The Bega Valley is on the verge of reshaping its definition of garbage.
The Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) bin collection that will start later this year will divert around 1000 tonnes of household waste from the shire’s landfill and turn it into high-quality compost. Garbage won’t be garbage anymore but the building blocks of healthy soil and a good garden.
On average, 53% of the contents in your red bin is compostable, but at the moment that ends up in a big hole at Wolumla producing methane.
Essentially anything that once lived can go in your FOGO bin – garden trimmings, clippings, and prunings, meat, dairy, egg shells, seafood, take away food, vegetable, and fruit scraps. Plus, tissues, paper towels, shredded paper, kitty litter, and animal droppings.
ABC TV Gardening and recycling guru, Costa Georgiadis toured the Merimbula Waste and Recycling Depot late last year, expressing his delight at the food and organics collection technology that Bega Valley Shire Council has been trialing over the past two years.
“To turn waste into organic compost and make it available for local gardens, schools, community groups, and sporting projects is such a win,” Costa says.
When the time comes, your green bin becomes your FOGO bin and your red bin takes what is left, or better yet – your yellow recycling bin.
Currently, green bins take garden and lawn clippings only and are collected once a month from residents on the urban garbo run; while red bins are collected weekly. That turns upside down with the introduction of FOGO later this year.
Green bins and their bigger, broader mix of organic contents will be picked up weekly, red and yellow bins will be collected fortnightly. Council is still working out when the new routine will take effect.
Homes on the FOGO collection run will also receive a bench top caddy for their kitchen scraps.
Young families or people with health issues needing to continue a weekly red bin pick up, just need to ask.
If you live on a rural garbo run and currently don’t have a green bin – nothing changes, your red bin will still be collected weekly. No FOGO for you – which includes me.
The new FOGO (Food Organics Garden Organics) collection from Bega Valley Shire Council starts in the second half of 2018, these little people are the stars of the TV commercial that will help us get in the FOGO groove.I was lucky to hang out with them and the Bega Valley Waste & Recycling crew during the flim shoot. You might recognise some of these faces.CheersIan
Over the last 11 years, this small rural community has raised over half a million dollars to take some of the stress out of life with cancer.
Can Assist provides simple and confidential financial assistance to people from regional communities. Over 50 branches are at work across New South Wales, including the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla.
The green shirts of the Bega Valley brigade gathered recently, motivated by their ever-present need to fundraise. The lunchtime auction at Oaklands in Pambula raised $10,500.
“People were very generous on Sunday, a carrot cake sold for $140, which says it all,” Bega Valley Can Assist volunteer, Peter van Bracht says.
“We need about four to five thousand dollars a month, last year we handed out $78,000.
“But since we’ve been going over 11 years, we’ve handed out about $550,000, and we’ve helped 424 people,” he says.
Can Assist covers some of the financial burden cancer treatment imposes on a patients life and those supporting them. The money raised helps with everything from electricity bills, to travel and accommodation, to specialist fees and medicines – anything and everything is considered.
“While people are undergoing treatment, their ability to work and earn a living drops,” Peter says.
“There are so many more people we could help, but people say – there are people worse off than us, but that is quite often not true.
“The sad thing is, in the Bega Valley there are people who can’t afford to pay $210 to see a specialist, it’s shameful that those people often go without treatment, we want to help,” he says.
The charm about Can Assist is that their support happens with strict confidentiality. There is only one person at each branch of Can Assist that ever knows the identity of the people receiving support.
“At our meetings once a month our liaison person provides a report, but no names are ever mentioned, nobody else in the organisation knows who we are helping,” Peter explains.
“That’s the way we like it, and I think people like that we respect their privacy.”
Competition for the charity dollar is tight in the small towns and villages that dot the Bega Valley. Can Assist works hard to keep the organisation’s own costs low.
“We don’t have overheads – no cars, no office, the only luxury is a mobile phone that is used as a contact point for people,” Peter says.
“And we can honestly say that every cent we raise, stays in the Bega Valley – we pride ourselves in saying that.”
Around events like Sunday’s auction, volunteers are selling morning tea to local businesses once a month and selling raffle tickets to keep funds rolling in. Other local charities like the Bermagui based Cancer Research Advocate Bikers (CRABS) also donate funds from time to time to help with the growing need.
