From Forest Haiku to Spring Poem

Haiku collage 3

Post by Cameron Semmens

As editor and designer of the 2018 Winter edition of the hillscene ‘zine I decided to open it up to all those aspiring writers out there – to write a haiku for the forest! ‘Cause I love the forest, and I know a lot of other people out there do too.

Haiku holds a unique place in many people’s story. They are one of the few poetic forms taught in school that don’t rhyme, and that can be deliberately open and ambiguous. Which I think is a healthy acknowledgment of the mystery and ‘poetry’ of reality, rather than the spreadsheets and certainty we are sometimes sold.

The tight constraints of haiku: allowing only 5 syllables for the first line; 7 for the second and 5 for the third – act like a focussing lens; like a magnifying glass – cutting out all that isn’t needed, utilising just the most effective and evocative words.

I think this form of poem is at its best when simply capturing a single suggestive moment; an emotive word-photo of a landscape; or a fragment of a scene that is emblematic of a whole world. And so many people did this really well.

I got about 40 haiku submissions – which was great. But it wasn’t easy to whittle them down to the final ones published in the ‘zine.

My selection criteria was pretty simple: it had to be in and around the forest; to be original and fresh; to be vivid and evocative. And on top of that I was looking for both ‘heart’ and ‘craft’ – words that felt honest and emotional that also showed precision and deliberate crafting.

After making the selection, I paired them with an appropriate photo, and then tried to match them with a space or story in the ‘zine.

A big shout out to Katie Cremean at Ferny Creek Primary School – she got her whole grade 3 class writing haiku and producing complimentary art – which was just delightful.

Ferny Creek Haiku

So, I hope you enjoy the haiku selected… 

But before that – the next poetry challenge! Since the last call out went so well, I’ve made a new poetry challenge for the Spring issue.

Write a Spring poem for Hillscene!

For potential publication in the Spring/Summer edition of Hillscene. To qualify, your poem must mention: 

– 1 colour

– 1 type of plant or tree, and

– 1 place name from The Dandenong ranges.

5 lines MAXIMUM.

Send in by Oct 10, 2018.

Have a go. Let the inspiration flow. Put pen to paper. 

Send it through to me, Cameron, at

An example:

Stepping away
from grey-skied, tourist-busy Sassafras
wet ferns kiss me with ancient love
and fog-lavished forest rehydrates
my data-parched soul

The key words being: grey, fern, Sassafras.

I look forward to reading your entires. And of course, sadly, we won’t be able to publish every entry. But good luck.

In the meantime, enjoy these haiku!!!!

Haiku collage 1

Haiku collage 2

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Halloween on the Green

Halloween blue face
Tell us a bit about your event?

With big crowds and amazing costumes being the main feast for the eyes, expect the unexpected!

The growing popularity of Halloween is a wonderful vehicle to set as the theme for our fundraiser. It has become evident over the past couple of years that there is no real central gathering point on the mountain to celebrate this occasion. Pockets of fun have begun to appear locally, however families mostly leave the mountain. We would like to draw on this momentum by providing a child safe and family-friendly environment for all our community to celebrate.

What music and activities will be held on the day?

We have a fully packed program of activities these include:

We will have an amazing array of entertainment this year at Halloween on the Green. Our Master of Ceremonies the wonderful Rosalind Mackay will commence the day with a ‘welcome to country’ and introduce Mayor, Cr Len Cox with an opening speech.

Local musicians, The Bean Project, with their vibrant French horn clad quintet will be stopping by to play their jazz/folk set on the main stage at 12.40 – 2:30pm. Parkville the band will be entertaining the crowds on the main stage from 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm.

The Bean Project

Join the crowd at the main stage in the final hour of the day with ‘Name that Tune’ music competition. It’s free to enter and loads of fun. The first person to guess all tunes wins a prize. A stunning musical landscape in sound of popular culture will be brought to you by the masterful talents of art teacher Rod Price and supported by student Harrison Lawrence. Come guess and come dance good bye to Halloween for another year.

As well as this, we will have roving Wizard story teller Sim Salla Bim 12:30 – 3:30 pm. Performers and musicians Los Trios and stilt walkers will delight by roving the green from 1:00 – 4:00pm.

Join in the conga line at 1:45 – 2:30 pm and the Best Dressed prize parade and announcement at 3:45pm.

Watch our business identities, school principals, Bendigo Bank manager and Fire Captain be dunked in our dunking machine throughout the day. Free carnival rides, face painting, CFA Fire Brigade truck, Scouts rope bridge, hair braiding and trick or treat for the kids and surprise music sets in the main Hall (trick or treat includes free lollies and apples.

Halloween Rides

What to eat

A variety of taste sensations from different cultures will be on offer from our food stall vendors’ tents and food trucks. These include: The Spud Shack, Raithai Traditional Thai Food Van, D’LISH Turkish Street Food, Golden Poffertjes and Bring Braai South African Food.

