During the last ten years I have had the good fortune and great privilege to have been invited to create major annual or biennial celebrations of the arts in three Australian capitals – Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne and the entire archipelago state of Tasmania. In the first instance the invitation to direct the Australian Theatre Festival came out of the blue when I was performing in that festival in 1992. I had never intended to be a festival director and I had no idea what it entailed, but I accepted the challenge and started to learn. At first I simply had to learn the ropes of research and investigation, then the ways of an annual cycle and the ultimate mystery of how much an artistic director who is not a CEO can ever know about how a festival budget works.
But even in Canberra, where I was dealing in a program whose only focus was Australian work and within that parameter only that work which could be described as 'theatre', I understood intuitively from the start that no matter how clever my programming skills might be, unless the celebration also held some deeper connection to the host city then it might well fall flat. In Adelaide this was less of a challenge since it was my hometown and The Adelaide Festival of Arts was an event I had grown alongside and, as a performer, within: I knew how important the event was to Adelaide, its civic pride, and its sense of definition. The first real leap in my knowledge came with an invitation from the late and deeply lamented Jim Bacon, then newly elected premier of Tasmania, to create a new festival for that state. It was obvious that with an overall budget one twentieth the size of Adelaide's I could not simply replicate my successes there, and I was not content to present there a tiny weeny mini Adelaide. My solution for creating a successful international festival there was to take my clue from the place itself. Jim said it could not be only in Hobart, such is the geopolitical nature of Tasmania, and so I took that factor, the opposite organizational principle from Adelaide's noted succinctness, and pushed it as far as I could go – taking Ten Days on the Island to over 30 locations, some of them very remote, in its inaugural edition. I further limited the scope of the event only to artists who came from other islands around the world, thus cementing the unique and appropriate nature of a new celebration of the arts in Tasmania.
In this case, my solution to an almost insurmountable budgetary challenge came from applying myself to the place itself and working hard to find the answers within the fabric of that place. It worked and has continued to work and the process I undertook to find those solutions equipped me with the ability to start thinking about Melbourne when another beautiful phone call rang into my life. By that time I knew that I had to start not with my desire to present certain artists whose work I had come to love, but with the city itself, and what might be a program appropriate to this city at this time. On August 5th you have the chance to see the third and final program I designed for Melbourne.
A couple of months ago there was another call from way out in the blue and that has resulted in my appointment as the Artistic Director of Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008, a task which has already begun in short visits and small part. This task is even more specifically and overtly about the needs of a place and the very real hopes for urban regeneration through culture. It has already propelled me out of my comfort zone of two week or ten day festivals and annual or biennial programming cycles into shaping whole years across a whole city, since 2007 is also Liverpool's 800th birthday and warrants a program almost as comprehensive as 2008. It also propels me from the familiar environs of a beloved and beautiful Australia into the tough terrain of a city which is, on first sight, a place still very much in the process of recovery. I am hoping of course that the skills Australia has given me will be redeployed in this unfamiliar challenge and that in due course what I learn over the next few years there I can bring back to Australia and put them to good use here. It replicates, in different guise, what happened to me as a performer: working and learning in little old Adelaide and going straight from there to the National Theatre of Great Britain in London to find that what I had acquired at home was enough to equip me for the world stage.
Tonight has given me the opportunity to think about whether I really believe what I say about art in its place: I'm quite a good off the cuff speaker and spruiker, and therefore have learned to treat my own rhetoric with more than several grains of the salt of skepticism. But in thinking about art and festivals in the context of their geographical locations I found myself also drawn to consider the philosophical and sociological aspects of that idea, and would like to spend some time exploring them too.
