Stories from inside life’s big top.

Scenes from real life: Cuttings

Posted on February 8, 2023

Cuttings is a dynamic new play that grew out COVID and the beating red desert heart of Mparntwe/Alice Springs. It’s about to have its South Australian premiere at the 2023 Adelaide Fringe Festival.


In 2020, long-time Alice resident, novelist Jo Dutton (From Alice With Love), received a Creative Fellowship from Arts NT. She had a lot going on that year. Diagnosed with degenerative neurological condition Parkinson’s eight years earlier, she’d recently had brain surgery, travelling to and from Adelaide for treatment and recovery. Keen to discover new opportunities for her writing in lived, collaborative settings, Jo turned her hand from prose to play writing, and books to theatre.


A mother of daughters, Jo had watched the rise of the #MeToo movement with a growing sense of interest – and alarm. She was dismayed at how things really hadn’t changed since she was a young woman navigating the tricky waters of sex, sexuality and ‘the patriarchy’ back in the 70s, a system she has long felt fails women so profoundly – and truth be told, men too.

Cuttings still: Fiona Walsh

Jo wanted to say something beyond the white noise – something that would stick, include a multitude of voices, and importantly, voices missing from the conversation. She wanted to say the things we all know and don’t speak out loud. Vignettes of lived experience. “Cuttings” from daily life.


Jo also wanted to provide an opportunity to engage local creatives, adrift in a local arts scene that had gone from super vibrant to uncharacteristically quiet, thanks to COVID. So she began developing and writing Cuttings with one of the best in the business, Maude Davey OAM.


One of Australia’s most acclaimed and recognisable actors – and directors – of stage and screen, Maude brought her indefatigable talent and energy to Cuttings as dramaturg. For Jo – known mostly for writing books and short stories – what followed was a theatre “intensive”. With Maude as her dedicated ‘support crew’, Jo dove deep into the ocean of playwriting, carefully crafting her words for the theatre space.


A key moment in the process came after actor, singer, comedian – and First Peoples Organiser for the MEAA – Elaine Crombie (Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara) threw down a national “provocation” to the Australian arts and theatre community that went along the lines of: ‘if you’re going to make work on Country, include the voices of  Traditional Owners’. Jo and Maude listened and took it on. Jo invited Arrernte woman, friend and powerhouse performer Jody Kopp on-board as co-writer, to bring local Arrernte stories and Indigenous perspectives into the voice of the play.


Several cast readings took place in Mparntwe/Alice Springs across 2020, the process eventually spawning the current local cast: prodigious siblings, actor Mary O’Loughlin (Mystery Road, 2022) and musician Bert O’Loughlin (also the play’s music composer); Arrernte co-writer Jody Kopp; her daughter, singer and rising CAFL football star Armani Francois (then 16 in her first acting role), and first-time actors but long-time Mparntwe arts professionals, renowned artist Dan Murphy and passionate arts worker, Sophie Wallace.


The cuttings family in Mparntwe. Photo: Kali Waterford

Cuttings was first performed in full in August 2021 at Araluen Arts Centre during the NT Writers Festival, with Maude directing. Two days before she was due to fly, Melbourne went into lock-down. She wound up directing the production via Zoom, prompting cast member Dan Murphy to ask whether or not she was indeed real! In 2022 Cuttings was then invited to be part of Darwin Fringe Festival. This time Maude was able to direct in person with cast member Mary O’Loughlin as assistant director.


Travelling south, this year Cuttings makes its South Australian debut at the 2023 Adelaide Fringe. The cast remains the same with Mary O’Loughlin in the director’s chair with Maude Davey in support via Zoom interstate. The hope is visiting producers will invite Cuttings to other festivals.


Refreshingly – and importantly – Cuttings is a good news story out of Alice Springs, something much needed right now to square the ledger. Mparntwe is the beating red desert heart of Australia and Arrernte Country; it is an ancient and inspiring place with a deep, powerful energy.


This “giant” runs deep in the veins of co-writers Jo Dutton and Jody Kopp, as does the art of storytelling, as they explain to me in this powerful and heartfelt interview…

Friends & co-writers: Cuttings Jody Kopp (Arrernte) and Jo Dutton. Photo: Paul Wiles/CAAMA

Megan Spencer: Cuttings has a really interesting backstory. Jo, can you please take us back to the start of Cuttings, its inception – and what inspired it?


Jo Dutton: In 2020 I’d just had brain surgery for my Parkinson’s, and I’d come back to Alice Springs, and it was COVID time. And the NT had shut out anyone who wasn’t from the NT. So there’s all these people drifting around town who returned, especially young people who came back from university to have a bit more freedom in Alice Springs, but they also had very little to do.


I’d already started writing the play as part of an Arts NT Fellowship Grant I had, with Maude Davey the dramaturg. And I thought, “Well, there’s not much happening in town. I might try and get a group of people together to act out the play and just see how it sounds.


So we started with about probably 15 of us in the beginning. And we had lots more voices. And we just worked it out from there. We had young people like Mary O’Loughlin, and Bert O’Loughlin. One was studying Music and one was studying Drama. We had other people who were just interested in theatre, and we had Jody who had I’d asked before we got to this point, actually.


I went and talked to Jody because I felt that the play was just too ‘white’. The experiences in it weren’t very diverse. I am what I am, so I can’t write other people’s experiences, you know?


So I went to Jody, and showed her what I was writing. And she’s just like,” I’m in!” From that point on, we worked with a big group of people. And we slowly whittled it down to six of us. So that was the development process.

L-R: Cuttings cast members Armani Francois, Dan Murphy & Mary O’Loughlin. Pics: Supplied & Gen O’Loughlin

Megan Spencer: It sounds like it was very much a project that grew out of the community and from you actually being in Mparntwe – in that [particular] place?


Jo Dutton: Yes, it did. It started because I’d written another small play called A Family Portrait. And the themes in it were what I wanted to explore in Cuttings, but I hadn’t gotten around to exploring those scenes..


So it was very much an active development process wasn’t Jody?


Jody Kopp: Yes, it definitely was. When we first started developing Cuttings, that transition was really gradual, and it wasn’t rushed. It was a process where Jo knew what she wanted to portray in the play. We also knew that we needed a cultural element, because Mparntwe is made up of so many different cultures, but also, so many stories come from our Country.


It was really beautiful the way that Jo had written it, because if you’re sitting in the audience and you’re watching the play, people can relate to it. And people can say, “Oh, my gosh, I was like that”. “Oh, wow! I can’t believe that concept can be delivered on stage”, so that we can understand the power of some of the things that we discuss… Which are really powerful and really gut wrenching and sometimes hard for people to sit through.


We do have a [content] warning, which is really important. And we knew that we needed to do that. But it’s real! Like Cuttings is about real situations, real life and women walking in this society – but not just that! Women walking on Country too, and living and breathing on unceded Arrernte Country..


Megan Spencer: So Jo, how do you describe Cuttings?


Jo Dutton: I think Cuttings is a series of vignettes, which are carefully stitched together, which shows the way it is for all those things that we all know about how women are treated.


I suppose on a personal level I was motivated by the fact that I’ve got three daughters, and every single one of them has suffered a sexual assault. Now that’s a pretty high stat, if you ask me? And I was so angry about that. But I didn’t think being angry and having a kind of a ‘table something’ view would help anyone listen to it. So that was the kind of my driving force in the beginning – to try tell a story that we all know. And there’s also the issue of how that affects women who try and call it out as an abuse.


So, I was inspired by anger. And then I was tempered by the idea that if I was going to pull this off, we needed to have community voice in it and work together. That you “catch more flies with honey”, you know? Like it needed to be light enough for people to take on.


It’s not just about sexual assault. But those bits that are hard in the play, the bits that are gut wrenching – around birthing and around sexual assault – they needed to be handled in a way that was measured. And I think that’s one of the things where Jody and Armani – her daughter who’s a member of the cast – were really helpful. To show me how to be funny. Because I can tend to be a bit ‘serious’ and ‘cranky’! Laughing is really important.

Rehearsing: L-R Jody Kopp, Sophie Wallace, Armani Francois, Bert O’Loughlin, Mary O’Loughlin. . Pic: Supplied

Megan Spencer: And Jody, how you might describe Cuttings as its co-writer? And what did you want to say through it, and to bring to it?


Jody Kopp: I think always in the forefront of my mind when developing and writing and producing something on a scale that… We knew that we wanted [it] to travel? You know, it wasn’t targeted just at Mparntwe? We went to Larrakia Country [with it, to Darwin Fringe 2022], and now we’re going to the Fringe in Adelaide.


In my mind, I know that my cultural safety when I’m writing – particularly about my people, and experiences – even though they’re my experiences, I still need to have respect when I tell stories about my culture. So first of all, that was always in the back of my mind.


But then reading the script, I knew I had to blend it… having a complementary cast that worked and blended together. Because if you don’t have the proper cast, that can work and bounce off people and each other, it’s not going to work. So that was in the back of my mind, initially thinking, “Who are we going to get? Who are going to be our people? Who are going to pull this off with us?” So you’ve got the writing aspect, but you’ve also got the acting aspect.


You know, I’ve been in theatre for a long time and done some really great plays, but this one was different. It was an opportunity for women to stand up. You know, for young women, for… older middle class women, to stand up and say, “We’re going to start telling our own truth-telling. And we’re going to start telling you what like we don’t like. And what we’re not going to put up with, and we’re not going to tolerate it anymore”.


So through Cuttings we were able to deliver that, but in a sensitive, nice, light kind of way. But there are elements in our play that will rip your heart out. And that will make you understand and make you be aware that it’s okay to talk about it [such difficult things]. And it’s okay to hurt. And you know what, you’re not the only one sitting with that sadness and that fear of [the] elements in that play, you know? We talk about a lot of things that people can relate to. And I think that’s why Cuttings is so successful.

Cuttings playwright Jo Dutton. Pic: supplied

Megan Spencer: I think one of the interesting things of the play, too, is that there are men in it. And it’s quite an honest depiction of them grappling with all of the flux and change that’s going on now around so called ‘identity politics’. Could you both speak to the idea of the male roles in the play and the male conversations in the play as well?


Jo Dutton: Well, I didn’t want to exclude men and I didn’t want men to get angry. And I’ve had quite a lot of men come up to me after the play and say, “I really didn’t expect that! My wife or my girlfriend brought me along and I was sort of dreading it! But I was really surprised, because I laughed, and I thought it was funny. And then I realised one of the things I was laughing at was myself.”


The thing that I also think that Cuttings does very well is it it says to men very clearly: “You are the oppressors, you are the patriarchy. So you have to change”. And women can bang on and shout and laugh… and try to amuse and use all sorts of tactics to get men to change. But what men have to recognise, first of all, is they are the oppressors. They are the top of the heap in wider society. And so they have to start shifting. And if they don’t shift, nothing’s going to change.


I’m 60 this year, and I am just so horrified how little has changed for women out on the streets. It’s just as bad as when I was young. Some of it’s worse because women also have to put up with a whole lot of cyber-bullying now, which is a new thing. At least when I was young, you could go home and cry in your room and get left alone.


But yeah, I think for me, the idea was that men have to be in the play because men hold the power and men have to shift. And we can’t just push people over. It doesn’t work, they just want to get up and fight you. You just have to gently move them around. And I think that’s what we do pretty well in Cuttings.

In the heart of Arrernte Country… Cuttings cast with Jo and Jody in Mparntwe. Photo: Kali Waterford

Megan Spencer: Jody, what was it like for you to be in the play, as well as to be a co-writer? Because there’s one scene in particular, which is extraordinarily powerful [Jody’s character stands up for an elder, “Nana”, who’s racially abused by a security guard at a supermarket]. What is it like for you to actually enact those words and inhabit those characters across the play?


Jody Kopp: You know, there’s always an angry black woman in all of us! But that doesn’t define who Aboriginal women are. But, I am one that will not stand and tolerate disrespect on my Country – as I write in the play – or disrespect of my elders.


Performing [Cuttings], it’s full on… It’s very physically draining, it’s very mentally draining. But … I need for them [the audience] to see that anger. I need for them to understand that anger. I know that people get shocked.


So that’s a real life event… Nana was disrespected, but I also felt like, “How dare you?” I felt disrespected. And in turn, “How dare you think that you can do this to my community on my Country?” And, “You’re a visitor here, mate!” You know? So when I perform it, it does take a lot from me. So it’s really good that I don’t really have anything after it for me to be able to regroup and continue on in the play.


So when I perform that scene, [my daughter] Armani is normally my gauge. And she’ll say, “Mum, you smashed that? Well done, darling”. And I say. “Thank you, Cherie!” But even then, you know in yourself… Like when that audience is looking at you and you’re giving it all you’ve got…  You want them to know that story. You want them to know that message. You want them to remember a time that they’ve seen someone do that to one of First Nations people. You want them to understand that, you know?


Backstage selfie: Armani & Jody.

It’s also really enlightening. And it’s really empowering. And it’s really forceful. And that’s what I love about that scene.


Megan Spencer: Yeah, it’s incredibly powerful. And so is your daughter  Armani who’s 17. She’s a powerful performer in Cuttings as well.


Jody Kopp: There’s a part of the play that Armani is in… when we have young people… going through adolescence. There’s a scene that portrays how love actually isn’t. And that young people don’t actually have to put up with certain behaviours when in relationships.


And I think that part in the play also – the train scene – where there’s this conflict going on between a boyfriend and a girlfriend, it shows that society isn’t going to tolerate that kind of behaviour?


Even if young people – because they’re learning about love – they’re going through adolescence, and they think that being treated horribly and [with] jealousy, and all of those things are ‘love’, when in actual fact it’s not! And, society isn’t going to tolerate that anymore. People are going to stand up. That aspect of the play appeals to our younger audience. So that they know we know that this happens!


The genius of Maude Davey. Pic: Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2019.

Megan Spencer: Thank you. Jo, you mentioned Maude Davey before; you started working with her early on. What was it like having her involved?


Jo Dutton: Oh, it was terrific! We had Maudie involved from 2019. She was the dramaturg on this play that became Cuttings. And luckily for me, COVID came along in 2020, which meant the Maude-  who lives in Melbourne – had no work! So what was a real bummer for her was a real bonus for us! Because she was available.


And Maude is a very well-known theatre director, actor and dramaturg. And she’s got a big reputation in Adelaide. And back in the day, she used to also be the artistic director of [contemporary arts centre] Vitalstatistix, which is an Adelaide company.


Maude was insanely good at seeing what I couldn’t see in the script. And she was incredible in the way that she brought humour into what I thought were kind of ‘heavy, straightforward’ themes. So she was just brilliant! We couldn’t have made Cuttings without Maude. And as a director, she drew things out of people that they didn’t expect could come [out of them as actors]. So she was fantastic.


Megan Spencer: So this play has got legs – it’s travelling around – and it seems pretty pertinent to what’s going on right now in so many different ways. How do you think it intersects with what’s going on at the moment, Jo?


Jo Dutton: Well, I think it intersects with the #MeToo movement. In the process of creating the play – and also within the play – it promotes the themes of unity, the themes of strength, the themes of endurance, especially by women – First Nations or not – are very clear.


And I think that at the moment, coming from Mparntwe/Alice Springs… Alice Springs is in the press for all the wrong reasons. Even if people perhaps are not interested in a play that comes from a woman’s perspective, they should come along to this play,  just to support Alice Springs – just to support the community. To say, “Yes, good things come out of this community!” Creations are made, cross-cultural relations are built on regularly, every day [here], in different ways.


And that we’re a creative community! We’re used to feeding ourselves, because it’s not like there’s a lot of external things – creative things – to feed us. So I think that the play is particularly pertinent at the moment to those issues.


And for the audience and the good people of Adelaide and elsewhere ‘to put their money where their mouth is’ and support our town and support the creativity that does exist here and the cross-cultural collaborations that are made here, ][that’s] very important.


