A Eurobodalla chapter is about to be added to a story that has enthralled the world for decades.
Peter Pan is the creation of Scottish writer James Matthew Barrie and first appeared in Barrie’s 1902 novel The Little White Bird. Narooma writer and director Linda Heald has put a local twist on the story, her chapter opens at St Mary’s Performing Arts Centre in Moruya on Friday night (December 8).
Walt Disney’s 1953 animated film is perhaps the first image that comes to your mind. Peter Pan, the boy who can fly and who never grows up, leader of The Lost Boys, a lifelong childhood in Neverland mixing with pixies, mermaids, and pirates.
Linda remembers it fondly, “As a young child I would sit beside my cousin at the piano and she would sing the songs,” she says.
With Moruya’s Red Door Theatre Company only new to the stage, Linda was looking for the amateur company’s next challenge and one that allowed people with a range of experiences to have a go.
“I couldn’t find anything that was perfect, so I thought let’s write it,” Linda says.
“I started thinking – pirates in Moruya, and if you are thinking pirates then you’ve got to have Peter Pan, and you’ve got to have Hook, and then you need to have Tinkerbell.
“But we’ve taken a slightly different approach to those characters and given them a twist.
“There are a lot of accountant jokes – there’s mess and there’s music – it’s a fast-moving panto,” she explains.
With that Linda lets slip that Tinkerbell is “Stinkerbell” in her production – “And there are lots of jokes.”
The Peter Pan story now belongs to The Great Ormond Street Hospitalin London, J.M.Barrie gifted the rights in 1929, which have been a significant source of funds for the Hospital’s Children’s Charity.
Barrie asked that the hospital never reveal the actual income received, which the hospital has always respected.
Knowing this Linda checked with Great Ormond Street before proceeding with her one of a kind local chapter, and got the all clear.
This will be Red Door’s second production, the pantomime “Babes in the Woods” earlier this year got things started with seven people on stage, the cast swells to 17 this weekend for Peter Pan – with a four-piece band!
“We’ve got a whole load of new people and some amazing talent,” Linda says.
“We are there to entertain and to bring the community together.”
Audiences on Friday and Saturday can expect lots of local references and some well-placed topical gags but above all, as with any amateur theatre production its the strength and spirit of the community that created it that shines through.
“I love seeing it when people [cast and crew] arrive on day one and they’re hesitant and unsure of themselves, and then you look at them on stage in the production and they have just blossomed – that’s the best thing,” Linda says.
“And it’s just a fun night out!”
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A tribute to an old friend, made of even older bits and pieces has won the Eurobodalla’s recycled art prize – ReVive 2107.
Moruya’s Susan Bomball and her sculpture, “Bill” claimed the $4000 prize before a packed house at the Mechanic’s Institute.
“I was shocked, there is so much talent in there, I’ve never had people look at my work like this,” Susan says.
Made from reclaimed tools, chains, metal drill bits, and treasures from Council’s kerbside cleanups, Susan’s piece is a memorial to her favourite horse who was 17 years old when he passed away recently.
“Bill was a unique character,” Susan recalls.
“He didn’t like me very much, and he could be a bit of a grump but he was so good with special needs kids or anyone that needed a hug.
“Put a child in front of Bill, and he’d turn into mush,” she says.
Susan’s winning was one of 48 artworks on display at the Mechanics Institute in Moruya as part of National Recycling Week.
“Absolutely splendid” is how Council’s creative arts coordinator Indi Carmichael describes the exhibition.
Indi says the nature of the prize lends itself to playfulness, “The variety of works is impressive,” she says.
“The number of 3D works shows that more and more people are exploring that medium. Sculpture is definitely having a moment.”
Normally a painter, Bill was Susan’s first attempt at welding.
“I saw immediately that I could make art with welding, it’s a very forgiving way to work, you can just break things and reweld it,” Susan says.
Bill seems to have started with the large spanner that makes up his nose.
“In the last year and a half, I’ve really started getting into recycled materials in my art,” she says.
“I’ve got piles of recycled metal and wood – all sorts of things, materials that inspire me.”
Susan laughs that some of the bits and bobs she collects are fought over.
“My friend is always saying – you cant weld that, that’s a great old tool that still works, you can’t buy that anymore,” Susan says.
Many of the works on display at ReVive are for sale but not Bill.
“He’ll have pride of place at home, he’ll sit at the top of the driveway,” Susan says.
“Thank you for the opportunity, this is a great way for people to have a go.”
Now in its sixth year, the ReVive Art Prize will continue as a biennial event in the alternate year to Eurobodalla’s prestigious Basil Sellers Art Prize.
The exhibition wrapped up on Friday (November 17) with the awarding of the $500 People’s Choice Award – Julie Brennan’s corkscrew inspired piece titled, “Threatened Species”.
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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.