When I first went to the UK I lived with John Willett and his family. John had been the dramaturg, at Wal Cherry's invitation, of The Threepenny Opera in Adelaide. It was John who introduced me to the entire European Cabaret tradition and it was his suggestion to the National that I come to London for a new collaborative work which would coincide with the first collected edition of Brecht's complete poems in translation – John was both editor and translator for Eyre Methuen. That book became my bible, and I considered John to be my mentor until he died, at 85, two years ago, the wisest man I have ever known and the only one who could always pull me up by my moral bootstraps. During that first adventure to Great Britain John took me to Liverpool for something of a Merseyside reunion. I met the poets Roger Mc Gough (now Sir Roger) and the late Adrian Henri who became a friend, and John treated me to a tour of the city. It transpired that his third book, after his first, Popski, and his second, the seminal work The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht had been Art in a City published in 1967 . It was all about Liverpool and as John said in his introduction:
It is difficult to have much to do with Liverpool without developing a special affection for the place (1)
Thus with that peculiar ability you develop over the years to pick up on the inevitably cyclical nature of life, and the divine nature of states of change, I have been able to return to the writings of my master not with a sense of lingering grief for his loss, but with a sense of practical purpose. His opening chapter is entitled 'Problem and Place' and he tackles the issue of 'art and society' head on:
In no country is there more than the first rudiments of a sociology of the of the arts: a tradition of inquiry into all those outside factors – psychological, economic, social, administrative, ideological – on which the practice of art at any given time and place depends. Instead we treat works of art as god-given pieces of inspiration, finding it unnecessary to ask exactly what they do to people, or who paid for them and from what motive, or quite simply how they came to be there. Our instinct is to regard such questions as sacrilege. Our mistake is to feel that wrapping up art in a woolly cocoon of words must enhance it: that analysis can only destroy. (2)
There's much to think about in there. Firstly John seems to want a state in which art always be located in place and in time, and I think of his life's scholarly work which continued to investigate principally the years in Germany between the wars when artists such as Brecht, Weill, Eisler, and so many more – those who survived and those who vanished without trace – made their work as they could and were always conscious of the means or lack of them in times which were literally life–threatening:
The tree tells why it bore no fruit.
The poet tells why his lines went wrong.
The general tells why the war was lost.
Pictures painted on brittle canvas.
Records of exploration, handed down to the forgetful.
Great behaviour, observed by no one.
Should the cracked vase be used as a pisspot?
Should the ridiculous tragedy be turned into a farce?
Should the disfigured sweetheart be put in the kitchen?
All praise to those who leave crumbling houses.
All praise to those who bar their door against a demoralised friend.
All praise to those who forget about the unworkable plan.
The house is built of the stones that were available.
The rebellion was raised using the rebels that were available.
The picture was painted using the colours that were available.
Meals were made of whatever food could be had.
Gifts were given to the needy.
Words were spoken to those who were present.
Work was done with the existing resources, wisdom and courage.
Carelessness should not be forgiven.
More would have been possible.
Regret is expressed.
(What good could it do?) (3)
In such bad times it is impossible to avoid the context of art. The poems of Wilfred Owen, the Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde, the songs and singing of Victor Jara, Messaien's Quartet for the End of Time, refugee Iraqi actors giving their all on stage in Australia, and indeed the poetry of Bertolt Brecht– intelligent men still summoning their powers in extreme circumstances. What about our now? The global view has made us aware of other places where times are not so good, places with whom we are inextricably linked by virtue of our prosperity being directly linked to their poverty. What of the uneducated, the starving, the exiled in places that have been oppressed for so long that there are generations who have never had even the basics of food and shelter? How do we view art in such places?
I guess most of us would think food before contemporary dance, medicine before drama, clean water before anything. And yet…Burkina Faso has had an outstanding film festival for more than a decade, and Salia and Seydou who danced for us here last year, are in the forefront of a contemporary dance movement which sees dozens of artists from all over Africa making work in extreme circumstances. Who knows what will later be discovered about heroes unsung in our own time who continued to practice their art in the worst places and the worst times?
But what about the good times? And in good times for the many, how do we contextualise bad times for the few and their relationship to art – this is a question for both lucky Australia and lucky Britain, the two lucky countries I currently work in. Of course what immediately springs to mind are Indigenous artists in Australia, creating global interest in their art against a local backdrop of third world health ratings and way below average life expectancy, and in Liverpool in the wake of declining industry and massive wartime bombing, the rise of a popular music movement that swept the globe and remains powerful.