Megan Spencer: Thank you. Yeah – Alice Springs is in the news at the moment… It is pertinent. And I was going to just ask you both: what would you like people to know about Mparntwe, about being part of that community and what you love about it? What do you want them to know, especially in this moment, when it’s in the media?


Jody Kopp: Megan, just go back and talk about some of the issues that are important to First Nations people that we portray in the play… We talk about Black Lives mattering and that they matter. We talk about how inspiration comes from Country and that our culture is still practiced and still alive. No matter whether we have language, no matter whether we are black as the ace of spades… Our people come in all shapes and all sizes and all colours.


But we still are resilient, and we still, on Country, practice what is our birthright.


So [in Cuttings] we talk about Black Lives mattering. We talk about young people – not Indigenous [young] people, but ALL young people – because they’re our next generation.


We also talk a lot about spirituality – spirituality as Indigenous people. Everything for us comes from the land. But in order to portray, you know, what we believe on the stage, it’s really important – but it’s also a really big skill.


And the way that we portray it through poetry, through music and through theatre, particularly when it comes to First Nations people, I hope that they can see and understand that Alice Springs isn’t the place that is being portrayed on the media, in the media, all over Australia, all over the world.


This land is sacred land. And through the elements of culture that we talk about in the play, that we’re wanting to portray – is that breakdown of society, is that breakdown of people’s perception of who we are as First Nations people. Don’t paint us with the same brush! Because we are many and we are varied. And we are compassionate. And we’re very, very cultured and spiritual people.


Don’t continue to insult us because once – particularly the Arrernte giant – because the focus is on Alice Springs… Once the Arrernte giant is woken up, watch out! Because we know the answers and the solutions to our issues that happen in this community.


Cuttings allows us to portray that in our own way, but in a way for the audience and the non-Indigenous community to be able to understand that pride, that love, that connection, that makes us strong First Nations people. Yeah.

Cuttings curtain call, 2022 Darwin Fringe. Pic_Supplied

Megan Spencer: Thanks so much, Jody. I’ve got goosebumps listening to you both! So, finally, what are you hoping that people take away with them when they see and listen to this play – on Kaurna land here in Adelaide for the 2023 Fringe? What are you hoping people take away with them?


And also, do you have any responses from the audience that come to mind from your previous outings of it that you could share?


Jo Dutton: We’re trying to get people to look at things just a little differently, just to shift their view a bit. I mean, we don’t have ‘characters’ as such in the play, we have voices, and people change voices. And that is a really important aspect to the way the play is structured.


People have to try and follow the themes, it demands participation.


So I would hope that a lot of people do participate in the play – [that they] don’t just sit back and expect to be ‘delivered to’.


I also think that the really important thing [is] we would like to see the play live on in some shape or form, which is why we’re prepared to lose a lot of money coming to Adelaide for the Fringe Festival! We were lucky enough to get Fringe Seed Funding, but it costs a lot of money to go anywhere from Alice Springs.


We’re prepared to give this a shot, so that people understand that we are a vibrant and creative community, and that they have a responsibility to support us as a vibrant creative community? Not to see Alice Springs and the people in as ‘victims’, as ‘poor buggers’ with ‘no culture’, or ‘poor buggers with so much violence’.


I would like people to take away from the play the fact that Alice Springs IS – I mean, I wouldn’t have stayed here for 34 years if it wasn’t – an exciting place to be. And what is most exciting about it, is you’re at the coalface. This land has never been ceded. And this land is not in a state of post-colonialism – this is pre-colonialism, really, if you want to think about things in terms of those sorts of paradigms.


And we’re fighting a fight creatively, to be seen and heard, as human beings first, and as people of different cultures, secondary.


Megan Spencer: Are you proud of this production and the people you’ve been working with? The cast your co-writer, Maude – all the people involved?


Jo Dutton: I’m absolutely amazed and thrilled. It’s been such a pleasure. And it’s coming up to two-and-a-bit years now that we’ve been working together.


And what I can’t believe is – my son said to me, because sometimes I get down with Parkinson’s – and my son who’s a big believer in positive talk, said, “Mum, just look at all those people that have been helping you for all this time, you know? Making and creating this play for free! Giving up their time because they also think it’s important.”


And I think that’s an incredible blessing that I’ve got, yeah.


And also they’re so funny! [Cuttings cast] They never do anything I say! If Jody tells the cast to do something, BOOM!, it happens! If I tell the cast to do something? Oh, no, there’s an argument. [Laughter]


Megan Spencer: And Jody, what about you? How do you feel about this play? And do you feel like it should continue? Would you like it to tour around the country as well?


Jody Kopp: Touring is always good. It can be hectic – all of us have our own schedules. It’s amazing our commitment for us to continue – two-and-a-half years! And we come sometimes from all over Australia to produce it on stage. I think it’s absolutely amazing.


I love any time with Jo. And she’s been my very good friend for a really, really long time. But she’s actually really funny too! Like, we’re not just funny, she’s pretty funny too!


I think the relationships that are formed throughout our time with Cuttings with the other cast members… but also the unity that a group of people can have, trying to tell a story? Trying to educate? But also believing in it’s so much, that you smash it every time you go on stage? That’s what makes me happy!


And why it makes me happy is because I know that when Jo wrote this, it was hard. But every time she sees it, that’s healing. Not just for her, not just for her daughters, but every other person that can relate to each and every scene that we have in our play.


And that’s what matters. And that’s what’s important.

Araluen rehearsals: Dan Murphy, Mary O’Loughlin, Bert O’Loughlin & Sophie Wallace. Photo: Supplied

Jo Dutton: I think that the aspect of community is really important… What it represents is community production, community involvement, community creativity. You know? I think it’s great that Cuttings starts with a “c”, because, Cuttings IS Culture, Cuttings IS Community.


Jody Kopp: I just want our tickets to sell! Because the more that we have bums on seats, the more we’re going to get that message out there. Each time we’re on stage, we ‘bring it’ people! So if you want to see something raw and real that everybody can relate to, come check us out!


Take a risk, you know? Take a risk…

Declaration: this is a paid post.

* * *

Cuttings plays at the 2023 Adelaide Fringe Festival

Wednesday 22 – Sunday 26 February, nightly at 9pm at Star Theatre 2, 145 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton, SA.

Book tickets here.

* * *

PLEASE NOTE: Cuttings is recommended for audiences 15 years and over. It contains strong sexual references, references to sexual abuse and strong language.


  • Thank you: to Jo Dutton and Jody Kopp for the amazing interview!
  • Words/interview edit: Megan Spencer
  • Cover photo: Cuttings actors Mary O’Loughlin & Armani Francois. Photo: Charlie Lowson/STS Photography
  • Photos: supplied & credited above (thanks to the photographers!)
  • Like: Cuttings on Facebook
  • Book: tickets for Cuttings at Adelaide Fringe Festival 2023.
  • Watch: the Cuttings trailer.


Photo: Irvin Bubar

Firestarter: Katanga Junior

Posted on August 31, 2022

A powerful new voice arrives to set the Australian music scene on fire.


Tanzanian rapper, musician, singer and hip hop artist Katanga Junior has called Mparntwe (Alice Springs) home for only a year. Yet already he’s one of the hardest working musicians in town, igniting the stages of festivals and music venues alike.


Ferociously talented, his unique blend of rap, reggae and ragga sets dance floors ablaze. His first EP Moto (“fire” in Swahili) is due for national release on September 4, 2021.


“I called it Moto because there’s burning and fire in the lyrics,” reveals Katanga when I interview him from home, “with fire in the music and the cover art. Yeah, fire is definitely the vibe”.


Fifteen months in the making, six-track EP Moto was recorded at Mparntwe’s beloved Red House Recording Studio, produced by accomplished local musician and sound engineer Darcy Davis (aka D-Day) and mastered by Melbourne-based electronic pioneer, Monkey Marc, also no stranger to the red desert capital’s diverse music scene.

Moto artwork by Laura Morellon

Born and raised in Arusha in Tanzania, East Africa – “Hip Hop City” – Katanga (aka “Junior”) arrived in Mparntwe with his Australian wife Tara and two young children in January 2020. A week later the powerhouse performer caught the ear of local producer Darcy Davis.


“I met Junior at the jam sessions I was hosting every Tuesday night, pre-COVID”, says Darcy. “We had an instant affinity for reggae music, hip-hop and dancehall… We knew we had a chemistry that would translate to the studio”.


Growing up immersed in music – his uncle Gaby Katanga was one of Tanzania’s famous rumba artists – Katanga started drumming at 16 and playing professionally in bands soon after.  He also taught himself guitar, “on a little kids toy guitar”.


Singing and rapping in Swahili and ‘Swanglish’, Moto reveals the richness of his voice and accompanying music: beats, instrumentation, loops and styles.


Complex lyrics and distinctive flows” emblazon his style. “I really started finding my voice two-and-a-half years ago when I moved to Australia”, he says.”


Equal parts moving and fierce, Kwenye maisha (”in this life”) fires off the EP, a lushly-looped tale about the childhood disadvantage Katanga witnessed on the streets of his hometown.


Endelea (“keep going”) was written in an all-night studio jag. It’s an inspirational loop-driven homily that Katanga co-wrote with Darcy “to give hope to lots of my people”, and, to pay respect to his new home of Mparntwe/Alice Springs.


Mapenzi Business veers into cheeky, sexy reggae, a song about the sometime transactional nature of love.


Next is superbly mixed dancehall sortie Righty Tighty, a visceral invitation to open your body up to the beat of a song, showcasing Katanga’s vocal prowess.


Sure-fire dance hit, Bun Dem (“burn them”) follows, a muscular double-time ‘ragga’ track with a cautionary political lyric.


Harmonies and dubby keys abound in the final song, Tunasemano, a track with a strong political message about freedom of speech.


“Katanga’s voice is loud and powerful and people can’t help but be affected by the tone of his voice and message of his songs,” says Darcy. “His energy and presence is a force to be reckoned with”.

Katanga Junior. Photo: Irvin Bubar

A creative crowd ‘reader’, Katanga Junior has shared stages with some of Mparntwe’s most popular artists. Wide Open Space Festival 2020 saw him perform with West African drumming legend King Marong and local rappers Karnage N Darknis. (Katanga also lent his signature vocal depth to track Let Dem Know on the duo’s 2020 album, ‘My People’).


I feel like I’ve got so many ideas”, Katanga says about performing. “Sometimes when I go on stage, I try see to see what people didn’t get. [I ask], ‘What can I do for these people?’ I read the audience to see what can I give to them”.


With a finished hip hop album also in the wings (produced by award-winning Adelaide/Buffalo hip hop transplant Dan the Underdog), and another EP planned for his “chill” acoustic project Ndoto Tunes with  Dave Crowe, the release of Moto on September 4 is only the beginning for Katanga.


“This EP made me learn so many things and understand how music works in Australia,” he says.


“I don’t have any plan”, he grins, “I just go with the flow”. Which could mean guesting on Melbourne indie Hilda Green’s African-inspired indie pop song Kipepeo, just as it might pairing up with singer Kodivine for an “RnB Friday” at Epilogue.


Reflecting on living and working with his family and new community on Arrernte land, Katanga is super grateful for all of the support he’s received in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, and to be living in a town where music and culture is so front and centre.


“It’s a really big town – and a good town – for music and every art. It’s really amazing. You can’t find a place like this anywhere else in the world. To be here, it’s special. I pay my respects to the First Owners of the Country, and everyone.”


But there’s a lot more to Katanga Junior’s international music story… Read on.

Photo: Irvin Bubar

Megan Spencer: First of all Katanga, when and where were you born?


Katanga Junior: I was born in Tanzania in East Africa and grew up in between Moshi and Arusha, one of the tourist cities.


Arusha’s beautiful. All the safari companies are there. If you want to go to Serengeti or to the Ngorongoro Crater – or like Manyara [Lake] – that is the town to go to.


MS: And what’s it like to grow up there?


KJ: It’s really beautiful. There are mountains and green, and you see the Massai people everywhere. There are goats everywhere and life is beautiful there!


I’ve got five brothers and one sister. I’m in the middle. Some of them are in Arusha. My mother moved up to Kilimanjaro – Kilimanjaro where the highest mountain is – so I grew up in Kilimanjaro, then I ended up going back to Arusha after I started my music journey.


My big brother is in Zanzibar, one of the beautiful islands in East Africa. So he’s there also playing music. All my family are back there [in East Africa]. So I’m the only one who’s in Australia outside of the continent.


Moto cover art: Laura Morellon

MS: Was there a lot of music in your childhood?


KJ: Yeah, a lot of music, because one of my uncles – his name was Gaby Katanga, he died in 1999 – he was a famous drummer in Tanzania. He used to play African music – “rumba” music – which originated from the Congo but it’s all over Africa and East Africa. It’s a big thing.


He travelled all over. He used to play in small bands and bigger bands. We heard him on the radio playing drum kit. And when we were young, we grew up hearing him play music. He played in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and all the big cities.


And my big brother, the firstborn, he started to learn how to play the drum kit and everyone started to call him ‘Katanga’ after our uncle. And one time he asked me if I could try to play the drums [to fill in for him with his band]. It worked well for me, and from that day I start playing music and learning, and living with musicians.


And then I was then called ‘Katanga Junior’ – the name was passed down to me. And I kept practicing – I didn’t have a kit, so I had to practice on my legs! And [my brother] ended up leaving the band and left me there!


So I started learning reggae beats with other bands and playing more music. My family did a lot of music – my mother can sing a little bit. And my second brother is a good rapper too. So I [grew] up with music.


MS: So when did you start singing and rapping?


KJ: I started finding my voice two-and-a-half years ago when I moved to Australia.


I went along to the local ‘open mic’ night at the Herd Bar & Cafe in Healesville [Katanga and his family first moved to Healesville, Victoria in 2019]. And everyone was there playing their songs. So I said maybe I can try to practice one of the songs I used to sing – one of my friend’s songs – back home in Tanzania. So I started practicing a little bit.


I started learning guitar 8 years ago, after one of my wife’s friends came to visit us in Arusha. We went to buy this like shitty little kid’s guitar – a bright red Bugs Bunny guitar! So I knew couple of chords.


So I went to back to the open mic a second time. I put my name down on the board and said, “I’m gonna sing one of my friend’s songs I’ve never sung before. And this is going to be my first time to sing, because always I’ve play drum kit”.


So I sang that song and everyone liked it. I sang it in my language, Swahili. And, then I found out that everyone has to sing three songs! And I said, “I don’t have any other songs! That was my only song because I’m not a singer!” And that’s how I started singing.


The song was Sauti Yangu by one of my friends. I still perform that song today. Sauti yangu means “my voice”.


MS: That’s interesting – when you were finding your voice, you sang ‘My  oice’, the song.


KJ: [Laughs] Yeah!

Katanga Junior in Melbourne. Photo: Simo Salvagini

MS: And before that you had your own band?


Back home in Arusha before I moved to Australia, I had my own band – and I also played in others. We’d play in small venues and functions, and at tourist clubs and every Saturday night. And that’s even how I met my wife – I met my wife when I was playing with my other friends, every weekend. She was living there at that time, in 2012.


We decided to come to Australia, because I have two kids now. And the third is coming in October.

Photo: Irvin Bubar

MS: Oh wow, congratulations!


KJ: Yeah, for my children’s education and their future. Because if they grow up back there, it’s hard. Maybe they end up [working] in safari companies – it’s hard to see the future, you know? There’s not as many options as here.


MS: What was your work in Arusha?


KJ: I played music and I used to teach music a little bit at one of the private schools called St. Constantine.


MS: And when did you move to Mparntwe/Alice?


KJ: In 2020. My wife got offered a job here.


It was January, it was really hot. Like, boiling! She was here for one week [ahead of us] and the house [she found] didn’t have power then. So it was really, really hot.


