Category Archives: Life in Melbourne

Popping up at the Globe

The Pop-Up Globe Theatre has arrived on the lawns outside the Myer Music Bowl. It’s a full sized replica of the second Globe Theatre, which opened in 1614 after the first Globe burnt to the ground.

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It has three covered tiers, with the open area in front of the stage for the groundlings exposed to the weather and whatever (fake) bodily or other fluids the actors might spit, spew or fling at those who have opted to stand for over two hours for a very much reduced price. The theatre is only small and it’s all delivered live and with no microphones on the actors. They use the whole theatre: scaling up the three-tiered set, running amongst the groundlings, and clambering over boxes.

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We saw ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. It was absolutely fantastic. I always feel a prickle of anxiety that the dialogue is moving too quickly and that I’m not ‘getting it’ when watching  Shakespeare plays that I’m not familiar with. But always, by the end of the play it all makes sense. And what really made sense here were the parts of the plays that tend to drag when reading them on paper, where the actors are interacting with those sodden groundlings, making up time in soliloquies or slapstick, so that other characters can locate themselves on different levels of the set.

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This particular reading of the play had a strong Maori/Islander influence. The singing was excellent. There’s lots of audience interaction and it’s a damned fine performance.

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Don’t hesitate- go and see it! In fact, they have a 2-for-1 offer in November. If you’re young and with stamina, being a groundling would be fun. If you’re old and creaky, shell out for a seat. It’s right up there with a performance of Richard II in Stratford-on-Avon ten years ago as one of the best Shakespeare experiences I’ve had.

All a-twitter

No, not Donald Trump’s past-time, but the real twitter, with wings and beak etc. I may not have mentioned here that I have always had an interest in birds. Right from joining the Gould League of Bird Lovers in primary school, I’ve been alert to rustles in the bush and the sound of birds around me. I was over in Adelaide recently, and was hoping to see some Eastern Spinebills that enjoyed a particular bush in the garden where I was staying but alas – no sighting. And this week there has been news that the Scarlet Honeyeater has been seen in Melbourne gardens but not, unfortunately, in mine.

Scarlet Honeyeater

Scarlet Honeyeater. Image by Greg Miles Wikimedia Commons. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gregbm/5449916547/ Scarlet Honeyeater

But what I did have in my garden, or nearby, was a bird that I couldn’t see but could hear as it made a repeating call like the first four notes from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. (And now you’re all humming the notes yourself, or scrabbling to look them up on Google, aren’t you?) I, too, looked up on Google to see if I could find ‘bird that sounds like Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ but without success.  What I needed was a Shazam for bird sounds, I decided, and it appears that there are some apps that claim to be just that.

When I read about the Scarlet Honeyeater, I thought “Aha! Perhaps that’s what I heard” and turned yet again to Professor Google to find the call of the Scarlet Honeyeater. Which is how I stumbled onto Graeme Chapman’s excellent site at http://www.graemechapman.com.au/index.php

What a wonderful resource! Beautiful pictures of birds and a huge sound library.  Was my Close Encounters bird (which obviously wasn’t close enough!) a pied butcherbird perhaps??  I suspect that Anthea might pop up in the comments and know exactly which bird I was hearing.

Later: And look! – IF it is a pied butcherbird, then the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is playing a special piece which incorporates its call. The composer, Hollis Taylor, describes the pied butcherbird as “perhaps the world’s finest songbird”.

Out and about

It’s Grand Final day today which, courtesy of a newly gazetted public holiday, is being turned into Grand Final weekend.  Yesterday we went into the Grand Final parade, to imbibe a little Grand Final excitement.  Although the holiday is new, the parade is not. It used to go through the city streets and I often used to nip down from my office on the corner of Swanston and Bourke to see the parade. It now goes from Treasury Buildings to the MCG and is more officially organized than it used to be. We were reassured that there would be plenty of security, but I must say that there was very little in evidence at Yarra Park where we were.

After the parade finished we walked through the Fitzroy Gardens towards the city. The trees are still bare, but the clivias are flowering and there were some beautiful blossom trees outside the Conservatory. I love Melbourne.