Since John wrote Art in a City there has been a developing sense of analysis in Australian arts – economic and sociological to the detriment of philosophical and ideological – to the point where I, for one, have been heard screaming for some time 'stop talking about the money, please, talk about the art'. Even last week there was a huge headline and picture cannibalizing the arts coverage that day; it amounted to nothing more that a bit of typical speculation about the funding of major arts companies. There was scarcely a word about the art itself, no sense that some kind of detailed piece about the intent of the artists or the approach as an ensemble to the content of their work might be afforded such space. Just the one extraordinary moment of perhaps unintentional provocation in a statement that claimed classical music as the prime identifier of 'civilisation'
Oh you little beauty! Fitzcarraldo rides again – orchestras and operas to the Amazon, that should fix up their rainforests and tribal rip–offs. No wonder so many Indigenous Australians are still in strife and give us that primitive shudder from time to time – they don't have a classical music subscription series to attend! It's a perfect moment to remember that even for those of us who, in the pressing environment of cultural egalitarianism remain honest about the fact that we do make judgments about all kinds of artistic output, still there are no absolutes, certainly not global ones, and perhaps one of the strongest planks of the good ship relativity is 'place' – and that can mean Melbourne CBD in this minute versus Baghdad in this minute, or Woollahra this minute versus Redfern this minute, or Fountaingate this minute versus the Baxter detention centre this minute. There are human beings living and breathing in each of those places as we gather here tonight and let's go away with some reflection about the relationship of those people in those places to art – Melbourne, Baghdad, Woollahra, Redfern, Fountaingate, and Baxter.
Since Australia is my passion I do want to talk about art in this place and I think I need first to be as clear as possible about that matter of relative evaluation. About ten years ago in his enquiry into what 'culture' really means, Chris Jenks alluded to:
the current overbearing political correctness of a public opinion which, masquerading as democracy, is in fact only the fear [and I would add the uncertainty], or at worst the inability, to make critical judgments concerning matters of taste and quality (3)
This is the kind of show of democratic process out of fear or ignorance that often corners the arts in Australia – for instance, lots of small grants to a range of projects that can tick all kinds of societal boxes, but nowhere the gumption to say OK, this year we need to back a winner, a big ticket item, one artist we have real faith in and we'll put big resources behind them, and we might have to create a new fund to do that or go out and find the money to do that so as not to disadvantage the wide range of smaller grants. There is a terrible fear of anything that any opposition can label elitism – that is in art alone – in sport you can have all the money you want for your elite sportsperson.
It is also the kind of thinking that prompts outrageous statements to the contrary, such as the one I quoted earlier. In Chris Jenks' case he referred to the British playwright David Hare who at that time was, according to Jenks, advocating:
…absolute standards, standards which demand the greatest effort and engagement on the part of its creator and its audience. Culture, from this perspective, does not merely entertain, it enriches and uplifts; it embodies a struggle in its inception and its apprehension which itself involves the maximization or even the extension of human potential. As such, culture is not to be treated lightly; it cannot be released into a pool of generalities or dissolved within a postmodern mood of relativism (4)
Now that's an unashamedly elitist view, and I have to admit that it sounds a bit like me. It's me persuading the people of Melbourne that if an international festival is funded for a city, then this is the kind of work we should both encourage in our own artists, and the kind of exemplary, ground breaking examples of artists and companies we should invite into Melbourne precisely because of their ability to inspire local artists and devotees, and extend us as human beings , offering us art which enriches and uplifts.
However, you will have noticed from the Melbourne International Arts Festival last year that in addition to such exceptional artists as Cesc Gelabert (with Im Goldenen Schnitt) and Lin Hwai Min from Taiwan, Raimund Hoghe from Germany and Marie Brassard from Canada, there was also a vast number of dag acts. I encouraged whomever from wherever to get down to Fed Square and release their unco bodies to the abandon of dance, I allocated good money from the budget to take teachers to the country and teach non–dancers to dance Lucy Guerin choreography. The year before I supported homeless kids and refugees to occupy the yet unopened Fed Square and I invited a remote community of non–professional Indigenous Australians to stand on the stage of the State Theatre and tell their stories as an opening night event.
I believe in process and participation and I know that that belief can co–exist with the most exacting standards I have for myself as an artist and as an artistic director curating a program of great work from Australia and the rest of the world. I like projects that involve both artists and non–artists, community based expressions or celebrations that really reflect that community and its energy and intelligence and unique environment. I believe in hands on access for kids and young people, and people of reduced means and geographical or other kinds of isolation (health or disability for instance). By and large these projects are measured by success in their own terms – did they really engage people (a question which even in the community framework often involves matters of originality and innovation since clichéd process often fails to engage)? Did they do the job they set out to do? Amateur art exhibitions, community choirs, musical societies etc exist for reasons of self–expression, healing, solidarity and companionship within particular communities – their place as community activities for the sake of participation and a sense of achievement are important. They are also very much a direct expression of place.