Senior students from Carroll College and St Peter’s Anglican College at Broulee, and Batemans Bay High School were given time to address Council – including Mayor, Liz Innes and Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne.
One of the Shire’s Federal MP’s was also taking notes – Member for Gilmore, Anne Sudmalis.
Courtney Fryer from Carroll College used the opportunity to advocate for young people living with physical and mental disability.
Harrison O’Keefe from Batemans Bay High, made a great point around youth engagement –“show them what they are missing out on” and he has an idea to do just that.
While Pippi Sparrius from St Peter’s presented some surprising stats around teenage pregnancy in the Eurobodalla.
Keen to give the students a ‘real council meeting’ experience, Cr Innes was watching the clock, with Courtney, Harrison, and Pippi all given five minutes each.
News this week that Aboriginal people reached Australia at least 65,000 years ago won’t come as a surprise to those who saw Mallacoota based writer Bruce Pascoe speak in Moruya last April.
Research out of new excavations of a rock shelter at the base of the Arnhem Land escarpment in the Northern Territory has pushed back estimates of human arrival on the Australian continent.
The shelter, known as Madjebeben has been described as the earliest evidence of humans in Australia.
Chris Clarkson from the University of Queensland told ABC Science that the new date would have a big impact on our understanding of when humans left Africa and moved through South- East Asia.
One of the artifacts unearthed is the world’s oldest known ground-edge axe head, one made by grinding rather than flaking. The full story has been published in the journal Nature.
Bruce Pascoe spoke of such evidence to a captivated audience during his lecture at Southeast Harvest at Moruya Showground in April 2017.
Bruce is a man of Bunarong and Yuin heritage, and the author of the acclaimed book, “Dark Emu“. Based on the diaries of early European settlers, in the book Bruce makes the case that Australia’s original inhabitants designed and constructed sophisticated irrigation systems and cultivated vast areas of land.
He dispels the idea that Aboriginal people were simple hunters and gatherers before European settlement and points to evidence of a civilisation that can legitimately be described as pioneers of agriculture, architecture, and engineering.
A Council spokesperson says, there were 39 submissions from the community, and the Jury considered all of them carefully.
“Although the Jury project was primarily set up to look at how Council currently spends its money, it did consider new ideas, for instance, a community ‘think tank’ activity to run as part of Local Government Week and investigating a mobile library service,” the spokesperson explains.
Kate Raymond agrees that the Jury considered new ideas, but was somewhat ambivalent about Council’s response,
“For instance, our report recommended (p.9) having an agricultural officer in Council, to supercharge the outcomes from the Rural Lands Strategy,” Kate says.
“Council’s response was, ‘We will look into this’ and if there is grant funding available (p.32) they’ve told us they will investigate options.
“Does this mean Council is actively looking for grant funding for this position? What does investigating options mean? That’s unclear,” Kate says.
Council’s spokesperson says the Citizens Jury worked well and achieved the goal of providing feedback on how Council spends its money.
“The jury made 86 recommendations, 76 of which align with the Draft Delivery Program 2017-21 and the Operational Plan 2017-18. These two documents inform upcoming Council spending in the immediate future,” the spokesperson says.
“We [Council] also realised that there’s quite a lot of confusion in the community about the three tiers of government (local, state and federal) and their respective roles. So we’re working at getting some information about this out there.”
The Deputy Mayor believes it was a worthwhile process.
“In the modern world of social media, to see 28 people deeply engaged and enquiring of any number of issues over a sustained period of time is to be applauded,” Cr Mayne says.
“These were volunteers, paid a small allowance to give up seven nights and many hours of reading over several months to listen, wonder, seek, exchange, explore and debate a variety of matters before finally presenting their outcomes to the Councillors”.
The Eurobodalla food economy is pushing forward – like a pumpkin vine that sprouts from a compost heap.
“Growers are outgrowing the farmers market,” says local food advocate Kate Raymond.
“They need more avenues through which to sell at a high enough margin to keep doing what they’re doing.”
In recent years, the river town of Moruya has seen increasing numbers of market gardeners, spurred along by the community of people around the SAGE Farmers Market.
Shoppers gather like sprinters in the 100-metre race at the Olympics each Tuesday afternoon at 3 in Riverside Park waiting for the bell to ring – a signal that sales can start.
“Small-scale farmers are establishing businesses and creating a flourishing local food system,” Kate says.
“It’s a movement whose time has come.”
The river flats and volcanic soils of Moruya have a proud agricultural heritage that in their day supported large numbers of vegetable, dairy, and beef growers. For whatever reason, those practices all but died out but there is a growing sense ‘that day’ has come again.
The award winning farmers market that has been the backbone of the SAGE initiative has created an appetite and an industry that requires more.
“A farmers market once a week can’t service everyone who wants to eat locally grown food and local farmers need to reach more customers,” Kate says.