And we arrived – I remember, I was on a plane and when we landed, as soon as I stepped outside of the plane, this heat was like, [makes an explosion sound] – whoah!! [Laughs]


MS: So, very different from what you know?


KJ: Arusha is very different, because it’s where the second [highest] mountain is. Arusha is more cold! I don’t even sweat in my town!


MS: You only sweat on stage?


KJ: [Laughing] Yeah, you sweat on stage! And when you come to Alice, you feel like, “Geez, I’m sweating now!” It’s really hot. It’s really different here. People say to me, “Oh, you must be used to the heat?” And I say, “What do you mean?!” Where I’m from it’s not that hot. It’s really cold and green and chill,” all that.


MS: So did you know that Mparntwe/Alice was a big music town before you moved there?


KJ: I didn’t know. Some people told me it’s a ‘reggae’ town. And I said, “Really?” And they said, “Yeah, they love reggae up north”.


But I didn’t know it’s a big music town. All my friends back in Healesville were laughing at me. They told me, “Junior, we know you’re gonna be sad there, don’t go because there’s no music there”. I said “I’m going!”


When I arrived I didn’t have a job. So I posted on Facebook to see if there were any jobs I could do. I went to this cafe and they were really busy. And when I rocked up they said, “We’ll take you!” Because there were [some other guys with] dreadlocks there – “Another Rastaman coming to work!” I said, “Yeah!” And they gave me the job said, “Start tomorrow!”


And I made a couple of friends and start talking to them, and they said there’s lots of music [here].


One friend took me to the open mic night at the Jump Inn and Darcy Davis was the host for the night. I jumped on stage and we kind of freestyled. And I played a couple of my songs on keys and Darcy played… And from that time I first arrived he asked me to go to the studio. So that’s after one week! And he also asked me to host the open mic the second week.


MS: Where are you working now?


KJ: I work at a middle school, tutoring. So I’m a Teachers Aide in the classroom, Year Nine level. I work with Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids.


I applied for the job: I knew I couldn’t just say “I’m good for this”… But when I connected the dots, I’d worked with [street] kids back in Tanzania. We used to teach them how to do some of the arts – like you’d make jewellery with them, or you’d help them to do things. I used to teach music to [them].


I [also] used to go to this medical centre and we’d play music for kids who had injuries [or they’d had] surgery. I used to go there and play music like as music therapist, a little bit.


They were all kids who were born with disabilities and doctors would come from all over the world to treat them. And while recovering we’d go play music for them, and it was a good thing.


So when I went for the interview and said those things… [That] I can understand kids a little bit. And when I applied for job and went for the interview with the principal, he asked me a couple questions. Then he told me, “You’ve got the job!”


MS: How do you like it?


KJ: I really love it. One time one of my [Australian] friends came to Tanzania, and he asked me, “What do you want to do when you come to Australia?” And I said, “I want to work with Indigenous people – Aboriginal people… I want to see the real Australia.” It was kind of my dream job.


And when he came to visit last year, he said, “How is your work now? You remember you told me you’d like to work with Aboriginal people? How do you feel now?” And I said, “It’s really amazing. Like, how [I] fit, connect, with these kids. And how I talk to them and the language they teach me, and how they talk to me.”

I [feel] more connected to them because I feel like we have the same stories.


MS: Who would you say are your influences? Like who are some of your major musical heroes or people who have really influenced the way you write, the way you rap and your music?


KJ: There are so many people! I used to listen to Lucky Dube and Bob Marley, and lots of African musicians too. I listen to lots of reggae and dancehall. I listen to any good music.


Photo: Irvin Bubar

MS: Tell me about the hip hop side, though?


KJ: So where I come from in Arusha, we call it “Hip Hop City”. It’s big there! And everyone – even if you’re not singing hip hop – you live in a hip hop way. When I went to Dar es Salaam [more of “pop” city], all the people knew I came from Arusha because we speak more ‘slang’…


We are gonna tell you reality. So that is the way of being hip hop.


When I listen to beats and everything, I have to make sure everything flows in the same way. And it does come naturally, in a way.


MS: So it sounds to me like ‘flow’ is a really big thing for your musical process?


KJ: Yeah. It is.


MS: So what does flow feel like for you? Can you describe when you get into that ‘zone’  onstage? You’ve got a lot of energy with you’re performing…


KJ: When I’m on stage I don’t think about anything. I think about the music and vibe of the people. I see the crowd and what they want… I go with the flow sometimes on stage – I try to go with that even in my life, which sometimes doesn’t work!


So when I come to the stage, I try to change something which will make everyone feel different.


I feel like I’ve got so many ideas. I do hip hop, I do reggae, I do traditional songs… When I play guitar I play some of my tribe’s songs – I play so many things. So that’s what I feel sometimes when I go on stage: I try see to see what people didn’t get. [Then I ask], what can I do for these people?


MS: Would you say that you are political in some of your music?


KJ: Some of my [songs] are, because I can’t keep quiet when some things happen.


Back home everyone loves to dance. The lyrics are sad but the beats are up. People are dancing but when they sit down and listen to the lyrics to understand it… We put the sad songs to the up beat.


MS: You mentioned earlier that you sometimes play some of your tribe’s songs. Would you like to say what tribe you’re from back home in Arusha?


KJ: I am Makonde tribe. We’re good at carving and dancing and playing Sindimba – drumming.


Makonde tribe originally comes from Mozambique and moved south of Tanzania. We moved up to Tanzania when they needed labour to work on sisal farms [a plant textile used for weaving bags], a long time ago. That is how my parents ended up in Kilimanjaro and Arusha.


My mum was born in a sisal farm a long time ago. It was grown and sold all over the world before they started making plastic bags.


Now she’s back on her own farm. She’s growing pineapple and oranges and cassava.


MS: Mparntwe/Alice Springs brings together a lot of different cultures. Obviously, there’s the First Nations culture, the first peoples. But there’s a lot of people who travel in and out too. And especially music brings people together.


So I was just wondering if you have anything to say about what you’ve discovered – what you’ve found there – in that community? Also yourself being a First Nations person from somewhere else, coming to live there?


KJ: Yeah, like the first thing is, you know, I pay my respects – I respect everyone, the First Owners of the country, I pay my respects to everyone. I like to work with Indigenous people; it’s not about coming here and taking over, it’s about sharing experience with them…


So it’s a good thing to respect the people and everyone, and to see what you can do and what you can’t do.


MS: Do you feel at home there?


KJ: I feel at home, yeah. I see Africans, I see Aboriginal people everywhere. So I don’t see myself different when I step out. I feel like I’m part of them. It’s not the same when I’m in Melbourne or when I’m Healesville [or somewhere] else.


When I go down to the shop, there are lot of us. But when I go somewhere else, I see the difference. Maybe I’m going to stand out myself, you know?


MS: Are you excited about the Moto EP release?


KJ: Yeah, I’m really excited because it’s been a long time. There’s been so many ups and downs, so many expectations… And now everything’s finished!


It’s hard; you don’t know anything [before] you come to Australia. [Then] someone tells you, “Hey, come to the studio and do this…” This EP made me learn so many things and understand how music works in Australia. And I’m happy with that!


It’s good to let it go – because if I have the music [recordings], I’d still be changing them.  I’m happy to finish it now because it’s been like 15 months.


MS: Finally Katanga, is there anything else you’d to say about your music –  that you’d like people to know?


KJ: I just want to say thank you to everyone who was involved in this EP: producer Darcy Davis, singer Nyapal Lul, guitarist Jackson Simon, Monkey Marc [mastering], the photographer Irvin Bubar and Laura Morellon for the cover art.


And to Alice Springs Town Council for the Musician Support Grant to produce the EP, to my wife and family…


And thank you to the peoples of Alice Springs. Everyone, you know? Yeah!


Many thanks to Katanga Junior for the interview!

Declaration: This is paid content.
This interview was originally published in August 2021 – it was republished due to unforseen/unfortunate technical issues with WordPress.

* * *


Katanga Junior launches his new EP Moto, 9pm, Saturday 4th September at Epilogue Lounge, 58 Todd Mall, Mparntwe/Alice Springs, NT.


  • Interview: Katanga Junior
  • Words/edit: Megan Spencer
  • Cover photo: Irvin Bubar
  • Photos: supplied & credited above.
  • Like: Katanga Junior on Facebook
  • Watch: Katanga’s videos on Youtube
  • Follow: Katanga Jr. on Instagram
  • Download/buy: Moto from Bandcamp. (On all streaming platforms on Sept 4).
  • Thanks: Darcy Davis for the quote.

Katanga Jr. at Wide Open Space Festival. Photo: Irvin Bubar

Cloud Sequence acknowledges the Arrernte people as the traditional and prevailing custodians of the lands on which their music is created and produced. Image by Saar Amptmeijer.

Sounds of Yearning: Cloud Sequence

Posted on August 14, 2020

I always jump at the chance to write about music. Sadly it’s been a while. Music writing is something I love to do, especially when it involves the work of Jez Conlon, a friend and artist I’ve written about previously here on Circus Folk.


Cloud Sequence heralds a new artistic collaboration for Jez, mostly known for their work and collaborations under the banner of Cooperblack. This is a a critical response to a new work by Cloud Sequence, and a paid post.

Forming in 2019, Cloud Sequence is Saar Amptmeijer from Utrecht, the Netherlands (an accomplished, highly progressive multi-modal artist), and  Jez Conlon (a talented musician, composer and sound producer) from Adelaide, South Australia.


Cloud Sequence: image by Saar Amptmeijer

Both live and work in Mparntwe/Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Often imbued with live improvisation and textural field recordings, their music is inspired and created on the epic desert lands of the Arrernte peoples whose sovereignty was never ceded.


They bring a unique set of aesthetics and influences to their work, which, in their words, “is inspired by a field recording, a synth bass, vast desert landscapes, sensitive queer politics, bilingual poetry and all other things”.


They also approach their music from “a fine arts background, which is prominent in their artistic choices and preferences, often ending up in dark and intense sonic landscapes”.


Cloud Sequence’s latest release, Heimwee/Verwee, is an extension of the breathtaking work they made earlier this year with 5-track EP, Rpt. Esc. Released in January, it heralded their debut recording, made from durational live improvisations.


Officially released on August 17, Heimwee/Verwee is a stunning new extended play, inspired by physical isolation, a deep respect for Arrernte land and a yearning for a home far away.

Heimwee/Verwee cover art. Image by Saar Amptmeijer

“We were in an isolated period in June 2020. In Central Australia we watched the world from a distance. We live on an island, on an island, here,” say Saar and Jez about the making of Heimwee/Verwee.


“The word Heimwee is often associated with homesickness”, they explain about the track’s Dutch-language title. “Verwee is a longing for travel and distant unknown places”.


“It’s a title of longing and total opposites – a longing for home and for adventure,” they add, something sure to resonate with all of us right now, living in a world that faces isolation and restricted movement, at least for the foreseeable future.


Coming in at 12 minutes and 20 seconds, Heimwee/Verwee brings together the raw sounds of performance with field recordings made “out on a hill on Arrernte land”.


It also includes sounds recorded in Saar’s country of birth, The Netherlands, “which they used for a performance in the past.” As Saar and Jez explain, the sounds were “manipulated and stretched” in-studio, upon which “synthesizer, guitar, words and other field recordings and found sounds” were then layered.

Lucky Beach by Saar Amptmeijer.

‘Naakt in kleuren stift’: image by Saar Amptmeijer

“We created an intentional space to record our small conversations walking up and down the hill”, they say. Roiling within the cavernous track are the sounds of “Mpartnwe and the highway rumbling in the distance, with the hills reflecting the sound of the town”.


A powerful poem, spoken by Saar in their mother tongue, completes the overture, reminding us that the world has suddenly become a much bigger, unknown place, begging the question: Where do we go from here?


This latest collaboration, Heimwee/Verwee, is a superbly moving, cavernous musical lament that cycles through a series of languid movements – a sonic ‘depth charge’ that spaciously ignites our innermost vulnerabilities around place, belonging and loss.


It drones, it throbs. It dissolves. It is the sound of human frailty.


Alchemy is involved. “It brings together many elements, it has movements and holds a mood — and travels from here, Mparntwe, to the Netherlands”, says Jez. “I really love the sonic bed created by Saar’s manipulations – it feels like a landscape ‘echo’. A melody is insinuated.”


Zeemeermin: image by Saar Amptmeijer

A set of beautiful sketches and fine art photos created by Saar also accompany Heimwee/Verwee. “Visual art is a big part of the creative process for us,” says Saar. “They tell part of the story: landscapes, nudes, nudes as landscapes – they are part of longing for place.”


Listening to Heimwee/Verwee is like listening to another language – a lush, moody internal conversation between two thoughtful performers who understand the interdependence of nature and humanity. Likewise, it also explores the tenuous, illusory hold we have over certainty and the external world, where, in the blink of an eye, everything can  vanish.


“I like the way sound holds space – how it can excite and calm a space”, says Jez, adding, “I love the interaction and the process of creating with another: traversing a language and a journey, and finding intuition in another, that complements”.


The sounds of yearning reach out from Heimwee/Verwee to hold you in an intimate embrace. It stays with you long after you listen. It gets under your skin and absorbs into your cells.


“This is a song created, recorded and spoken on a little corner of Arrernte land” say Cloud Sequence. “You are listening to a field recording which has been turned into a mood, a textural bed, a sonic poem”.


“It’s about place, about time, about feeling.

It speaks about a present common thread, perhaps.

Timely or not, it’s for you to make up…

We hope you enjoy.”

With thanks to Cloud Sequence for their words and images!

Declaration: This is paid content.

  • Quotes: Cloud Sequence
  • Words & edit: Megan Spencer
  • Images: Saar Amptmeijer
  • Listen: to Heimwee/Verwee and Cloud Sequence’s music on iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp
  • Like: Cloud Sequence on Facebook
  • Follow: Cloud Sequence on Instagram
  • Discover: Saar’s work on their website and Tumblr
  • Read: more about Cooperblack on Circus Folk here and here

‘Naakt in kleuren stift’: image by Saar Amptmeijer

Photo by Davy Glorie (c) 2019

Radical Acts of Remembrance

Posted on January 3, 2020

A fantastic thing has come out of making From A Whisper To A Bang!


A slew of people have taken to visiting the grave of my great-uncle, Richard “Charles” Spencer, Private, 5218, AIF, (1899-1918).

Generous strangers all, asking for nothing in return.


Something I never considered when I began making this podcast series about remembrance, three years ago with the welcome of 2020.


Richard’s final resting place is in the small CWGC cemetery of Spoilbank, a few kilometres south of Ypres in Belgium. I tell his story in Episode 03: ‘City As War Memorial’. Thousands of people in Australia and all over the world have listened to it.


Sad and astonishing as it is, it is a gateway into something much bigger: a tragic, fascinating and brutal phantasm of a common history shared by the world of that time, at that time… A real-life, historic grand guignol.


To the best of my knowledge, prior to my visit in October 2017, no-one has intentionally been to Richard’s grave since he was buried there a century prior amid the ignominy of the trenches, with only a few battle-weary comrades present to say ‘farewell’.


Richard was one of the ‘faceless many’ who gave their lives to WWI. Under a false name (Charles) and under-age (16), like so many he went off on a ‘grand adventure’ only to have his short life cut even shorter by the violence of that aberrant, industrialized conflict.


Visiting Richard was an abject lesson in history and empathy – a pilgrimage that left me breathless. Still does. While I was in ‘Flanders Fields’ I met so many other ‘breathless’ pilgrims – some newbies like me, others who’d been there many times before, and those who just can’t stop going back.


Untangling his story dropped me into a sea of deep reflection: about family; about the nation I call home, Australia; and about the world – and the world war – of that moment. It offered me a visceral perspective on the cultural, social and psychic “injury” we still carry to this day, down the line, intergenerationally, in our DNA.


