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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A brief History of time with cake by Cameron Semmens.

Space… the poetic frontier

A brief History of time with cake by Cameron Semmens.

Post by Adriana Alvarez

Malcolm de Chazal said “Space is the widest open of all mouths.”
“Then let’s shove some cake in it!” says Cameron Semmens.

Cameron Semmens, our resident poet who gave us the chance to write our own poems a few issues back, has got a new book out. It’s poetical, gastronomical and astronomical! It’s a space-themed collection of new poems and classic cake recipes. “I hope you will experience it as a marvel of entertaining tastiness for mind and mouth!” says Cameron.

If you like baking cakes, or space, or poetry – or perhaps all three, then this book could be for you!

“A Brief History of Time with Cake”
– Poems about Space (inner and outer)

  – Recipes for Cake (yummy and scrummy)

Includes recipes like for you to bake at home:
– The Zero Gravi-teacake
– The Baked Moon Cheesecake
– The Anti-gravitational Mousse
– or even, a Pavnova!

Or  you could simply feast upon the poems, including:
– The Asteroid Theory for The Extinction of Despair
– Poem 9 from Outer Space
– and The 23rd Jedi.

Cameron will be launching his book at Grunge Café, Belgrave.
“Cake Expectations, a poetry night” is on Monday December 12th at 7pm. Free entry. 

On the night you can sign up to the open mic – preferably with a poem on the theme of space, or cake. You can perform your own or read a classic. If you’ve heard Cameron at hillsceneLIVE you’ll know that it’s a great experience. Cameron’s performance is fun and entertaining and his quirky poems are amusing and delicious. Come along and listen, laugh… and, if you’re brave enough, even share your own poem on space, or cake!

The usual great quality Grunge cake and coffee will also be available for sale and you’ll be able to buy “A Brief History of Time with Cake” at the special launch price of $15.

Cameron Semmens performing

If you want to get a copy but can’t make it to the launch you can order it online at or you could pick up a copy at The Belgrave Book Barn or Grunge Café.

Cake Expectations “A Brief History of Time with Cake” book launch
Monday December 12 at 7.00pm
Grunge Cafe – 1696 Burwood Hwy, Belgrave

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Class Comedy


Hills dwellers need not travel to the inner city for hilarious first class comedy – Melbourne Fringe on tour returns to Burrinja with Bucket’s List, a satirical comedy about love and buckets by multi award winning Belgrave writer Sarah Collins, starring Justin Kennedy and a possum plus live music on stage.

“The show itself is a gem of a thing – inspired by a real life bucket salesman I met at a wedding,” says Sarah. “The show has been so positively reviewed, and I swear he is why. He is one of the kindest, nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was just totally inspirational. He was actually a bucket salesman by day and wedding DJ by night, and these two disparate worlds just HAD to be explored in a show, I felt. The trick was figuring out how to bring them together into a cohesive show that had a storyline and made sense and felt complete, not just novel. The jumping off point for me was these two jobs he did. Beyond that it was about imagining a world where something interesting happens because of those jobs. I had to explore the world of buckets and love and figure out a path for them to come together. So that’s essentially what the show is – a collision of these two worlds.”

Sarah and Justin share an underground house in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges – which has been featured on the Design Files blog.

With a hilarious support set by another seasoned local comedian Michael Connell this is sure to be a night to remember. Michael, who’s performed on Australia’s Got Talent, Rove, and other TV shows, mixes big ideas with big laughs before throwing in a few surprises.

Are you a budding writer or comedian or both?  Here’s your chance to learn from this talented duo by taking part in a Comedy & Script Development Workshop with Justin Kennedy & Sarah Collins the weekend before the show. Bucket’s List is a storytelling show, told through the mediums of narration, physical comedy, live music and puppetry – and this workshop brings all of these experiences together.

“We’ve been getting asked to do more and more of these comedy/writing workshops in recent times, which is great, because we really love talking about ourselves and feeling like we still know things after being on a big parenting kick the last two years!” Sarah explains. “A session just like this was what got me into writing my own things back in 2004 and I would go so far as to say it was life-changing. Certainly career changing at the very least.”

