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.