Our four schools and the home-schooling network will also be offering food at reasonable prices for all to enjoy such as: sausage sizzle tent, healthy homemade soups, fairy floss, fresh homemade lemonade, lemon deserts, popcorn and Melba Coffee expertly prepared by local baristas.

What to buy

Around the green a variety of stall vendors will be showcasing the best of their wares for you to purchase. Vendor stalls include: Corkies Creations, Little Lucy’s Garden, Sues Laughing Clowns, Pretty Strange Crafts, Kiddies Food Kutters, Farrahs Cakes, Dreams to Creations, Cabochon Harmony, Luna Co, Artful Splodgers, T is for Treehouse, Beauty Stayz All Day, Kongas Kreations

Plus Tarot Readings – Our team of Tarot Readers will be in tents and providing 15-minute Tarot Readings for $25.00, with all proceeds going back to our schools.

Why did you decide to have a Halloween celebration?

It was evident that Halloween was becoming more and more celebrated each year and adopted as a fun vehicle for our Hills families. We wanted a means to gather the community which brought all sectors together to help and support each other while having fun. Who doesn’t like to dress up!

Halloween faces

Why do you think Halloween has become so popular?

We feel Halloween is so popular because it enables a means of self-expression and exploration of all that Halloween encompasses. This year we have gone to great lengths to produce information pillars at this year’s event to show how Halloween is expressed through different cultures. From the Christian celebration of All Saints Day to the Mexican celebration of the Day-of-the-Dead. So much more to Halloween than people first understand.

What/Who will the money raised go towards?

The monies raised on the day are divided between our participating schools and the Philanthropic Collective to stage the following years Event. Last year the Philanthropic Collective raised almost 17 thousand dollars, and this was divided up and donated back in the same way.

Halloween wolf

Who are the Philanthropic Collective and what do they want to achieve for the community?

The Philanthropic Collective are a group of parent volunteers which offer their time, services and expertise to support our schools, students and community. We have a focus on supporting families facing hardship whether that be via our free food program or simply providing free tickets to the Royal Melbourne Show.

The Philanthropic Collective is committed to creating child safe environments within all our projects where children and young people are safe and feel safe.

Anything else you’d like to add?

This year we are working towards a cultural celebration of Halloween and to bring our community together once again. Through this Festival, The Philanthropic Collective is focused on creating beautiful and lasting memories for our families and our community by having a wonderful time with each other once a year.

Scary mask

It remains our intention to once again offer as many free activities to children as possible, including some rides. Our aim is to eliminate the disparity between families who can afford to pay for rides and activities for their children and those who cannot. This is the spirit that we would like to spread. Our success on the day cannot be measured by how much money is raised, rather should be judged by the joy that will be generated.

Last year our call to ‘good will’ in order to bring this event to life, reached many people from our immediate three schools, from our local community but also and surprisingly from outside of our hills. Many volunteers unrelated to our schools as well as artists sensitive to our aim offered to perform for free and help on the day. This in itself was a wonderful achievement in ‘good will’ and a great reward for our efforts to this aim.

Halloween costumes

When & Where

Saturday 27th October 2018
Start time 12:00 noon – concluding at 6:00 pm
Ferny Creek Recreational Reserve Hall
16 Clarkmont Road, Sassafras 3787, Victoria


Limited online tickets available
$6.00 per person – children three years of age and under free of charge
Ticket purchases online at with a two hundred dollar value early bird prizes for purchases before the 1st of October.

For more information go to halloween on the green facebook page.

Halloween on the green Festival

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Meet the Winter editor and designer

Post by Adriana Alvarez.

Now it’s over to our second editor and designer who will be putting their own touches to the hillscene. Cameron has contributed to the hillcene in the past giving us a series of poetry workshop ideas for people to try out for themselves. With his ususal wit, he tells us a bit about his writing and what he has in store for our readers.

Tell us a little bit about your writing journey?

Age 1 – couldn’t write.

Age 10 – poor writer, bad speller.

Age 15 – loved writing fun little poems to entertain myself and my friends.

Age 19 – published my first book of poetry called Splat. Not classy, but fun… and you have to start somewhere.

Age 29 – only at this age did I actually start using poetry as a form of self-expression, thought clarification and emotional catharsis. And the publishing of Through The Lover’s Window represents this change.

Age 40 – at this age I felt a change in myself – moving away from the thrill of performing my own poems towards the joy of helping others find their way into considered words through writing workshops.

Age 44 – the present – I’m loving writing and sharing quieter, more meditative, poems; and I’m trying to write a long-form prose memoir called My Lemon-moon in Norway; and I’m loving running poetry workshops for students and adults and teachers and ESL students.