“The biggest thing we want participants to know is that the workshop is not at all scary. You don’t have to be a genius to get something from what we’re teaching. It actually takes the process back to the very basics and gives everyone these ridiculously simple tools to create their own work.”


Clockwise from top: Sarah Collins, Justin Kennedy and Michael Connell.


Comedy Class – with Justin Kennedy
Justin is a stand up, actor, and head writer for Channel 10’s The Project. He has written for Letters and Numbers and Rove and has been a regular on the Comedy Channel for years.

From Idea to Script to Show – with Sarah Collins
Sarah is a Belgrave based writer and performer known for her comedic storytelling shows.
She has won numerous awards for her script writing and her shows have enjoyed sell out seasons at La Mama, Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, the Arts Centre Melbourne – Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse and even Toowoomba! Her show Bucket’s List has received straight 5 star reviews and won the Tiki Tour Award.

“We’re so happy to be playing at Burrinja, our home arts centre! We’ve had such amazing support from the hills and can’t wait to play for all our friends here.”

Bucket’s List, with support act by Michael Connell plus Comedy & Script Development workshop at Burrinja – Cnr Glenfern Road and Matson Dr, Upwey.
Workshop: Sunday 2 Oct, 2 – 4:30pm
Performance: Friday 7 Oct, doors open 7:30pm
Cost:  Performance $18 – $28 | Workshop $25 | Workshop &performance $44
Fantastic student price for the show and workshop just $35
Contact: 9754 8723

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Write by Canlelight workshop

Write by Candlelight

Write by Candlelight

Cameron Semmens, who has led us through a series of poetry writing sessions in a few issues of the hillscene last year, is holding a series of poetry writing workshops in June. But they’re not just any poetry writing workshops. It’s writing by candlelight, which seems very whimsical and romantic. So the question needs to be asked…

Why a writing by candlelight workshop?

There is something deeply cosy about candlelight, it draws us away from technology with it’s 24-7 demands into our own minds and our own imaginations.

When you let yourself enter into the small circle of light that a candle gives, it can help you focus in on own thoughts and memories, letting the rest of the world and its expectations fade into darkness.

Is candlelight more conducive to writing good poetry?

Writing by candlelight encourages the introspection that good writing and great poems need to grow and develop. And there’s something comforting about candlelight – maybe it’s the colour its light, or that small bit of warmth it radiates… I don’t know, but… it helps you focus. And good art always needs focus!

What will people take away from this these workshops?

Each session has a different emphasis, but each week you’ll end up with a number of pieces of writing – sometimes small haikus, other weeks, longer poetic memoirs.

I’ll be guiding you through it all – and each person can come to it with whatever skills they have. So if you’re a beginner, that’s great, I’ll hold your hand all the way. And if you’re an experienced writer – I’ll give you some framework or inspiration and you can take it wherever you want!

But ultimately, by the end of the month, you should have a nice little collections of writings to share with the world!

Do you have to be good with words to write poetry or can anyone do it?

Anyone can do these workshops. You don’t have to be ‘good with words’. Ironically, often the best poets are those who use ‘just a few words’ – they just choose the best words, and put them in the best order.

Actually, I started writing poetry because I was overwhelmed by the huge amount of words of longer forms of writing. So, you just have to willing to try things out, and you might be surprised what you can actually express in words.

Any last words?

I say, give yourself permission to write some poems. Often, in our busy lives, we don’t give ourselves the ‘luxury’ of expressing ourselves creatively, while at the same time, we have a whole crowd of insights, stories and revelations bubbling around our hearts just begging to be written. Give yourself permission. Help find the words for those fleeting wisps of thought. It’s very unlikely you’ll regret it.

Write by Canlelight workshop

Write by Candlelight!

Poetry Workshops for Wannabe and Know-it Poets with Cameron Semmens
5 sessions, across 5 weeks in 2 Melbourne venues.
June 3 – July 2, 2015.
7pm – 9:30pm at both venues.

A good poem is one that NEEDS to be written. Do you have stories, memories and insights within you that need to find expression? Poetry, with its imagery and brevity could be the perfect way to express them. Let Cameron help YOU find your poet within.