But I do also believe that within the framework of their chosen genre, works of art by people who call themselves artists (and maybe that's a clue) can be judged. There is a place for critical analysis. Not that I am particularly enamoured of critics per se. Too many of them inflict public judgment from a basis of ignorance and lack of experience, the parochial gaze with stars in their eyes and the gossip of fashion in their ears. But an informed, generous, open–minded and rigorous response to works of art is necessary for professional practitioners who constantly seek to expand and better their own work. Art in this context exists within an environment which, like it or not, is competitive for support, attention, audiences and further opportunities (the sale of the detritus of process, the product , enabling the ongoing process).
It would be simply dishonest not to admit that I privately respond to certain works in the 'what a Barry Crocker !' mode (a shocker – no insult to the fine performer himself, just a matter of rhyming slang and indeed a great tribute to Baz that he has so entered the vulgate). What makes me respond in that way? It's not about dislike or the haughty imposition of absolute taste – I dislike that too. It's simply the fact that I am a practicing artist, and I have had the luck to experience seeing approximately a show a day every day of my life for the last ten years all over the world (something most of our critics don't have the chance to do) and I can often recognize what the artist or company was setting out to do, and see how well or ill they realised that goal.
Sometimes in the privacy of your own opinion you can't even get away with the 'hmm, very interesting' tactic of avoiding the shocker judgment. Work that fails on its own terms is often extremely uninteresting. And quite often my benchmark is simply 'what do I know or feel about art or life that I didn't know or feel before I witnessed this work'. If nothing has moved or advanced me then I feel as if I've lost precious hours that might have been better spent in solitude or at the footy, which as a cultural experience is at least unashamedly tribal, primitive and thus liable to get the blood up.
This has nothing to do with the size or resource of the company I'm looking at. There are as many shockers or underachievers in the major well resourced companies as there ever are in the small independent ones and as many small unsung triumphs as there are massive and epic ones. The art in a place as culturally rich as ours needs to be diverse and that diversity needs equally to be supported. In this very week for instance, as various bodies in Melbourne continue to debate whether there will be a brand new beautiful Recital Hall, or a new venue for the Melbourne Theatre Company, equal effort should be going into ensuring that Eleventh Hour, a small self funded, excellent theatre company, does not disappear because of housing development that threatens to kill off their little venue in the suburbs. A city like Melbourne needs Eleventh Hour every bit as much as a new Recital Hall.
Eleventh Hour makes the point that quite often the art produced by poorly resourced ensembles or minorities, the work of amateurs or geographically isolated communities, or the collaborative work that sets out only to represent or express community or a specific place in the land or the heart, can challenge the well resourced professional world. Often it's not just the stories that are more interesting, but the sense of passion and the deployment of skills and innovative creativity that beats the 'grownups' hands down.
Big(h)Art for instance, the company that deals with outsider art (young offenders, street kids, refugees, chronically unemployed in rural towns etc) has consistently produced impressive work over the last ten years. While the process is all–important, it insists that the product not be treated condescendingly and it deftly blends the unskilled with the professional for surprising results. Films made over several years by these kids in Tasmania have wound up in the permanent collection at ACMI. Geelong's Back to Back, the company that works with actors of varying physical and other abilities, premiered SOFT in the 2002 Melbourne International Arts Festival, won the AGE Critics Award (along with Canada's Ronnie Burkett) and got themselves invitations to prestigious festivals in Vienna and Zurich.
There is a sense that in this prosperous place, Australia, in these best of times, that we should have the wealth and the time to ensure that when it comes to art all bases are covered. If art is to be appropriate to place then there is no avenue of contemporary Australia (including those whose minds and work focus on Australia's relationship to its geographical neighbours and the rest of the world) that we can exclude from being tackled through art and by artists that collectively show us all that we are – not just the bits we want to think we are. In fact we do resource refugee art and art about refugees, we do resource Indigenous art, but we still spend a higher proportion of all available arts money on reinterpretation of the western canon and its contemporary extensions: bolstering the currently much touted myth of a mainstream Australia that wants mainstream programming for mainstream audiences – those who could not reach the sea of civilization without their orchestra.
Those millions who swim strongly and beautifully against or alongside the mythologised mainstream of Australia still struggle to be heard, struggle for acknowledgement and respect, and in the midst of commercially driven competition, many Australians and some of their politicians have a strangely reduced view of what Australia is.