Good old Captain Cook’s cottage. Built in 1755 it’s technically the oldest European building in Australia, but that’s only because it was brought over brick-by-brick from England in 1934. It’s also highly doubtful that Captain Cook ever lived there because by the time his parents built it, he had embarked on his maritime career. I suppose that “dropping in to see the folks” counts. Still, with Ola Cohn’s fairy tree and the reproduction village nearby,  its a little bit of ye olde England in the middle of Fitzroy Gardens.

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Speaking of out and about, I was interested in a public health warning in the Age on Thursday about two people who have been diagnosed with measles. It listed the public places that they had visited between 20th and 25th September when they were most contagious.  It makes interesting, if somewhat voyeuristic reading.

The places visited by the patients while they were infectious in the past week include:

  • North Richmond, Southern Cross, Murrumbeena and South Yarra train stations on September 20. Wholesale Pharmacy in Balaclava and Virgin Active Gym on Collins Street, on the same day;
  • North Richmond and Southern Cross stations on September 21 and 22;
  • Wholesale Pharmacy Balaclava and Virgin Active Gym on September 22;
  • Church Street, Victoria Street, Punt Road, Swan Street and The Posty Bar in Richmond on September 23;
  • The MCG in section Q13 during the preliminary final between Richmond and GWS;
  • The Carnegie area on September 24 and 25.

Trains, pharmacies, gyms, shops, bar and the MCG….an interesting list.  No workplace, cinema, church. What would my list of places over a week look like? Ever the historian, I wondered how the list would vary 100 years ago, or back in Judge Willis’ time.

Anyway, that was yesterday and today’s Grand Final Day. My son’s a Richmond supporter and he’s never seen them win a final. In Richmond’s last grand final in 1982, Rolf Harris provided the entertainment and there was a streaker: two things you certainly won’t see today.  Still, as a St Kilda supporter, my sympathy for Richmond’s “finals drought” is circumscribed, given that I remember their dominance back in the ’70s. But, for my son and because I still shudder at the Adelaide song after they demolished St Kilda back in the 1997 Grand Final- Go Tiges!!!

Report: ‘Why do we need social mix?’

 

 

Newspapers often use an academic or commissioned report as the basis of an article. I often think “I wonder if that report is available?” but then forget to follow it up. However, today I’m making a mid-year resolution to do so more often – a resolution that will no doubt suffer the same fate as the rest of my resolutions.

Since the horrific Grenfell fire, I find myself looking at brightly-coloured high-rise towers differently. Here in Heidelberg, a gigantic glowing copper high-rise is materializing on top of one of the highest landmarks in Melbourne, while there are plans for a high-rise on stilts to front the entrance into Ivanhoe. These are for the private market. Meanwhile  this morning, the Age published an article pertaining to the State Government’s plans to redevelop former public housing walk-ups with a mixture of public/private housing with higher density. According to the government, there will be no loss in the number of public housing units, and the public-housing residents will benefit from the influx of private buyers “to foster an integrated community”.

In the end, however, there’s no getting away from the fact that land for public housing is being turned over to developers for private profit.   Several public housing estates are in very enviable positions, close to all facilities and public transport, and in the case of Williamstown and Fairfield, with desirable outlooks. Once it’s in private hands, there’s no getting it back.

 

A report by  Abdullahi Jama and Kate Shaw cited here examines the Carlton redevelopment which is being lauded by the government as a good example of public/private redevelopment.  Jama previously lived  at the Carlton estate, while Kate Shaw is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow in Urban Geography and Planning at the University of Melbourne.  They report that instead of a ‘salt-and-pepper’ distribution of public and private residents, the estate has separate public and private blocks, each with their own entrances, and few shared spaces.  The locked courtyard garden is for the use of the private occupiers only, and there is no mingling in the two cafes in the estate. This wasn’t the stated outcome when the redevelopment was first announced but, arguing that after the GFC it would be impossible to sell the private units, the idea of a ‘social mix’ has been put onto the backburner.  Meanwhile, private developers and owners have been able to grab prime real estate for themselves, without having to worry about ‘those’ people who are corralled in ‘their’ part of the estate.

