, I may not always agree with what some people write, but I am interested in reading it anyway. I also dabble a little with writing myself, as you see here. It is mostly review or memoir style writing and that is what I am most comfortable with. I do not proclaim to be a writer, but I do love to write...I’ve already got a day job.
This is why I love taking the time for real writers. They have so much to give us, so many ideas, so many thoughts, hearing the inspiration or story behind their own creativity thrills me every time.
After a few days of a festival as full and as varied as this one, you are exhausted, but also uplifted in a way that is very difficult to describe. And it is not just from the sessions you attend but the buzz of being there too.
I try to mix the sessions I attend up with local and small or helpful writing sessions, and the bigger, more glamorous names. Sometimes it is difficult to choose from the program as there are sessions running simultaneously and you just cannot clone yourself!
This year I caught up with locals talking about Grieve, Shakespeare, Local History, Memoirs, and how to write. They all were fabulous to listen to, and gave me numerous ideas to assist with my own writing. This is key to such a festival.
The superstars were of politics: Stan Grant, Kerry O’Brien, David Marr, and Tony Windsor...in a world where I am interested in the truth, how we are governed and what people think of this is as truthful as it gets. Richard Glover and Nigel Milsom showed me much beauty can come out of great pain. I am thankful to have shed a tear at their truth.
But mostly it was the unexpected that I loved at this festival.
The unexpected is when you are taking notes at a session about X and you go off on a tangent and make notes about Y and Z instead, because a little snippet of what someone said took your brain off on a tangent or a drift that you cannot escape. Your mind becomes heightened and you see things far more vividly. I took some great photos over the weekend, my eye for beauty was sharper than usual. This is because you are narrowed or focused on particular things over this short period of time in a way you just normally are not.
The unexpected comes from conversations with people you meet. These can be people you don’t know, or people you run into that you know or have not seen in a long time. You’ll chat about this and that, all festival related, a glow comes over everyone, you are all basking in the pleasure of really using your brain in ways you love, and your heart is beating faster than normal, and you are full of positivity and love and ideas and everything. Connections are closer and tighter because you mostly walk about and attend sessions on your own in a little bubble of thoughts and creativity, so when someone pokes that bubble you explode with all that and more. It is a thing of beauty, never do I see and talk to so many wonderfully happy people.
This is the intangible thing about festivals, the added extras, the feelings that are hard to express, you leave feeling utterly exhausted, yet so full of joy and information and creativity you could burst. You have experienced many little epiphanies, cultured a few great ideas, feel more creative than you have in ages, but mostly need a long nap.

I drove away from Newcastle Writers Festival on Sunday afternoon feeling all of that and more, I felt great but also a little sad it was over and a little sad for those who didn’t get the opportunity to experience such wonder, or who may never get that opportunity. It you haven’t attended Newcastle Writers Festival, you simply must, it will be on next year from 7-9 April and half the sessions are free. There is no excuse not to attend.
Finally I give my thanks to the brilliant Rosemarie Milsom and her lovely little team of helpers and her army of volunteers, what a wonderful service you all assist with! Thank You!!!
You can read more about my experiences here:


Tony Windsor and David Marr

Sunday began at The Playhouse with Tony Windsor and David Marr. What a great way to start the day with a packed audience eager to here from the gentleman of politics.

Tony was everything you expected him to be, kind, considerate, honest, forthright and also funny. David Marr was perfect and affable, quick witted and intelligent. What a pair. So much information flew back and forth it is difficult to remember it all, suffice to say Tony had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand. He spoke about many politicians and always with considered kindness, but the one he spoke of with the most fondness with Julia Gillard, which was heartening to know. He thought she the most calm politician he has ever come across and that she was also genuinely friendly.

He felt people like Abbott and Turnbull were more interested in being PM than actually why they were there and what they wanted to do, which is not a good thing. 

Climate change is the reason he is back. He feels his constituents deserve better and he is hopeful he can assist them and the country.

We lined up to get our books signed after the session, and he was kind and took time with everyone to say hello and chat. What a sheer pleasure and how nice is it to know there are politicians with integrity out there.

We'll Always Have Paris

This was a delightful session with writers, Jean Kent, Patti Miller, and Marion Halligan and hosted by Caroline Baum.

All the writers have lived in and written about Paris so they had many wonderful tales to tell. Caroline is half Parisian and also knew they city well. They spoke about many things such as homelessness, food, tourism, and the whole appeal of the city.