Week 1 – How to use METAPHOR for all it’s worth.
Belgrave: WED, Jun 3.
Hawthorn: THUR, Jun 4.

Week 2 – How to turn your MEMORIES and tragedies into quality poetry.
Belgrave: WED, Jun 10.
Hawthorn: THUR, Jun 11.

Week 3 – How to use just a FEW WORDS for a big impact.
Belgrave: WED, Jun 17.
Hawthorn: THUR, Jun 18.

Week 4 – How to use ANIMALS as metaphors and symbols to explore your soul and society.
Belgrave: WED, Jun 24.
Hawthorn: THUR, Jun 25.

Week 5 – How to pull your poems together into a BOOK.
Belgrave: WED, Jul 2.
Hawthorn: THUR, Jul 5.

There’s TWO Venues: Choose the location in Melbourne, or night, that works best for you. It’ll be the same workshop at both venues, and the same time: 7pm to 9:30pm, with a short coffee break in the middle.

Every WEDNESDAY night, Jun 3 – Jul 1, 2015 at Grunge Café, 1696 Burwood Highway, Belgrave (on the main shopping strip). Coffee and snacks to buy.

Every THURSDAY night, Jun 4 – Jul 2, 2015 at Hawthorn West Baptist Church, 36 Barton Street (upstairs, in the cosy loft space). Coffee and tea provided, BYO snacks to share.

COST: For all 5 sessions – $95
For a single session: $30 (pending availability)

Cameron Semmens poetry by candlelight

Who’s leading this poetry workshop series?
Cameron Semmens is an award-winning poet, entertainer and poetry educator with 15 books to his name… AND a parent of 2 students of BHCS. He makes his living through poetry: performing, running workshops and selling his books. He lives in The Dandenongs with his wife and two youngsters. See for more details.

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Stories up High boys reading

Stories up High

Stories up High boys reading

Post by Adriana Alvarez.

Stories Up High Children’s Writers Festival, being held during May in iconic venues throughout the Dandenong and Yarra Ranges. It is a festival of ideas, imagination, and laughter. It includes a range of author talks, exhibitions, puppet shows, movies, storytelling, competitions, cooking, writing, gardening, reading, and train rides.

This Festival has something for everyone. Whether you are a child, or a parent grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend, there is an event for you! We spoke to organiser Melissa Chip about Autumn Authors and what the festival has to offer.

Can you tell me a bit about Autumn Authors?

Autumn Authors is the name of the festival we ran 2 years ago in the Dandenong Ranges. This year we have morphed into Stories Up High which has more of a focus on children and has been extended out to the Yarra Valley. We have had a bit of a coup, actually. Partnering with the Wheelers Centre we have booked David Walliams from Little Britain and now an incredibly popular children’s author. He is arguably one of the biggest names to ever come to the Dandenongs! He will be at Skyhigh on Tuesday 12 May. We also have Australia’s favourite kids author, Andy Griffiths headlining a day of literary fun on Sunday 17 May. We have events for preschools including story time on Puffing Billy, Digging and reading at Cloudehill with Diggers Seeds and Dreamtime stories at Healesville.

We also have a pretty fabulous program coming out this week for secondary school kids. A writing workshop with award winning short story author Cate Kennedy who is a regular on the ABC’s Book Show; a play on the VCE curriculum – Kelly; a performance poetry competition – or a slam off with Emily Zoey Baker; and a presentation/interview event with Rebecca Starford, author of new controversial book Bad Behaviour about bullying in an elite Melbourne boarding school – the last 2 events happening at Burrinja.

David Walliams and Andy Griffiths

Is this festival aimed more at children who love to write (future authors) or at kids who love books?

It is aimed at both really. We have events that will inspire kids to write, like the creative writing and garden cooking at Shannon Bennett’s the Piggery where children under 12 will choose food from the garden, cook with Piggery chefs and then write about their experiences to win a prize judged by Shannon Bennett. Also at our big showcase day with Andy a Griffiths at Skyhigh, children will be invited to find words which will be hung and hidden amongst the trees and use those to write a poem. We also have events for kids who love to read with some of their favourite authors – David Walliams and Andy Griffiths – you can’t get better than that! But I reckon most kids who love to write also love to read – and probably mostly visa versa as well.