Cameron Semmens

Cameron with his daughter Mieka.

Why did you want to become an writer/poet?

The power.

The power to guide people into new worlds.

The power to bring beauty into others’ brains.

I’m all about the power.

What is an editor’s role in this era of fake news and alternative facts?

I do have a deep intolerance for fear-mongering and thoughtless living. I believe a commitment to truthfulness needs to be consciously chosen. And I believe that hard truths can still be said with gentleness and generosity.


I see my role as the editor of hillscene as hope-mongering, pro-thinking, and nodding enthusiastically towards inclusivity and generosity.

How did you become involved with the hillscene?

I’ve read hillscene for years – had a number of bits and pieces in published within it – and I think it does a great service for the arts and community in the Hills. So, naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to put my stamp on it as a wordsmith and a designer.

What do you wish you knew about being a writer/editor before you got started?

That people like to be asked to help.

Who are your creative hero’s?

At this moment:

Poet and philosopher – JOHN O’DONOHUE – his deep insights on being and his powerfully unique way with words are a beacon to me.


Pulitzer-prize winning poet – MARY OLIVER – her exquisite, precise observations of nature intermingled with pungent realisations and revelations are lighthouses to my panicy paddlings along the dark coastlines of creativity.

But next week, maybe, I’ll have two new heros.

What do you enjoy about living in the Dandenong Ranges?

I moved to the Hills six years ago, and I just love it up here. Its truly where my heart is. I live in Upwey. I frequent many of the local cafes… frequently. I regularly walk the paths of Sherbrooke Forest. And I love being part of the general milieu: the markets and all the special events.

Where can people find more information about you?

You can check out my website:
Facebook: just search for Cameron Semmens
Instagram: for my arty alter ego, you could check out: The_Crappy_Artists_Campanion

What are your plans for the future?

To make a living.

To keep being nice.

To try a few new weird hairstyles.

To make some beautiful things.

To be a good dad.

Something else you want us to know? Here is your chance!

Sometimes I write poems in my dreams.


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Meet Autumn’s editor and designer

Post by Adriana Alvarez.

I don’t know if you’ve heard but this year we’ve decided to hand the ball over to our talented community and let them have a go at steering the hillscene ship. We put a call out for editors and designers who would be interested in putting the hillscene together and gaining some experience working in publishing.

Local editor Anna James is our first guest editor and designer for the hillscene. She has worked on the hillscene in previous issues, helping to refine and polish our articles and doing such a great job it was a no brainer to invite her to be the guest editor for the Autumn issue. She has lived in the Hills for over a decade.

Her love of writing began as a child, and developed more technically throughout her education culminating in a Master of Publishing and Communication from the University of Melbourne. We asked her a few questions about herself, the hillscene and why she loves living in the hills.


What do you wish you knew about being an editor before you got started?

 I wish I knew that writing is about so much more than the rules.

A good writer doesn’t have to be a perfect grammarian, or even a good one. I have known authors to use their editor as a word processor – sending through pages of text without a second look at what they’ve written. This way of working allows for the author’s strengths to shine, and while I can’t help but pity that editor, it’s a great example of how editors can work with writing – not always correcting or restricting, but shaping and polishing.

From an editor’s perspective, there are two elements that make writing worth reading: an interesting subject and a passionate author. Hillscene magazine exists for this reason – there is a lot going on in the Hills, and a lot to be passionate about. 

What do you enjoy about living in the Dandenong Ranges?

My family moved to Australia when I was six years old. We continued to shift houses every few years after that, sampling the surrounding suburbs of Melbourne for much of my childhood until we settled into Belgrave. I formed a special relationship with the Hills; travelling to the city for school meant that the Hills became a special haven for me, and I still find relief as I retreat back here after a long day.

I love being surrounded by green; I love watching the family of King Parrots who live in the gumtree outside my bedroom window; and I love the people and culture unique to this place. The Hills are home to me.

How did you become involved with the hillscene?

When I decided to volunteer for Burrinja, I was welcomed warmly as part of the team. With so many talented people orbiting Burrinja, there are always a handful of fascinating projects bubbling under the surface. It was only a matter of time before I discovered something special like Hillscene where I could apply my editorial skills.

While representing any community completely is an immense challenge, I found that Hillscene managed to celebrate the core of what makes this place so special. There is a sense of discovery to the magazine that is uncannily similar to walking around the Hills and finding a new artist, a new café or a new hiking trail.

Being a part of Hillscene is also a process of discovery. For me, at least, editorial meetings are an experience of surprise and delight as we discuss potential articles – there are always events, projects and people I haven’t heard of, always something new to get excited about.

What is an editor’s perspective of this era of fake news and alternative facts?