They spoke about the fact that most people arrive in Paris with a preconceived notion of the city, from film, books, posters, history. It is the one city that you feel you can know and love without ever having visited. I know I felt that way before I visited Paris. They spoke about how even so, the city will still exceed expectations, which is so very true.

Some who have been going there for years have noticed a change in the city with tourism, others not so much. They spoke about the little villages within the arrondissements, their love of the chemists that are everywhere (this is true, you cannot walk a few block without seeing the neon green cross that marks a chemist in Paris).

They spoke about living in small apartments as part of writers workshops, and making the apartments their own, finding the perfect Boulangeries in their area, or the right food at the supermarket or market. Patti told a lovely story of how she joined a choir in Paris, despite not knowing much French or even being able to sing that well.

The whole session was a delight that took me back to my time in Paris, which is always a great thing.

The Story of a Painting: Nigel Milsom and Charles Waterstreet

After catching up with friends for lunch I headed to the Art Gallery for this sold out event. There was much anticipation in the room as the guest sat down.

After some hilarious back and forth, Nigel told the shocking story of how the painting almost missed being entered in the competition. He had finished it the night before entry and had laid it down to lacquer it and leave it overnight. But woke to the sound of dripping in his shed and the rain had entered a leak in the roof and there was the portrait with a large puddle of water in the middle.

His initial response was that is that, his chance was gone, but he knew he would disappoint Charlie, so he wiped it off, got out his hair dryer, and re-laquered it. The truck picked it up later that afternoon and it arrived at the NSW Art Gallery with 2 minutes to spare!

Charles obviously didn't know this story and was shocked to hear it, but pleased it turned out ok.

The dynamics between the two very good friends was obvious, a deep mutual love in the very best of a bromance. Their story of intertwine goes back to their childhoods with Nigel's Dad catching fish for Charles' Dad's pub. Nigel is very quiet and introspective while Charles is uniquely out there, loud and a huge ego that even he will attest to.

Nigel said Charles was an unusual creature, why wouldn't you want to paint him, but we all knew it went deeper than that. Charles said it was an honour at all times to represent Nigel, who had had a terrible run with the justice system and it was a gift and his duty to see Nigel through.

Nigel spoke about how he has to paint, painting is his holiday, he shocked almost everyone when he said he wasn't entering the Archibald this year. 

Nigel also spoke about why the hands were so distinctive on the painting, because he used them in court, throwing things around and such.

Charles was over the top and wild, whilst Nigel was softly spoken and quietish, yet they were like the perfect duo. It was an extreme pleasure to be in the company.

The best examples of their personalities and friendship came after the painting won the Archibald and Charles suggested they run off a few hundred lithographs and charge heaps. Nigel's response of horror was that he was not Ken Done!


Making Your Writing Pop

This was the final session of the day with Jessie Ansons, Maree Gallop, Anna Lundmark, and Diana Threlfo. The form part of a writing group who meet fortnightly to help each other with their work.

They had many great ideas from what not to do, to tips and tricks. They approached the session with a lovely mix of humour and discipline!

And it left us all keen to get home and start writing from all the inspiration we had taken in all weekend.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Saturday is the big day of the festival, and I was in there at 9am to grab a Gozleme breakfast at the Olive Tree Markets. But once it hit 10am, it was on!

Writing about loss

Panel discussing Hunter Writers Centre's Grieve Writing Project. The project began as a Hunter initiative but with finding became a National competition. 500 words for Prose or 36 lines of Poetry.

The word Grieve is interesting within the project. You are being asked to Grieve as you write. Everyone has a story. And each story is varied. Threads of hope weaved throughout the stories. Everyone's voice is authentic.

The panel included palliative care workers, a mother who wrote of her son's suicide, and a detective who worked many suicide cases. He wants to make that person's life honorable.

Giving language to grief is very important . Acknowledging it can help heal the person and the community. Call it what it is.

Write with your heart and don't stop. Edit with your head later. Form a relationship with your grief. Give it a name. Write as if no one will actually see it.
This Writing Life, Camel Bird with Michael Sala.

Carmel is so prolific that it takes Michael a good 10 minutes to introduce her. So much so that Carmel said she felt quite tired hearing it all.

Michael asks Carmel how she begins a story or her writing process. She describes imagery or the thing that is out of place can often be inspirational in terms of starting a story.