Moreover, they question whether ‘social mix’ policies replace the social capital they displace.

Their conclusion?

A diversity of housing types must include diverse sources of funding, with a range of support programs. Involving future residents in design and ensuring they know what they’re moving into, and enabling people to organise their own housing, are far more effective ways of building social harmony than enforcing a rigid notion of mix.

 

Redmond Barry’s house in East Melbourne

There’s a couple of derelict mansions in Clarendon Street. When I first read about the neglect of Valetta, I thought that it was the increasingly ramshackle mansion down near Alexandra Pde that I had assumed that belonged to the Pullman Hotel (ex-Hilton Hotel). Valetta, however, is at the other end of Clarendon Street, near Victoria Pde, up near Epworth/Freemasons Hospital.  The adjacent Clarendon House shows how beautiful it could be, and you can see the boarded up Valetta to the right of the picture.

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http://www.domain.com.au/news/fears-east-melbourne-mansion-valetta-house-may-become-case-of-demolition-by-neglect-20170116-gts4m4/

Valetta was the residence of Redmond Barry, who plays a rather prominent part in this blog (here and here) and in multiple places in the ‘This Week in Port Phillip’ postings. Or rather, he lived there for one year before he died.

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Valetta can be seen here, with Clarendon Terrace to the left.

Source: State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/296603

It will be interesting to see if this new Heritage Act has teeth in terms of forcing the owner to act. I’m not holding my breath.

The City That Knows How to Eat

Makes me proud to be a Melburnian.  Although strictly speaking it’s ‘smashed avo’, not avocado toast.

http://www.eater.com/2016/12/19/13986438/melbourne-restaurants-avocado-toast

Exhibition: The Jesus Trolley

If you nip into Central Melbourne for some Christmas shopping, stop off at the City Gallery that nestles into a corner of the Melbourne Town Hall on Swanston Street.  ‘The Jesus Trolley’ exhibition has been on since 8 September but with my habitual tardiness, I’m only writing about it now- and it closes on 24 December, most appropriately.

I see from today’s paper there have been a number of ‘Jesus bikes’ left around Melbourne with evangelical slogans on them.

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I thought instantly of the Jesus Trolley exhibition. The exhibition features Desmond Hynes who, for thirty years since 1983, pushed a decorated shopping trolley around the streets of central Melbourne and stood in his ‘Jesus is Lord’ windcheater, holding aloft a hand-painted sign proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection.  It was a full-time job for this self-appointed street evangelist, who lived with his sister in a rented property in Hotham Street Elsternwick, immediately opposite Ripponlea which, until sold and demolished, was similarly festooned with posters and exhortations (see photo here). All his preaching paraphernalia was headed for  the tip until a neighbour recognized it for the social history it is and salvaged some of it.  And here it is in the exhibition- a little cluster of shopping trolleys- and posters, photos showing the ephemeral nature of his eternity-oriented quest.

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There’s also a short 4 minute documentary about Desmond Hynes called ‘Doing’Time with Desmond Hynes’ filled by Russell McGilton in 1997 as part of the Race Around the World series. It’s also available here on YouTube:

But take advantage of seeing the exhibition while it’s still on.  There’s a beaut little book that you can pick up, with an excellent essay by Chris McAuliffe about street preaching more generally in Melbourne and photos of objects from the exhibit.

On until 24 December 2016 City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall.

The streets are alive…

…with the sound of cheeping, whining magpies. Ye Gods, who’d be a magpie parent? On and on the young ‘uns nag – “feed me, feed me”- constantly hanging round wanting food.

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I have so many questions! Are these magpies here the same ones I see in the next street? Are they the same ones who were hanging around last year? Will they dive bomb me? How smart are they anyway?

And here’s a fascinating little podcast to answer all those questions and more. It was on Radio National’s Offtrack program last week;  it’s called The Colourful Life of the Australian Magpie and you can access it here.