“If you know anybody that needs help please contact Can Assist and we’ll see what we can do for them,” Peter says.
“We are just happy to help people and make life a bit easier.”
I’ve got some news about the future of About Regional that I want to share with you if you are reading this then you have been part of this journey with me and supported the growth and development of this new platform for the stories of South East NSW.
This week Canberra digital news and opinion platform RiotACT finalised the acquisition of About Regional which includes my ongoing full-time employment. About Regional is now part of a growing umbrella of news and storytelling platforms owned by Michael McGoogan and Tim White.
The move is another solid step in RiotACT’s ambition to become the primary source of digital regional news for people in Canberra and its surrounds.
RiotACTco-owner Tim White says About Regional fits perfectly with the company’s vision.
“RiotACT is on a mission to cover the local issues that matter, and Ian’s values and track record fit nicely. We look forward to empowering the communities he knows so well,” Tim says.
The last two years of About Regional have been a terrific rollercoaster, your support and encouragement as a member has been key and I will be forever grateful.
I started this knowing the power and importance of local stories, being able to take that further with the business know-how and ambitions of Tim and Michael is great for my family and great for the region.
“Those connections between Canberra, the coast, and the Snowies are well known, having Ian come on board adds new energy and adds to the growing formal networks being laid down through local and state government, tourism, business, and education,” Tim says.
About Regional will continue to evolve and build its own online presence under the RiotACT umbrella, with relevant stories from Batemans Bay, Bega, Merimbula, Cooma, Jindabyne, and surrounds also finding a home on other RiotACT platforms.
I am excited by the potential this partnership represents to the communities of South East NSW.
Michael and Tim are well-known to the Canberra business community. Their reputation and success with companies such as Allhomes and Uber Global speaks for itself.
I am hooked on their vision to revolutionise digital regional news, we have a shared passion to see local news succeed and prosper.
Since taking over RiotACT in August 2016, Tim White and Michael McGoogan have built the site into one of Canberra’s leading digital news and opinion outlets, with more than 150,000 unique website visitors each month.
Tim White is the former CEO of Allhomes and the driving force behind its $50 million acquisition by Fairfax in 2014. Michael McGoogan is a serial tech entrepreneur and the founder of UberGlobal, one of Australia’s largest cloud service providers which was acquired by MelbourneIT for $15.5 million in 2015.
Michael says,“I am looking forward to working with the people, businesses, and industries of South East NSW to secure a prosperous and colourful future for all involved.”
It’s onwards and upwards for About Regional, the stories of this region are about to be taken to a bigger audience and I look forward to sharing the next step with you.
Thank you, your support has created this opportunity for my family and this region.
Giving up your citizenship is a hard thing to get your head around if you were born in Australia.
Generally speaking, being born in Australia is the Wonka Golden Ticket of citizenship.
I guess there are Australian’s that renounce their citizenship – Rupert Murdoch comes to mind, but Aussie’s choosing citizenship of another country over the green and gold isn’t something you come across or hear about.
Other people becoming or wanting to become an Australian citizen is much easier to understand.
Around this great southland, 13,000 people made a pledge to Australia and its people on January 26, 11 of those in Bega, people born at all points of the global compass.
Nationally, people of Indian descent were the second largest group to take part in citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day behind the British, something that was reflected locally.
Indian born Bega residents, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, and Kiran Rajesh, along with Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali are now Australian citizens.
“This is a lovely community and very peaceful, a good place to stay,” Pavan says.
With Australian Crawl’s hit “Boys Light Up” playing in the background, Pavan tells me he has been in Australia for 10 years, in recent years working at the Cobargo Service Station.
“India is a good place too, but now I live here and the feeling is good,” he says.
Skype helps Pavan keep in touch with his large family in India, he says they are very happy for him and support his decision to become an Australian citizen.
“It was a big decision, but I am very happy, my family have peace of mind.”
India and the United Kindom weren’t the only nations represented in Bega, others pledging loyalty to Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws came from Thailand and the United States.
With the day’s soundtrack moving along to Men at Work, Saul Nightingale says his heart has always been Australian.
