I am going to Brightspace Gallery, St Kilda, to see an exhibition called “Punk Journey, St Kilda + Beyond . I am excited. It was a movement I first encountered in London in 1979, where it spawned a vibrant and dynamic art, and music culture . At home in Melbourne, and as a Stkilda resident of the early 80’s, I loved going to the now defunct Crystal Ballroom, in Fitzroy st, part of the Seaview Hotel. It was seedy, distressed, dirty, dingy, but with exhilarating music, and outlandish costumes, I loved it. Heady times, exuberant passions, and visually stimulating art, I was part of a movement. It was a movement without peer, its like not seen again, and it spawned many talented Australian artists eg Rowland. S .Howard, and Nick Cave , from the band, “The Birthday Party”.
Fashion was sublime in this period, and dress sense was avant garde, and personal, anything goes, with safety pins, studs, chains, and tartans abounding. In the UK, Vivienne Westwood ruled, and as one time partner of Malcolm Mc Laren, original punk god, she had her finger on the pulse, of all things punk! In Australia, Jenny Bannister officiated, and I was disappointed I was unable to book into a free workshop, at Brightspace, to punk up an item of clothing. It’s booked out by all the dormant punks in StKilda.!
I hope to meet Lauren, my ex VU Buddy, and we will enjoy the exhibition together.
Gough Whitlam, was a legendary figure of Australian History. The consummate politician, his legacy is great . As Australians we owe him much He ended conscription, established free health care via Medicare, provided free tertiary education, through the TEAS scheme, granted aboriginal land rights, and gave huge funding to the arts. With his wife Margaret, and the Australian Labor Party, they initiated change in the Australian political landscape, and adopted a great social justice program, for all Australians. It was one of inclusion, and addressed many wrongs in our society, and sought equality of opportunity for all, across all walks of life.
As a young student I lay down on the tram tracks before the Victorian Parliament House, in Spring St, to protest conscription by ballot for young Australian men, to fight in the Vietnam War. My brother, who could have been conscripted, also protested. It was an old style protest, its type not seen on the streets of Melbourne before, or since, and was one of the last times my brother and I agreed politically, and fought our corner together. Gough put an end to this barbaric conscription. Whilst too young to vote in the historic 1972 Election Campaign, Labor won, Gough became leader, and its catchy “Its Time ” campaign song, and black and white TV ad, is one I remember well.
Ironically the day after Gough died, on 21 October 2014, his birthplace, a humble cottage in Kew, was demolished. When I bemoaned that the great man had passed, a fellow Victoria University student asked, who was Gough Whitlam? I shuddered at the inadequacies of our Australian, education system.
Much loved local icon, the Palais Theatre is under threat! Local rocker and frontman of the Dark Horses, Tex Perkins has stepped up to its defence. Mysterious scaffolding has encased the mighty structure for some time now. Apparently this is not a renovation precaution, but is in place to prevent bits falling off and striking the general public, and theatre goers.
She is a much loved piece of the St Kilda landscape, and integral part of the Melbourne theatre, and performance scene. Concerts are regularly held there, and she continues to host local and international acts. Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones singer, referred to the Palais in his recent Melbourne Show saying they performed at the Palais in 1966 and urged fans to save the venue.
I have attended many memorable performances there. Annually the Sacred Heart mission’s, Heart of St Kilda Concert, to raise funds for the local homeless, Missy Higgins, Rockwiz tribute night to Vanda and Young, Birdy, and Boz Scaggs.