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Exhibitions: Pholiota and Strutt

Once again I find myself visiting and writing about exhibitions just as they’re metaphorically turning the lights off and getting ready to shut the door. Well, perhaps not quite, because both these exhibitions close on 23 October, but that certainly doesn’t leave long to catch them.

Pholiota Unlocked 7-23 October 2016, 9am-5pm. Dulux Gallery, ground floor, Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne. Entry is free.

I knew that there must be something up with Pholiota because I’d noticed so many hits on a posting I wrote back in 2013 about Walter and Marion Griffin which included photographs of the interior of Pholiota, which I was fortunate enough to view on an open day.

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Pholiota – you can just see the Knitlock brickwork

Pholiota (meaning ‘mushroom’) was constructed by Walter and Marion Griffin in Eaglemont, beside the Lippincott House which Griffin also designed for his brother-in-law. Knowing that its miniscule size (6.4 metres by 6.4 metres) would preclude it receiving building approval, they claimed that it was only a doll’s house for the Lippincott House next door.  They lived there between 1920 and 1925 very happily: so happily in fact that Marion claimed that they sometimes walked backwards on the way to Eaglemont station so that they could admire it from afar.

The original house is, in effect, a single room with sleeping alcoves, a too-small kitchen and a largish dressing room surrounding the dining room with its open fireplace.

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The large table in the centre of the room; very small kitchen in the middle rear

Students from the Melbourne University School of Design have built a life-sized model of Pholiota from  plaster blocks fabricated using modern materials manufactured using the Knitlock system invented by Griffin as an inexpensive, do-it-yourself form of building.

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The walls only reach about eight feet high and there is no roof, so you feel as if you are looking down on the model.  Even though it was empty and completely white,  it seemed smaller than I remembered the real Pholiota to be. You can don virtual-reality glasses to look at a student’s design for updating Pholiota to current taste.

In an adjacent gallery students have reimagined the Glenard Estate which was laid out by Griffin in 1916.  Charged with making it a medium-density suburb while maintaining Griffin’s vision of shared green space, the students have designed streetscapes with multiple dwellings, the same size as Pholiota and each with 2 bedroom spaces, more than doubling the density of the suburb.  I’m sure that the good people of Glenard Estate are horrified.

There’s a good article about Pholiota here

Heroes and villains: Strutt’s Australia State Library of Victoria 14 July-23 Oct 2016, entry free.

Despite the rain, we caught a tram down Swanston Street to the State Library of Victoria to catch the last days of ‘Strutt’s Australia’, an exhibition previously on show at the National Library featuring works by the painter William Strutt.

Have a look here and you’ll see that you probably recognize many of his paintings without necessarily realizing that he had painted them.  Burke and Wills; bushrangers; the Black Thursday bushfires: he’s a veritable one-man-band of Australian imagery- or perhaps rather, he helped create it.

Born in England, he began drawing at  the Paris atelier of Michel-Martin Drolling in 1838 (just 13!) where he was trained in figure drawing leading to the painting of large history paintings.  He lived in Australia between 1850 where he painted portraits of John Fawkner (Judge Willis’ most vocal supporter), members of the Native Police Force and Robert O’Hara Burke (of Burke and Wills fame) He travelled to the goldfields where he made sketches of the diggers at work and  made sketches in preparation for making big-history paintings of the opening of the Victorian Legislative Council in 1851 and Parliament House in 1856.  Many of his scrap books furnished small sketches which he later incorporated into his pictures. He returned to England in 1862 where he painted ‘popular’ pictures to keep body and soul together, as well as the big historical paintings of Australian events that we know so well e.g. Black Thursday and the burial of Burke (which of course he never witnessed).

There’s an interesting interactive display where you can click on the figures in his Bushrangers picture and see the original sketches that he had done in preparation for this larger picture. I was surprised by the variation in quality of the works on display: his nude figures as a 13 year old are very good and the details in his big history paintings are vivid and well-realized but to be honest, some of his portraits are pretty ordinary.

Spotted in Melbourne 16 October 2016

In a laneway near the Queen Vic market yesterday….