“I moved here when I was five, that’s forty years ago,” Saul smiles.
“Mum and Dad are from the UK and they just saw the way things were going there, they thought this is not a place to bring up a family, in terms of opportunity, safety, and employment.
Saul calls Bermagui home now and when he isn’t playing music he works for the not-for-profit training organisation – The Centre for Community Welfare Training.
“My earliest memory of Australia was pulling into Sydney Harbour on the P&O Canberra on a stunningly beautiful day, Sydney was showing off, Australia made a pretty good first impression,” Saul laughs.
While becoming an Australian citizen was a formality for Saul, it was something that came with a sense of duty.
“I have a responsibility to have a say politically, as all Australians do,” he says.
“It’s all very well to talk about politics and to support certain causes but if you can’t actually put a vote to that then there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”
Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell has been in Australia for six and half years with her Australian husband, her background is a jumble of the United States and England.
“It is a big decision to take Australian citizenship, but now I just feel so happy and proud, it feels amazing,” Brittany says.
Like Saul, this nurse from Pambula Hospital is looking forward to having her say.
“Back home you don’t actually have to participate [vote] if you don’t want to, so it’s quite nice to feel that obligation and be involved in decisions and feel like you have a voice,” she says.
As the band starts with Mondo Rock, I chat to Jason Badham who was born in the United States and has found love, life, and work in the Bega Valley.
Living in Wolumla, Jason is a website designer with 2pi Software.
“I’ve been thinking about taking out citizenship for almost eight years, but the final decision came at the end of January 2017, ” Jason says.
The Trump inauguration seems to have played a part in Jason’s decision but more so the influence of his Australian partner Kirsten.
“I was in the States and I discovered my wife here in Australia because she was breeding the same kind of parrots that I was, I found her website and it was an encyclopedia of information,” Jason says.
“One thing led to another, I helped her build a website, we started having a friendship and I decided to come over here – it’s the best choice I ever made.”
Australia Day remains a tangle of issues yet to be sorted, but the role the citizenship ceremony plays is beyond question. Those who already have Australian citizenship are reminded by those who are new to it why Australia is such a good place to be and why diversity makes us stronger.
The significant contribution volunteers make to Bega Valley Meals on Wheels will be celebrated this
Tuesday, December 5 – International Volunteers Day.
The day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985, and gives organisations like Bega Valley Meals on Wheels an opportunity to raise awareness of the contribution volunteers make to the life and economy of the local area.
David Atkins, Manager, Bega Valley Meals on Wheels says, “Tuesday’s celebration in Bega will be part of a worldwide network of events all geared towards saluting and thanking volunteers.”
“There is also an opportunity for people who might be interested in volunteering to find out more about it.”
Bega Valley Meals on Wheels relies on around 150 volunteer hours each week, with 200 extraordinary people from across the shire covering a range of roles.
“These people are the lifeblood of our organisation and are the reason we are able to provide an affordable, caring service to people in need across our community,” Mr Atkins says.
“Meals on Wheels is famous for food, but that knock on the door means so much more to the people opening the door and the people making the delivery.”
For over 60 years, Meals on Wheels has built a sense of community and resilience through the simple act of a delivered meal.
Better health and nutrition is the obvious benefit, but Bega Valley Meals on Meals volunteers also check on safety and well-being. A greater sense of social cohesiveness flows, reducing isolation and supporting independence and choice.
“While acknowledging the work of our current volunteers, we need new people to step forward and help,” Mr Atkins says.
“The commitment is manageable, shared, and flexible and comes with ongoing support and training, but most of all it comes with a huge sense of pride.”
The community is invited to join the celebration of International Volunteers Day at Toussaint’s Café, at the Bega Valley Meals on Wheels Centre on Bega Street, Bega. A BBQ lunch will be served from 12pm, on Tuesday December 5, everyone is welcome.
A group of friends from the Bega Valley have just set out on an outback rally adventure with the memory of another looming large over their odyssey.
“Originally I’d signed up with my friend and colleague from Local Land Services Liz Clark,” Brogo’s local Olivia Forge says.
“Not long after we’d signed up for the rally she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and ended up having six or seven months of treatment.