The tyranny of the mainstream is thus culturally reinforced through the arts and that in turn feeds policy in the social arena. One of the methodologies is the art of pure distraction. It is possible for some arts lovers to maintain a blinkered view of Australia, just as in most Australian cities it is easy to avoid the ugly bits if you can choose to live in the nice bits and choose your routes round your city to make sure you don't encounter anything nasty. This is not possible in Liverpool, for instance. You can choose to live in a leafy spacious area, or the up and coming docklands, but for the moment you are only ever a couple of streets away from the possibility of ongoing poverty.
We have been better at ghettoizing. This has clear implications for the kind of arts program one might work towards in Liverpool. It is not possible to program only for one kind of audience there or to favour one aesthetic over another, one art form or age–group over another: in Liverpool they're all in your face and you discriminate at your peril.
And just in case you're getting the wrong idea about Liverpool I should let you know that it is a city of 480,000 (albeit with a catchment of 8–10 million) and has the best visual arts profile and collections of any British city outside London – a great heritage collection from medieval to 20th century at the Walker, the only branch of the Tate outside London (Tate and Lyle made their sugar fortune through the port of Liverpool), the only major biennial of art in Britain – a fabulous affair boasting five streams one of which is the Independents who are 120 artists in number, and an ACMI like space called FACT as well as the contemporary arts space which dates from the 18th century when it was a military centre and which commissioned John Willett's book in the mid–sixties – The Bluecoat. Its Museum is currently undergoing a 4 5million pound redevelopment, next door is its grand library and all of those buildings, including the Walker and the old Court are part of the most astounding mix of architecture, including some of the finest 18th century structures in the country (the docks and St George's Hall for instance).
It is a place where art abounds and its buildings offer the best of lessons in the city as living history. Of all the arts architecture is the one that most overtly relates to place. If we knew nothing about the music or opera or drama or club scene of a place visited, we would still know something of its architecture. From the Godzilla like presence of Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao to the most environmentally harmonious of a Glenn Murcutt residence in the Australian bush, architects are preoccupied with their art in its place.
Just one other feature of our place that I'd like to mention is the largely unsupported area of research and development. This is something that needs attention in almost every place of creative endeavour in Australia; not just the arts, but science, engineering, city planning, urban development etc. It's not so hard to get the millions needed for a new building – important people can open them put their names on them, leave their legacy apparent in a place for a hundred years or more. The transient products of art, and the even more ephemeral processes of research and experiment are much harder to find resources for – whether from government, corporations or individuals. And yet it is this buying time for good thinking, possibly with no immediate result whatsoever, which is for artists one of the most important aspects of their work. Not all, since some practitioners simply develop through their projects and their physical work (painters for instance, often choreographers), but enough to warrant specific programs that allow artists the development time they need. With these three aspects – those with the aim of expressing or uniting community, those with aesthetics and beauty at the forefront (bearing in mind that some such works often stem from social, psychological or political thought which links into a sense of community), and thirdly that activity which is pure research and does not have an end in mind – we have the breadth of what I think a prosperous place can and should support in the 21st century. It is not good enough for prosperous places only to support the middle category, opting only for aesthetics and beauty: this comment comes not particularly out of a sense of unfairness, but with the knowledge that neglecting the rest ensures a reduced view of who and what that place is, and probably heralds other unrealistic views and then actions.
It's interesting how attitudes towards art in any place can be good indicators of the overall profile of any place – the barometer for how people live there. It was first alarming, then heartening, when a National Party politician tried to beat up on one of the ever–proliferating and increasingly shameful talk–back radio shows a suggestion that there should be a moratorium on all arts budgets and the money redirected to drought relief in the bush. His suggestion showed just how far removed he was from the reality of his own community, since rural participation in the arts is at an all time high and most country people understand very well their need for art even in the hardest times. The heartening bit was that the story went nowhere.
Is there anything then that we can say about Art out of its place? Are there universals? In the 18th century, influential British writers, Pope and Dryden amongst them, maintained a concept of wit, which was roughly approximate to appropriateness. It meant they deemed certain subjects unfit for art; and I assume that was the tip of the iceberg of a whole set of conditions about art. Aesthetes such as Carlyle may well have waxed romantic about folk art, but real art was reserved for those with the means, leisure and education to enjoy them. I often wonder about the moment when not just folk art, but purely utilitarian work from one era becomes the art treasure of subsequent times. The process of commodification of, or as, art can take centuries, and yet if you believe as I do that artists are defined by their intent, then the potter, expert in celadon glaze, in 7th century Korea, making kitchenware for a royal court, was not in his own eyes or any others an artist. He was a craftsman. Now his work, safely behind glass in a cabinet in an art or anthropological museum, makes us lust for such a treasure to grace our private room and enhance our estate. The makers of intricate statues to be placed as funerary objects in the tomb of a Mayan, Egyptian, Persian or Syrian king were not artists in the way we know them. Now those statues have acquired the status of art of the highest kind.