An increasingly common sales avenue for farmers around the world is to sell their products through what is known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
A CSA is a farm share program, where the consumer and the farmer enter into an agreement of goodwill to exchange money for food. Consumers pledge to purchase the anticipated harvest well in advance.
“A farmer can plan their crops with greater confidence knowing that they will sell what they grow and sell it at a fair price,” Kate says.
“By supporting the farmer in this way, the customer receives a box of fresh seasonal produce every week, delivered to their door.”
The idea springs from frustration with the dominant and most familiar food distribution system – the supermarket, which mostly excludes local and small-scale growers from their supply chains, leaving local farmers no option but to sell directly to customers.
Woven into the arrangement is a sense of shared risk between the farmer and the consumer, which takes the CSA model beyond the usual commercial transaction we are used to.
If the season is difficult or hit by extreme events, pickings can be slim which impacts the quality and amount of produce a customer receives in their weekly box.
A locally made blue cheese and leek tart at the opening event on Friday night was memorable, but more so were the new understandings and relationships that emerged between two cultures conflicted by a past of racism and brutality.
Held over a day and a bit, the Festival was a collaboration between a white fella and a black fella organisation that extended way beyond the traditional Welcome to Country, and by doing so they perhaps have shown the way for others when it comes to greater engagement and reconciliation.
“I’ve spoken in a few places around Australia in the last six months about this book I’ve written, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a community of Indigenous and European Australians that are so…working together,” John told the Festival.
“I think the mistake that white fellas have made for over 200 years is telling Indigenous people what to do rather than asking them what they want,” he said.
The main day – Saturday, started with Walbunja man, Bindarray Jiibiny conducting a smoking ceremony in front of the pavilion at the Moruya Showground.
Bindarray invited people to walk through the smoke in order to dispel negative thoughts.
Cultural performances with the town’s children followed, Bindarrey explaining the paint and decoration that covered his body, and the moves of each dance represented the landscape and the animals of his country and the values of peace, unity, and harmony.
Moving undercover, out of the bright sunshine and sitting side by side, was an exhibition of Aboriginal and European farming tools curated by the Cobowra Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Moruya and District Historical Society.
Award winning, Mallacoota based, Indigenous writer Bruce Pascoe, telling the crowd that history is fascinating no matter who’s it is.
As the author of the acclaimed ‘Dark Emu’, Bruce detailed the evidence of Aboriginal agriculture and society prior to the arrival of Arthur Phillip and his cargo of convicts in 1788.
“We invented civilization, we invented art, we invented bread, we invented the first ground-edge stone axe,” he said.
He urged his captivated audience of ‘foodies and bloody hippies’ to share their experience at the Festival.
“Otherwise we stay the same,” Bruce says.
“It’s no good if you don’t take people with you, you can’t have knowledge if you don’t share it,” he said.
His words were then reflected in the act of ‘breaking bread’ with the crowd of around 200 people that packed into the stuffy pavilion.
The single loaf of bread was made of flour milled from hand ground grains of native Kangaroo Grass, following an Aboriginal recipe that dates back 36,000 years.
“Which is 17,000 years before anyone else on Earth thought to ground grain into flour,” Bruce said.
According to Bruce, the sense of ease and interest that unfolded around the market stalls of local apples, mullet and pumpkin soup at the Southeast Harvest Festival, wouldn’t have happened ten years ago.
“Thanks to organisations like this…the Australian mind is changing,” Bruce proclaimed.
Jasmine Williams is the Aboriginal Arts Officer with South East Artsand is often called on to liaise between Aboriginal artists and event organisers.
“Like many white fellas, Aboriginal people are also really keen to share knowledge and break down barriers with non-Aboriginal people,” Jazz told About Regional.
Bruce Pascoe suggests making a pot of tea as one way of starting a relationship, Jazz also believes building a personal connection is key.
“Don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing, or overstepping your mark – be genuine and honest,” Jazz said.
“Understand that Aboriginal people have been tokenised and taken advantage of in the past.”
Her advice is to involve Aboriginal people and artists early in the organisation of an event.
“The worst thing you can do is leave it until time is running out and the budget is spent.
“This happens a lot in the South East, and Aboriginal performers are often left feeling like a last minute thought, undervalued and exploited,” Jazz said.
It’s a point echoed by Land Council CEO, Lee-anne Parsons.
“Our elders use to say that it (culture) was a secret, and you can’t tell’em (white people) all that because then it will become an industry…and you don’t see too many rich Aboriginal people on the South Coast do you?” Lee-ann chuckled.
In the final session of the Festival, Bruce Pascoe said, “What I have learnt here is that it is possible for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to work together.”
“I constantly go to festivals like this where there are no Aboriginal people, and I ask about it and the organisers say – oh we invited them but they didn’t come,” he said.