There has always been a lot of fear about the future of publishing. The running joke from publishers would have it that the Gutenberg press itself was seen as the death of the industry. A more recent doomsday prediction was thwarted when people began to realise that eBooks and online publishing have opened doors to new authors – not closed them for publishers.

The era of fake news and alternative facts presents a different kind of threat. News reportage now moves at ridiculous speeds, and every so often a manipulative or malicious article will slip by unnoticed, taken as the truth. It’s hard enough to keep up with the news without fact checking your sources as well.

This shadowy side of publishing poses a huge threat to us as readers, and it’s a sad time for those of us working in the industry. In a time of such doubt, it’s refreshing to work with a community-focused publication like Hillscene. We need to focus back on the local perspective once in a while – taking the time to celebrate what’s good in your community is incredibly important.

What are your plans for the future (immediate or long term)?

My experiences at university have taught me that there is always more you can learn. Language conventions and writing are always changing and developing as time moves forward, and it is integral for an editor to be flexible and adaptable. I think this is well applied to the rest of life too.

I am just now moving into my career, and in doing so I plan to continue to learn, grow and discover

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Parallax choroegraphed



Post by Hannah Raisin.

Parallax is one of the shows I’m most excited about seeing in our 2018 season. Created and performed by one of Australia’s most innovative performance artists Megan Beckwith, the show combines science, dance and 3d animation to create a portal to new worlds. I was lucky enough to catch up with Megan to find out more about her creative process.

You describe yourself as ‘a geek girl who animates and dances’, can you tell me a bit more about your creative processes and how the digital and physical inform one another in the development of new work?

When I was training in dance at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), I was also going home and gaming (mainly first person shooter). So I was immersed in digital environments for long periods of time, I just loved it. I was also dancing all day and training to become a contemporary dancer, I also was loving my time in the studios at VCA. I wanted to mash the two things I loved together, I wanted to dance in the game and game when I danced.

I primarily see my artistic process as a choreographic one in which I use dance and technology to explore ideas. I use animation in the same way I create dance, it is a choreographic approach. Although, with animations there is no limitations to size, shape, movement, which for a choreographer is really exciting. I sometimes use animation to extend the dancers bodies, or give them an environment to be in. Animation of movement is only limited by time and budget, where as a real body does have strict parameters.

You describe your work as exploring ‘the idea of physicality and technology through the figure of the cyborg and augmented reality’, what a fascinating framework, can you tell me a bit about how you came to work in this space?

So while I was dancing at the VCA and gaming at home, I was also reading sci-fi and digital cyber culture that focused on cyborgs and the post-human. There is a famous essay called A Cyborg Manifesto that was written by Donna Haraway (1984). A Cyborg Manifesto blew my mind. Haraway’s cyborg represents the combination of physicality and technology which really resonated with me. I thought “wow” I am a cyborg! I am still exploring these ideas through my work, now. As new technologies emerge it gives me a whole new series of ideas to explore. I think these notions are important as we are increasing to live in a digital world.


I see you have worked with a range of different creatives including Jude Anderson, Alison Bennett and Jacques Soddell, do you often work in partnership with other makers and what do you look for in a collaborator?

I love to collaborate. As a dancer and animator I often spend hours working alone in a studio or at a computer. So I really gain so much from collaborating. It has been the collaborations I have worked in that have helped me move into my current artistic practice. It is always great to get a new perspective on what you create. My collaborators often inspire new directions or a different perspective on my work and I hope I do the same for them.

You present your work in a diverse range of contexts from galleries and theatres to public street scapes, are your works generally site specific or can they easily translate between different spaces? I’m also interested in how the different environments inform the works?

It isn’t the physical space I am actually interested in, my focus is on the virtual space and how we as humans can be in it. How does virtual reality affect how a dancer moves? That is something I am really interested in.

Presenting work in different cultural contexts can offer a range of new challenges, opportunities and considerations, did any of your recent international experiences impact on the way you consider and frame your works?

I performed a very early version of Parallax in Vancouver, and after the showing I had a very experienced and well known dance technology artist run up to me after the performance. He was so excited about what I was doing but suggested what I was doing was similar to work that was emerging in the 1970s and 80s, experimental, pushing boundaries and edgy. I have never thought about my work in parallel with artists of this time. In Australia we are isolated and it is sometimes difficult to see the connections and threads that artistically joins my work historically and culturally. For me it took someone with a different cultural context to highlight where my work sits and to draw connections with other choreographers’ work.


When audiences come to see a show like Parallax, is there a particular consideration or inquiry you’d like them to take away with them?

I really like to entertain an audience so I hope that the audience enjoys the work and has a great time watching Parallax. When I speak to audience members after the show, they often say they feel like they have been on a journey. The audience often feel like they have been somewhere or have had a different experience that is other-worldly. I think people feel this because of the combination of the body and the stereoscopic imagery. It really affects the audience differently than 2D imagery.

