Kidnap! Murder! Scandal! Betrayal! Power and politics..

A thick ( just over 500 pages ) book, this is a gripping biography of Australia’s iconic building at Bennelong Point .It is divided into eighteen chapters , has an introduction , list of dramatis personae (the ‘cast list’ so to speak) , a prologue , epilogue , endnotes , bibliography and index. And yes photos are included .The comprehensive , detailed research is amazing.

In Fitzsimon’s fascinating book we go from a sacred site on the land of the Gadigal people in ancient times through to the stunning building that exists today and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007.It has also been awarded both architectural and engineering accolades.

Fitzsimons takes us behind the scenes –he vividly imparts the stories about the many people whose lives were affected, both favourably and adversely,by its construction and existence. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon,but completed by an Australian architectural team headed by Peter Hall, with many aspects of Utzon’s original design changed, the Sydney Opera House was officially opened in October 1973 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11. Continue reading THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE BY PETER FITZSIMONS


This is the first of the New Platform Papers from Currency House, a continuation in a slightly different format of their wonderful Platform Papers series. A new series , annual rather than quarterly, is launched with a new editor,Julian Meyrick , Professor of Creative Arts at Griffith University . Following the retirement of Katharine Brisbane in 2018, the new Director of Currency House is Dr Harriet Parsons, her daughter.

This particular volume is based on a Convention of former Platform Paper authors hosted in July 2020 by Currency House and the University of Sydney .They were invited to gather and reflect on an important current topic. It is planned that the Authors Convention and the concluding publication in December will become an annual event. It is envisaged that the Platform Papers, previously heavily focused on the performing arts , will now include the arts world more broadly.

This volume is a challenging look at how the arts can shape our future by combining economics and the creative imagination, showing how the arts are essential to society and the economy yet the funding is atrocious and many arts workers are burnt out .
The authors for this issue are philosopher Richard Bronk, economist John Quiggin, multi-talented actor and satirist Jonathan Biggins, Pub Choir (now Couch Choir) director Astrid Jorgensen and others.

Harriet Parsons has written the introduction, looking at politics and arts funding , how the government has in effect ignored the arts and slashed funding drastically since the 1980’s ( even with Keating ). She asks how can one measure the arts? She then introduces the various articles included as inspired by the convention , a lot of which is based on Richard Bronk’s The Romantic Economist of 2000.

The first article is by Bronk- Models, Uncertainty and Imagination in Economics .In it Bronk examines the mismatch between the way economists model economies and the way market investors work in practice .He quotes from several Romantic poets .Bronk looks at economic theories , considers the possible future and the use of different models and metaphors by entrepreneurs , investors and policy makers and how these affect the arts. Bronk stresses that the Romantic conception of imagination also fosters empathy . He also mentions Beatrice Webb’s ‘analytical imagination ‘ .

Next is a discussion between Jonathan Biggins and John Quiggin , entitled What’s Wrong With Cannibalism ? Their conversation looks at the ‘invisible hand of the market’, with market economies flourishing through the pursuit of self interest .Bernard Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees is used as a basis for the article which also examines how Keynsian economics disintegrated in the 1970’s and how the use of the internet has changed things. They also consider Keating’s policies. In the 19th Century there were two kinds of artistic reaction to change – on one hand you have the Pre-Raphaelites rejecting change while others like Oscar Wilde and William Morris embraced change and said right, let’s see what these new machines can do . Three things have shifted things away from Hayek-Friedman : the 1990’s bubble bursting , the 2007 Global Financial Crisis and now the Covid pandemic. The two also discuss the rise of household debts , Quiggin proposing an adjustment and a return to a pension/benefit that people can actually LIVE on .

Bernard Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees , or Private Vices Public Benefits is reprinted in its entirety followed by the gruesome satire by Jonathan Swift A Modest Proposal For Preventing the Poor People of Ireland From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country and For Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.
The next article is by Astrid Jorgensen – You Can Sing , looking at music education .Yes , almost everyone can sing ( if badly ) – music defines our lives. Jorgensen looks at music education and how singing is good for your health. Jorgensen ended up becoming director of Pub Choir which because of Covid is now Couch Choir at the moment .The future is uncertain but they want to continue.

Ian Maxwell then reports overall on the author’s convention , and how arts people are underpaid , drained and exhausted .Four main issues arose from the Convention- 1.The fundamental nature of arts and culture and how governments don’t understand this , Mention is made of David Pledger’s arts ‘operational synergies ‘. 2.The missing capital ( as in money) .Why have the arts been sidelined ? .3. Exhaustion. 4.Competition for resources.

This volume also includes the final essay in the original series, No.63, by its founder and patron Katharine Brisbane. Her On the Lessons of History considers two decades of Platform Papers , reviewing the outcomes envisaged by the 62 past Papers since 2004, and asks why the arts and humanities have become so marginalised in government planning. On the Lessons of History considers the history of Currency House, the topics of the individual essays and the developments that have taken place in the arts in Australia over the last twenty years.



Feeling the Heat, Australia under climate pressure, an article published in the latest edition of  the Australian Foreign Affairs journal, comes just at the time Australia prepares for the Glasgow Summit (COP26). 