“People will not come to an invitation unless they know who you are, and you have to forgive Aboriginal people for not being sure of their welcome.”
In a fateful twist, Lee-ann believes the necessities of our shared future will force better relationships between the different cultures.
“We are all in hard times now,” Lee-ann said.
“All the environmental problems that are happening around the planet, we all need to be a part of caring for our country.”
There is a certain civic duty sometimes that pushes you to attend a local event. Things only happen when people step up to make them happen, and in a regional community you want to see those people and their events succeed – people turning out is key.
What a buzz, what a bonus when that local event blows your mind!
‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ on stage now at Twyford Hall Merimbula will do just that.
As happens in small communities you will recognise many of the faces taking on this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice classic – which only serves to heighten the emotion around this production’s success.
I took my seat in row 11 blind to the story.
Joseph is the favourite of Jacob’s 12 sons, jealous brothers conspire but Joseph lands on his feet as the Pharoah’s 2IC because of his ability to see the future through his and other people’s dreams.
It’s a big cast with close to 50 people either on stage or part of the polished, big sounding orchestra lead by David Willis.
Music is a constant, with no spoken word – all song, including an Elvis-inspired tune from the Pharoah.
Sitting at my desk now some hours after the curtain was pulled across the stage and the tunes are still going around in my head – ‘Go Go Go Joseph.’
The local vision for this show started three years ago on the back of a successful production of ‘The Sound of Music’ where director Shaun Wykes and actor/singer Hayley Fragnito first met.
“I just love the music,” Hayley says.
“And I am a bit of a softy for family, happy feel good stories.”
Dreamcoat Production’s version at Twyford Hall has all the polish and professionalism of this year’s big touring production through the UK, North America, and New Zealand but it has an X-factor born of its regional roots.
“This is a not-for-profit show and the money raised is going to be donated back to our local community,” Hayley says.
Proceeds from the two-week season will go to the Sapphire Coast Advocates for the Social Justice.
“We have been hearing stories from John Liston who plays Jacob in the show and who is heavily involved with the Advocates,” Hayley explains.
“He’s coming along and saying, ‘Today I helped this homeless couple, the lady was eight months pregnant‘ and this is where the money from the show is going.
“The moment the cast realised that, it’s amazing how much more they are willing to give.” she says.
Hayley is a school teacher at Wolumla who took time off term four to help make Joseph happen, she is a constant on stage as the narrator, her presence and voice shines brightly next to the colours of the show’s famous coat.
Moruya’s Jesse Zammit is the one wearing the coat, his commitment to the role is perhaps another of this production’s magic ingredients.
Attending rehearsals meant a four hour round trip twice a week for Jesse in the 10 weeks leading up to opening night.
“There’s a big cocktail of motivations,” Jesse says.
“There is such a community spirit and a love for art and creativity, and to be involved with these people just reinvigorates your desire.
“I think that’s missing a bit in the world, I think commerce is trying to strangle art and so just to see a community say, ‘It’s not about the money, it’s just about doing it because we love it’ is so refreshing,” Jesse says.
Jesse and Hayley are friends from ‘way back’ and Hayley was determined that Jesse would be Joseph. Jesse and his busy artistic life were reluctant at first until Jesse had a dream – spooky considering the role dreams play in the life of his character on stage.
“I’ve always believed in dreams, I am a bit of a nutter in that way, I think dreams do have a message,” Jesse explains.
So after initially saying ‘a polite no’ to Hayley and avoiding repeated attempts to bring him on board, Jesse was convinced to take on the role after a dream in which he saw Hayley’s disappear at not being able to find another Joseph.
With time on his visa in the UK winding down, the show’s director Shaun Wykes returned home to do the show, again at Hayley’s instance.
Shaun says he has been enamoured with Joseph since he was three years old when his sisters returned home from a production in Sydney and performed their own version for family.
“It has been an honour to bring this show to the town I grew up in and see it flourish on stage with this incredible cast and crew,” Shaun says.
While reflecting on the power of being involved in community theatre Shaun says a strong connection to people and place develops.
“You appreciate people’s time and how much effort they put in and you see good in the world,” he says.
A strong feature of the show is the cast of young performers and singers from local high schools and primary schools. These teenagers and children do us proud, their involvement ensures that relationships like the one between Hayley, Jesse and Shaun continue to be formed.
A special shout out to 12-year-old Luca Yi from Bega who plays Benjamin, the youngest of Joseph’s band of brothers. Luca takes on the song ‘Those Canaan Days’ leading his more grown-up cast, with the audience cheering loudly .
“The people coming up to you after the show and the joy on their faces, when you can give that sort of a gift to people – it’s awesome.” Hayley beams.
Dreamcoat Production presents ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat‘ at Twyford Hall Merimbula until December 4. Click HERE for ticket details.