Science, Fires and Merri-May

“Have you seen Merri-May perform before?”, I was asked by the woman sitting near me at tonight’s show.

“Yes”, I told her… “Many times. I think I could be a groupie”.

I have only a fairly vague memory of the first time I met Merri-May Gill, though I suspect it’s probably about 10 years ago.

I was working in regional radio at the time. And I recall her debut CD came demonstrating great song-writing and performing skills across a variety of genres, including comedy, jazz, folk and cabaret.

AND it was great to discover she was from regional NSW – she grew up near Brewarrina, went to school in Armidale and Mittagong, and university in Bathurst – which was right up my alley.

Best of all? She was a great chick, to boot!

Merri-May Gill performs at Club Bondi Junction

When I did my radio program from Bourke co-inciding with a visit by QE2, for example, she happily wrote and came and recorded a song, “The Queen Is Coming To Bourke”. Fun stuff.

Ten years on, and she’s still making me laugh and smile with her songs.

Tonight’s opening number, for example, had the filthiest lyrics about all of the things she’s not into because she’s a “nice girl from the country”.

Another new song was about her desire to find “a good dog” for running about the farm which was delightful.

On stage she has a presence which comes elements of innocence and sophistication, gorgeous singing, and wonderful guitar playing.

Ten years on and she said tonight she’s performing now “just for fun” which is great. I think she’s a great performer, and if you ever see her coming your way, I’d recommend seeing her show.

Just minutes after her final song, I got a phone call from the Rural Fire Service updating me on some fires on the NSW South Coast. This was the other theme of the day, as I made and received calls, text messages and emails about what was occuring there.

Simon Marnie from 702 ABC Sydney speaks to Abbie Thomas at ABC Science Festival

And before that, I was up and at work for a mid-morning science extravaganza as the ABC doors were opened for a family science fun day.

The foyer was packed with more 10 year olds than I’ve seen in my life.

As a child, I remember the fascination I, too, had with science experiments. “The Curiosity Show”, with its regular science spots was a childhood favourite of mine.

But as much as I love the way scientists have grabbed public attention in recent years with the need for “science education” and “outreach”, I’m a little concerned, these days, that not enough emphasis is being placed on “arts education”.

For me, it’s all about the balanced human being. And it worries me a little that the utilitarianism of science and maths may have overtaken the life-fulfilling joy and satisfaction the arts can bring to the overall education of the young ones.

I hope there’s a few more Merri-Mays being encouraged to sing and write, and bring joy into people’s lives, as well as those who want to discover cures for cancer.

5 Replies to “Science, Fires and Merri-May”

  1. It’s the other way around. There has been way too much emphasis on drama and arts and ‘finding your creative self’ in the education system for too long. That’s why we have major shortages in all the professions that actually make the world go round. I’m all for more emphasis on practical stuff – maths, science and REAL English. Let’s try and make this upcoming generation of kids actually worth something to society. We have a million Australian Idol/Big Brother wannabies – everyone wants to be a ‘star’. Someone has to build the bridges, the buildings and discover the cures to medical problems.

  2. “I’m all for more emphasis on practical stuff – maths, science and REAL English” – And I’m Alan Jones.

  3. Don’t mind having the same opinions as Alan Jones if he’s clever enough to agree with me!

  4. Thanks for the nice comment re Curiosity Show. When we presented it, Deane and I intended not science “spots” but for it ALL to be science, or science-related, but that, of course brought in things like music (making your own instruments, art (perspective, Golden mean etc) and more, so we tried to blur the boundaries. I take your point re Arts education, but I think the need for science is a special case. If you sit around a dinner table with others, everyone will chip in when the conversation turns to music, art, movies etc – everyone feels they have a stake in the arts- but turn the conversation to science and there isn’t much input (informed input, that is). I think we need a special effort so that the general population places science in the spectrum of human pursuits that they feel comfortable discussing and some involvement with. In that respect, science has a way to go,

    1. Thanks for a great show Rob. Many happy memories for me.

      I take on board your point about “dinner table conversation”, but I’d argue there’s as much uninformed discussion when it comes to the arts too.

      I guess my main concern is that if you take English out of the equation (because it’s compulsory), there’s a pretty heavy skew towards Maths, Science, etc. I’m hoping as we seek balance, parents will still encourage their child to become a musician or a poet, as much as they encourage them to become a scientist or a mathematician.

      Subject Total
      1. English *64 509
      2. Mathematics 52 262
      3. Business Studies 16 401
      4. Biology 15 468
      5. Personal Development, Health and PE 13 781
      6. Studies of Religion 13 631
      7. Ancient History 11 326
      8. Chemistry 10 308
      9. Visual Arts 9777
      10. Modern History 9773
      11. Physics 9198
      12. Legal Studies 8484
      13. Hospitality 7625
      14. Music 5706
      15. Economics 5491
      (NSW 2008)

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