Newstead Live!

January 28th, 2014 | C. J. Dennis, Poems for adults, Poems for children

I’ve just returned from the annual Newstead Live! Festival, held in the picturesque little town of Newstead in central Victoria, near Castlemaine, on the Australia Day long weekend every year.

This is the sixth consecutive Newstead Live! I have attended, and I think it was the biggest, and the best.

The weather was kind to us. It was hot, but not overwhelmingly, suffocatingly hot, as it has been the last couple of years.

It is primarily a music festival, but the Director, Andrew Pattison, is a long time supporter of the spoken word, and this year, as last year, he asked me to put together the spoken word programme for the festival.

The highlight for me was the C. J. Dennis show that I put together, “‘Er Name’s (Still!) Doreen!”. The template is simple. I ask various talented reciters and actors to recite or read poems written by C. J. Dennis, and I write an introduction to each poem – which I read – with the intention of giving a context for the poem, and telling the C. J. Dennis story.

The line-up this year was:

Jan Wositzky
Ken Prato
Jim Smith
Martin Pearson
Ruth Aldridge
Keith McKenry
John Flaus

The show was well attended, and well received.

Here are Ben and Ruth Aldridge at one of the “Poets’ Breakfasts”.

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And here is Ken Prato.

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Jim Smith, a veteran reciter on the folk scene, and traditionally the MC for the Newstead Poets’ Breakfasts, took a bad fall on the Saturday, and is currently recovering in hospital. Together with all who know him, I wish him a speedy recovery.

Here is Jim earlier on the Saturday.

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And here is the man without whom none of it would be possible, Festival Director Andrew Pattison, in his customary position at the Troubadour sound system.

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The poetry writing workshop was also great fun, with a small but spirited group of people putting their views on a wide range of subjects, such as free verse vs. rhyming verse, poetry vs. song lyrics, parody vs. plagiarism, commerce vs. art, and American vs. Australian culture. It was particularly interesting to hear Keith McKenry talk about his role as an expert witness in the “Down Under” (Men At Work) court case.

I was thrilled that some teachers attended my poetry show for children. I am very keen to find a way to involve myself in the professional development of teachers who wish to teach poetry for children, and was given some very valuable insights as to how I might go about doing this.

The community singing, led by Suzette Herft, Chris Lazzaro and Patrick Evans, was also a highlight for me. There was a wide range of excellent material presented, and I got a chance to wheel out a few of my old songs also, which was great fun.

Here are Chris (left), Suzette (middle) and Patrick (right).

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I will finish with a photo of the ubiquitous Michael (the “Balloonologist”) Crichton, who does such a great job of enlivening the street scene of so many festivals.

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Thanks to Andrew Pattison and the festival committee for another great Newstead Live!

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