It also gave me insight into what we have and haven’t reconciled from that war – one we often look back on nowadays as pointless, yet so many felt at the time was not only absolutely necessary but the absolute the need to be involved in.


So when I go to Spoilbank on the 19.10.2017, again, as far as I know, I’m not only the first Spencer but the first person to deliberately visit Richard’s grave since his luckless death on 31.01.1918 courtesy of a malignant flying gas shell.


But that’s all changed. Since then – and since the first episode of From A Whisper To A Bang! went online on the Australian War Memorial website 101 years to the day he died – four other visits to Richard’s resting place have been made by kindhearted souls who, for reasons of their own, also felt compelled to seek out and remember someone they never knew.


It doesn’t look like letting up any time soon.

Coming World Remember Me

Richard’s story has been made all the richer thanks to an epic “peace project”: Coming World Remember Me.


Koenraad “Conrad” Dumoulin (the kindhearted, compendious Belgian field guide from Episode 03), first told me about this “land art installation”, a public art project in Ypres during the Centenary of the Armistice.

November 29, 2018
Dear Megan,
I have a "CWxRM" brick statue for you. 
It was the Flemish WW1 commemoration PR project from 2014 to 2018. It will remember your great-uncle. 
We have time; I will keep it in the attic. Just let me know whenever it can be picked up by someone and brought over to Aussie world. 
See the web for 'Coming World Remember Me' project.

Between 2014 – 2018, 600,000 tiny, unique statues were handmade there in workshops from local clay – the very same that infamously plagued the troops of 1914-1918 as the battleground turned to bog in ceaseless rain.


Installed on a field in a spectacular morass to commemorate each of the 600,000 lives lost in Belgium, the statues were an ‘object’ plea to our contemporary world to never forget the unfathomable loss and destruction WW1 had on the historical world.


It’s a tangible, poignant reminder to “never forget” – an urgent invitation to learn from past horror: coming world remember me.


At project’s end people could take home the statues. Conrad snagged two for me. Six months later I collected them in Canberra from one of the historians I interviewed for From A Whisper To A Bang!, Dr. Lachlan Grant at the Australian War Memorial. (Eps 01 & 02).

Lachlan + The Simpson Prize students

In April 2019 Lachlan accompanies an annual tour of Year 9 & 10 students to Ypres and other Anzac battlefields. They are the recipients of the annual Simpson Prize, one from each Australian state and territory. They bring two of the statues to Richard’s grave; there Lachlan shares with them my great-uncle’s soldier story that he’s helped me research for the podcast.

May 6, 2019
Hi Megan,
See below pictures visiting the grave of "Charles" Spencer with the Simpson Prize students.
I have the two ‘Remember Me’ sculptures – you can see in the pictures – from Koenraad for you too...
All the best,

Lachlan Grant and the 2019 Simpson Prize students at Spoilbank Cemetery, April 2019. Photos: Lachlan Grant.

The eight young people standing next to Richard’s headstone are the same age as my great-uncle when he enlisted in 1915. They’re also standing a stone’s throw from where he died in 1918, a week shy of his 19th birthday, at an Advanced Dressing Station next to the cemetery.


I was terribly moved by this spontaneous act of remembrance.


They were the second group of Australian high school students to go out of their way to visit a young man they’d never met.

Jo + BSC Battelfield Tour students
Nov 29, 2018
Hi Megan,
Our "kids" are on their 'battlefields tour'. 
I think I told you about this: each student represented their own relative. 
If they did not have anyone they represented a staff member's relative.
Ebony is the Year 11 student who is reading... I'm so impressed!...
We all had a cry.
Talk soon, 

From A Whisper To A Bang! also gave me the gift of connecting with living relatives I’d never met, one being my second-cousin Joanne Whiteman, a high school teacher and the granddaughter of Nathaniel Spencer (1912-1981), younger brother of my grandfather Harry (1910-1987). They became POWs together during WW2 in Germany, captured on Crete in 1941. (Episodes 01 and 02).


A year after my 2017 visit to our great-uncle’s headstone, Jo facilitates another. In November 2018 a group of students from her school in Central Victoria, Broadford Secondary College, travel to Flanders on a Centenary of Armistice “battlefields tour”.


One is charged with reading a short tribute at Spoilbank Cemetary “from Mrs Whiteman”. These young people are the first to hear his story in situ.

Our grandads, pre-war: Spencer brothers Nathaniel (19) and Harry (21) at Luna Park, St. Kilda in Melbourne, in 1932. Photo: (c) Megan Spencer 2017

Jo’s “Pop” Nathaniel was five when his big brother Richard was killed on the Western Front. My “Grandpa” Harry was seven. They barely knew him. Only a couple of their memories remain:  crawling as ‘nippers’ into Richard’s bedroom to steal cigarette butts from the overflowing ashtray next to his bed as he slept, home on weekend leave from Infantry training.


The other is waving Richard goodbye from Station Pier at Port Melbourne as he sails off to war. It’s the last time either boy will ever see him.

Remembrance as Practice

As I discover in Ypres, the locals have big hearts. Remembrance is not just about tourism, it’s a daily practice for all who live there. This is a landscape that was smashed by not one but two world wars. It radiates from every brick, every tree.


You might start out in Ypres as a “tourist” but you leave as a pilgrim. I tried to imbue Episode 03 with this – this sense of place, and its ability to transform those who visit.


In Ypres, every day is “remembrance day” – a city which has conducted a formal “Last Post” ceremony daily since 1928, save for the rude interruption of WW2. Those who lie in its soil are now part of Ypres, such is the depth and strength of their “linkage to the landscape” as Conrad tells me when we meet. There is a ‘custodial’ approach taken to the fallen who are honoured as much informally as they are formally, in ceremony.


The people of Ypres know how to ‘remember well’.

October 16, 2018  
Dear Megan,
...Every time I pass by Spoilbank Cemetery I think about your great-uncle and his story.
Bye for now,
November 13, 2019
Dear Megan,
Just went over to greet your great-uncle and have put a CWxRM statue at his headstone...
It was all quiet at the Western Front.....

Photos: Conrad Dumoulin (c) 2019

Conrad’s regular correspondence also gives me ongoing continuity with – and connection to – Ypres, for which I am deeply grateful. And now this:

October 21, 2019
Dear Mrs Spencer,
I am not sure how to start this message...
Marijke + Davy

Just before Remembrance Day 2019 I receive a heartfelt email from a young Belgian woman, Marijke, who like Conrad also lives in Ypres. She has heard Episode 03 of From A Whisper to A Bang! It moves her “enormously” – also to action.

She writes:

...This war has made many scars in our region and so it’s quite present in our daily lives. Almost every day I drive past the Menin Gate (I’m a school teacher in Ypres) and it still gives me cold shivers. 
To me it seems like stories of (missing) soldiers are floating around in the air here, ready to be picked and told... 
Have you ever heard of ‘Coming World Remember Me’?

Marijke tells me she made “a lot” of the tiny ceramic CWxRM “sculptures”. She asks whether she and her husband Davy might leave a couple of them next to Richard’s headstone this coming 11.11.2019.

...I really would like to visit your great-uncle Richard on Armistice Day next month and place one of the 600,000 sculptures in front of his headstone to express my gratitude towards the Australian soldiers who fought here for my (our) freedom. 
The story of your great-uncle has given a face to the Australian sacrifice. Let this small gesture be my way to show that remembering can still make the difference.
With my kindest regards,

I am amazed and moved yet again by the kindness of strangers, also wondering what Richard and other members of our family – deeply affected by his loss at the time yet now long gone from this earth – might make of this spontaneous care and kindness. Would they believe it possible?

November 11, 2019
Dear Megan,
Davy and I decided to visit Richard this late afternoon, because Armistice Day had already started around that time in your part of the world, the place where your ancestor was born.
We could find him very easily. The autumn sun was shining beautifully on his grave. The light created a very warm glow on his headstone. 
I placed a CWxRM sculpture with a poppy in front of his headstone and told him that he can be very proud of you and your stunning podcast. 
We stayed at the cemetery until his headstone was in the shade. We were all alone. Only the falling autumn leaves and the soldiers’ souls kept us company. 
We now know where Richard is and we will certainly visit him again in the future. We are happy to share some pictures of this special visit...
Warm regards and love from faraway Flanders,

Photos: Davy Glorie (c) 2019

Remembrance = Compassion

Remembrance is an act of compassion which I believe has the power to bring about peace – an idea or ‘thesis’ I explore in my podcast. These kind ‘strangers’ have participated in acts of what social justice philosopher Khen Lampert might call “radical compassion”.


“Radical compassion is a specific type of general compassion, which includes the inner imperative to change reality in order to alleviate the pain of others. This state of mind… is universal, and stands at the root of the historical cry for social change. ”  – Quote source


Remembrance might start with a single gesture towards an individual but I feel it is a transformational and unifying act with the potential to unite us all across time, place, history and identity. I’m grateful to all those who have shown us, and continue to show us, that this is possible.


From my heart to your ears, thank you.


Special thanks to Conrad; Lachlan and The Simpson Prize students; Jo and Broadford SC students and teachers; and Marijke and Davy.

* * *

UPDATE: my cousin Guy also visits Ritchie’s grave, 07-08.02.2020. More here.

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Memento Mori: Laila Marie Costa

Posted on September 27, 2019

Not long ago, a ‘call to action’ floated across my social feeds. “Gondola. Need one. Anyone selling theirs? Or could help hook a sista up?”


Laila with gondola, 70s. Photo: LMC

It was from Melbourne artist Laila Marie Costa, an old friend of a friend whose art I’ve seriously admired for many years.


Given her line of work it wasn’t unusual. She wasn’t kidding either.


Reaching deep into her Italian heritage and harking the call of refused, obsolete, junk objects – the addiction fever-grip to which she’s been answering her entire artistic life – I intuited she was in the throes of (another) new upcycling project…


While the self-described “creator of art stuff… curator of collections, riffage musician and champion weeder” later told me she “wasn’t exactly sure of exactly what” she wanted to do with said large, “11m long” floating Venetian tub, nonetheless she was “obsessed with the idea of getting a gondola and doing something”.


For this interview she tells me “a year ago” her sights were set on gleaning “shopping trolleys and ironing boards”. Safe to say, Laila Marie Costa – or “Run LMC’ as she is affectionately known – is a hoarder, a collector and a prolific maker using the stuff she prolifically hoards and collects. In her words, art is “therapeutic” – something she also drives home to her art students when she’s teaching.


Necklaces from RUN LMC solo show, July 2017. Photo: LMC

“You are your history” she tells them, it’s inescapable. True that.


There’s a beautiful kind of method to Laila’s ‘madness’ as anyone who’s clapped eyes on her striking “wearable art” and jewellery can attest.


She’s a deft designer with a raging sense of humour, also bringing to her pieces a palpable sense of consideration and conversation – the kind that comes from not only ‘compulsion’ but discernment and reflection too. Each piece she puts together – whether it be a biggish gondola or a beaded necklace made from miniscule discarded micro-plastics – possesses a distinct political and philosophical viewpoint on the world and how we live in it.


I bloody love it.

* * *

Blue period, 2019. Photo: LMC. Hair by Bam Hair

Laila and I first met in Melbourne in the ‘90s. She was – still is – one of a blisteringly funny, whip-smart and exciting group of individuals, most of them women, embedded in the music, film and art scene of the time, around which I also skirted.


It was popular culture petri dish where craft, art music and politics collided. Then merged.


Anyone who came into contact with it sat up and took notice.


Everyone had their arse hanging out of their pants: we all lived hand-to-mouth and where possible, threw down challenging art. Some of it was mediocre, a lot of it was really good and some of it exceptional, with Laila’s in the last category. I often found myself finding it inside bars or on the walls of friend’s houses.


“Who made that?!” I’d exclaim, simultaneously stunned at its genius, laughing at its wryness and envious I hadn’t thought of it. “Laila,” would come the eye-rolled, smiling answer.


Lady Di, She Died. ‘Untitled, 1998’. Photo: LMC

Last year Laila took the step of co-founding TempContemp, an artist-run gallery and space set up to interrogate, explore and transgress the boundaries of Contemporary Jewellery.


Punk meets Pandora, explode –  a “jewellery-ish” space doubtless of which she would have loved to have had the support in her own formative years.


This year she was invited to be part of the 60th anniversary of Munich Jewellery Week, aka Schmuck, “a week dedicated to the most exquisite contemporary jewellery” in the world. We reconnected a few months prior, just as Laila was knee-deep in the “‘Lady Di She Died’ brooch-making frenzy” in the lead up to the Northcity4 Christmas market.


One of Di’s most forlorn faces came across my Insta feed. I pounced. Then invited Laila into the Circus Folk bigtop…

At Augustiner-Keller, Munich, March 2019 for Schmuck. Photo: LMC

 CF: Let’s start with your Lady Di brooches – one of which I felt so compelled to buy… Where did you find all of the pictures of her? And what is it about Lady Di that obliged you to make this work?


Laila Marie Costa: I always had a thing for her as a child. Growing up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne in the 70’s and 80s, she was there! She looked like a beautiful angel with the most beautiful of clothes. I was drawn by the ‘princess’ thing. She was all over Women’s Weekly and Women’s Day. My Mum would buy these [magazines] and I’d pore over the photos. In retrospect, as a first generation immigrant, I think there was something of me ‘projecting’ a desire for ‘whiteness’ and ‘fitting into society’: Lady Di was a perfect example of what a women ‘should’ be.


Lady Di, She Died. Photo: Melbourne Polytechnic

We also shared the same birth date: July 1. So I also thought we were spiritually linked as Cancerian kin, although our ‘relationship’ did shift as she matured and started exposing her other sides…


I collected the pictures of her as this child living in Bulleen. I’d cut out the pages and save them. Over the years I built up quite a collection. This ‘collecting’ (disease!) has been present forever in my life and is quite vast. It’s borderline O.C.D really. However my mother kind of encouraged it. It was a nice hobby and kept me busy.


I must admit that once friends and colleagues saw the brooches being made a few did donate from their hoards. I tried to use the ones from my childhood – oh! I just remembered, I made a collage about her and the ovals and circles were the ones that didn’t make the cut on paper! So it’s all interconnected.


CF: They’re not just kitsch though: to me they feel like little pieces of recent history – and a still-recent tragedy. How do you view them or feel about them?


LMC: For me they were about telling a story, making an overview of her life – a micro ‘This Is Your Life’ if you will. They are an homage to a woman; mementos of a person, a memento mori really. However, to me, they are a narrative – a broader one about women’s struggle, regardless of class. These objects provide an opportunity to reflect on what ‘could have’ been…


I do see how they are kitsch: I have an Italian background and grew up in a house with doilies and bombomieres, and my Nonni’s house had lots of the religious iconography on the walls. This aesthetic seeps into my art sometimes in the oddest of ways! They are history, moreso a tragic piece of history given the circumstances of her death. I was recently in Paris and went to visit the site of ‘the accident’. It felt a bit stalky and creepy, but I was so compelled…


“It was the Queen”, Pont de l’Alma, Paris. Photo: LMC

CF: You’re a prolific creator: a visual artist, a photographer, a jewellery maker, zine maker, curator, musician… Take us back to the beginning: where did this huge interest in ‘making’ come from?


LMC: I’m very multi-disciplinary. Each discipline allows me to express in an exacting way. I like to cross them too and play with the intersections – fortunately “intersectionality” is so very ‘hot’ right now!


I’m a huge collector/hoarder of materials, and I collect forms of expression too. There are so many things I want to say, make, create – and I like that I can mix it up. I couldn’t imagine, for example, solely working in acrylic-on-canvas or photography. It is assemblage within my practice of assemblage…


I’m a product of nature/nurture: I was never really encouraged to be an artist – in fact, it was the opposite. The ‘making things by hand’ started really young, then music, which lead to zine-making, which fed the photography, which became an interest in curation. Ultimately it’s all therapy – something I have to do.