“She was always working towards this rally, this was the thing that was keeping her going, but the myeloma was just too aggressive and she died in August,” Olivia says.
“One of Liz’s last requests was that I continue on the rally but take her daughter Kelsey instead.”
The Mystery Box Challenge is for cars that are at least 25 years old cars. Every day of this 5-day trek is a mystery, with the 150 teams taking part only given the route to their daily destination with breakfast.
The map will take Oliva and Kelsey in a loop that starts and finishes in Dubbo in western New South Wales – the k’s and camping spots in between are unknown.
“We have a very fine 1992 Nissan Pulsar, no air conditioning, no power steering,” Olivia says.
Each of the 150 teams has raised a minimum of $3,000 for the Cancer Council to take part, Olivia and Kelsey have so far doubled that. Their tally currently sits at $6,236 but is growing every day as people hear their story.
Today (November 25) is day one, with the ladies from “Team Zen Warrior Princess” given directions that cover the 495km from Dubbo to Tipla.
“While Liz was going through her treatment we all ended up calling her the Zen Warrior Princess,” Olivia says.
“Sometimes she was feeling relaxed and Zen about the whole thing and other times she felt like a real warrior, like she was going to kick cancers arse, and other times she felt like a princess and was in floods of tears.”
The pair’s Pulsar has also been transformed into a homage to Liz and painted with all the things she loved – native plants, native orchids, dogs, and owls, with the roof emblazoned with a caricature of their warrior spirit.
Local vet, Cassie McDonald helped paint the car, “She is the most amazing artist,” Olivia says.
“And the car belonged to a Bega local, he loved it but he was going to the United States, he wants to buy it back when he gets home, I am not sure he’s going to be able to once we’ve finished with it.”
Team Zen Warrior Princess is grateful for the sponsorship of local businesses – Inspirations Paint provided all the paint for the car, Specialised Automotive fitted a bash plate, fixed the radiator and gave the car a safety check, and Beaurepaires chipped in with new tyres.
“It’s been fantastic,” Olivia smiles.
Traveling alongside the Pulsar across the 2,500km of the rally is a red Toyota Celica with Brogo’s Sue-Anne Nicol and her daughter Darcie at the wheel.
“And you are expected to break down because the cars are crap,” Olivia smirks.
“So there are people along the way to help get you back on the road and keep going.”
Aside from the physical, geographical, and mechanical challenges ahead, the trip will be an emotional one for Olivia and Kelsey as they remember their friend and mum who died just a handful of months ago.
“Having this project has been really good for me, I just hope what we are doing gives some relief to the grief Liz’s family feels,” Olivia says.
You can follow the progress of both local cars over the coming week and donate via the Zen Warrior PrincessFacebook page.
*About Regional content is supported by the contributions of members, including Kiah Wilderness Tours, Sprout Cafe and Local Produce Eden, Kym Mogridge, Danielle Humphries, Pam Murray, Alexandra Mayers, Jo Saccomani, Rosemary Lord, Amanda Stroud, and Olwen Morris. Thank you!
“They’re actually a colony of several animals, all with specialised functions – feeding, catching prey, and reproduction.
“Fascinating!” Kerryn says.
According to the Australian Museum, the Bluebottle is a colony of four kinds of highly modified individuals known as zooids, and come from the same family of life that includes coral and sea anemones.
“The zooids are dependent on one another for survival.
“The float (pneumatophore) is a single individual and supports the rest of the colony.
“The tentacles (dactylozooids) are polyps concerned with the detection and capture of food and convey their prey to the digestive polyps (gastrozooids).
“Reproduction is carried out by the gonozooids, another type of polyp,” The Museum says.
Generally speaking, northerly winds bring Bluebottles onto local beaches.
“There have also been some pretty big seas lately,” Ms Wood says.
The Bluebottles famous float can grow to over 15cm, it’s job is to sail the colony across the ocean surface capturing the breeze with its aerodynamic shape. A degree of muscular contraction in its crest gives the Bluebottle a sense and skill similar to a holidaying windsurfer.
“The float may project either to the left or to the right; the left-handed forms sail to the right of the wind and vice versa,” The Australian Museum explains.
