From Eric Bogle to Ziggy Ramo: the Australian music challenging the Anzac legacy

Ziggy Ramo, Photo: Emma Pegrum

Originally published in The Guardian, April 2021

Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda sits among Australia’s best-known pieces of wartime songwriting. Occasionally mistaken for a traditional standard, this Banjo Jackson-interpolating folk song has been covered by everyone from the Pogues to Joan Baez in the 50 years since its composition.

“I wrote the song in 71 after I’d seen my first Anzac Day parade – I’d never seen one before of course,” the Scottish-born Bogle tells the Guardian. “The Vietnam war was still going on, Australian boys were still dying across there, [but] it was hard to know that because the war had been relegated to page six. It was old news. I thought the time was right for an anti-war song. I set the song in Gallipoli because it’s deeply embedded in the psyche of most Australians.”

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Revisiting Parklands: a bittersweet slice of 90s Adelaide noir

Cate Blanchett in Parklands, Photo: National Film and Sound Archive / Helen Bowden

Originally published in InReview, June 2021

Starring a young Cate Blanchett in her first film role, writer/director Kathryn Millard’s  1996 film Parklands remains a surprisingly evergreen – and very Adelaide – reflection on memory and place.

The film opens with sprinklers and birdsong, shots of a lush and manicured Botanic Gardens, and a ’90s model Holden idling by. It’s all very quiet and genteel – until the Commodore bursts into flames. Something, it seems, is rotten in the state of South Australia.

Blanchett’s Rosie enters by airplane a moment later, staring out the window as it makes its descent over a skyline still capped by the Santos building. She cuts a familiar figure: another 20-something who has fled Adelaide for Sydney, only to be drawn back by a death in the family – that of her father, a policeman. An uncomfortable conversation at the wake, followed by the discovery of his old journals, sets Rosie on a slow-burning investigation into the “secrets and shadows” of his life and death.

“Adelaide’s my hometown, I moved to Sydney while this film was in development and came back to make it,” Kathryn Millard says over the phone. “I have enormous affection for Adelaide – I think you can say things about your hometown that you wouldn’t let other people say.”

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Echoes of a golden age at the Piccadilly

Photo: Sia Duff

Originally published in The Adelaide Review, October 2020

North Adelaide’s Piccadilly Cinemas has lived through times of war, recession, home video and Netflix. It has now spent much of its 80th year closed or half-empty, but not even a pandemic can dim the magic.

“My father said there was no future in cinema,” Bob Parr tells The Adelaide Review. “Television had come, and he wanted me to get a trade. So I went to Holden’s and became a fitter and turner – but I still worked at the cinemas at night.”

One of those was the Piccadilly, where five years later a 20-year-old Parr quit his Holden job at the first sign of a full-time gig. It was 1964, a time when Parr and then-manager Clem Williams faced a “battle” to lure audiences back to suburban cinemas, which received the latest films eight weeks after city theatres.

Such slim patronage was a long way from the fanfare that greeted the Piccadilly when it opened on 23 October 1940, the “latest link” in an empire of suburban cinemas run by local theatre baron Dan Clifford. As Clifford’s 20th and penultimate cinema before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Piccadilly was built at the tail end of a boom era for suburban moviegoing, and promised a suite of mod cons making it “the most modern theatre in the Southern Hemisphere”.

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Parwana’s plated history: ‘It’s an act of reclamation, an act of preservation’

Farida, Zelmai and Durkhanai Ayubi. Photo: Sia Duff

Originally published in The Adelaide Review, October 2020

For just over a decade the Ayubi family has won hearts, minds and bellies at Parwana Afghan Kitchen. In a new book of stories and recipes, Durkhanai Ayubi shows how each dish is steeped in history, loss and preservation.

When you look at the arc of history, it’s so short-sighted, right?” Durkhanai says. “I just knew it was so important that if anybody was going to engage with Afghan food and our story, I wanted it to be from a place that was much deeper. It wasn’t just this superficial, ‘Aw, refugees come good’ story, but actually challenging myself and everyone who reads it to think about our place in the world today in a much broader context.”

Between her mother’s vividly photographed recipes, Durkhanai weaves together the broader story of their homeland – the longue durée of an oft-misunderstood ‘graveyard of empires’, that for centuries sat at the juncture of continents, trade routes and conquerors.

Durkhanai writes that the modern nation state of Afghanistan is simply the current label applied to “a bricolage of unlikely races and cultures, each with its own gods, languages and customs”. On such a scale, Parwana’s blend of dumplings, curries, rices and sweets becomes nothing less than centuries of history and exchange served up on a plate.

“Our histories are so intertwined, all this imperialism and this redirection of resources, occupation of peoples’ lands… that stuff’s still playing out and we haven’t reckoned with it in so many ways. I really needed to write everything from a place that factored it all in – and that’s not necessarily history, that’s alive. You can’t separate the past from the present.

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The last days of the family-owned fun parks

Greenhills Adventure Park, Photo: Sia Duff
Greenhills Adventure Park, Photo: Sia Duff

Originally published in The Saturday Paper, November 2016

It’s an overcast Friday morning on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula and Greenhills Adventure Park, one of the state’s last outdoor fun parks, is being quite literally carved up for sale.

Since opening its doors to the public in 1982, this once inconspicuous patch of rolling grassland has provided generations of children with peeling sunburn, countless rounds of mini-golf and that brief flood of endorphins as you head into the final dip of a waterslide.

But time has not been kind to Greenhills, or its business model.

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Road to repatriation

Repatriation ceremony at Tennyson Dunes, August 2018. Photo: Sia Duff

Originally published in The Adelaide Review, May 2019

As institutions around the world work to return Aboriginal ancestral remains to Country, more than 4600 Old People wait in storage at the South Australian Museum. A new Museum policy has committed to their repatriation, but to complete this massive task will require non-Indigenous South Australia to join the journey – and reckon with its own complicity.