I don’t understand why people think being an artist is ‘cool’. Having talent, being gifted and/or creative is both a gift and a burden, but unfortunately more burden than gift. Navigating this capitalist society in a country that does not support art and culture is also hard work. I’m still examining why I’m such an anomaly in my family!


“No point making something that already exists unless you are going to mess with it” – Laila Marie Costa


CF: So where did you start with “making”?


LMC: The idea of being an artist was a romantic one: I had no idea what it meant. There were no artists in my immediate family or friends. I was always good at art at primary and secondary school and it was one of the few subjects that engaged my brain – art history as well. I got good marks.


First creations I can’t remember apart from the usual school stuff. I did get some paints and a Derwent pencil set ‘from Santa’ and began doing small paintings on paper at home. I was a shy and quiet kid and quite solitary. When I got to secondary school I was introduced to more mediums such as ceramics, printmaking and sculpture, as well as dressmaking and embroidery which were viewed as ‘essential life skills for young ladies’.


My first collection made in earnest – and as a commercial venture – was in the mid-80s when I painted colourful windcheaters and made earrings out of FIMO [soft modelling clay]. They were a bit of a hit and I sold quite a bit via family and friends.


Formative.. A. Severi, 1972. Photo: LMC

I was also taken to a studio of an Italian painter (A. Severi) where my parents bought two originals on canvas. I was quite impressed with the studio but the man was a bit gruff and grumpy – and scary!


He was the first ‘real’ artist I encountered which, in retrospect, was such a traditional European model. I couldn’t work out how artists made a living – I still can’t! Instability scares me.

“Golden Necklace”: Laila Marie Costa is ‘In the Drawer’ at Small Space Jewellery. Photo: SSJ

CF: You work with mostly recycled, junk and trash materials. What kind of a relationship do you have with them?


LMC: My work is driven by collecting, mostly materials, sorting them obsessively, arranging and re-arranging, letting the materials ‘talk’ to me about what they might like to be. I have lots of stuff in boxes in the shed and the studio. It’s a big hoard.


Examining my process is like examining the wiring of my brain! “Why is it I need to pick that thing up from the ground, or put that champagne wrapper in my pocket, or bring home a banana box from the ‘stupid market’?! And then why sort and collate, by material, by colour, by species, by some random rule I’ve made up?!” I’ve been doing it for years and years too: boxes full of pill packets, cigarette box papers, empty sugar packets, the innards from empty dental floss containers…


Added to these materials are my interests in social, political and economic values. They get mixed together to become a creation that is more or less ordered. It’s really quite obsessive and controlling. [I’m sure] many philosophers and psychologists would bang on about it being about ‘control over the environment’, so that I feel in control of this random and abstract world of contradictions…

‘Thank You Big Pharma’ necklaces at Schmuck. Photo: LMC

CF: So working with “debris” and “waste” materials: what are some of the most weird or outrageous or mundane things you’ve turned into art? And do you get a kick out of doing it?!

RUN LMC necklace, February 2019. Photo: LMC

Costa, Insecurity Guards & Anna Gray at the opening of TempContemp in 2018. Photo: Bryony Jackson

LMC: Tampons wrappers (one brand only), hand-stitched onto canvas; my contraceptive blister pill packets have become necklaces… I’m currently in the middle of rolling beads out of the metallic paper on sparkling wine bottles, many hundreds of which I am sorting by colour and size. Lots of old charms – especially crucifixes – which I am having fun messing around with. Always bread bag ties, always sparkling wine cages, always bottle tops, always soy milk tops (one brand only), always stickers on fruits…


Cardboard is starting to get a guernsey – especially fruit and vegetable images. Oh – and the wooden containers French cheese comes in. Ribbons, cord handles from carry bags. Lids from soy sauce fish, under-wires from old bras, trim from old jocks. Bits of broken headlights from cars, swizzle sticks, price tags… It goes on and on.


I’m not sure why I get a kick out of it: making something I’ve never seen done using new materials has been a key driver – and my favourite artists do this. I do get a kick out of the ‘women’s’ products that can offend, and seeing people’s faces as they try work out what’s been used. It looks familiar but in the wrong context. And having a laugh. That’s important.


CF: Is there a particular ‘philosophy’ or ‘approach’ you bring to making jewellery – or “wearable art” – and the other artefacts that you make? Why not just make jewellery the ‘traditional’ way with precious metals and so forth?


LMC: My approach is a very restrained kind of punk philosophy: a “do-it-yourself, have-a-go, make-and-mend, see-what-happens” philosophy.


Sometimes I work from a broader concept, like for example if I want to comment on my ethnicity and being a first generation immigrant. At other times it’s the materials that dictate how something should look. For example, bananas from a cardboard box are going to be earrings because of their size, shape and curves. A larger banana will be a pendant.


Art history informs all that I do. “You are your history” is my mantra, something I used to bang on about when I taught at Art and Design. [There’s] no point making something that already exists unless you are going to mess with it.


Traditional materials of metals and gemstones are costly and [things] I cannot really afford, given I am a low-income earner. I’d love to seriously play with yellow gold and large diamonds, rubies and sapphires, but that’s just not going to happen (at this point anyway!) [One day] I will make something out of silver and blue topaz, but I can see the 18ct yellow gold and ruby version in my head.


And some [precious stones] go with other materials, like cheap wire. I worked as a gallery consultant for several years so have a solid knowledge of diamonds and the four ‘Cs” when buying one – the cut, clarity, colour and carat. I’d be more than happy if a patron wanted to indulge my visions for high-end jewellery!


“You are your history” – Laila Marie Costa


Then there’s sustainability and the environment to think about: why keep digging this stuff out of the ground (and on whose ground?) when you can harvest from the millions of tons of waste we humans make here? I’d love to harvest gold and silver from e-waste, especially dirty mobile phones and laptops. There’s’ so much metal in there!

Sophie Tauber-Arp at the Pompidou Centre, Paris. Photo: LMC


CF: Do you have ‘art heroes’? Who or what inspires your personal art practice?


LMC: Many [people] inspire me, from contemporary jewellers and painters to writers and musicians. They change constantly too as I glean bits from the practice of others. I may not even like their work but there will be something in there that sings to me.


There are so many, but just to name a few: Old School: Annie Albers, Sonia Delany, Lucio Fontana, Manet, Monet, Sophie Tauber-Arp; the Bauhaus women, Tiepolo, Paladio and Bruno Munari. New Skool: Al Anatsui, Joanna Vasconcelos, Lisa Walker, current work by students Space Invader and Eugene Carchesio. Or often it will be something I see on my travels around Melbourne – like stuck on a pole, or from some of the art made by the people I meet in my community art work.


CF: What are some of the “day jobs” you’ve had – best and worst? And how do you handle that ever-challenging conundrum of balancing between the two?


LMC: The balance is, well, never well balanced! There is always too much ‘working for the man’ or not enough time to make. At the moment I’m in a state of creative outpouring after many months of working on other artists’ projects. But there are still not enough quality hours in a bout of making.


At the moment I’m a project manager and curator for the Urban Campfires community art program and exhibition for the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood. This is a unique program of community engagement with the Centre that is a magistrate’s court. It is the only magistrate’s court in Australia based on a community justice model. It’s progressive, innovative and supports social justice for minorities. I recently started as a mentor for a mentee via Arts Access Victoria and her NDIS plan.


That’s the ‘paying stuff’. Then there’s my personal practice based at NorthCity4 in Brunswick and co-directing TempContemp gallery there with my partner in curatorial crimes, Anna Gray. It’s been running for over a year and has garnered huge response, especially from the overseas artists.


We do a lot of collaborating in the TemContemp gallery: we collab on curatorial premises, promo, curation, installation and catalogue design. She is the ‘good cop’ to my ‘bad cop’ (or is it the other way around?!) It swings, but we have a wonderful dynamic that allows for some edgy and non-conformist outcomes.


I’m in a band too so there’s practicing, rehearsals and gigs to do… I’ve had so many jobs that I couldn’t even count them. Working at The Tote Hotel in Collingwood was a memorable time, albeit hard graft and late nights. I taught at Swinburne TAFE for 10 years. House cleaner. Nanny. Preservation technician at the State Library of Victoria. Waitress. Curator for the Shepparton Court art collection. Gallery consultant at Studio Ingot, Fitzroy. Customer service at McDonalds was my first official job.


All have their good and bad moments though I wouldn’t want to work behind a bar again. The sore feet, shift work and getting very grumpy – so not much tolerance for unruly punters!

Study for Laila and bass. Photo: Nat Recalcitrant Photography

CF: You seem to be part of a pretty vibrant arts and music community in Melbourne. Do you prefer to work alone or collaborate?


LMC: I’m an extroverted introvert so I like to be around others working but not necessarily in ‘the thick of it. I’ll always be on the fringes of the group/community. I’m not an ‘alpha’ or a ‘beta’ either: I find that if I work solo at home for days on end my head goes to bad places. So I need to keep the mental health up by being around others and engaging.


CF: That said, being an artist or a creative worker in Melbourne – which I was for many years too! – while there is a sense of community it can also be pretty cliquey! What’s important to you as an artist? And what keeps you going?


LMC: Yeah, Melbourne is vibrant with loads of events and festivals on all the time – it’s quite overwhelming really! And yes, with this is a cliquey-ness, which I try to avoid or manage. I’m not in the ‘cool kids’ cliché and never have been. I can see how this has limited my achievements by not drinking at the bar with the right people, networking at openings etc. I’m just not good at it and not really interested in talking about myself and my practice all the time.


I am however fascinated to watch who has the power and how it gets interacted with – observing the ‘push and pull’ of a gallery full of various industry players.


As I mentioned before I’m not a leader, so I like to be with other creatives, but around the margins of a group. I’ve also got to watch where my energies go so I need to pull back at times from over-committing. What keeps me going is the need to keep making and thinking creatively. It’s odd to think my life can be absorbed for hours arranging and rearranging bits of rubbish. All art is therapy and that’s why I have to keep moving! I don’t like to think on it too much…


In situ at TempContemp with smoke machine. Photo: Bryony Jackson

CF: What are some of the most memorable exhibitions your work has featured in over the years?


LMC: I had some zines in an exhibition at the State Library of Victoria in 2017: ‘Self-made: Zines and Artist Books’, which is now touring around Victoria for two years. I like the idea that it’s going to rural cities to ‘spread the love’ us city folk often take for granted!


I think Schmuck in Munich earlier this year (2019) has been the highlight so far. Perhaps the last one is always the most memorable as your head is still in that space. Schmuck exhibition is a large international exhibition that occurs every year. This year was its 60th year running. I applied, submitted and was accepted! There were 762 applicants from 52 countries and 65 made that short list. I never imagined for a second I would make the cut.


[For me], by applying, it was a bit of [conforming] to the system. But then I got accepted! So I have become part of the problem – not part of the solution! But I was so very excited to be selected by [curator] Dr. Sabine Runde, and so glad her definition of jewellery aligned with my work. My partner and I did go to Schmuck to be part of the 5-day festival and be ‘schmuck-ed out’ by the amount of jewellery on exhibition.


The section of the exhibition I was in went on to be part of a larger jewellery festival in which there were over 100 exhibitions by artists from around the world. It was a wonderful opportunity to schmooze with international artists, teachers, curators and punters.


Over the years I have exhibited overseas and will soon be in group exhibitions in Porto, Portugal, and Arnhem, The Netherlands, in October and November 2019.


CF: And you curated a show for the 2019 ClimeArte Festival in Melbourne – what kind of conversation is this festival interested in having with its audience?


LMC: For ClimARTe I curated a group exhibition called ‘The Urban Gleaner & The Plastique, Pt. II’, which included work by five artists from Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Brussels. (It follows up ‘The Plastique Pt. I’ from 2016). The artists used a majority of recycled/repurposed/collected materials. As a curatorial premise I’m interested in the way contemporary makers increasingly engage with these materials and how far they can push them.


Part of my conceptual basis includes issues of sustainability and environmentalism. It is a political stance that comments on my other personal issues as a female, first generation immigrant and my class. Supporting festivals like ClimARTe is perfectly aligned with my beliefs, as is the Sustainable Living Festival which I’ve also been part of in past years. These festivals question and challenge how we live in this capitalist system of G.D.P and increasing population – and the big ‘CC’: Climate Change. I don’t live in a lefty bubble of chardonnays, soy lattes and hipster tree huggers. [But I do know that] humans can be very odd creatures…


CF: You took ‘the big leap’ by co-founding your own gallery in 2018, TempContemp in the Northcity4 in Brunswick, Melbourne. Why – and what do you hope to achieve with it? (It must be a lot of work!)


LMC: I co-founded and co-direct TempContemp with my partner in curatorial crimes, Anna Gray. We launched the first exhibition in August 2018 and just over a year on we have curated four exhibitions with opening night parties complete with live bands and beats, an old skool zine catalogue for each, and have been assisted by four volunteers who have helped with the heavy lifting, tiresome socials and general motivation.


We received two grants from the Moreland City Council – arts investment grants – which meant we could actually build a space with lighting and other bits and pieces. It was set up as an experimental space: a white cube run by artists for artists, allowing for a platform to exhibit contemporary jewellery without the pressure of ‘having’ to sell.


Opening, ‘Urban Gleaner & The Plastique, Pt.II‘. Photo: LMC

Most artists stock jewellery with galleries which have a heavy emphasis on selling, therefore there’s not much ‘real estate’ in which to get playful, explore options and push the boundaries of what jewellery can be.


For example, jewellery can be video, dance, music, installation or participatory. This is the kind of art that drives Anna and I to keep delving into what is going on in studios all around the world.


Jewellery is an art form – it is a fine art form – and it is coming to a contemporary gallery near you! We want to educate the wider public as well as advocate for more jewellery in more galleries. It is already happening!


After a year of the pilot program – burnt out and reflective – it’s been a wild ride. We will be continuing in an altered form, we’re just not sure what that form looks like yet. It will involve exhibitions at the gallery but could include loads of other things. The appetite is out there – especially from the international artists – but we do need funding to keep going.


CF: So you’re one busy poppet! What do you do for ‘downtime’ – is there such a thing in your world?!


LMC: Downtime does exist, although in short fits and starts. It includes cups of tea and reading from actual analogue books (though that tends to be work-related too!), weeding and sweeping in our suburban garden. I’m a champion at it – I find it resets my brain. I play in a band too – but I’m not sure if that’s work, downtime, or somewhere between the two!


I never get enough downtime – or sleep, one of my favourite things to do. I’m really good at it…


Many thanks to Laila for the interview! Stay tuned for the gondola update…

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From A Whisper To A Bang! – The Podcast, The Marathon

Posted on September 3, 2019

You might have noticed, it’s been a bit quiet around here lately. Well, for the last 6 months or so anyway.


Recording at Menin Gate. Photo: Oliver Budack

Something really BIG has taken up my time. For the best part of two years really… The biggest creative project of my life.


I’ve been working with sound since the late 1980s, and working in radio most of my life – from the early days at 3RRR, to triple j, then on ABC Local Radio and Radio National too.


Radio’s always been my “first love”. When I relocate to Berlin in 2015 as a freelance media maker (and as a newly-minted meditation teacher!) I add “podcast maker” to my suite of skills. It seems a “no brainer”. Helping set up a studio inside a friend’s fourth-floor altbau, I spend the best part of a year producing / co-presenting Three Wicked Women, in an of itself a massive project.


I also start Auspicious Plastic, my first foray into personal storytelling. And then Gut Feeling, a fun, pilot podcast series about food and wine with my “somm” husband Oliver.


Two years later in April 2017, on an annual visit home to Australia to see my then 82-year-old Dad, quite unexpectedly my next big audio storytelling project presents itself.