“Thus, if the sailing angle of one form leads to its stranding on the shore, the others sailing to the opposite side of the wind may escape.”
A neat survival trick that maintains the population even when Far South Coast beaches are blanketed in dried and popping specimens.
Food and reproduction drive life and Bluebottles have some impressive tools to call on.
Their stinging tentacles drift downwind for up to one metre capturing food in their wake, responding swiftly to the presence of food, they twist and tangle prey, and “become all mouth” to digest their meal.
A range of enzymes are deployed to break down proteins, carbs, and fats across a menu of small crustaceans and surface plankton.
Reproduction is another impressive Bluebottle trick that helps it’s species survive on the high-seas.
Bluebottles are hermaphrodites, they carry female and male parts.
“Awesome, I love that so many marine creatures are hermaphrodites,” Ms Wood says.
“And sometimes they’ll wash up on the beach with a variety of other really beautiful ‘blue’ animals like Glacus atlanticus or the Blue Sea Dragon – also hermaphrodites.
“The Glaucus atlanticus actually eat blue bottles and ‘steal’ their poison, making them even more poisonous!” Ms Wood says.
All this is very interesting but from a human perspective, avoiding the stingers and knowing what to do if stung is front of mind during a day at the beach.
“Avoiding north-east facing beaches in those conditions might help families dodge Bluebottles,” Mr Edmunds says.
“The best treatment for a sting is hot water, a shower as hot as you can without burning does the trick.
“And if hot water isn’t available ice is a good alternative in relieving the pain after you have washed the tentacles away,” Mr Edmunds advises.
“Swimming at a patrolled beach this summer will ensure that first aid is close at hand from lifesavers.”
And be aware beachcombers, as thousands of Bluebottles lay shipwrecked on local beaches the toxic mixture they use to immobilise and digest their prey is still active and can sting you, however the contractions that trap their marine victims becomes inactive.
Bluebottles are awesome, the sting they can inject into a day at the beach instinctively demands our respect, but so to should their survival skills.
*Become a member of About Regional and support local news and stories, thank you to the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Linda Albertson, Julia Stiles, Ali Oakley, Rosemary Lord, and Simon Marnie.
*Large elements of this article originally appeared on Riot ACT.
“These groups are specialist travel salespeople who will now understand our region better, this experience will help them sell our region,” says Anthony Osborne, Executive Officer of Sapphire Coast Tourism.
The three local famils hosted by Destination Southern NSW were part of a group of six tours that sprung from a trade event on the Gold Coast run by Tourism Australia, and follow on from famils to the Snowy Mountains in May and June with 26 participants.
“Two of the groups travelled to the South Coast from Sydney, the other from Canberra,” Mr Osborne says.
Eurobodalla Tourism Marketing Coordinator, Kerrie-Anne Benton, says the agents loved their South Coast experience.
“Nature, nature, and more nature, that’s why the Sapphire and Eurobodalla Coasts were selected for these familiarisations,” Ms Benton says.
“And with flights into and out of Canberra and Singapore now, a gateway for travel has emerged connecting our region to the world.”
The Jindabyne based, Gang Gang Tours acted as chaperones on two of the three local tours.
“I had eight lovely ladies from the USA, front-line travel agents who will take this experience home,” says Gang Gang owner, Janine Becker.
“Out of the eight, seven hadn’t been to Australia before,” Ms Becker says.
“One of the agents told me people are wanting to get off the tourist trail, which is our region’s big selling point.”
Aside from teaching them about us, these opportunities also serve as a learning experience for local tourism bosses and operators.
“It was interesting to hear about travel patterns in other countries,” Ms Becker says.
“Workers in the U.S only get two paid weeks of leave a year, which means the average holiday runs seven to ten days.
“European countries tend to get four weeks paid leave, so they have longer holidays and have a great opportunity to travel to regional areas overseas,” she says.
Ms Becker doesn’t think the international market will be the biggest part of the Gang Gang business model, but she is keen to grow its influence.
“This experience will help us target our marketing better,” Ms Becker says.
The other point that emerged was that in most cases, international markets travel outside Australia’s peak periods and in some cases in the heart of our off-peak season.