“No one wanted to be accountable; once these burial grounds got dug up or our Old People were found, they’d quickly bring them to the Museum,” Kaurna Elder Jeffrey Newchurch explains.

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COVID-19 and years of neglect have created a perfect storm for the arts in Australia

Photo: Sia Duff

Originally published in The Adelaide Review, May 2020

COVID-19 has left Australia’s theatres, galleries and rehearsal rooms shuttered and its arts community reeling. But the unfortunately timed announcement of the Australia Council’s four-year funding cycle in April has shown just how this already underfunded sector is being pushed to the brink. 

It’s up there with one of the worst days of my life, I think,” Restless Dance Theatre artistic director Michelle Ryan explains. “We’ve really built our reputation, especially over the last three years, and we’re seen as a leader in disability and arts.” 

On 3 April, Restless Dance Theatre was among 160 organisations awaiting the results of the Australia Council’s 2021–2024 four-year funding program. While 95 organisations were successful nationwide, Restless was among those that failed to secure a stake in the $31.7 million pool

For Ryan, the “heart-wrenching” news was made more bewildering by the Australia Council’s celebration of her work in March. “I was just a bit blindsided because three weeks earlier I had been given the Australia Council Award for Dance,” she says. “For me, it was sending quite mixed messages – I was shocked. We’ve won a bunch of awards, I seriously don’t know what more we could have done. 

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The golden hands of Olivia Kathigitis

Photo: Sia Duff

Originally published in The Adelaide Review, January 2019

From a backyard shed in Goodwood to a secluded arctic island, artist turned jeweller Olivia Kathigitis is making it big by making things small.

“Essentially it’s just miniature sculpture,” Kathigitis says as she saws the outline of a small hand from a sheet of recycled silver.

An accomplished visual artist whose work has been exhibited at Fontanelle, CACSA and FELTspace, Kathigitis’ turn as a jeweller was at first an unexpected extension of her art practice.

“I couldn’t find any jewellery that I liked, that wasn’t too heavy to wear,” she explains. “So I just started making it with the skills I learned from university. From word of mouth it just became a viable stream for me.”

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Studio Mignone’s backyard world of family, colour and concrete

Aldo Mignone and Isabella Wood of Studio Mignone. Photo: Sia Duff
Aldo Mignone and Isabella Wood of Studio Mignone. Photo: Sia Duff

Originally published in The Adelaide Review, August 2019

As their sculptural furniture start up celebrates its first birthday, Studio Mignone’s Isabella Wood and Aldo Mignone invite us into their lemon tree-lined world of family, collaboration and very colourful concrete.

“It’s all like a village,” Mignone explains as he emerges from a shed set a few houses back from The Parade. Norwood and Kensington were once peppered with market gardens, workshops and fruit tree-filled backyards tended to by generations of Italian and Greek families. Many have been gradually replaced by townhouses or units, but this cluster of workers’ cottages, sheds and abundant citrus fruit has been the heart of Mignone’s family since his grandfather, Aldo Sr., purchased the main house in the 1950s.

“I remember coming here with Nonno as a little kid, because they looked after us like second parents,” he recalls. “We spent a lot of time here, old Holdens everywhere, so it’s nice to come back here and start our own business in the same place.”

Mignone left the family village in his mid-20s to pursue acting in Sydney, having made his screen debut in locally-made, SBS-backed cult hit Danger 5. He found his way to a starring role in a Channel 7 period drama, but it was meeting Wood that proved most formative.

Living in a “gorgeous” 1920s apartment building in Potts Point, the pair discovered a shared love of terrazzo and design that laid the foundation for their current collaboration. “Then we went to Italy which sparked our love for terrazzo and Italy and Al’s family heritage,” Wood explains.  “When Bels was pregnant with Valentina we started thinking about design, and drawing things inspired by our building – not really hip to the idea of how much [terrazzo] was taking over in the design scene,” Mignone says.

The subsequent birth of the pair’s daughter saw them relocate to Adelaide to reconnect to Mignone’s family traditions – and start their own. “That’s when we decided to just give this a shot making some shit, and just started doing it. We both decided we were at points where we wanted to do our own thing, to see what happens while we have the space, and the family village really provided the right kind of space.”

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Revisiting ‘An Oasis In A Desert Of Noise’

Greasy Pop, An Oasis in a Desert of Noise. Photo: Courtesy of Tim Kelton
Photo: Tim Kelton

Originally published in The Adelaide Review, September 2016

For many music fans and former players, Adelaide in the ‘80s can be summarised by two words: Greasy Pop.

It’s a term that evokes a time when vinyl wasn’t the domain of de rigueur revivalism but a thing of necessity, the State Bank collapse had yet to quash the nauseating corporate optimism of the ‘80s and the band rooms of the Tivoli and Austral had yet to be extinguished by residential developments.

In other words, perfect conditions for a fertile, unapologetic wave of South Australian bands creating their own industry from scratch.

At the centre of it all was music store clerk and guitarist Doug Thomas, whose decision to fund the pressing of his own band’s first single led to a decade running one of Adelaide’s best-known record labels.

Thirty years ago Greasy Pop Records issued what has become its most seminal release, and an intriguing time capsule of Adelaide’s 80s underground: An Oasis In A Desert Of Noise.

“It still seemed like any artists serious about success had to move to the music industry centres of Sydney or Melbourne – most local independent releases seemed to be one-offs by the band themselves,” Thomas recalls from his current home in Perth. Despite a healthy independent scene in the 1970s, by the next decade the absence of labels left Thomas fielding requests from other local bands to release their records too.

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