I spend a Sunday afternoon in an outer suburb of Melbourne at a rare family reunion, ten of us around a kitchen table, at my Aunty Delma’s. We’re all descendants of soldiers, from five brothers – four great-uncles and my grandfather, Harry, my Dad’s dad – served in the Australian Military Forces across two world wars, with one, “Hughie” serving in both.

My grandmother Lillian with my soldier-grandfather Harry, in 1940, with their two little children, Margie, 3, and Bobby, 5 (my dad). Harry ships out to the Middle East not long after this photo is taken.

Harry’s born in 1910 and dies in 1987. It’s thirty years since he passed. Shamefully I haven’t thought about him much in that time. All that’s about to change though. Around that wooden table, Harry’s war story comes into sharp focus. So do those of his brothers – especially great-uncle Richard, Harry’s older brother, who dies on the Western Front in Belgium during WW1, just shy of his 19th birthday.


My kin become consumed with the wartime experiences of our ancestors. I realise just how present the war still is for them! And the scars it leaves behind… For my Dad too. It’s an emotional day. And inspiring.


Stunned, I need to find out more. To investigate. Back in Germany where I’ll be living for another 9 months, I embark upon a journey of ‘historical empathy’ to follow in Harry’s soldier-footsteps. An Anzac captured on Crete in 1941, he spends the next four years of his life in as many prisoner-of-war camps in Germany and occupied-Poland.


I go deep into the heart of Harry’s POW experience, visiting the sites of his suffering. What I discover beggars belief. It’s a pilgrimage that keeps getting bigger.


So, I decide to make a podcast about it – to ask some ‘big’ questions around remembrance and our practice of “lest we forget”. In our “post-truth”, “post-history”, “best we forget” world of right now, are we forgetting? And what happens if we do? I start here, to see where it will lead me, not quite realising what I’m about to get myself into…

It’s been a long time coming, but for the first time in my life I finally buy myself a professional sound recorder – it’s a Zoom H5 with interchangeable SGH-6 shotgun mic and sexy HD-25 Sennheiser swivel headphones. Perfect for the field.


I start interviewing. And keep going.

The ruins of Stalag XI-B/357 in Fallingbostel, Germany, one of the four POW camps in which Harry was prisoner, in during WW2. Photo: Megan Spencer (c) 2017

After returning to Australia to live again at the end of 2017, with hours of interviews and sound recorded in Europe (from Germany, Belgium, England and France), I start to look for a ‘home’ for this project.


It’s ambitious: a six-part, long-form, narrative documentary podcast series exploring remembrance through the lense of personal storytelling, two world wars, three generations, four POW-camps and (what amounts to) 60+ voices from Europe and Australia. There’s never been one like it – not made here, anyway.


How do we make sense of war and what it leaves behind?


I need to find the the ‘right’ home for it – one where remembrance is understood, contemplated, interrogated and appreciated. Especially in a nation so very shaped by war, as ours is, and was, from the Frontier Wars onward to now.


But the ‘usual’ doors are shut. It seems we’ve hit ‘peak podcast’. The game’s changed too. When you’ve been out of the country – out of the media – for a bit, and prefer self-reflection over self-promotion, it can be a ‘challenge’ to get people to return your emails and calls. Even with a lifetime’s worth of skin in the game, mates in the media… Time to think outside the box.


There’s one place I secretly hope might be interested in supporting the series – help see it through to completion, give it a roof over its head… One that could be the right fit: the Australian War Memorial. Especially as now 2018 is upon us – the Centenary of the Armistice of The Great War. An auspicious year – and in my lifetime! The timing might be right, you never know..


It takes a few months. But eventually – and excitedly – the Memorial commission the series, help resource it, and agree to host the podcast ‘free’ on their website. Their first. Amazing.

The 62,000 Poppies display at the Australian War Memorial. Photo: Megan Spencer (c) 2018

Then things get really busy: more travel and interviews, intensive research, fact-checking, trawling through sound archives, negotiating and – reaching out to people who ‘know’: historians, authors, curators, archivists, distant family, close family, and custodians and curators of Indigenous remembrance and service.


And – to a small group of creative collaborators and supporters, friends and acquaintances, some from past days, talented artists all. People want to see this podcast get made. They help get it over the line. It’s poetic.


I ask Cretan-Australian music duo Xylouris White if they will make their cinematic album Goats available for the series music. They say yes.


The island of Crete loomed so large in Harry’s life: it was where he was taken prisoner-of-war after an epic battle between Allied Forces and the German Army and paratroopers, firstly across mainland Greece, then on that strategic, beautiful island – the island Churchill refused to let fall, the island Hitler was determined to take.


I glean the title for the podcast from a descriptor George Xylouris gives about his father’s virtuosity as a performer, in the documentary A Family Affair. “From a whisper to a bang!” he says about Psarantonis’ lyra playing and singing, which explodes out of the quiet.


Serendipity. Sounds like Harry’s war story.

Can you imagine… The Red Cross letter to Lillian, about Harry’s possible POW status, listed as missing in Crete, in 1941. It was written by Vera Deakin White, Australian founder of the Red Cross Bureau for Wounded, Missing & Prisoners of War.

In Berlin I’ve already taught myself how to use Garageband on my old workhorse of a MacBook Pro. Back in Australia I soundproof a room in my new place, buy a ripper of a vocal mic, a pop-filter and off I go. Six one-hour episodes will be produced monthly in my home studio between January – June, 2019. It’s a steep mountain to  climb, but I do it, one step at a time…


Two years after that kitchen table ‘light bulb’ moment, the result is From A Whisper To A Bang!, “an unforgettable podcast about wartime remembrance”. Episode 01 comes out January 31, 2019, the sixth and final installment on June 26, 2019.


It takes every fibre of my being: as a storyteller and script-writer, as sound designer and radio maker, as a researcher, producer, performer, interviewer, documentary maker… And as a human being.


Empathy – taking the perspective of another and the ‘other’ – is the lifeblood of this series.


I need to become a bit of an historian too. I read a LOT of history books over these two years. Academic papers. Magazines. Articles. Stories about war. And spend a fair bit of time online – and on the phone – with historians, who I sometimes ring out of the blue…


All this with my grandfather’s handwritten memoir firmly wedged in my back pocket, most of which takes place during the Second World War. From early of training at Puckapunyal in regional Victoria to final liberation, on the road, on foot, near the River Elbe, as a near-starving POW on the way to doomed Berlin.


Between 1941 – 1945, in captivity, never knowing if he is to make it home, let alone out of this war alive. Then just as suddenly – repatriation to England. Home to Australia. To chronic post-conflict, post-POW anxiety. And the difficult aftermath. Such a story.


It’s a steep learning curve and feels as if I’ve been working towards this project my entire life – with a fair bit of of grief thrown into the mix: for my grandfather, for his family, my family… And for all those who lived through this time. And what came after. It’s a lot to take on – and in.


It takes everything I have to make this podcast. (I have no idea at the time).


Suffice to say, 90 interviews on, a year in production and six one-hour episodes later, now that the series is complete, I’m in recovery. It’s a slow process. Walking through two world wars in as much close up detail as I did, can be traumatic. Talking about war – and listening to people talk it – is healing.


It’s important we get to speak about the effects of war. So many have not had the opportunity – or given themselves permission to. Simply put, war has touched us all. And as I discover, people are hungry to speak – to find out what happened, to ask “why?” To reflect on the heavy price of conflict.


And to listen to the stories of others and reflect on their own family’s war story and history.


The podcast strikes a chord with audiences: 5,000+ listens so far, and still growing.

Me interviewing students from Atlas College, The Netherlands, at The Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium. Photo: courtesy of Ton de Jong

Difficult as the experience was at times, I wouldn’t change it for quids. It was a privilege to make and I’m grateful to so many. And, in awe of my POW grandfather for his resilience amid such suffering.


His story has lead me to such amazing stories about the human capacity for endurance, resilience and survival – physical and emotional – and taught me much about the human spirit.


And, that we must never forget the very human costs of war, no matter what.

 * * *

Today is September 3, 2019, exactly 80 years since Australia entered the Second World War. The day that changed everything.


May we remember well, always.


 * * *

  • Words: Megan Spencer
  • Binge: all six episodes of From A Whisper To a Bang! here, here, and wherever you find good podcasts.
  • Watch: the FAWTAB trailer on Youtube
  • Listen: to Xylouris White’s music (new album The Sisypheans out Nov. 8)
  • Read: this essay about the making of the podcast.
  • Listen: to The Diggers Requiem (Amiens, FRA) on Soundcloud. (This epic, beautiful music commission from the AWM was also used in some episodes of FAWTAB. The project devised and managed by composer Christopher Latham).
  • Visit: the Australian War Memorial website.
  • Join: the ‘From A Whisper To a Bang!’ community on Facebook.
  • Thank you: to everyone involved with the production, its supporters and to those who shared their quotes and recommendations!


 * * *


“Fantastic stuff! Expansive, emotional, informative, self-reflexive and engagingly critical.” – Philip Brophy

“A moving, superbly scripted and produced, and very personal podcast. I whole-heartedly recommend it, but keep a hanky handy!” – Sandra Sarala

“The amount of love and passion used in putting this together is off the scale. It is a remarkable, moving, personal story and yet a story we should all be aware of. Remembering is imperative if we are to not to let the horrors of the past happen again.  An essential listen!” – Rob Wimpory

“I love your storytelling” – Matt

“Listen.” – Jeremy

“This podcast is like no other. It is unexpected, poignant, intelligent, and thought provoking. If you would normally shy away from war related media, ‘From A Whisper To A Bang!’ will surprise you.” – Ben MacEllen

“It had me fascinated from start to finish. Can’t recommend enough.” – Naomi

“This thoughtful podcast gets beneath your skin and at some point in every episode I found myself moved to tears.” – Adele

“Even we, two and three generations removed, carry some kind of pain or scar from what our relatives went through. ‘From A Whisper To A Bang!’.. gives some sense of how valuable it can be for a person to be able to visit the places their relatives walked.” – Alex Norman

“A truly moving, interesting, informative, personal story about the POW experience”. – Anna

“My Dad just spent the last hour with headphones on listening to Episode 01 in my backyard. [He] had tears in his eyes… [and] is moved by your awesome work Megan Spencer.” – Nicky

“I have loved this podcast! I love the perspective it brings. It’s all well and good to have the grand histories (and they’re a must if you’re to grasp context etc.), but this makes history almost tangible. Podcasts and history done like this is really the ‘future’ of history – showing it to be an ever-present thing. Thanks AWM!” – a listener comment on Instagram

Megan Spencer has covered so much ground and so many interesting topics in this series. From the deeply personal to untold or forgotten stories around Australia’s history of war and those who fought it. The knowledge passed about the Indigenous contributions makes it worthwhile alone, not to mention visiting sites in Europe and Australia, while telling her story. Astonishing – 5 stars.” – David, a listener on Apple Podcasts

“Very moving… Fantastic work!” – Siobhan

“I’ll be honest… Choking back tears a little listening to Megan Spencer’s amazing ‘From A Whisper To A Bang!’ podcast. Just amazing.” – Kristoffer Paulsen

“Great stuff! It’s a great combination of historical context and personal story. I found it very moving, and I also learned a lot. From beginning to end it’s a great series.” – Peter Monteath

“I’ve just listened to the first episode and it truly is wonderful. Your accent and tone are so warm, which can make or break a podcast. The letter from your gran… was very moving, and had me teary.”- Garry Crook

“Excellent”. – Robyn

Second Life: Karen Lynch

Posted on December 4, 2018

Earlier this year, after travelling many miles and relocating for the umpteenth time in my life, I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a lovely act of kindness.


It happened when I met Australian collage artist Karen Lynch in person for the first time.


I’d recently moved to the “southern creep” of Adelaide, Karen’s home city. On a sunny day in May we arranged to catch up in one of the sleepy seaside villages between our respective suburbs that only ‘the locals’ know about.


We’d been ‘virtual’ blogging buddies for 4 years, encouraging each other and interacting as co-members of the very first intake of Pip Lincolne‘s ‘Blog With Pip’ (an online “how to” course for bloggers), first run in February 2014. We were ‘foundational’ “Pipsters” – or “Pippies” as I like to call us. It was fun – and special.


A veritable whirlpool of creative exploration and support, energised by a community of  women constantly taking leaps of faith, this very blog grew out of it. More importantly, it coincided with Karen’s pivotal decision to move towards a creative career as she carefully built what’s now become her thriving collage art practice and business, Leaf and Petal Design.


With the Gulf of St. Vincent as our winking blue backdrop, we met up and downed several coffees, warming ourselves in the mid-Autumnal sun and conversation.


After exchanging life stories and discovering a mutual love for pub rock (!), when we said our goodbyes Karen shyly handed me a package. “I thought it could go into the new meditation room,” she smiled, Facebook-familiar with my hopes of establishing my first-ever solo meditation teaching business, now back in Australia and in a new home town.


It was one of her beautiful collage prints, resplendent with wondrous women and the stillness of the natural world. I was sincerely moved and grateful, and shed a wee tear on the drive home. This is it below.

‘Serenade To Saturn’ (2015) by Leaf and Petal Design.

* * *

One of the nicest things about being part of this online blogging/creative community has been the opportunity for ‘IRL (“in real life”) meetings to come about for many of the Alumni members. And to bear witness to their confidence and creativity blooming over time.


We seem to have such nervousness around creativity: comparing ourselves to others, thinking we’re not worthy of such pursuits or that it’s somehow ‘selfish’ to act on these impulses. I’m with Liz ‘Magic Lessons‘ Gilbert on this: every one of us has a need to be creative, whether it’s applying ‘why, what, when and how’ decisions to everyday activities like making dinner or sending emails, to designing and painting a giant mural on the side of a silo at the behest of a local council. Fundamentally the process is the same.


Whether we do it for love or money, I believe creativity – making something from nothing – is a pillar of both health and happiness. It’s life-giving. Necessary. And, if we acted on our creative impulses more often, the world would likely be a better place. (Less stress = more joy = happier, kinder and more connected people).

‘Chillin’ ‘ (2015)” by Leaf and Petal Design.

Of course, moving away from what we know, reinventing ourselves as creative workers, making big changes, is anxiety-provoking. It takes a lot of consideration and planning to make it happen, let alone become a going concern. And success isn’t guaranteed especially in such a noisy world where everyone expects to be a rock star, fast.


But the anxiety, and yes, even harm that comes from remaining stuck inside a job/a life/a habit that takes away from our sense of purpose – where we don’t get to put our  skills to best use, where our hearts and minds languish, where we don’t thrive – is equally if not more scary. Worse, it can make us sick, bitter and suffer terribly.


When it comes to this creative stuff it does take courage to reinvent our lives away from what we know: we have to go against our instincts by embracing uncertainty and unfamiliarity, to allow failure and to learn from it – often. Then, on top of all that, to find a way to keep going and remain resilient in the service of our dreams and our ‘bottom line’. I would also argue – as someone who now teaches mindfulness and how it relates to creativity – in the service of our wellbeing.


It’s a delicate dance between ‘all or nothing’, ‘success or failure’ and ‘luck and opportunity’. Not everyone works out the steps to it.


* * *


An artist with a crafter’s heart, Karen still “pinches” herself at her success and how far she’s come. Her Instagram is followed by over 78K people, she receives a steady flow of commissions and she releases new prints weekly. This is serious mum.


So Karen’s creative story is an inspiration. Her celestial, surrealist collage work and animations are not only fun and beautiful – literally a sight to behold – they’re now sought after by some of the world’s biggest publications (Playboy), brands (Mercedes Benz) and musicians (Bernard Fanning).


Her penchant for the medium grew out out a love for design, colour, vintage aesthetics and a desire to preserve – and subvert – images of times gone by.


She taught herself – and backed herself – over and over again. It’s hard work. And it’s a fascinating tale. Thanks Karen.

Karen Lynch, photographed by Lewis Brideson.

Circus Folk: Do you remember your first creative impulse? And how that made you feel – making something?


