Tag Archives: sydney

Bangarra 25

Bangarra Dance Theatre at Sydney Opera House

“I don’t mind if we get wet. I love getting rained on”, I said to Kate as we sat on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. In hindsight, I probably should have checked the weather before leaving the house, but since I wearing shorts, I figured getting wet wouldn’t be much of a problem. And besides that, it was a great thing to be part of, the 25th anniversary performance by Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Kate arrived earlier than I did, and so secured us terrific seats in the front row. For a couple of hours we sat there, chatted, ate and drank a little, as we watched and waited for the show to commence.

As I checked the weather radar, we overheard a couple of security guards chatting, offering their thoughts on the likelihood (or rather unlikelihood) of the show going ahead. For a while it didn’t look good. On two or three occasions cleaners came on stage to mop off the water. Even that had a certain theatricality about it. “You could put that in a theatre, charge thirty bucks, and say it’s edgy”, I joked.

The sheer risk of electrocution for the band and injury for the dancers meant they were only about to deliver a much scaled down version of what was planned. Nonetheless, it was a great evening, and one we (and many others) enjoyed very much.

Friday Night Fever

“Where are you going? You have to stay. You’re in the show”, the photographer William Yang said to my friend Kate, as we had gotten up from our seats, and were headed to the bar to grab a glass of wine, ahead of William’s talk at the Museum of Contempoary Art (MCA) in Sydney last night.

We thought we had a few minutes to grab a glass of wine, and to absorb the previous talk by Djon Mundine, before William was due to speak. Djon had run a little bit over-time, and so the break between the two had to be shortened. Djon, an Indigenous artist, had spoken about the portrayal of Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people in Australian film. In particular he came from the perspective of the portral of white man. While a lot of film and popular culture tends to portray black men as mystical, magical and sexual, he was interested to see how white men are portrayed in films which have significant Indigenous themes and casting. Along the way he showed excerpts from films like “Kadaicha”, “Bedevil”, “Jimmie Blacksmith” and another film whose name escapes me right now. His conclusion: the portrayal is often as police, property developers and paedophiles, though he noted his lack of film critic or academic credentials.

William’s talk on the other hand was about some of his recent overseas travels to China, Korea, Italy and Germany. Kate featured in the number of photographs in China. It was like a “slide night with depth” as William talked us through photographs of art, landscape, social occasions, food and attractive men he met along the way. On the subject matter of the latter two, I thought he could do an exhibition called “Edible”, though I never got around to suggesting it to William himself. Though there were ample opportunities to, as later in the evening a whole bunch of us ended up on the rooftop dance floor.

I was there with a couple of other friends. Another friend was there with mutual friends. There’s nothing like a dance floor to see a blending of the groups, and to discover further mutual contacts. In a text to one of my friends who was downstairs, I urged her to come to the rooftop to hear possibly the world’s greatest DJ, Leo Tanoi. I didn’t know at the time, they were actually friends. Although the moniker of “world’s greatest DJ” was possibly a little over the top, he played the kind of music that went down well with a bunch of 40 and 50 somethings who like art and who like to groove along (Madonna, Whitney, Michael Jackson etc). It’s been ages since I’ve been out for a “proper dance”, and since the music was so good, we barely left the dance floor. In between, there was a terrific performance by a singer, Nadeena Dixon, whose repertoire tended to reggae and dance, with a lot of songs with Indigenous-themed lyrics. William Yang, as always snapped a few photographs of the dance floor festivities.

At the end of a long, long week, it was so great to hang out with friends, see some great art, and then have a dance for a couple of hours at the rooftop of the MCA, with the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge as backdrops, on a really pleasant summerish evening. “It doesn’t get much better than this”, a few friends were inclined to say last night.

Giant Dwarf Radio Play

“This could be really good or really lame”, I said to my friend Michaela the other week when I invited her to join me for the “Radio Play” at Giant Dwarf Theatre. I’d read about the event a few weeks ago on Eventbrite, and I heard Tom Ballard who wrote/directed the event on 702 ABC Sydney this morning.

