30 October 2012

And the Band Plays On

Another weekend, another music festival. Today was the tenth annual Music Festival at St Michael and All Angels Anglican Church at Bothwell.

The Festival was inaugurated by Gwen and John Hardstaff who, with the help of willing volunteers from the community, have organised it every year for the past decade.

John’s membership of the Hobart Veterans’ Brass Band ensured their prominent position on the bill, and this year they were joined by the Bagdad Singers (that’s Bagdad, Tasmania, not the other one), St George’s Church Choir from Battery Point, violinist Doris Kouw and organist Diane Hallett.

The Bagdad Singers at Bothwell
violin soloist Doris Kouw accompanied by
Roslyn Langlois on keyboard
Bernard Gillon, former school teacher at Waddamana, read Seed Bed, a poem by James Patterson, Uniting Church minister Meg Evans read Psalm 98, the Rector, Rev John Langlois, led opening and closing prayers, MC Wayne Doran kept everything moving along, and after the concert everyone repaired to the Town Hall for afternoon tea.

euphonium solo by Eric Morgan 
If, however, you’re imagining one of those church fund-raising concerts we all know and dread – don’t. Nobody here is thinking about money. Today is wholly and solely about music.

Musicians invited to perform at Bothwell are far from being enthusiastic amateurs only included because they're the mayor's husband's niece. Many have played in brass bands in major competitions; some have played with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and others served as bandsmen in the military. A few have never worked professionally, but all take their music very seriously indeed.

Whether or not they still appear regularly in concerts around the state, the one thing they all have in common is their love of music and performance.  They may have retired from the pressure of travel and constant rehearsals,  but  the music goes on.

So we come along every year because this is music the way it was meant to be – played for pleasure to an appreciative audience of friends who just want to enjoy a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment in comfortable and familiar surroundings.  We are never disappointed.

Musical director Myles Luck conducts the Hobart Veterans' Brass Band

23 October 2012

Queenstown and Lake Margaret

The Towns in the Valley

Tasmania's West Coast used to be a very busy place. Zeehan, in its heyday, was the third largest town in Tasmania, and at the turn of the 19th century Queenstown had a population of about 5,000. Over the hill in the Linda Valley Linda, Gormanston and Mt Lyell together had a population of over 2,000. 
This is a view of the Linda Valley today, with Gormanston (centre) at the foot of Mt Owen. Linda consists of three or four houses and the ruins of the old Royal Hotel on the corner of the road in the left corner of the photograph.

The rock face in the foreground is one wall of the old Iron Blow open cut mine.

down the other side of the hill - approaching Queenstown.
It isn't quite raining.

Queenstown - dominated by the landscape


This is what Queenstown looked like late in the nineteenth century.
And here are some photographs of what it looks like today.

view from my window. It's raining
The West Coast of Tasmania is one of the wettest places in Australia. There is an urban myth that once it didn't rain in Queenstown for ten days. Nobody knows when that was, but it must have been a terrible drought.
There is plenty to look at in Queenstown – the Galley Museum (in the background of this photo) has a splendid collection of – well – everything.
Miner's Siding monument
what it's all about - copper
There are mine tours and monuments and, of course, the resurrected Wilderness Railway.

An unexpected find is the nicely restored Paragon Theatre. Its new owners Francisco and Fabiola Navidad intend screening films regularly again. You can get a nice cup of coffee and home-made cake in the cafe while you wait.

Art deco elegance, and gorgeously comfortable
 leather lounges
movie-going in real style!

Late afternoon on Hunter Street – and the sun is shining!
Mt Owen is still hidden by clouds, however.

Once Queenstown was infamous for its barren hills and lack of vegetation, but today everything is growing back. And it is encroaching on the town itself.

You mustn't think Queenstown is all run-down and overgrown, however. I just like that sort of photograph.
Here's the post office and store in Orr Street, all nicely spic and span.

Lake Margaret

If you head about ten km north from Queenstown you pass the turnoff to the Lake Margaret power station. And yes, I am going to show you some more photographs of penstocks and turbines. Lake Margaret gets the highest rainfall in Australia after Tully in Queensland. It is a glacial lake and the source of the Yolande River. In 1914 a concrete dam raised the water level, and a 2.2 km long wooden penstock delivered water to the power station below. Originally of Oregon, it was replaced in 1938 using King Billy Pine and again in 2009 with Alaskan yellow cedar.

The power station, constructed in 1914, is the oldest working hydroelectric power station in Australia, and is on the Tasmanian Heritage Register. The seven original turbines are still there, still working. Four were installed in 1914, and the last one in 1929.

Nobody lives in the village at Lake Margaret today, but there are plans to develop it for tourism.

Corrugated iron was used for much building construction; it is durable, easy to transport and quick to put up.