Stories up high Book

Why is it so important for children to be introduced to books early on?

How long have I got! I guess I believe it is important to plant the seed for a love of reading at an early age, especially in an age where life is technology rich and we process much of our interaction at a surface level, books are able to immerse you in a world of imagination and thought. At the last festival Andy Griffiths preformed for an hour to over 300 children and then signed books and engaged with every child afterwards. These children were in absolute awe of him and laughed and called out and asked questions and told him about their stories and what they loved about his books. To see these kids so engaged and in admiration of him – an author, not a footballer or Australian Idol star, warmed the heart. They were all inspired to read more to write more, to use their imagination and share ideas, to laugh, think and create and to engage more in literacy. That’s got to be a good thing – doesn’t it?

What do you hope kids (young and old) will get out of this event?

I hope they have fun first. I hope they get inspired to read and write more and gain a deeper understanding about the writing and reading experience. I hope they get out and experience the beautiful Dandenongs and Yarra Valley during autumn when it is at its very best, whether they live here or they are visiting from Collingwood. And most of all, I hope they tell all their friends what a great time they’ve had and the come back next year!

The festival is being held from 8 May until 23 May. For bookings and more information see the website at or for regular updates go to Facebook.

Other events include

8 – 23 May   First ever exhibition of Andy Griffiths “Secret Stuff”. Ever wondered what motivated Andy to write his totally disgusting but utterly entertaining wonderful books – well here’s your chance to find out. The Memo Healesville 11.00am – 4.00pm (closed Mondays) Free

10 May           Aboriginal Storytime at Healesville Sanctuary.  Meet Wurundjeri Elder Murrundindi and Aunty Dot Peters at the Dreaming Place, Wurundjeri Walk, as they share stories of cultural significance. Healesville Sanctuary 12.45pm to 1.45pm

12 May           David Walliams and Eddie Perfect. David Walliams, the new Roald Dahl, hosted by Eddie Perfect, will discuss his stories and read from one of his best selling books. David will be available afterwards for book signing. Skyhigh, Mt Dandenong 5.00pm – 6.00pm

14 – 15 May Creative Writing and Garden Cooking. Children’s passion for writing and cooking will be simultaneously stimulated with this delightful event at Shannon Bennett’s Piggery on the stunning Burnham Beeches estate in Sherbrooke. The Piggery, Sherbrooke 4.00pm to 6.00pm

16 May        Storytime on Puffing Billy.  Stories with pirates and fairies and trains – what could be better! Perfect for preschoolers. Puffing Billy, Belgrave 11.10am

17 May        Andy Griffiths headlines Stories Up High. Share a hilarious morning with superstar author Andy Griffiths, and after book signings, be entertained by Punch and Judy, enjoy stories from fairies and pirates and participate in fun literacy games. Skyhigh, Mt Dandneong 10.30am – 4.00pm

23 May        Opera Australia presents Hansel and Gretel. Introduce your children to the magic of opera through Opera Australia’s delightful production of one of the best loved Brothers Grimm tales, returning to Victoria in 2015 by popular demand. The Memo, Healesville  5.00pm

23 May        Reading and Digging with Mr Peabody. Hands on experience gardening with Diggers Seeds and author talks for the little ones in the beautiful gardens of Cloudehill. Cloudehill, Olinda

Also don’t miss the Secondary program, including;

21 May        Kelly. A play on the VCE curriculum for over 15 year olds. The Memo, Healesville 7.30pm 

23 May        Cate Kennedy writing workshop – Finding Your Voice. Gain practical help with writing for VCE in one of  two  writing worksop with acclaimed author, Cate Kennedy. Pirianda Gardens, Olinda 9.30am and 1.30pm

Check the website for more details.

Stories up high beautiful

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Reflections of this past week


With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, Hillscene invited Geraldine Coy, Author of Brave Truth to reflect on the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the future for South Africa. Brave Truth reveals a first-hand experience of what it was like to live in an apartheid world, and the aftermath that followed it. Geraldine now lives in Seville, her family had to flee South Africa in 1998 as a result of her activist work against apartheid.