Parallax by Megan Beckwith is on Saturday 24 February at 8pm at Burrinja.
Save up your questions and join Megan and Dr Ross Farnell in a Q&A after the show.

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Gawurra at Survival Day

Belgrave Survival Day is thrilled to announce acclaimed Gawurra Gaykamangu as the headline performer at this year’s Belgrave Survival Day Friday 26 January!

Gawurra is a Yolngu professional performing artist hailing from Milingimbi (Yurrwi), North East Arnhem Land. With an emotional and resonant voice, Gawurra’s performances deliver a masterful musical sensitivity.


Yolngu people feel the spirit of Gawurra’s music in their hearts. The emotion in his voice touches people to build and refresh their spirit, making them stronger through the vine of love. Gawurra is a genuine young leader in his community, a respected song man with knowledge and power. It is important for Gawurra to connect his culture through his music to all peoples, sharing the love from small communities of the Northern Territory to the major mainstream international music markets of the world.

In 2016, Gawurra won the NT Song of the Year in the Pop category, for ‘Mulunda’. He received four NIMA Awards and gained national recognition throughout the music industry and mainstream media, including an ARIA nomination and a 4.5-star review in Rolling Stone magazine who stated “Gawurra commands attention regardless of backdrop.”

Gawurra’s star has continued to rise in 2017, mounting his first national tour of Australia with SOLD OUT appearances in mainstream music venues throughout the country and as a featured performer at major music festivals. Gawurra has established himself as a “must see” live act, gathering a mainstream following and captivating his audiences across the country. “Gawurra celebrates the natural wonders of his homeland in Gupapuyngu language across his debut album.” – The West Australian

2017 was a big year for Gawurra as he started his own professional music and artist services business. Gawurra Catfish Corporation was formed and operates out of Melbourne to deliver artist representation, music production, music licensing and recording label services.

With Gawurra Gaykamangu headlining the day festival goers will be also enjoy performances by The Deans of Soul, Eskatology, Mullum Mullum Choir, Gnarnaryarrahe – Didge Meditation, Djirri Djirri Dance Group, Mullum Mullum Hip Hop Dance Group as well as contributions from Aunty Dot Peters and SEED Indigenous Youth Climate Network.

Belgrave Survival Day will be held this Friday 26 January in Borthwick Park, Benson Street, Belgrave from 12.00 – 4.30pm. Join in for another day of music, stalls, children’s activities, food and fun and to celebrate the survival of Australia’s First Nations people. Find out more on the Belgrave Survival Day Facebook page.

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Citizen 457


Local based dance theatre company, in Helvetica’s new work delves into contentious conversations around citizenship. In Helvetica is a contemporary performance ensemble, based in Upwey, making unique and quirky new work through improvisation and play. Comprised of contemporary dancer Sara Di Segna, performance maker Toni Main and musician Gene Holland, In Helvetica explores the everyday world through movement, storytelling and sound.

Their new work, Citizen 457, will open next Wednesday as part of the La Mama Explorations Program. Citizen 457 is an improvised dance theatre response to the legislation in our country regarding emigration, refugees and citizenship. In Helvetica have drawn from their experiences and struggles with national pride, visa applications, and ineffectual compassion. It explores the questions around what it means to belong.

To belong to Australia.

To be a citizen.

It gets harder to answer these questions in a world that more often raises walls, protecting the borders instead of the people.

Ensemble member Sara Di Segna is originally from Italy, currently living in Australia on the controversial 457 visa. She left Italy in the throes of economic turmoil and has been in Australia for five years. She has been creating and performing with in Helvetica for four of those years. Earlier this year, her right to stay in Australia came into question which became a springboard for the development of the work. Gene Holland explains what happened,

“We were working together on a children’s show, and in our breaks we would often find ourselves discussing the political climate, trying to come to grips with the decisions our government was constantly making for us, but this all came to the front when Sara’s ability to stay in the country came into question through no fault of her own. The government decided to abolish the 457 visa, the visa that enabled Sara to live here, and the ramifications of this decision where a big unknown. In the end there were no changes to current holders of the visa, but that moment of instability rocked us.”

The three performers felt hurt, let down, angry and afraid. So, they decided to express themselves by making a work that unpacked the situation that they, and many others, find themselves in.


There are two sides to the performance. On the one hand there is Sara’s story; the story of the migrant, trying to find her place, and on the other hand there is Toni and Gene. They are Australian, born and raised, but what does that mean? How can they have pride in their country when they are confronted with what Australia is doing, the disgusting way we treat refugees, the devastating destruction of our natural environment, and the complete disrespect for the indigenous people of the land on which we live.

Are you a proud Australian?

The in Helvetica ensemble asked themselves that very question and out came Citizen 457.