You can see more photographs of Queenstown and Lake Margaret on my Facebook page - Tasmanian Gothic

22 October 2012

Remembering the Orphans

 More than eighty five years ago Paul Jones and his little sister Enid used to walk up a steep track from Murrell St (now Rattle St) in New Town and across the cemetery to Sunday School in the Parish Hall at St John's. Today he was back here to attend a ceremony arranged by the Friends of the Orphan Schools, St John's Park Precinct.

Paul had a pretty happy childhood with loving parents and indulgent grandparents; the children confined at the Orphan Schools in the nineteenth century were not so lucky.

Governor Arthur (in office 1824-36) commissioned the colonial architect John Lee Archer to design an Orphan Asylum, the first built expressly for this purpose, to house destitute and orphaned children, and it operated on this site from 1833 until 1879. In 1848 about 450 children were housed there. Most were of convict parents but there were several aboriginal children, among them Mathinna, Fanny Cochrane-Smith and William Lanne.

Dianne Snowden from Friends of the
Orphan Schools, St John's Park Precinct.
Her great great grandfather William
Butler was one of the children
living at the School
The school was operated by the Convict Department and conditions were tough. Food was often in short supply, sometimes stolen by those in charge of the orphans, dormitories were overcrowded and punishments were brutal. Several epidemics – scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough and scarletina – wreaked havoc. In the 1850s Edward Swarbreck Hall, medical practitioner, took up the cause of the orphans and as a result there were inquiries into conditions at the school. No fault was found with the management, and there were some improvements, but Hall continued his campaign. After further inquiries the school was found unviable and closed in 1879.

Sections of the original Orphan Schools became the New Town Charitable Institution, caring for the poor and infirm until 1920; later it became simply known as "St John's" and the focus shifted to aged care.

Friends of the Orphan Schools, St John's Park Precinct was formed in 2007 under the umbrella of the National Trust (Tasmania) to research the history of the site and work towards a listing on the National Heritage Register.

As part of this effort they have had memorial plaques made as a monument to the more than four hundred children who died at the Orphan Schools. It was unveiled this morning by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Damon Thomas, who stressed the historic importance of the entire St John's Park area.

The Lord Mayort, Alderman
Damon Thomas, with Paul Jones
 Later, in conversation, he remarked that people in general would have accepted the treatment of children at the Orphan Schools as "just the way things were"; those managing the institution would have believed they were doing the best they could.

I half-remember a quotation about future generations saying of us, somewhat patronisingly, "they did the best they could, according to the standards of the time". But what will they be talking about? What are we doing now that will appal our descendants a century and a half from now?

One thing is for certain, however. With a bit of help the Friends of the Orphan Schools will make jolly sure the old Orphan Schools, and St John's Church, which was built in 1834 to serve it and the parish of New Town, will still be standing.

attending the unveiling at the old Parish Hall

For more information about the Friends of the Orphan School, and to offer your support, see http://www.orphanschool.org.au

21 October 2012

THE WILD WEST - Queenstown Heritage and Arts Festival 2012

Last weekend I went to Queenstown for the 2012 Heritage and Arts Festival. 

This year is the centenary of Tasmania's worst mine disaster. Forty two miners lost their lives when a pump house fire in the North Lyell copper mine filled the shafts with toxic carbon monoxide. More than fifty men were trapped a thousand feet underground for more than a hundred days before they could be rescued, and there are many tales of tragedy and heroism to be commemorated.

The first event I attended was the unveiling of a memorial plaque to Albert Gadd. He was one of the lucky ones able to get to the surface when the mine filled with toxic fumes. Then he turned round again and went back down in vain attempts to rescue his workmates.

Crowd at the unveiling; a typical Queenstown day. Why did I leave my umbrella at home?

Tim interviews members of the Gadd family for the ABC

The only transport to and from Queenstown in 1912 was by rail. Experts and rescue equipment, including emergency breathing apparatus, were rushed from Strahan and Burnie by train, some having first to come by steamship from Melbourne. This weekend the West Coast Wilderness Railway was busy re-enacting events and taking visitors to Rinadeena for Devonshire Tea.  

On Friday morning the train took a specially reconstructed funeral car to the cemetery for a memorial service. This stone marks the mass grave of the forty two miners who died.

On Friday evening stallholders set up bain-maries under the wide verandahs in Orr St and the huge marquee covering the street was packed with happy diners. Later, after a very moving lantern parade down Orr St to the station, bands performed.

The Hobart-based Grass Roots Trade Union Choir cheered everyone up with an enthusiastic performance accompanied as required by piano accordion, harmonica and guitar played by choir members and ending with a good, rousing version of Solidarity – The Union Makes Us Strong, with the audience joining in the chorus.

There really wasn't enough light to photograph the
Grass Roots Trade Union Choir, but I tried anyway.
They were followed by Alma de Vida, a Flamenco/jazz group, and I have been told a very prominent politician was seen dancing with some of the artists exhibiting in the festival. Of course, this is only hearsay and should not under any circumstances be repeated.