In the year ending June 2016, the Eurobodalla welcomed 28,000 international visitors – 20% from the U.K, 15% Germany, and 11% from the U.S.A
“Australia continues to see growth in international visits while the domestic market is static, it’s a no-brainer for us to focus some resources on building this market, and we have extra funding this year from Bega Valley Shire Council to tackle that challenge,” Mr Osborne says.
“We need to develop more experiences around our unique selling points. Nature and the coast are the number one reasons international travellers come to Australia and we have that in spades.”
South East locals have been part of national protest action against the Adani coal mine proposed for North Queensland.
Protesters turned out in forty-five locations from Adelaide to Bondi to Bunbury over the weekend.
Locally, Eurobodalla 350 estimates around 250 people attended their protest at Congo Beach on Saturday, holding placards to spell out #STOP ADANI.
“We demand the federal government halt Adani’s enormous proposed coal mine,” spokesperson Allan Rees says.
In Bega, a colourful group marched through town on Friday and gathered in Littleton Gardens.
Organiser Sue Andrew sees the Adani mine as a litmus paper issue for a globe preparing for a climate change future.
“I feel now more than ever we have to unite to stand up against the fossil fuel industries and other extractive industries if we are serious about addressing climate change,” Ms Andrew says.
The Indian based Adani is seeking a billion dollar government loan to build a railway line linking its proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point coal port on the Great Barrier Reef.
Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the ABC the project will bring new jobs to communities like Rockhampton, Towsnville, Charters Towers, Mackay, and Claremont.
“You only have to travel to regional Queensland to understand what this project means to thousands of families out there that will be employed through this project,” she told the ABC
The Queensland Premier is also confident environmental concerns have been heard.
“At the end of the day we have the toughest environmental conditions attached to that mine,” she said.
Allan Rees says those that gathered at Congo on Saturday are angry that taxpayer dollars might be used to subsidise something “so destructive”.
“Adani’s mine may be far away, but the Eurobodalla can’t escape the climate change caused by burning that coal,” Mr Rees says.
“Australia has enormous reserves of coal which we must keep in the ground if we are to halt climate change.
“Climate change is here and is harming our agriculture and fishing.
“Beekeepers tell us how gum trees are blossoming at the wrong time, orchardists have lost trees from extreme heat, graziers and fishing people tell us how the climate is changing and harming their livelihoods,” Mr Rees says.
Local fears also extend to the future of the Great Barrier Reef itself if the mine goes ahead with Bega protesters carrying a series of handmade marine creatures along Carp Street and into the town’s civic space.
“We know the Great Barrier Reef is highly endangered already and any further development or shipping would only increase the destruction of this incredible ecosystem,” Sue Andrew believes.
“Adani has been exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program as damaging people’s health, the livelihoods of farmers and fishing people and the environment in India,” Mr Rees says.
“Adani is using foreign tax havens and has a corporate structure that would allow them to minimise tax paid in Australia.
“The former Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that it was almost beyond belief that the Australian Government would look to provide concessional loans and other taxpayer support to facilitate Adani Group’s coal mining project,” he says.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sees huge potential in the mine going forward – should it be built.
Adani has suggested it will break ground on the mine site before the end of this month with the first coal produced in early 2020.
The billion dollar loan from the Federal Government’s National Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) remains undetermined.
However, News Limited has reported comments by Adani chairman Gautam Adani saying, “The project will be funded by internal accruals, NAIF and foreign banks.”
Bega’s Sue Andrew is positive people power will prevail.
“There is so much opposition. It is not viable; economically, ethically, or environmentally,” she says.
It is really a no-brainer, why not spend the proposed billion dollars from NAIF on building renewable energy infrastructure and thousands of sustainable jobs and show our commitment to our children’s future?”
Those behind the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley protests are committed to further action.
Twin brothers from Merimbula have crafted a musical about one of the best-known and most influential women in the world, but its just one of a number of productions launching in 2018 for the Willis boys.
‘Oprah the Opera‘ will open in San Francisco during the second half of 2018 and charts the life of America media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, philanthropist – Oprah Winfrey.
Geoff and David Willis have been making music together for decades.
The decision to write a musical about Oprah came over a cup of coffee, buoyed by completing their first musical “The Great Houdini’ six years ago.