“Many of the values Australians hold dear regarding our country, such as mateship and a “fair go”­, are not being upheld in our legislation, and we are passively allowing them to be eroded from our culture, particularly when it comes to people seeking a fresh start in this country. Many of these people have a greater appreciation than many of us for the relative privilege we live in, and feel an affinity to a society with a rich multicultural history. As someone who was born and raised in regional Australia, I’ve held pride in the opportunities my country has been able to provide people from many different backgrounds. Our diversity is our backbone. To feel belonging is to be welcomed with open arms.” – Gene Holland.


Citizen 457 is the response. It isn’t asking questions, and it’s not finding solutions, it’s exploring the response; those moments of confusion, frustration and anger. Coming to terms with our perceived inability to do anything about the politics and dealing with the possibility of displacement. In exploring these emotions, the ensemble found that there was also joy and companionship within the connection between people, the moments when someone supports you, stands up for your rights and helps you to continue the struggle.

Whether you agree or disagree with us, let’s start the conversation


Citizen 457
6.30pm Wednesday 13th December
8.30pm Thursday 14th December
6.30pm Friday 15th December

La Mama Courthouse theatre
349 Drummond st, Carlton

Book at:
All tix $15

Citizen 457 will be performing as part of the La Mama Explorations 2017 program.

To find out more about in Helvetica go to
or their facebook page.

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Get poor quick


Tell me a bit about your latest book.

Okay, so the book is called:

GET POOR QUICK through Poetry (and other arty enterprises)
101 super easy steps to obscurity, disappointment and straight-up cashlessness.

It’s the mutant book-baby of a troubled artist and a life coach. It’s a self un-help book. It’s petite – 5 x 7 in old-school inches, 130 pages. Hopefully it’s a feather to the funny bone, and chink in armoured self-righteousness.

Most simply I would describe it as a funny, self-help parody for artists and art appreciators.

Are these ‘pearls of wisdom’ derived from your own life experience or are they more universal?

Basically, yes, this wisdom (if you can call it that) has emerged from my life and experiences. I’ve been a poet for 26 years now, and Poetry and Poverty have always gone hand-in-hand for me. And recently, I just got to the point where, instead of trying to fight that, I thought I’d embrace it. Perhaps ironically, I do sort-of survive as a poet, doing workshops and school incursions and gigs and selling a few books here and there. I don’t earn much, but it’s just enough to survive with other little bits of book design work.

Universal wisdom? I’m not sure if there such a thing. Because the same single piece of advice can be perfectly correct for one person at their stage in life and development, but completely wrong for another person at different stage. So I ‘spose I’m saying I’m slightly dubious of any universal truths. But, at the same time – paradoxically – I DO think there are some universals and absolutes that do apply to all humans. So as you can see, I’m a deeply confused individual. The perfect person to write a book about obscurity and disappointment.

 Are self-help books really helpful?

Yes, I think some self-help books can be properly helpful! BUT some are not! The ones that I have a problem with are those that strongly assert with absolute certainty – they make me dubious. I think we as humans often want things to be more clear and simple that reality is. Maybe it’s because of my age, or some of the heartbreaking experiences I’ve had, but these days I am just very cautious around simple assertions of certainties which some self-help books are prone to.

You mention ‘brainstorming this book with arty friends’, is this book just for artists?

Yes. It should be illegal for anyone who is not an artist to read this book. Anyone who does not have a full-time, full-on creative practice should be forbidden from consuming these illuminating instructional insider insights!!!!!!

Or… on second thoughts… my sister’s a civil engineer, and she said she really liked it.

So actually, I think, anyone who enjoys the arts will enjoy this. As well as artists themselves.

If being rich is most people’s idea of success. What’s your idea of success?

For me, money has never been my currency. That’s not me being noble or anything, I just can’t get myself excited by it. I know we all need a bit of money. Because if you don’t have enough for rent or food or for when the car suddenly breaks down, life just gets way too stressful.

I’m totally open to being rich. I think I’d be really good at it. And I’d be willing for this book to sell millions and set me up for life. That would be the most hilarious irony. But earning money is not the primary motivation for doing books and projects like this.

The richness I value sits more around authenticity, communication, friendship, openness and community. So success for me usually has something to do with enabling these things in myself and in others.

You’ve written 21 books, what do you most enjoy about the writing process?

I remember in high school I just loved doing projects – the process of getting information, adding pictures, finding a sense of flow or narrative and then packaging it up into a pretty little self-contained entity – was just fun and satisfying for me. And these days, doing a book, is just like doing a high school project, but then I try to sell it to people! It’s just been a natural evolution.

And there is something unique about working towards writing, producing and designing a physical book. It can really focus your mind, because you know it’s going to go out into the world, and potentially be around for hundreds of years. This motivates me to produce the best result I can in that moment.