Reflections on this past week by Geraldine Coy.

I have pondered the nuances of the Memorial Service held for Nelson Mandela on the 10th December, and I find myself wondering what he would have felt about some of the events that came to pass.

I know that he would have smiled on his beloved Graca, wife and companion to him for the last 15 years of his life. He would have thought how beautifully graceful she was, how wonderfully at peace at last she would have been, grateful that they had finally let him go. And he would have been proud of her dignified silence and restraint in the face of what must have been for her, some of the most difficult months in her own life.

This son of Africa, father to a nation, and a man of the world, or as Barack Obama correctly points out a “giant of our times”, would have been both pleased and pained by the way in which his life was exalted, and by those who exalted it. I think he would have been profoundly grateful to his comrades in arms, to those with whom he served his prison term and with those who fought so valiantly in their various ways and places of exile around the world, to have him freed.

I am sure that he would have loved to sign his name to many of the aspirational sentiments expressed by Obama, toward forgiveness, peace and reconciliation, for courage, honour and truthful recognition of humanity, and all its current and continuing failings. He would have been delighted to see the hand shake of this man with an adversary of a lifetime’s separation, with Raoul Castro of Cuba, and there may have been a twinkle in his eye at aparhte the prospect that even in his death, some forgiveness and reconciliation may still come to pass.

He would have been pleased, I think with the recognition he received from across the globe from leaders who had travelled far and wide to honour his life and mark his passing. Most of all, he would have rejoiced in the love of his people of South Africa, as they joined in harmony and such overwhelming love to thank him for his work, for his contribution to their salvation and dignity at least in the name of freedom.

But I really do believe that he would have been desperately saddened by the assumption of the podium by those he could not possibly have shared any ideal with. Robert Mugabe should not have been allowed entry into such a place of freedom. In Mandela’s oft-quoted statement spoken from the dock in his Rivonia trial in 1963, he made his sentiments clear. “During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.  Mugabe’s reign of terror and suppression continues to contaminate the African continent, and Mandela would have angrily defended the democracy of Zimbabwe, had he not been silenced, I think, in his latter years.

So who was this man Nelson Mandela? For me, significantly aside from all of his amazing gifts so much in the press this week, what stands out was his ability as a remarkable strategist. There is a wonderful story, prior to his inauguration as State President in 1994. He was doing the rounds, making speeches all over the country and meeting his people, and regularly he was heckled by the far right and conservative extremists. One such heckler had become a bit of a serial pest and the security detail was preparing to have him ousted from the hall. Stopping his speech, Madiba raised his hand to stop them and asked the heckler, who was at the time in full steam, “Sir, may I ask what is your name?” The man spluttered out his name and Madiba responded, whilst coming down the steps at the side of the stage, “ Ah, Mr, xyz, I have heard so much about you. “ Grasping his hand with his left hand, and covering the grasp with his right, he said, “ I am so very pleased to meet you”.

I have felt the Madiba hand shake and looked into his eyes, and I have felt the warmth and the strength that this man would have felt, but the world has felt the impact which he had. Indeed, he knew strategically how to magnificently change the way we with think through gestures and restraint in the overuse of power.

When Jacob Zuma attempted to take the podium, and he was so resoundingly booed by the people he governs currently, I think of their disappointment and the breadth of the divide between these two leaders. South Africa must face a future with the lesser leader, the one so lacking in all the virtues of the other. Somehow, South Africa must dig deep into its resources of courage and tenacity, to fight the slander of corruption, of leadership with self interest. The people must find and recognize leadership which has the courage to reflect on the greatness of the person who has shown them how it’s done. They must find someone who can pick up the mantle in the long walk to true freedom.

“ I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom, come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended”. (Nelson Mandela)

His walk on earth has indeed ended, and South Africa  must find confidence in a new guard, one who is worthy of the honour. They need not look too far, but they will need the collective voices they have used before to facilitate the changing of the guard. I am sure that the wonderfully truthful, brave and courageous voice of his friend and comrade, the ex Archbishop Desmond Tutu will soon be heard resoundingly echoing from the mountains of the Transkei, beseeching the people to vote again for freedom.


To find out more about Geraldine Coy click here.