01: February 2014

Woodford. If you haven’t been, the Woodford Festival. Is. Amazing. An hour north of Brisbane in open countryside, this temporary town of 20,000 people springs up with everyone living in tents, served by toilets and showers rolled in on semi-trailers, 40 cafés and bars, and 20 stages performing simultaneously. It’s officially a festival of folk arts. Music dominates, but there is also dance, comedy, circus, cabaret, political talks especially on the green side, and an abundance of DIY workshops. Hawkey even gave a talk and so did Simon Sheikh and Anna Rose, formerly of GetUp.

     The presiding genius is Bill Hauritz who we reckon can die happy, though not soon. The official organiser is the Queensland Folk Federation though one can imagine that it is now a dog wagged.

Just read WA author Tim Winton’s latest novel, Eyrie. It’s a great read from one of our dearest writers – a writer that all good WA people must be so proud of.

     Well, until now. Winton gives Freo, Perth and WA generally such a serve! Greedy, corrupt, crass and crude – page after page. It’s a great read unless you are from WA.

The Victorian Inquiry into school music education produced its report late last year. It’s pretty good. The recommendations are much what you would hope although there is a fair bit of pussy-footing. Careful to avoid offence. The risk with being too gentle is that we could get gentle action to match; what is needed is dramatic change. The School Music Action Group will be urging the Victorian government to commit to implementing the recommendations when it returns. We need fast action because we don’t know how long this well-disposed government will be around.

     That’s one of the problems with inquiries. By the time you have held the inquiry and the government has pulled itself together to act, it can be election time and we could be saying goodbye and have to start all over again.

Meanwhile, ACARA has just published the Australian Curriculum: the Arts, the new national curriculum. This is very important because it describes the minimum education every child should receive in each of the five art forms: dance, drama, media arts, music, visual arts. The Music Trust is taking the ability to teach the music curriculum as the benchmark for teacher competency in music education.

Went to Armidale for the second year of the New England Opera. It produced La Bohème with a cast of singers in their mid-20s drawn from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – and they were terrific. A good serviceable local orchestra, an Armidale doctor conducting. A convincing production directed by George Torbay of the Armidale family but currently based at the university in Ballarat. Four full houses in the TAS theatre. It is really several times better than might be expected. The opportunities for young Australian opera singers to sing actual roles are appallingly small and this is one of the best openings in the country. May it prosper.

Sydney City Council has produced a music plan. The music scene is already shifting in Sydney with changes to the liquor licensing legislation that was obstructing development of the small bar scene; the counterpart scene in Melbourne put it so far in front. Now, while in Victoria the authorities have been busy getting in the way and venues close, in Sydney they are opening.

     Of course, there is the weekend bloodbath in Kings Cross with Fairfax trying over the holiday period to give itself a raison d’etre with day after day of front page campaigning. One result is minimum mandatory sentencing so hopefully it will now campaign against that.

     But as we were saying, on the other hand there is civilised nightlife popping up all over. Even some municipalities (we know of Leichhardt and Marrickville) are getting in on the act with new encouragements. And the City has a very imaginative plan that goes much further.
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