Where and when is the launch and where can people get the book?

The book is available locally at the Belgrave Book Barn, Little Rebellion and Grunge Cafe (thanks to those guys for the lovely local support!!!). And you can also buy it directly from my website, and I’ll mail it out to you promptly.

The launch is on Dec 11, 2017 between 6 and 8pm (7pm formalities)
25 Matson Drive, Upwey, VIC (just across the road from Burrinja).

There will be light refreshments, and dark refreshments.
RSVP: Yeah, go old-school and tell me if you’re coming, it’ll help with catering:
0438 72 55 88

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Chill Fest begins

Tell me a bit about this festival?

Chill Fest is a wellness & yoga festival designed to leave festival-goers feeling better than when they came in. With great local yoga and meditation facilitators, you can enjoy a taster of what the Hills has to offer. Yoga rave, market stalls, meditation, kids dance workshops, good food and a selection of classes, Chill Fest is your one-stop shop to try something new and feeling incredible.

Is this the first chill fest?

Yes, Flan (Mike Flannery) & I (Krystal Bassett) work in events for different companies but we decided to use our experience and skills to organise our own festival.

Tell me a bit about your background and why you decided to create this festival.

I spent many years in Manchester, UK putting on late night events and performing in various bands and Flan (also a from the UK) works for a production company here in Victoria, touring with various artists around the country.

Now settled in Olinda, we are moving away from the party lifestyle and enjoying the luxury of many more early nights! (Flan may argue this! He still enjoys a few beers!)

After feeling the benefits of my journey into meditation and yoga, I felt inspired to put on a festival where people can know that their mind, body and soul will be energised and nourished. Rather than feeling terrible the next day.


What drove you to host this festival in the hills?

After meeting so many passionate Hills folk at various events or in cafes, I wanted to bring everyone together and to meet more like-minded locals. We would love to really be a part of the Hills community and encourage others to spend more time with each other – in this day and age there are too many people cooped up in their homes – we would love anyone, any age, to come along and make friends.

What is unique about this event?

We are completely self funded, this allows Chill Fest to be free of advertising and to stick to our ethics. You wont find a disposable coffee cup at our barista cart Pookie May (there are mugs) and you had better BYO water bottle too. Plus, there is amazing veggie food from Babji’s Kitchen and Jerry’s Vegiburgers.

We hope that Chill Fest has a feel of acceptance and is an approachable way to try less commercial practices like sound healing and Raja yoga. Everyone is welcome and can ask for support with any practices that they are unsure about.

Why do you think these sorts of ideas are becoming more important to people now (and in the future)?

I really feel that we are all becoming more conscious and if people take steps to be mindful & respect themselves (body, mind and soul), then they are more able to be compassionate to others, bringing us together in these turbulent times and making the world a better place to live.

In what ways, if any, do you engage with the hills community?

We have been in Olinda for 3 years and although we have spent time with our community on art and musical events, this is really our first time engaging as a couple. We would love to help the community in many other ways throughout the years.


Where can people find more information and buy tickets?

Chill Fest is this Saturday 28th October 11am-10pm.
For more info and to buy tickets go to
or you can turn up with your yoga mat and pay on the door.
$35 standard, $20 concessions (with ID), under 12yrs Free.


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Sense of Place


JD Mittmann curator of “Frank Hodgkinson: Sense of Place”

Post by Hannah Raisin

Burrinja Curator JD Mittmann has been working on a new exhibition exploring the work of one of Australia’s most important abstract artists. Frank Hodgkinson: Sense of Place is currently in the Burrinja Gallery until 5 November, this compelling show features a number of artworks never exhibited in Victoria. I caught up with JD to discover more about the exhibition and how his research and understanding of the artist have shaped the exhibition.

When did you first encounter Frank Hodgkinson’s work and what drew you to it?

Strangely, my first encounter with Frank Hodkinson’s work goes back to when I started working at Burrinja in 2011 when a large canvas painting sat in the corridor next to the gallery. Neil McLeod owned it and had “parked” it there. The piece was impressive, quite similar to the work ‘Evolution’ which is in the exhibition.

It was not until years later when a collector friend of mine in Sydney mentioned Hodgkinson again, I recollected the work, and it appeared that Peter knows Franks’ wife Kate very well.

Learning that Hodgkinson was not only one of Australia’s most prolific abstract artists and illustrators but also had spent time in New Guinea and Arnhem Land made it a perfect fit for us, given the nature of our collection.


JD Mittmann hanging one of the works.

How did the idea for Sense of Place come about?

It was the artists strong connection to the places he travelled to and lived at that presented the title. Hodgkinson immersed himself in Spanish culture and tradition when he lived in Spain (on the Island of Mallorca) in the first half of his career. Later, the tropics of New Guinea and its tribal cultures became an inspiration and then, at last, Australia’s Top End and Aboriginal culture and rock art in Arnhem Land drew him in.