The battlelines are drawn. Will the Federal government declare the target of net zero by 2050? Will the upcoming demonstrations and other calls for climate action across the country be heeded? Does the Australian government understand that the European Union’s imposition of a carbon border adjustment on our exports demonstrates its determination to create a level playing field? 

While the EU intends to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, Australia prevaricates, obfuscates and procrastinates. Does the government understand how it is risking our future? Continue reading WILL THE FOSSILS IN THE MORRISON GOVERNMENT BUDGE ON CLIMATE CHANGE?


The Adelaide Festival , or Festival of the Arts as it was originally known , has now been going for an amazing 60 years.

This is a beautiful, large and heavy coffee table book. It is divided into nine ‘chapters’ and is lavishly illustrated throughout with both black and white and colour photos. At the back is a tabulation of sixty years of posters advertising the Festival, then a list of short biographies of the various contributors. It is not an archival, chronological record of the Festival but rather a collection of memories and photos.

The editor, Catherine McKinnon, is an award-winning novelist and playwright. She studied theatre performance and cinema at Flinders University. Her play ‘Tilt’ was selected for the 2010 National Playwriting Festival, and As I Lay Dreaming won the 2010 Mitch Matthews Award. Her short stories, reviews and articles have appeared in Transnational Literature, Text Journal, RealTime, Narrative and the Griffith Review.

McKinnon, along with four other writers, won the Griffith Review Novella 111 Award, 2015, and her novella ‘Will Martin’ was published by Griffith Review in October of that year. Her novel ‘Storyland’ was shortlisted for the 2018 Miles Franklin Award, the Barbara Jefferis Award and the Voss Award.

Contributors (over fifty of them!) range from previous Artistic Directors, performers in the Festival (some have been both) reviewers , lighting designers, publicists and other Adelaide luminaries.

The book looks at the problems of programming a Festival , ticketing the Festival, performing in a Festival and the massive successes , the dangerous accidents and near misses in performance. It also looks at the interconnectivity of people connected to the Festival , and we learn about various productions and their links to the history of Australian Dance Theatre,  the Australian Ballet,  Circus OZ, Bangarra, the Sydney Symphony etc.

Other passages are very personal : We read of Jim Sharman’s extended sojourn with the Festival since 1964 , how Akram Khan was a teenage performer in Brook’s ‘Mahabharata’ and has become Artistic Director of one of the world’s major dance companies , Annabel Crabb driving members of the Frankfurt Ballet to Maslin’s Beach, Rachel Healey being transfixed by Phillipe Genty’s puppets as a child.

In the opera world we learn that several productions as part of the Festival were the first performances of that work in Australia. WOMelaide, Writers Week and Artist’s Week are also part of the memories. There is also an article included by former SA premier Don Dunstan , who was a major supporter of the arts

It is fascinating to see that some events/productions are consistently mentioned as magical experiences – eg the 1980 Water Tunnel , Pina Bausch and her company visiting , Peter Brook’s Mahabharata and the opera Voss to name just a few. The inclusion of indigenous content in the Festival is also examined. The intersections of the various people exemplify how the Festival has become a major nucleus for the arts in South Australia.

The book asks – why Adelaide? Does Adelaide and its Festival have its own distinct personality? Can a performance change your life?

The Festival is both of and for the people – there is a great quote by its founder,Professor John Bishop OBE – to whom the Festival’s aim is to ‘ To do the extraordinary … to make possible that which otherwise would not happen ‘.

As Patrick McDonald says ‘ Diversity, inclusivity and creativity have been the consistent hallmarks of sixty years of Adelaide Festival openings. All that remains to be seen is what future fusions of imagination and technology will bring to its table’ .To quote Barry Kosky ‘ Long may it reverberate and rejoice’.

ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 60 YEARS 1960-2020 is published by Wakefield Press and available at all leading book retailers.
Format Hardback
Size 255 x 255 mm
ISBN 9781743056882
Extent 296 pages


The Walkley Foundation honoured its 2020 Mid-Year Celebration of Journalism winners through a virtual lens last Wednesday.

The Mid-Year Celebration entries are peer-judged and winners are selected on the basis of journalistic excellence. All the entries shine a light on great Australian journalism in their categories. The Mid-Year Celebration honours include the Young Australian Journalist of the Year AwardsJune Andrews Award for Industrial Relations ReportingJune Andrews Award for Freelance Journalist of the YearJune Andrews Award for Women’s Leadership in MediaOur Watch AwardMedia Diversity Australia AwardJune Andrews Award for Arts Journalism and The Pascall Prize for Arts Criticism.

Chief Executive Louisa Graham said, “Our Mid-Year Celebration was established to recognise the work of young journalists and specialist writers not included in the Walkley Awards. They are not Walkley Awards, they have a different trophy, but they are determined through the same rigorous processes and according to the same standards of excellence and expert judging. To avoid duplication with the Walkley Awards at the end of year, we have taken this opportunity to honour one of our significant benefactors by rebranding these awards in her name. Continue reading THE 2020 MID YEAR CELEBRATION OF JOURNALISM