Karen Lynch: No I don’t! However I can remember the first time I sold a collage and dancing around saying “I’m a real artist!” The euphoria and validation that someone was actually going to pay me for making a piece of art was unbelievable.


CF: What was your very first collage? And did you make them when you were young?


KL: My first collage was a mix of geometrical shapes, and sewing pattern catalogue images, glued on a canvas. When I was younger, I preferred to draw and paint, and then in my teenage years I was obsessed with photography.

‘Moonburn’ (2015). by Leaf and Petal Design. An earlier collage.

Some tools of the trade.. Photo: Karen Lynch

Karen’s covert art for Bernard Fanning’s ‘Civil Dusk/Brutal Dawn’ album (2016).

‘Flamingo Playground’ (2018) by Leaf and Petal Design

CF: Can you give us a bit of a snapshot of how you made your way to making a career using your creativity, as a collage artist? Because you weren’t always a ‘creative worker’ were you…


KL: It all started when a family member passed away; I had all these photos and I wanted to make [them] into a special album.


A friend suggested I go to a scrapbook shop to look at ways people had mounted photos and decorated the pages in the albums. I was blown away at the types of paper, tools, everything!


Around the same time, I came across a stack of old Australian Women’s Weekly magazines and Australian Home Journals from the 1950s and 1960s.


I started doing mixed media type greeting cards and journals using the vintage imagery. These were embellished with buttons, ribbons and stitching. I spent so much time on them that they were each little pieces of art.


A businesswoman friend who ran a craft website suggested I make them on a larger scale, so I started making a few collages on canvas. I was just really dabbling until I joined in with the worldwide 100 Day Project, where you do something creative every day and post it on Instagram. I chose to do collage.


That was probably the best learning experience I could ever have! Every day, without fail, I would make a collage. Even if I was tired and it was late, I forced myself to make something. Then I just kept up those creative habits and just kept making one a day.


The other thing was being brave enough to share my experiments – good and bad – on Instagram. I met like-minded creative people – a community who were encouraging and gave feedback.


Eventually I started getting noticed by the music industry and advertising agencies, and asked to do projects.


CF: It can be pretty painstaking to make a good collage: a lot of design goes into it, nutting out and matching images, not to mention sourcing and collecting the raw material from magazines and so on. What attracts you to this medium – what makes it so satisfying or rewarding for you to work in?


KL: Sometimes it can be painstaking but other times it can seem effortless. It’s quite possible to find two or three scraps you have laying on your table that somehow magically fit together and make the perfect collage.


The sourcing is all part of the treasure hunt – finding the perfect images that you just know are screaming out to be ‘collaged’! That may mean rummaging through filthy secondhand stores or sifting through piles at car boot sales.


I really love the idea that these beautiful images, which have been pretty much thrown away, or neglected for decades, can come to life again.


People used to ask me “How can you cut up that 1963 Vogue magazine?” But it was sitting useless in a box, on a shelf, not being appreciated. This way I’m giving it a second life. It’s all about the recycling!


CF: In particular, what kinds of images do you look for, to go into your work?


KL: I’m definitely drawn to beautiful colours, and architectural lines. I love vintage images, especially the ‘rear view’ of people and children, rather than face on.


There is more of a ‘timeless’ quality about them: you project yourself into what they might be seeing – like a surreal landscape or a gigantic hibiscus, or just gazing off into space…


CF: Yes – your ‘characters’ always seem to be “looking to” something: what might that be?


KL: I often think my vintage ladies are daydreaming or looking for escapes or pondering bad relationships! In some designs it’s like people are going about their everyday business: out on a boat, walking down the street, driving in their car… They are part of this surreal world around them, but whether they realise that or not is another thing.


Often I feel like it can be a way to convey mood. I know there are a few collages I’ve made when I personally felt overwhelmed by what was happening in my life, and I think it came through in the design – such as with “Fragility” for example (below).

‘Fragility’ (2016) by Leaf and Petal Design

CF: Collage art has had a resurgence in the last few years: do you think that’s come alongside the rise of “the handmade” as a response to how digital our lives have become? What are your thoughts on this?


KL: Collage art has definitely had a resurgence. My opinion is that it’s come from at least two main areas – the “green” recycling movement and social media.


People have heaps of magazines and books around. They can be cheap or free and somewhere like Adelaide where we don’t have humidity or natural disasters like flooding, we have stacks of perfectly preserved vintage material just filling sheds and bookcases.


As far as social media goes, Instagram is the biggest art gallery in the world – whether you like it or not, the good and the bad. People are such visual creatures and they are really insatiable for photographs, art, design, video.


To look at, to share and to make – whether it’s analogue or digital – images collaged or edited together really capture people’s imaginations.


CF: You mentioned earlier giving things a “second life” working in this medium. Given that you work with analogue images – real, physical objects, something that you handle and touch – do you see collage art as being a way to preserve the past, in addition to re-framing it?


KL: Yes, I definitely feel like I am preserving and reinventing images from the past, for sure. But I’m usually taking them out of context and putting them in a new somewhat retro-futuristic reality.


CF: And what’s your approach to working with colour – it plays such a central role in your collages..


KL: Colour is probably one of most favourite things – which is kinda weird as I often wear black!


I love how colour conveys emotion and affects people. I wish I could say I’m an expert at colour theory but sadly I have no clue as far as the technical side of it works. So it really is very instinctive, and learning through experience – experimenting to find what works. Colours like blue and red, pink and mint, purple and mustard just seem to go together…


I’m not overtly political or have an obvious social agenda. I’m a feminist and a strong believer in equal rights, but I don’t think that translates into my work. So for me collage is purely aesthetics.


CF: Who are some of your favourite artists – collagists or otherwise? Who inspires you?


KL: I change all the time but I love surrealists like Dali, Dorothea Tanning, and Leonora Carrington. Also contemporary pop art painter Ashley Longshore, and photographers like Diane Arbus and David Bailey.


Other things like Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, a colour scheme in a shop window or a 70’s album cover can all be inspirational.


Collage artists I love include Jesse Treece, Mr Babies, Andrew McGranahan, and Ventral is Golden, to name just a few.


CF: You have a massive fan base around your work, which also gets quite a bit of recognition internationally, as well as in Australia. What’s the best thing someone has said about your work?


KL: Scientific American said my work was “a fun jaunt into that other-worldly world” which blew me away! I still get a kick out of anyone saying that I’m talented so I really have to pinch myself sometimes.


CF: What might be your ‘dream job’ with your work – be it with a publication, cover art, animation, collaborating with an artist etc? Is there ‘one’ big project you’d love to ‘sink your scissors’ into?!


KL: It’s too hard to narrow it down! I have been offered a few gigs by big brands at international events that I’ve had to turn down for various reasons, but hope that these sort of projects might come around again.


A campaign for a brand like Gucci would be amazing!


Many thanks to Karen Lynch for the interview!


* * *

  • Interview: Karen Lynch
  • Words/edit: Megan Spencer
  • Collage art: Leaf and Petal Design
  • Photos: as credited
  • View/buy/commission: Karen’s work on the Leaf and Petal Design website
  • Follow: Leaf and Petal Design on Instagram
  • Like: Leaf and Petal Design on Facebook
  • View: the making of “Civil Dusk” album art video.
  • Read: my interview with Berlin-based collage artist, Lucy Dyson.


Steal The Light: Alice Orchard

Posted on December 1, 2018

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.

But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision… is the most abject treachery; and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity, which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.” – Virginia Woolf, ‘A Room Of One’s Own’.


I’ve long been an admirer of Alice Orchard. We met a decade ago in Darwin when I was living there, working in radio.


I’d up-stumped from Sydney, and, in search of  like-minded souls who lived and breathed music, found my way to Happy Yess, a tiny independent music club run by volunteers. It was a mecca for local musicians and music lovers eager to avoid the blood-and-chunder cover-band strip that ruled the city’s nightlife.


At that time Alice was fronting Country Town Collective, a band of incredibly talented musicians, who, somehow, had managed to work out the fine art of keeping friendships together in spite of its sprawling size, the constant ebb and flow of members and ragtag of eclectic personalities.

‘Blue Dress’ cover art by David Heinrich

They played a beautiful blend of alt-country/alt-folk which quite often whipped into frenzied, roiling blues.


I saw them play there a bunch – also at a tiny clutch of other local venues which supported ‘this kind of music’, then few and far between the backpacker haunts and throbbing nightclubs.


Alice has an incredible instinct for songwriting. I was seriously taken when I first saw her perform with the Collective. Listening to her again at the recent preview gig for her new album, ‘Blue Dress’ – notably her first as a solo artist – I felt the same gravitational pull take hold.


As her voice and guitar enveloped the spectacular wine country setting, I re-realised I was in the presence of an artist whose heart beats with pure creativity. She’s a killer song-writer. For some reason I was reminded of Bob Dylan, such is her belief in the artform, her dexterity and sense of ‘the social’. She’s poetic. Insightful. And she loves music so much you can feel the ache from deep within her bones.


Her partner Kim Orchard is also a one-off – a mad bluesman and incredible musician. Meeting in Darwin ten years ago they forged a union in love and music (now love, music and kids). This night, as part of the band (more talented friends!), he slays his guitar, making it down and dirty as hell in dissident service to her delicate songs. It’s the perfect combination – and counterpoint.

Now they’re back living in Alice’s hometown of Adelaide. My new home too as it turns out. It’s where we worked together in 2011, on the vanguard tour ‘Long Way From The Top End‘.


An initiative she spearheaded, Alice was determined to shove as many of the excruciatingly under-valued, uber-talented artists from the Northern Territory as possible under the noses of the down south ‘industry’ demi-gods. Over 20 bands and performers jumped on board.


With a slew of live gigs we made sure the promoters, national media and audiences in town heard what they had to offer. Loud. It did the scene a world of good.


But now it’s Alice’s turn. She’s spent years writing the songs for ‘Blue Dress’. All she needed was a room of her own – snatched in between full-time work at Finders University, raising wee kids and the myriad of other demands that flood her daily calendar.


‘Blue Dress’ lays bare one beautiful, indelible song after another. Nothing has been compromised and everything has been held up to the light, examined and re-examined – every note, every lyric. It’s a sojourn in harmony and ‘discordia’, filled with heartbreak, melancholy and frail honesty. And some of southern – and northern – Australia’s best musicians.


Alice’s voice drives you to listen – and listen harder. She’s an emotional storyteller who won’t let you go. And she’s only just beginning…

Laneway life: Aice Orchard. Photo: Megan Spencer

Circus Folk: When was the moment you became aware of music – do you remember?


Alice Orchard: My parents have a recording of me singing when I was four or five years old. I also have somewhere a Christmas carol I wrote when I was six. I had just started learning the piano and I wrote it out properly on a stave.


I sang a lot as a kid, so my parents bought a piano and I did lessons till I was 15.


CF: What kind of a relationship do you have towards singing?


AO: I am definitely more of a songwriter than a singer; it’s taken a lot of work for me to get comfortable with my voice. My mum used to tell me that I wrote great songs but that I should get someone else to sing them!


But with age I feel like my voice has become a bit more interesting and just in the past two years I feel like I’ve actually learned to sing, in the sense of using my voice as an instrument and working with resonance, rather than trying to copy some impression of what I think I “should” sound like.


CF: Music seems to be much more than something you just ‘do’ – it seems to be something you believe in. Would that be a fair thing to say? Can you share a bit more about that?


AO: Over the past year I’ve gotten really interested in the effects of acoustic music on the body. For example, I notice with my kids that electronic ‘bleeps’ in the games they play on the iPad and so on, get extremely irritating to all of us over time and leave them in a fractious state.


But acoustic music is nothing like that. The resonance of singing or playing an instrument draws a response from the body. Plato writes about this in The Republic and thinks it’s a threat to reason!


I am especially interested in how music helps with sensory integration – which is a term that comes from occupational therapy. Playing music involves more of the senses than any other activity, so it’s a great way to develop and improve sensory processing overall (which is why it’s so good for kids to learn a musical instrument, and for aged care and rehabilitation facilities to include music programs).

Alice Orchard, sunset album launch in McLaren Vale, ‘Blue Dress’. Photo: Megan Spencer

Alice Orchard. Photo: Megan Spencer


CF: But why music? What do you love about it so much – why not some other creative outlet for instance?


AO: I have no talent in the visual arts! Or in drama or dance.


I always wanted to be a writer and have written lots of drafts of novels. But now that I am fully immersed in family life I just can’t justify getting myself in the critical mindset I need for writing.


Music is social; I can pick up the guitar for 10 minutes in between doing housework, the kids can join in, and it helps to keep my over-committed life in balance.


CF: You are a self-described “introvert”, yet you love performing live. Can you tell us a bit more about the need it fulfils in you and also why you enjoy performance?


AO: I am an introvert, but I’m also interested in people. I love collaborating and want people around me to be happy. That’s my nature!


I love performance as an extension of that communication. It’s about giving something back to the audience. Ideally – in my mind – the audience would be part of the performance… I’m still thinking about how to make this happen.


CF: What inspired the songs for ‘Blue Dress’? And have you been working on this album for a long time?


AO: The album is a collection of songs written over the past 15 years that (mostly) haven’t been recorded or released before – although most of the songs were part of the setlist for Country Town Collective, the band I used to play in.


There isn’t really [an overall] ‘thematic vision’. I have reflected on this because the next album, which I am writing now, is clearly about sadness and getting older and nostalgia. But ‘Blue Dress’ is who I was from my mid-twenties to my late-thirties. “Blue” as in “sad”.


I have tended to only write a few songs a year which in the past have come from the most traumatic moments in my life and wanting to turn those into something beautiful. Lately though I’ve become more fluid with songwriting. I now tend to have a few different thoughts and feelings buzzing around my head and they all flow out as one song.


The recording process itself for ‘Blue Dress’ began in April 2016. So it’s been a two-and-a-half-year project.


It was recorded at Stella One Studio in the Barossa Valley, which is the home studio of Jamie and Vicki Blechynden. They really nurtured me through the process, despite me being (I think!) at times difficult to work with. [They] really stayed the journey.


CF: In today’s musical landscape in Australia, do you think there’s more of a space for women in music to ‘chart their own course’? Is it possible to be a mother, a professional worker, and a ‘woman in rock’ at the same time – and be visible about it? Has the time come when it’s more possible to integrate different aspects of our lives into music, instead of conforming to some kind of impossible ‘rock chick’ stereotype where it’s ‘all or nothing’ for a career in music? Curious to hear your thoughts on this – or your own take on it…


AO: I always thought that I would work till I was 40, then become a full-time artist (writer). But life doesn’t work to any plan! I feel so lucky to have embraced so many amazing career opportunities – working with Indigenous leaders in ATSIC, with artists in the NT, with men and women leaving prison and with doctors and medical researchers at Flinders [Uni]. All have inspired me so much. I think I thrive on learning new things and challenging myself, so I don’t get bored or depressed with my life.


I think it’s tough to make a living as an artist of any kind, but there are wonderful platforms like the ABC and triple j which support new and diverse talent. It’s such a personal choice. I’ve always been driven by this desire to fit in and fly ‘under radar’ a bit. That’s my personality type. I’m embarrassed to be the centre of attention.


I think perhaps that’s why I love songwriting as it’s the only time I feel like I can truly speak my mind! But I am happy to be a performer part-time, then go back to my ordinary life.


I think there has never been a better time for women and people from diverse backgrounds, to make art and to find a receptive audience. Social media makes it nearly impossible to ‘fake it’, so it really is a platform for authenticity.


I love this about Instagram. It’s my own online photo album that I get to curate. You just have to be yourself.


CF: Just on that idea of community service, and perhaps integrating music into that – would you tell us a little more about the music program you put together for the second year medical students at Flinders, ‘Music For Health’?


AO: There was a pilot program (coordinated by Dr Maxine Moore) to introduce a medical humanities curriculum in the Flinders MD. I was delighted to be asked to design one of the elective options, as they wanted to give the students as broad a range as possible to choose from.