The works in the exhibition, Hodgkinson’s oeuvre altogether, give the viewer this strong sense of how connected he was to landscape, fauna and flora. He was a keen observer and his drawing and illustrations prove this.

In the process of curating the show you visited the Hodgkinson estate and spent time with his wife Kate. Can you describe some of your impressions of the artists working environment?

Frank met Kate (a potter who became his third wife) on Clifton Pugh’s bush property Dunmoochin, near Hurstbridge in 1970. They travelled around Australia for a few months before returning to Sydney where Frank originated from. He had always admired the Hawkesbury River region and it was there that they eventually bought a property perched on a cliff overlooking the O’Hara Creek. Right in the middle of the bush.

Frank built a house and studio. Needless to say that he was totally at home there, studying, drawing and painting banksias and eucalypts. They called the property Geebung, after the local trees. It is beautiful. Peaceful.

The house is filled with objects Kate and Frank collected on their travels. Many carvings from New Guinea, barks and sculptures from Arnhem Land adorn the living space. The garden is filled with sculptures and pottery they both produced. As a visitor you get a sense of the creative energy.

The exhibition showcases Hodgkinson’s work along with a number of cultural artefacts from various collections, can you talk about the relationships between the objects and the artworks and how you have woven them into the exhibition.

The objects reflect Frank and Kate’s deep admiration for Indigenous cultures. Frank studied them and illustrated them. For the exhibition we selected some which appear in his published diaries. We present them with the corresponding original illustrations so visitors can make the connection.


Did the experience of visiting Hodgkinson’s studio and home change the way you perceive his work?

It did. I think you always get a better picture of a person if you see the space they inhabit, the kitchen, the book shelves, the art, and of an artist if you get access to the inner sanctum – their studio.

But it was the research and study of existing literature about the artist which painted a picture of Frank Hodgkinson, the artist. And lastly, reading his own writings: He was a brilliant writer and deep thinker. He thought and wrote about art, drawing and seeing. There’s a line he wrote about drawing that stuck with me: “You have to draw a line around the think.”

Through the show have you discovered any of Hodgkinson’s works that totally blew you away or surprised you?

It’s difficult to point to a particular work, he was very skilled and the output is broad. Perhaps ‘Artist Camp’ surprised me: I did not expect to discover a figurative portrait. Certainly, not showing Clifton Pugh and Dr Colin Jock-Hinton in the nude painting, mind you.


What do you think are some of the most valuable experiences in the exhibition – what will viewers take away?

I would encourage viewers to look closely. When we describe him as an abstract artist we don’t do him justice. Many of his works are filled with details, sketches, shadowy figures, plants and animals, skeletons.

Even the most abstract paintings in the exhibition from his ‘Beginnings series’ (which he produced in the 1990s) draw the viewer deep into the cosmos, into the swirling soup of creation, and towards Big Bang’s enormous blast. It’s full on.

Sense of Place includes work from the artists periods in Spain, PNG and Arnhemland. How do you see the work in the exhibition changing through these geographic and cultural influences?

That’s right, and we also present paintings which related to Quinkan Country in Northern Queensland and the Bungle Bungles. What is apparent is a departure from the heavy textures of the Spanish period when Hodgkinson really became an abstract painter and received much acclaim for his work. But upon returning to Australia he took another direction. The ‘heaviness’ and darkness of the early period did not suit the Australian light and landscape. The colours change, and so does the depth of painting.

Hodgkinson’s published diaries are on display in the exhibition. Can you describe the experience of spending time with these intimate records and how they have shaped your understanding of the artist?

As with any diary you read you get to see the world through the eyes of the author. Hodgkinson was very good at illustrating his environments with words, describing plants and animals down to their scientific latin names. He was truly fascinated. And then there are the events and people he encountered during the travels. They are beautiful books.

Do you have a favourite work or series in the exhibition?

I wander through the exhibition every day, never getting tired of looking at the works. I guess what draws my attention really depends on my mood. As much as I am attracted by the darkness of Deya, I love the happy joyfulness of She Sang Him a Crocodile. Polar opposites perhaps, 30 years apart? And a life’s work in-between.



Frank Hodgkinson: Sense of Place is on at Burrinja Gallery until 5 December.
Cnr Glenfern Rd and Matson Dr, Upwey.
Tues – Sun 10am – 4pm.
Tickets Adult $10, Concession/Seniors $7, Burrinja Members $5

Enter the draw to win a special Arts and Culture Indulgence Package worth of $500 including theatre tickets and dinner for 2 plus a night in the gorgeous Twilight Cottages, when you purchase tickets to the exhibition.


“She sang him a crocodile” oil on canvas.

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