Australian Bush Laureate Awards finalist: “Book of the Year”

December 16th, 2014 | 'Banjo' Paterson, C. J. Dennis, News, Poems for children, Uncategorized

I was thrilled to learn this morning that my collection of poetry for children, “’The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’ and Other Australian Verse”, has been selected as a finalist in the Australian Bush Laureate Awards in the category of “Book of the Year”.

“’The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’ and Other Australian Verse” is a collection of 65 poems spanning 150 pages, primarily directed at children aged 9+. It contains a number of elegant ‘paper cut-out’ illustrations by first-time illustrator Lauren Merrick, and was published by Walker Books Australia in May this year.

The “Book of the Year” award is not specifically an award for books for children, but they are eligible to enter.

The winner will be announced at an Awards ceremony commencing at 7pm on Tuesday, 20th January, 2015, at the Tamworth Town Hall.

Further information about “’The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’ and Other Australian Verse” can be found here:
http://www.walkerbooks.com.au/…/The-Billy-That-Died-With-It…

and here:
https://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

C. J. Dennis Society AGM

September 15th, 2014 | C. J. Dennis, Poems for adults, Poems for children, Songs, Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival, Uncategorized

I spent a wonderful day yesterday at “The Singing Gardens” in Toolangi, former home of the great Australian poet C. J. Dennis, for the purposes of attending the AGM of the C. J. Dennis Society.

Secretary/Treasurer Jim Brown kicked off proceedings with his haunting rendition of Dennis’ “Dusk”.

(Seated are, from left to right, Maggie Somerville, Edel Wignell and Patsy Hohnen.)

Jim

The meeting was well attended, and highly productive. The weather was also very kind to us.

Afterwards, Maggie Somerville sang her beautiful song “Waratah Bay” to Patsy.

Maggie and Patsy

Before heading home, there was time to stroll once more along the banks of the Yea River.

Yea River

(Terry Maher standing; seated left, Maggie and right, Patsy.)

Here are they are again…

Terry, Maggie and Patsy

…and again.

Maggie, Patsy and Terry

I was thrilled to receive, and very happy to accept, a nomination to be the Society’s new President. I was duly elected to the position, and look forward to an exciting and active future for the C. J. Dennis Society.

Congratulations to David Campbell, who was once again elected to the position of Vice President, to Jim Brown (Secretary/Treasurer once more), to Daan Spijer and Jan Williams (general committee members), and to Terry Maher and Lyn Storen (new committee members).

Wattle Day

September 1st, 2014 | Festivals, Folk clubs, Photos, Songs, Uncategorized

Last Sunday, August 31st, I participated in the Wattle Day celebrations at Hurstbridge in Victoria.

I was part of the Victorian Folk Music Club’s “Billabong Band”, and my duties were largely confined to playing the lager phone and singing along on the choruses, though I did get to sing a duet on “Home Among The Gum Trees”, and sing Maggie Somerville’s anthemic “Wattle Day” song with her.

Group shot

I haven’t quite yet been able to fathom the full history of Wattle Day, but Hurstbridge seems to have been intricately tied up with it for a very long time.

Maggie found this photo of the Wattle Day celebrations at Hurstbridge in 1912.

Wattle Day 1912

The caption reads: “Wattle Day at Hurstbridge in 1912: In the 1900s a great deal was made of Wattle Day. Crowds flocked to the station to view the magnificent wattle.”

The Hurstbridge Wattle Festival web-site also tells us that “The Hurstbridge Wattle Festival is a significant cultural event for Melbournians that has its roots firmly planted in our early rail history.”

So it would seem that Wattle Day and railway lines go together. I attended the festival with Maggie, and we parked her kombie at Eltham and took the train to Hurstbridge to avoid the inevitable parking problems that we would face there. The stop prior to Hurstbridge is “Wattle Glen”.

Nevertheless, it would appear that the practice of celebrating Wattle Day at Hurstbridge died out at some point, because the current festival began as recently as 2004. This was in response to two key events, outlined as follows on Wikipedia.

1. “In 1988 (19 August) the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) was officially proclaimed as Australia’s national floral emblem by the then Goveror-General, the Rt. Hon Sir Ninian M Stephen AK GCMG GCVO KBE.”

2. “Four years later, 23 June 1992, Bill Hayden, the then Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, declared that ‘1 September in each year shall be observed as “National Wattle Day” throughout Australia and in the external Territories of Australia.'”

Hurstbridge now even has its own “Wattle Cafe”.

Wattle Cafe

Decorations for the day were elaborate:

Wattle balls

Members of the audience gathered under the Wattle Tree.

Around the wattle tree

The signage was also clear.

Poster

Of all the VFMC members, I think it is fair to say that Maggie’s ensemble was the most complete.

Maggie

Undoubtedly, though, our President, Harry, was the most colourful.

Harry

Greg sang with great feeling.

GregGreat weather 1

Great weather 2

Port Fairy Folk Festival 2014

March 16th, 2014 | Festivals, News, Photos, Stories for adults, Stories for children, Uncategorized

I had a wonderful time at Port Fairy Folk Festival this year, as I always do.

Once again, however, I saw little music, spending most of my time instead soaking up the Spoken Work Programme at The Shebeen, St Pat’s Hall, the Lecture Hall, and the Surf Club.

Storyteller Jackie Kerin, three-time winner of the “Pat Glover Storytelling Award”, and now head of the judging panel, was on the programme herself this year. I really enjoyed her storytelling show at the Lecture Hall on the Saturday.

Jackie, assisted by fellow Newport Fiddle & Folk Club member and musician, Greg Jenkins, put on a great show.

Jackie and Greg

Jackie is an extremely entertaining and professional performer, and is constantly refining her craft.

Jackie 1

Jackie 2

Two shows at St. Pat’s Hall on the Sunday were also excellent. The first was the launch of Jim Haynes’ new book, “The Best Australian Yarns”, published by Allen & Unwin. The second was the “True Blue”, where Jim (singer), Bill Kearns (poet) and Jackie (storyteller) argued which was the best way to tell a story – as a song, as a poem, or simply as a story.

I was roped in at the last minute to act as “Moderator”, though my shouted comment from the audience – pointing, as I saw it, to a weakness in one of Jim’s arguments – probably branded me as a highly ‘immoderate’ Moderator!

Carole Reffold and Jill Meehan also did a fine job presenting poetry and song at The Surf Club on the Saturday night.

I was thrilled to have an advance copy of my new book, “‘The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’, and Other Australian Verse”, to take to the festival. I lost no opportunities to show it around, and was very pleased with the universally positive feedback I received.

The frantic last minute trading in Port Fairy Festival tickets continues, as this photo attests.

PF ticket office 2014

Of course, the great shadow hanging over the festival this year was the illness of Dennis O’Keeffe. I was very sad to hear of his passing, and offer my very best wishes and condolences to his family and friends.