“You know, we’re the only people old enough to actually remember radio plays”, I said to her as we met at the theatre. The crowd was very twenty-something, though we did spot a bloke who was actually older than us. “He’s here with his daughter”, Michaela noted.

The whole idea around tonight was to do a night of “modern radio theatre”, and I suspect it was a passion project, more than something which was seen as commercially viable. That said, there was a reasonably good crowd at the Giant Dwarf tonight.

As “modern radio theatre”, the concepts behind the sketches was also very modern: a sketch involving an orgy on the Lower North Shore, a piss-take on “Serial” (the new podcast from “This American Life”) which was really, really funny and, to be honest, a third sketch which I don’t actually remember a couple of hours later (obviously because we’re so old).

We sat right up the front and chose a seat which WE THOUGHT would avoid some degree of audience interaction. How wrong we were. “I hate audience interaction. Don’t go there”, Michaela told the host/writer/creator, Tom Ballard when he singled her out for some audience interaction. I’ve previously seen him doing standup and thought he was pretty average, pretty lame, to be honest. In contrast, we both agreed tonight was surprisingly good. In parts, it was probably a little over-written. But overall, it was a really great night of theatre, written and performed with passion. And it was great to see a bit of live radio theatre. Apparently, it will eventually turn up somewhere as a podcast. I’ll edit this item and post a link if/when it turns up, because it’s worth a listen.


As I made my way to the Giant Dwarf Theatre on Cleveland Street tonight, I walked through the park near Central Station. In the midst of people playing sport, running around, and those sitting, enjoying the late afternoon/evening sunshine there was a bloke playing bagpipes.

On closer inspection, he wasn’t what you might stereotypically think of as a regular bagpipe player: he was youngish and he had an obviously Asian heritage. On top of that, his repertoire included “Advance Australia Fair” and “We Are Australian”.

I wasn’t the only one who stopped to enjoy his work. There was another bloke video-ing his performance, which I presume will eventually end up on Youtube. If you see the video, keep an eye out for me, the bloke who pulled out his phone to snap a couple of shots also.

Bagpipes near Central

Bagpipes near Central

When I posted this photograph to Twitter earlier tonight, a colleague noted he was probably forced into the park by annoyed neighbours. “No doubt the neighbours complained about the practice at home – nothing worse than badly played bagpipes!”, she commented. Actually, this bloke was pretty good I thought. He was tuneful.

I Chi Ban Japanese Teppan-yaki BBQ

Even though I’d warned my inter-state colleagues there would be some food-throwing involved, I don’t think they quite appreciated how much there would be until we visited I Chi Ban Japanese Teppan-yaki BBQ on Wednesday night. It was my suggestion we had dinner there, and today I received quite a few thankyou emails to say it was probably one of the most enjoyable “conference dinners” they’d ever been to.

It’s been several years since I’ve been there myself, but have some fond memories of the last I visited the restaurant with some colleagues. I remembered the food throwing, but I didn’t remember the care and precision with which the food was prepared: how the prawns were so beautifully de-veined, how the eggs were so beautifully prepared.

And then of course, it was “show time” with the chef leading us in a series of adventures where we had to catch bowls of food. One poor guy missed catching it and ended up with a shirtful of fresh egg. Another poor woman ended up with some rice in her hair. While not exactly covered in food, I’ve never been very good at catching things (have always been a little bit unco) I also ended up with a bit of rice decoration. But despite the apparent indignity of it all, we had enormous fun. “This was probably the best team-building activity I’ve ever been involved with”, one of my colleagues half-joke. So yeah, a great night.

And my favourite final comment was this : “I think a little karaoke after dinner could have taken it to a new level”. We kept ourselves nice.