“Oprah is a one-woman show with a band and gospel choir,” David says.
The brother’s work is a true collaboration, Geoff writes the music and lyrics, David writes the script.
“She [Oprah] has opened up her life in a huge way, from abuse as a child to the most successful woman in America,” David says.
“There is so much there, a lot of comedy, a lot of heartaches, it’s a really entertaining show and people really love it when they’ve read the script.”
Click play to hear the full conversation with Geoff and David Willis…
Initial planning for the show is underway now, including casting.
Starting out in 1000 seat theatres in San Fransico, David and Geoff are creative consultants to musical director Gregory Cole and will relocate to the U.S closer to showtime.
“We’re excited because it will be an all-black cast and it will be a gospel choir of 50 or 60,” Geoff explains.
“There aren’t a lot of shows that are written for African Americans [cast members].”
The twins aren’t sure if the lady herself knows about the show yet, they have only been able to get as close to Oprah as her personal assistant, but she will be receiving an invite to opening night in July/August next year.
Both David and Geoff are natural showmen and play a range of musical instruments as well as sing. They are well known for pulling a crowd whether it’s on one of their regular cruise ship tours of the Pacific or Atlantic or in the many concert halls that dot the hills around their hometown of Merimbula.
Their signature tune ‘Me and My Shadow’ is always a hit.
“Being twins, we understand each other very well,” Geoff says.
In shaping their music the pair will often work apart in order to challenge their creativity.
“When we wrote ‘The Great Houdini‘, I actually went to the Gold Coast and spent a few years there,” David says.
“We thought it was a good idea to be away from each other, but it’s amazing how things tied up.
“He [Geoff] would write a song and we wouldn’t discuss it, I would write the script, and the words in the song and the script tied in,” David smiles.
“It’s a twin thing!”
The Great Houdini was the first musical the pair worked on – 16 years in the making, hard work that is now paying off.
“It’s a huge show to put on, we have just met with producers in New York and London, and we are looking at staging that later next year,” Geoff says.
The pair became mesmerised by the legend of the great magician as 10-year-olds after seeing ‘Houdini’ the movie starring Tony Curtis, twenty years later they felt compelled to write a musical about their idol.
“Dave wrote the script over a 16 year period, and I wrote 60 musical pieces for the show,” Geoff says.
“It had to be perfect,” he says.
The story starts in modern day New York at a Houdini exhibition and works backwards.
“Dave describes it really well as – music, magic and mystery,” Geoff says.
In trying to explain why it is that two Merimbula creatives have stage shows launching a million miles from home, David and Geoff believe there is a sense of confidence missing from the Australian entertainment industry.
“There is a bit of frustration that we are not being accepted by Australian producers,” David says.
“We’ve been to producers in Australia about our shows, and [the impression we’ve been given is that] if it is a success overseas they would probably say, we’ll do it here,” he says.
There is one success closer to home the Willis boys can crow about, and one their Bega Valley fan base can travel to easily.
Next April the production steps up a notch and will take to the stage in Canberra at Llewellyn Hall featuring the Canberra Youth Orchestra.
It’s a narrated children’s story in the style of ‘Peter and the Wolf’.
David and Geoff have worked with well-known funny man, Tim Ferguson, of Doug Anthony All Stars fame.
“Tim is the writer and has worked very hard on the script and he is the narrator, he is a lovely person to work with,” Geoff says.
“The Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras are also interested.”
Geoff has composed all 27 orchestral pieces, while David has prepared all the educational material for the production.
The show tells the story of a 10-year-old girl called Billie who makes friends with real live Australian dinosaurs and together they defeat school bullies.
Despite their growing success far from the shores of Merimbula Lake, both men seem to relish and value their stage work at home.
“We live in a beautiful town, and we are very much appreciated by the people here,” David says.
“I was the conductor of the Sapphire Coast Concert Band and Geoff was the conductor of the Big Band and we only gave that up at the end of last year because of these other projects.
“And of course recently we did a show with Frankie J Holden and Michelle Pettigrove, which was a huge success and raised money for raked seating in the new Twyford Theatre.
“We are happy being here, we love living here,” David says.
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