In 2010, I was privileged to win a ballot to tickets to a guided tour of the Palais, as part of the StKilda Festival. We got to go backstage, stand on the rolling stage, check out the dressing rooms, view the juliet window, site the projectionist room, and even climb up into the roof to inspect the domes, and building structure. A memorable tour, firmly etched in my memory, and probably not possible now, due to Health and Safety regulations. The craftsmanship, attention to detail and sheer beauty of the grand old dame, a fine example of art deco architecture, was breathtaking. It was also sad to see how much she had fallen into disrepair through neglect and lack of maintenance. Impossible to believe she was still exisitng at all, but she has a tenacious hold on StKilda, our hearts and minds, and is the venue of our dreams. She’s not going down without a fight, and the locals are just passionate enough to save her. Prepared to take on both the local and state governments they will fight for her survival. The infamous triangle site fiasco is brought to mind, where they repelled the attempts to build a Chadstone style complex, on the vacant land around the Palais Theatre, abutting Luna Park, and the St Kilda Foreshore
. A virulent battle between protestors, and developers, and local and state government ensued, which saw the protestors victorious, and the site remains vacant until a suitable compromise can be reached.The StKilda Pier Kiosk was burnt down, the StKilda Sea Vaults closed, St Moritz demolished, and it would appear the Astor Theatre is beyond redemption, but the Palais is hanging in there and we will save her, wrangling a truculent Local and State Government to assist.
As a visual artist, I have always found the old girl, aesthetically inspiring and have photographed, painted, and drawn her for many years. She is a big part of my local history, and I too will do whatever it takes to keep her standing. Too young to have seen the memorable 66′ Stones Concert within her hallowed walls, I remember a Dame Edna aka Barry Humphries, concert there of 30 years ago, where the grand old dame played host to the magenta haired, grand old Dame, and gladiolus, flew through the air in a floral frenzy.
The Palais will not go down without a fight, it will emerge from its encasing cocoon like a chrysalis, and I expect to be along for its bumpy ride, to re-emergence.
Our group of VU visual arts students have been covering the subject matter of indigenous art , for Culture and Context .
We have watched an informative 3 part series , made by the ABC , made and presented by Hetti Perkins , entitled “Art and Soul “.
The aboriginal people are an incredibly talented , naturally intuitive race of mark makers .Their work embraces every aspect of their life and informs and sustains them . They are natural creators at all levels and their work is multi disciplinary .
Some of the work I loved included :
The textile artists , women dying their yarn and fabric with plants and abandoned machinery
The visual artists telling the story of our ” mob “with dot paintings
The Cape Baron descendants constructing shell necklaces from black shells . These are Truganini “s tears . Truganini is believed to be the last full blood Tasmanian aboriginal , whose race was subjected to genocide by the white settlers .
Their work is powerful , evocative and deeply moving .
And yes I am descended from the white settlers, who stole their land , forcibly evicted them , and attempted to destroy and desecrate their life , home and culture . Ironic really , as this prejudice , disrespect , starvation and cultural annihilation is exactly what my Irish forbears were fleeing from .
The aboriginal people are a strong , proud , resilient race and their work and life in art is be admired and revered . This was brought home when I attended the Sacred Heart Mission Concert at the Palais in StKilda recently . An aboriginal entertainer , actor , raconteur and musician named Jack Charles ,70 years old , 5 foot tall and a survivor of the stolen generation , took the stage , and held the audience in enraptured silence as he performed . We have much to be grateful for , that they let us share their country , culture , and creative gifts .
Tex wore black . I wore black , in sync with the Melbourne nightscape . Ruth, shimmered towards me in a sea of red . Her alabastar skin encased in an opulent red velvet cape , arms neck and fingers festooned with oversized rubies , luxuriant brown locks garlanded
with red ribbons. Tex crooned and titilated . He sang , danced and played guitar and seamlessly reeled out the Johnny Cash song catalogue chanelling the man and his music effotlessly . The back up band could have been Johnny’ s own and the pretend June Carter Cash , adorned in glorious gowns , lifted her voice to the heavens , to match June’s own . The ancient Athenaeum theatre was packed , and gave a rousing reception . Old classics were revived with singalong and hand clapping . Gems buried from youth were unearthed . ” Ring of Fire ” , bought the house down . Stumbling out into the freezing Melbourne night , I knew I had witnessed something unique . An aussie impersonating Johhny so well it could have been the original , in the surrounds of the gracious old girl theatre , the Athenaeum , letting her hair down .