Clovelly Beach

As I made my way down to the beach, I suddenly realised (through the unfamiliarity of the landscape) I’d never visited Clovelly Beach before. Sure, I’ve been for quite a few (mostly birthday) lunches at the Clovelly Hotel before, but never the beach.

I was at the pub again today for a terrific birthday lunch for a friend. After food, wine, some great stories and a cracking thunderstorm, I was beginning to feel a little tired. The busy week I’ve previously written about was beginning to catch up with me, and so I bid everyone a fond farewell.

With twenty minutes before the next scheduled bus, I figured a brief walk to the beach was in order. An opportunity to sober up a little too :)

Wow. “What a beautiful little inlet”, I thought to myself. What a great personal discovery. And next time I go for a birthday lunch at the Clovelly Hotel, I’ll definitely schedule a visit to the beach as well the pub.

Andrew Olle Media Lecture

“Because I haven’t lived in Sydney before, I didn’t quite understand some of the references”, my friend Sue told a couple sitting at our table at last night’s Andrew Olle Media Lecture. Last night’s lecture was given by Kate McClymont, the Sydney Morning Herald investigative journalist who famously writes about crime and corruption in New South Wales. The woman in the couple then related a story about how she had purchased a house from one of the crime world figures mentioned in Kate’s speech. Between purchase and settlement, hers and a bunch of other houses were burned down in suspicious circumstances, I recall her saying. “These are very Sydney stories”, I told Sue.

“I remember Abe Saffron”, is a phrase I’ve commonly heard in social occasions with older journalists. “I reported on the disappearance of Juanita Neilson”, someone once told me. “She’s in a ditch somewhere in the Blue Mountains”, is a phrase you’ll also commonly hear. Everyone in Sydney seems to have a dodgy crime story. Indeed, I know quite well one of the “flamboyant figures” Kate often writes about.

Because of that sense of familiarity, her speech last night got a lot of laughs. I loved this anecdote in particular…

Not that I am saying journalists are infallible. We are human. We make mistakes. Look at me, I identified the wrong person in He Who Must Be Obeid, the book I co-wrote earlier this year with Linton Besser. When I was told that the book would have to be recalled, it was one of the worst days in my entire life. But a setback for one person is an opportunity for someone else. In the middle of my misery I received the following text message.
Thursday 21 Aug 2014 10.36am
Hi Kate, It’s John Ibrahim her (sic) could u pls send me a copy of ur book that be nice…thank u.
Me: Very funny! Who is this really? Kate
“It really is John,” he replied. I had last spoken to the nightclub boss several years earlier when we had run into each other outside Goulburn jail. “I don’t like what you write,” he said. “That’s funny, because I don’t like what you do,” I shot back, mentioning his penchant for threatening witnesses. He pointed out that the charges against him had been dropped.
We ended up talking about our mutual love of the TV series The Sopranos.

As much of her speech dealt with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Sue and I both loved the fact the couple sitting next to us at dinner included Nick Greiner, the former NSW Premier who set up ICAC, and in fact became the first “victim” of investigation. Really interesting guy to chat to by the way, as was his partner.

The thrust of her speech was that, in many ways, investigative journalism, and investigative journalists are under threat. As well as for economic reasons, there’s the the issue of free speech and she mentioned the case of the Australian journalist, Peter Greste, currently in prison in Egypt.

But she also made the point that all journalism, to an extent, should be investigative.

People often ask me about the secret of investigative journalism. There is no secret. All journalism should use the same tools – curiosity, scepticism and the willingness to take the road less travelled.

The speech will be on ABC TV tomorrow night, and is well worth watching. You might even see me, as they often cross to images of the audience during the televised speech. “The one thing you need to remember is don’t drink during the speech as they’re bound to cross to you just as you’re having a glass”, I told Sue. I knew this from experience. There was one year when they crossed to an image of me twice during the speech: on both occasions I was sipping on a glass of wine. But there again, that’s “Very Sydney”, isn’t it?

Read the speech in full

Or listen here

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