Saturday evening was far more refined, with everyone getting all tarted up in their formal attire for the Festival Gala Evening at the Queenstown Memorial Hall. As an impoverished artist, I do not own formal attire and baulked at the ticket price so have to rely on the word of somebody who did attend and said it was great fun. There was an art auction, and one or two people sobered up next morning to find themselves owning a fine painting they hadn't intended buying. Not that I mind, one hastened to assure me – it's lovely. Just didn't mean to . . .

Mt Lyell Heritage Centre
You'd have to try very, very hard not to find something to do, see or hear over the weekend.
There were extensive exhibitions of historic photographs, at the local library – sorry, Community Hub – more photographs, artefacts and movie footage at the railway station, and art installations among the desks and mining memorabilia at the Mt Lyell Heritage Centre and in the old West Coast District Hospital.

 Helicopter rides, underground mine tours and visits to historic sites were on offer. Children of all ages enjoyed free movies in the marvelous art deco Paragon Theatre and a student circus while art-lovers crammed exhibition openings at LARQ (Landscape Art Research Queenstown) and Art Frontier galleries. IHOS opera performed in an old transport warehouse; folk singers performed at a sawmill, books and a new Memorial Park project were launched, and so it went on.

Things were beginning to wind down by Sunday, but the street market still drew a crowd.

On Monday morning it was all over. Queenstown reverted overnight to a sleepy, shabby, damp mining town as the last of the artists, performers and visitors packed up and went home. But, by golly, the little community put on a damned good show! I'll be back.

You can find out about some of the art I saw here: http://www.writeresponse.blogspot.com.au/2012_10_14_archive.html.

09 October 2012

How to become a successful artist

It takes time to write a blog piece - even one as brief as this. It takes thought and planning and rewriting. It also takes time to think of two or three interesting Tweets, to find a couple of images to add to Pinterest, to compose an amusing status update and find one or two items to share on Facebook, to refine a LinkedIn profile and finally to catch up with conversations on various art-related web forums, having done enough research to sound Knowledgeable about the subject at hand.

nice photo, no matter how irrelevant, to break up all that text

Who would do all this every day? Well, I have just attended yet another well-intentioned session of Advice for Artists, and this is the recommended optimum use of Social Media to raise one's profile, establish a brand and generally promote oneself and one's artwork.

"After all," the presenter exclaimed, "it's no use being the greatest artist in the world if nobody knows about you."

"Fine" I said, never having learned to keep my mouth shut, "but nobody spending that much time on line is going to become the world's greatest artist." Everyone agreed that artists juggling several part-time casual jobs, their art practice and general housekeeping and family commitments don't have a lot of time to spare, and who can afford to hire a full-time media/publicity person? The usual advice (although not, this time, from this particular very sympathetic presenter) is to set aside an hour a day for Promotion, which sounds sensible.

photo I took on the way to the presentation, so almost relevant

Unfortunately, artists don't work like that.

Contrary to popular belief, an artist doesn't suddenly have a flash of inspiration and rush into their studio in a flurry of activity, to emerge a couple of hours later with a masterpiece before heading off to the pub for the afternoon. Ideas take time to develop. They are mulled over, considered, reconsidered. There are sketches, drawings, perhaps trial runs as thoughts are refined and/or rejected.

Half-formed ideas churn about there in the back of the mind while the artist is working on other paintings or in a mundane job or at family gatherings, and minutes, or hours, or weeks or occasionally years later, some minor event or new insight provides the final fragment that makes it worth turning one of them into a painting or a story or a piece of music.

In my case, I spend hours in the studio getting the pictures down on canvas and rethinking them, sometimes to the point of turning them into something else altogether, but that's just work. The hard part of the job, the serious thinking, happens outside the studio. Even when an artwork appears to have required only a short time in terms of physical activity, it may have taken months to create and years of experimentation and practice to develop the skills to realise the idea.

Running a successful marketing campaign requires clever and creative ideas and strategies; the only-one-hour-a-day spent in front of the computer is the result of several hours of thought, all of which distracts from the main task at hand - making art. For the artist, every moment of quiet, creative thought is precious.

How can one reconcile spending enough mental energy to run an effective business with the need to devote their entire effort to the innovation, exploration and intellectual activity required to produce the best possible artwork?

I asked the nice presenter after her talk. She said "I don't know. That's why I'm not an artist."

One of the effective uses of social media is the inclusion of images, so here's a photo I took on my way home. I can't credit the artist as I haven't the foggiest idea who it was.

Professional Development sessions at CAST by Kim Godwin, Project Manager with NAVA (National Assn for the Visual Arts) 
More information: http://www.visualarts.net.au/advicecentre/nava-advice