Throughout the chat little snippets of wisdom appear to assist with the writing process.

Always be ready for inspiration to hit you.

At the heart of writing there is a sense of play.

Jump in and play around in it then step back and see what you've done.

Go with your own instinct in how you work. You're an individual.

She then read her short story Monkey Business.

Then they spoke about using SM as authors. Carmel is an early adopter and a fan.

The story if it is strong enough will lodge itself and dwell with the reader. But just keep writing for you
The Aftermath: memoir writing, what happens when the private becomes public.

Michael Sala, Kate Holden, Rebecca Starford, with Magdalena Ball

Michael doesn't shy away from his truth.
Rebecca says it all exists on the page, separate to her.
Kate says other people are more cool about it than she is.

When is it best to write your truth? When you are ready you'll know. However a greater degree of reflection, the distance of time and the further you are away from the situation/time will help.

So it depends of the actuality of your truth now. And memory is unreliable.

Kate quotes Helen Garner, If you're going to be hard on others, be hard on yourself.

And they all day if you're not upsetting ppl then your bks are not that interesting.
Talking to my Country
Stan Grant with Jill Emberson

The piece Stan wrote about Adam Goodes was written just on a year ago. He had only been back in the country 2.5 years. He was driven to write it and his wife suggested he do it and send it to The Guardian.

His life has been fundamentally changed by this moment and speaking up about it. He didn't anticipate it and is still working through how to handle it.

Jill mentions how subtle it all is.

Stan says words matter. There is a rhythm and musicality to how words are put together. You must choose your words carefully especially when expressing complex ideas. He is also aware that words can be turned against you and one false move can be fatal.

Talking to my Country means talking to his land, the physical country. We connect - no matter who we are or where we've come from - through our country.

What's different now? Nothing really and he's mindful of those that came before him, saying similar things at a far riskier time. He's very aware of standing on the shoulders of giants.

Key theme of the day, we need to think of this as an Australian issue not an Indigenous issue.

Such a gently spoken, articulate, intelligent man, this was by far my favourite session of the day. You felt humbled to be in his presence listening to his thoughts and ideas.

Beyond the Spin: dissecting our political leaders with Kerry O'Brien, David Marr, Paddy Manning and hosted by Steve Lewis

O'Brien gave an overview of Keating.
Marr on Shorten.
Manning on Turnbull

Great discussion on the lack of forward thinking of Turnbull. O'Brien felt the same about Rudd. They both were so keen to gain leadership it would appear they didn't think about anything to do once they got there, minimal policies and nothing to really make the job their own.

O'Brien feels the barnyard media is to blame for the barnyard politics abs vice versa. Though he didn't want to piss on all his colleagues.

Huge rant on the state of democracy and worry for future Australians and democracy from O'Brien.

So much more amazing thoughts and other insights it was hard to keep up, but a thoroughly entertaining session by some of the great minds in political media.

Who's got the weirdest parents with Richard Glover

There really is no way to describe this session, if you have read Richard's memoir as I have you will understand. This man has had the most bizarre and traumatic upbringing but somehow has escaped untouched, well mostly. His session was more like a stand up/best of the book, which was entertaining and had me in tears from laughter and melancholy in equal parts.

He is the most delightful, adorable, sweet, and smart man.

Basically his memoir - besides being a healing process for himself - is to show people that no matter what you go through with your family you can come out the other side ok and you just learn to find the love elsewhere.

Such a great day, the first three sessions were very helpful to me in terms of my own writing and a particular project I embarked on a few months back. Listening to the writers talk about their situations and how they tackled writing about them was assurance to me that I am on the right track with my own memoir from a less than pleasant part of my own life.

The final three were extreme entertainment with intellectual and exciting thoughts and ideas that really got my mind buzzing. Such a pleasure, I came home totally exhausted but feeling very creative and full of ideas and hope.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Opening Night of Newcastle Writers Festival is always a great evening out. You can feel the excitement and buzz of everyone ready to take on the next two days. It is a feeling of anticipation and wonder.

This year Opening Night was held for the first time at The Civic Theatre and what a splendid venue it is for such an important evening.

James Valentine hosted the evening again and gave a great speech about reading and how wonderful it is to be a reader in this golden age of books. So true, for years people have been asking me about the future of books like they are dodo birds. I have never bought the theory that the book is dead, not because of fear but because I never actually saw it. I know personally my own to read list grows exponentially each year so things are indeed quite peachy!