The elective involved the students forming a rock band and rehearsing a set of songs over 4 months, then performing live at the Flinders Tavern.


We had 9 students enrol in the first ‘Music for Health’ elective and they really taught me as much as I taught them! All the students were wonderful to work with. (You can read more about it here).


It will run again next year but in a different format, with students rehearsing in smaller groups for performances in the hospital wards.


I’m collaborating with Dr. Amy Wyatt who is a biochemist at Flinders and a musician – and, lucky for me, now also playing with me in my band!


CF: If you could reincarnate as your favourite musician, who would that be – and why?


AO: I am a tragic diehard John Lennon fan. His songwriting just cuts through: it’s lyrical, honest, painful, humorous… And in all that, somehow soothing to listen to.

‘Blue Dress’ album preview. L-R: Kim Orchard, Alice Orchard, Amy Wyatt, Brett Williams. Photo: Megan Spencer

Laneway life: Alice Orchard. Photo: Megan Spencer

CF: And other musical influences?


AO: Gender is really in the spotlight in the music industry at the moment, so I would also just say that pretty much all the music I am listening to right now is by Australian women: Jack River, Emma Louise, Tia Gostelow, Freya Josephine Hollick, Kasey Chambers, Tash Sultana, Mojo Juju, Angie McMahon… So much talent!


These are the stories I want to hear, that mean something to me right now.


CF: Where do you see yourself now headed with music? Where would you like to take ‘Blue Dress’, and your music in the future?


I feel like I’ve just put one foot on the bottom of a ladder – this is just the start. I’m writing songs now for a new album which is more about my current stage of life, i.e. being a working parent and feeling tired all the time! That’s where I am at now.


I’d also love to set up a home studio, to give myself more opportunity to experiment and spend more time on the recording process.


CF: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given when it comes to making music?


AO: Stay humble.

Declaration: this is paid content

* * *

‘Blue Dress’ is out now. Listen and download from here.

* * *

  • Interview: Alice Orchard
  • Words/edit/photos: Megan Spencer
  • Listen & download: ‘Blue Dress’ from here
  • Watch: Alice performing at Darwin Railway Club.
  • Read: more about ‘Ectopic Beats‘.
  • Disclosure: Alice and I are old friends. This article is part of my professional (paid) work with Alice to help promote her new album.


Photo: Juliana Menjura A.

Until The End Of The World

Posted on October 29, 2018

Jeremy Conlon has a new album. I’ve written about his work before on Circus Folk. He’s an unpredictable composer. A great live performer. And his music excites me.


Beautiful But Dangerous is one of the new tracks. Swarming, menacing and punctuated by ominous piano, it sounds as if the hounds of hell are growling up from Hades, “the end of the world is nigh”. It’s just as this unique Australian composer wishes it to be on this, his tenth recording, ‘The Degradation Suite’.


Beautiful and dangerous perfectly sums up the aural effect of taking in this epic, atmospheric journey into a heart of darkness.


Achingly beautiful, it also kind of hurts to listen.

“Harsh climates breed hard humans, and the slow decay of resources play into mouths wide open.”

Dense with bleak electronica, awash with cavernous field recordings, drenched in despondent cello, it sounds like a requiem and it feels like an epitaph: for the human race, for the environment and for life on earth as we know it.

Hand of faith. Photo: Juliana Menjura A.

Perhaps only someone who knows the fragility of sustaining life in the harshest of places could conjur a beast such as this.


Originally from Adelaide – and with a Degree in Classical Composition –  for the last 15 years Jeremy Conlon (also known as ‘Cooperblack’) has predominantly lived in the Northern Territory. He’s worn many hats under that harsh NT sun: as a musician, DJ, sound recordist, radio station manager, music producer, community worker, creative collaborator and more.


Happily in exile from ‘down south’, he’s resided, worked and thrived in some of the most remote places in Australia. Namely towns and communities in the deserts of Central Australia, also the traditional homelands of many of Australia’s First Nations people and unique ‘language groups’.


Watching the movement of ‘goods’ in and out of smaller townships, and this dependence on things from elsewhere… Noticing the vicissitudes around abundance and lack, the constant ebb and low of supply and demand, Conlon – as part of an artistic collaboration – became inspired to write a musical ‘response’ to human vulnerability in the face of geographical isolation.


Approaching the project as if he were indeed scoring “the end of the world”, musically ‘The Degradation Suite’ is signature Conlon/Cooperblack: synths plus field recordings, this time with a twist: live instrumentation.


Performed by talented multi-instrumentalist and ‘NT Song of the Year Finalist’, Xavia, her cello is the ‘The Degradation Suite’s’ fingerprint of ‘human-ness’. It haunts the tracks, reminding us of the price paid by complacency. Present in each stringed note, it suffuses every synthetic sweep and yawning layer of ‘found sound’.


Her cello brings a transformational aspect to Conlon’s music, filling it with frailty and vulnerability, deepening the album’s overall anxious emotional texture.

“The nature of change that’s uncomfortable, the challenge of re-mapping, re-working habits into survival modes that scar both faces and hearts.”

The timing for ‘The Degradation Suite’ couldn’t be better – or worse, depending. As the reality of climate change creeps toward us, ‘The Degradation Suite’ performs as a decreasingly hypothetical soundtrack to an increasingly apocalyptic film, being written daily in real life – a disaster movie of our own making.


There is some light among the shade: the ‘Suite’ starts ambiently enough with ‘Cloud Potential’;  ‘End Of Communication’ is also light, and spacious, quiet. Tendrils of electonica great Jean-Michel Jarre also reach their way into this apocalyptic treatise, as do strains of some of SF’s  most haunting film scores: from Vangelis’s Bladerunner and Cliff Martinez’s Solaris, to Clint Mansell’s Moon and Mica Levi’s discordant Under The Skin.


‘The Degradation Suite’ is very much the sum of its parts. Travelling across 15 years and vast distances to warn us all, Jeremy Conlon explains…

Australian composer Jeremy Conlon. Photo: Juliana Menjura A.

CF: Where exactly have you lived and/or worked in ‘desert’ Australia?


JC: I have lived and worked in the Northern Territory for around 15 years in total, occasionally living on the east coast but still travelling for projects back to the Centre or the Top End.


Initially arriving in Darwin to live and work in 2003 after working in Tennant Creek, Elliott (Kulumindini) and Epenarra (Wutunugurra) in 2002, later I moved to Yuendumu (in 2014) and lived there for 3 years.


Eventually I landed in Alice Springs (Mparntwe) to live in October 2017. After continually passing through for years, it caught my heart and mind also.


CF: Specifically, what attracts you to the desert? What makes the desert a special place for you?


JC: The Central Australian Desert Regions are massive, and so varied. Not just the typical desert you initially think of, but loads of hidden gems: pools of water, pockets of green – even surprising woodlands and forest!


It’s so localised that it changes constantly with the change in colour of the sand and ground.


CF: Does the desert welcome ‘outsiders’?


JC: I think the desert does welcome outsiders, particularly if you’re able to stop and listen. But unless this your country, you are an outsider. You need a car to get out bush – an essential item – a hat, loads of water, and bush sense really helps.


Being open to the way time works here, being adaptable and welcoming to ways of looking at life, environment and culture, all work together to form a real understanding.


CF: Listening to ‘The Degradation Suite’, it sounds as if the music kind of grew out of the ground from a place very deep below. There’s a lot of space, menace and ‘thrust’ to it – velocity I mean – right from the opening strains. What story did you want to tell?


JC: By way of explanation, here’s the story so far…


“Harsh climates breed hard humans, and the slow decay of resources play into mouths wide open. The nature of change that’s uncomfortable, the challenge of re-mapping, re-working habits into survival modes that scar both faces and hearts.”

Cover art: Juliana Menjura A.

After a brainstorming session with Yuendemu-based  filmmaker Chloe James, we roughly wrote out a script for a scenario where the end of the world happens in very remote Australia.


Central Australia is a place where most of the resources come in from ‘somewhere else’ – often from faraway places, travelling great distances.


This is an artistic response to what happens when they suddenly stop coming in, the impact, how humans react to the environment changing…

Jeremy in the field, ‘left of elephant sound’. Photo: supplied

CF: So you wrote the soundtrack before the film!


JC: Yes! We don’t have the film as yet but we do have the music. And the title of each track also adds to the narrative (‘Cloud Potential’; ‘1500 Feet’; ‘End of Communications’; ‘Beautiful But Dangerous’; ‘This Background Stain’ and ‘3 Part Human’). The tracks were sketched out, with synths added. I also incorporated ‘found sounds’ from both my travels in Australia and Alice surrounds, as well as Indonesia.


CF: So not unlike like your previous recording, ‘Capsule‘ (2017)? [JC also layered the synth score with ‘found sounds’ and atmospheres, recorded on his travels in Europe].


JC: That’s right.


CF: Who else did you work with on this album?


JC: I’m lucky enough to have talented cellist Xavia Nou live nearby me in Alice Springs. I invited her into the studio as a session musician, scored the parts I wanted her to play, then conducted and recorded Xavia’s performance. They were great sessions. We had the freedom to experiment and try ideas in a casual and spontaneous way. I edited and mixed the parts from these sessions in my studio in Alice Springs, then mastered the tracks with Ross Cockle at Sing Sing Recording Studios in Melbourne, under the recommendation of producer and sound engineer Anna Laverty.


Ross was recommended to me as someone who would have an understanding of the sound I was after, and of the potential uses of the music once completed. He has a great history in the music industry as a studio engineer, mixer and mastering engineer. We had some really good conversations about the vision I saw in the music, what I wanted to do with it, and the general inspiration for the album. He was a really nice guy – and great to ramble on to!


Alice Springs-based Colombian artist Juliana Menjura A. (Ola Lab) also worked on the cover art with me. This was a process of experimenting with a scanner and found items around where I live. The ‘lizard’ seems to be a recurring theme for me in my life (I have a gecko tattooed on my hand), and we also used the image of a blown fuse and scans of my body. Juliana also operates the laser projector for my current live Cooperblack performances [JC’s “plug n’ play” personal music project originated in the 90s]. They’re in the style of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Relax’ film clip.

Rocking it with Stellar Sea. Photo: supplied

CF: You originally studied Classical Composition at the University of Adelaide: does this influence how you write all of your music, including your more pop-style songs?


JC: The thing I love about composing like this – especially when ’players’ are involved – are the variables and the sounds that that player brings to the pieces. It’s a massive luxury to have time with an instrumentalist, to experiment and ‘have a play’ with styles – to be able to try ‘fun’ ideas on the go. The pop-electro stuff that I write is generally just me, so it’s a bit more boxed in and rigid: I like to limit myself to the ‘tech’ I use. In a sense I do use the same technique, though in a more ‘protein pill’ kind of way, swallowing with ease…


CF: ‘The Degradation Suite’ is quite an ‘emotional’ listen – a bit harrowing actually! What was it like for you, putting it together?


JC: It was good to listen to before the real strings were recorded. After they were added it was like splashing paint about, in all colours – just wide and expansive in language and texture. I took inspiration from films such as Annihilation by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer. The soundtrack of that, and its general ‘aural design’, really inspired me in making ‘The Degradation Suite’, especially with the ‘otherworldliness’ I aimed to create in the music.


CF: Did you realise that you wrote ‘The Degradation Suite’ in the Centenary of Armistice – 100 years since the end of WWI? The war that for so many was ‘the end of the world’?


JC: No, I hadn’t realised it coincided – but I feel there is a sense of impending darkness around at the moment. The war to end all wars, and in the 50’s it was the threat of Nuclear War… Now we have the threat of an Environmental War – environmental pressures that really effect us. I did think about how fragile we are clinging to few resources in order to keep us afloat and functional. And when they run out, stop – it could be sudden! And when you are living remotely, in the desert, the effect of something like that is massive.


CF: It’s a pretty epic piece: so how do you feel, listening to the work, now that it’s finished?


JC: I really like it. The tracks have a space and gravity. In a sense they fill a canvas and a stage, which is dark at the back but kind of poking out at you too, slightly jagged but still smooth, with a sense of déjà vu. Somewhere down deep inside, we might have all been here before – you know?


I feel I’ve definitely been working up to this. I almost always seem to have instrumental tracks on my releases. This project brings together my skills as a composer and an electronic musician into one release more so than any before. I’m very keen to write more for strings – the main challenge being to find people to write for! I’d also really like to write more for film and get more commissioned work.


I would also definitely like to make more music like this, if the moment happens. I just let the flow go and see what comes along, what’s ‘suggested’. The inspiration might be a ‘conversation’, a ‘movie’.. Or the ‘sonic butterflies’ that hover over me might suggest something – or some place to travel to, and play in. Travel and environmental recordings always seem to spark things too…

Cooperblack live with ‘Frankie Lights’ by Juliana Menjura A. Photo: Dave Crowe

CF: You moved to Alice fairly recently: is it a good community in which to make music, especially the music you’re interested in producing?


JC: Alice is a great place to try ideas and to experiment. It has a very supportive music and arts scene, and gives the space for people to create with other fine humans. There are a lot of transient people from other countries who live, play and work there, who add to the already existing rich musical culture and flavours. Occasionally we get national or international artists touring, but most of the time we all make our own show and even our own venues.


A few awesome festivals happen too – Blacken, Wide Open Spaces, Alice Springs Desert Festival… There’s always someone playing on the weekend – musicians or DJs, or musicians who are also DJs… And local community radio station 8CCC is a big supporter of local music.


CF: Listening to ‘The Degradation Suite’, I can hear that the desert spawned its sound… Will the desert always keep you? Or do you have plans to leave it one day?


JC: The desert has me for now, but it’s always refreshing to get out as well, to find different inspirations, different extremes, and to discover new music from elsewhere to fall in love with…

Declaration: this is paid content


‘The Degradation Suite’ releases on Bandcamp and iTunes 11.11.2018

* * *

  • Interview: Jeremy Conlon aka Cooperblack
  • Words/edit: Megan Spencer
  • Photos: Juliana Menjura A. and Dave Crowe.
  • Listen & Download: The Degradation Suite on Bandcamp + iTunes
  • Follow: Jeremy Conlon/Cooperblack on Facebook.
  • Read: more about Jeremy’s music on Circus Folk: Capsule and Return to The Big Eyes.
  • Disclosure: Jeremy is an old friend and collaborator; sometimes I do paid work with him to help promote his music projects. This is one such occasion.

On Nodding Terms

Posted on February 4, 2018

High-res version

In February 2018 Auspicious Plastic was selected as a finalist in the Frankie “Good Stuff” Awards in the ‘Writing + Podcasts’ category.



I submitted an excerpt from “Episode 10“, featuring a conversation with dedicated diarist and digital publisher, Carrie King. It went into the running for the ‘Writing + Podcast’ category, and the People’s Choice Award.



Bobbing around out there on that roiling sea of podcasts, sometimes it can feel as if you’re in the boat alone, rendered invisible by thick fog and heavy swells. So it’s very nice to receive some acknowledgement. And an oar back to shore…


I was chuffed (and genuinely surprised!) to be selected as one of six finalists in the category. And grateful to everyone I’ve interviewed for the series so far, Cooperblack for the theme music and Studio Ink for the lovely logo design. And to my late Mum Margaret who inspired it all.


Thank you to everyone who has listened to the series, been touched it, and who voted for it in the ‘People’s Choice Award’.


POST UPDATED: ‘Auspicious Plastic’ didn’t win the category, but it was great to be selected along with five other auspicious finalists. Read more – and about the winner (congrats Taku Mbudzi!) – on the Frankie website.

TAKING A LITTLE BREAK: ‘Auspicious Plastic’ will return in 2019. In the meantime there are 14 episodes to catch up on or to re-listen to – on Soundcloud, and/or listen+subscribe on iTunes.