Rosemarie Milsom, without whom there would be no festival, gave her best ever speech. She spoke with passion about the festival's fourth year, those that tirelessly assist her and seeing her own family grow with the festival and it was a thing of beauty. Words make a book, and books make a festival, so Rosemarie's words made it all so personal and touching, that you just knew the following days would be spectacular.

The entertainment for the evening was John Doyle and Tim Flannery, riffing off each other in a way true long time mates can. Doyle was a laconic and dry as ever, and Flannery earnest and full to the brim of geeky and important information about this land of ours, the creatures on it, and what we are doing to it. The talk was funny, informational, intelligent, and political. Everything you want from an evening such as this. I personally could have listened to them chat all night.

Then night ended and I drove home full of excitement and wonder, thinking about the next two very full days that lay ahead!

Friday, April 1, 2016


What a lovely morning it was in Newcastle for Day 1 of the Newcastle Writers Festival.

The first session of NWF16 was an interesting if at times dry session on Shakespeare. Called What's Special About Shakespeare and featuring Professor Hugh Craig, the deputy head of the Faculty of Education and Arts at the University of Newcastle.

He wanted to show how exceptional Shakespeare was, if we had to prove it to martians that had just landed. His main theory on Shakespeare was his large vocabulary, and he had the numbers to back his theory.
An educated person uses 3000-4000 words, back in the day Milton, the poet about 8000 and Shakespeare himself around 15000, which is an utterly exceptional vocabulary.  In fact it is more like 25000. Craig then went on not to talk about many of the magnificent phrases and words Shakespeare invented but to show how he used basic words, eg To be or not to be. Perfect grammar, simple words, and huge philosophical resonance.

He referenced many post modern takes on Shakespeare, including the famous What would Cordelia do, eg if Cordelia was Desdemona, she would never have denied losing that handkerchief and therefore would not get herself into the drama she did by lying. This brought about much amusement within the room.
His other theory was Richard III is the ultimate normal character! Despite being a rogue and all round bad boy, his actual language matched that of other leading characters. His attitude and madness adds to the complexity of the character and makes him full and well rounded. All these things adding to Shakespeare’s specialness.
And so to be a good writer, much like Shakespeare, one should use the word My Lord more often (this phrase is used heavily within Shakespeare), avoid the word only (he doesn’t use it much) and place the word gentle (a firm favourite) here and there and ensure your characters talk of basic and normal things, no matter how deranged or complex they may be.
Session two was a Book Launch and Discussion on King Edward Park, Newcastle NSW: A History by Robert Evans.

Robert Evans was unfortunately unwell and unable to attend but Dr Ann Hardy who had assisted on the research of the book was there to talk about it. 

There are only a few Indigenous stories linked to King Edward Park in the early days. One is regarding Newcastle South Beach and falling rocks (nothing changes!), and how there were stories of the indigenous people walking swiftly along that route and holding their breath if they heard the noise of possible rocks. The other story is about the hill where the obelisk now stands, this was where Newcastle and Lake Macquarie tribes would come to fight it out.
King Edward Park was established in 1850/1860 and was always government land, and eventually was put aside for the public. Although some councilors of the time felt the public were undeserving of such a cultural place. (again, some things never change). Newcastle was very much influences by miners and mining at the time and for many years thereafter and anything cultural was very much the minority and frowned upon.
Having said that once the park was established, it was well used for sports, promenades, a meeting and social place, and somewhere to laze about. There were struggles in getting well designed gardens in the 1880s and furthermore in the 1930s.

Session three featured Ann Beaumont and Gionni Di Gravio, and Ann’s biography of Edward Charles Close, founder of Morpeth.

Ann had researched Close before when doing history on the Maitland area and decided to work on his biography.

She detailed her research, explaining the online searching and libraries were a tremendous support in terms of information, but the best way of researching was to go to the source, so she has spent a bit of time travelling to places Close grew up, lived, and worked in. This is very detailed research, takes time, and also depends on the kindness of others along with serendipitous pieces of information.

Telling a biography of someone long gone is difficult and you have to bring that person to life.

She followed his early life in Bengal, India as the son of a silk trader, then his life throughout Europe as a engineer, until he arrived in Australia and found work up the coast in NSW through to Maitland and the Green Hills area. He asked Macquarie for some land near to that area to live on and that became in time Morpeth.