While this may be principally an issue of time, it is also very much about place. It is not uncommon for global design/decorator shoppers to pick up traditional utilitarian craft in a newly discovered pocket of a developing country, bring it home and whack on a disgraceful percentage for its inclusion in the celeb home renno, or for design boutique sale. It's the same piece with different meaning and value in two places at the same time.
Something of the same occurs in the transport of shows of all kinds (performance, plays, musicals, blockbuster exhibitions) which have expensive sets and big names and casts or credentials which are sold internationally on the basis of their success elsewhere. It's peculiar how the very fact of this sell convinces the local market that the product is somehow superior to homegrown work. Not that seeing unfamiliar work from afar is a bad thing – quite the opposite, and the job of international festival director would not exist without it. But it is not just because something is a success in another place that we should invite works to Australia. My gut feeling about art in this place may not be that far from the way I might think about manufacture or other areas of expertise in Australia – make sure we are maximizing the potential of the talent and skills that already exist here, and at the same time invite for us to experience those things which are currently not made here or are at the peak of their achievement which may not yet be matched here. Apart from that, most content is universal since the massive expansion of broad and narrow cast of information has given us all, especially the younger generations of today, a wide–ranging eclecticism, which encourages us to follow up on strange tales from afar and follow our own paths of learning.
But even if there is clear universality in the content of most music– not all since there are some culturally determined instrumental tunings and some styles of singing which are so unfamiliar to the western ear that some tune out without giving it a go – and in much visual art, and in the content of everything provided the content deals with what we take for granted as the universal human traits of love, passion, war, anger, treachery, ethics, morality, laughter, fun (which is not entirely accurate because here there are cultural differences too); but even with these vast touchstones whereby we in our place can understand and appreciate art from another place, my experience tells me that context is all important.
My own art has typically been subversive rather than confrontational. Since I am a singer, a bringer of stories and a setter of moods, my natural way with audiences is to lure them into the common ground where we are all listening, and then sing them songs they had perhaps not expected to hear. If I have lured them in a way, which doesn't frighten them off, and created a moment where their senses and sensibilities are open and receptive, then they won't tune out or turn off. They may listen and what's more, they may hear. And in a place where mono opinion dominates most of our media save the Internet, simply exposing people to divergent opinion and alternatives must be considered an achievement.
So do have a look at the Melbourne International Arts Festival program, my final, when we launch on 5 August. I think you'll find that there is a backstory to the program, which embodies many of these strands of thought.
I never quite know what I've managed with festivals until I see the program in print, but I suspect that it will show me that I do believe what I say about art and place. You will find Melbourne writ large in such a way that, while certain elements would be, and have been experienced successfully in other places, this festival as a beautiful whole could not be hosted by any other city anywhere. Part of that is to do with the city's architecture, venues and institutions, but part of it is a more ephemeral feel for what happens and the way it happens in Melbourne.
I know that that's the case for Ten Days on the Island, which will launch in November its program for the April 2005 event, my final, because that celebration of the arts is predicated on the island identity of that place and the way it lives in quite separate geographical and ideological pockets.
But Liverpool? Well it's a challenge, but the raw material is fantastic. In approaching a place which celebrates its 800th birthday in 2007, has the oldest Chinese community in Britain and was the principal transfer point for so many Europeans, particularly Jews and Russians fleeing persecution and seeking new lives in the new world, I already see that it is different from the rest of Britain, and that the people of Liverpool are special. The job there is to make that place and the people of that place shine as brightly as they did in the glory days of the great port and the cavernous revival of the sixties. The focus is on them and those invited in must have meaning within the context of that huge challenge.
Meals will be made of whatever food can be had.
Gifts will be given to the needy.
Words will be spoken to those who are present.
Work will be done with the existing resources, wisdom and courage.
Carelessness should not be forgiven. (5)
Melbourne, 6 July 2004
(1)Willett, John Art in a City (Methuen, London, 1967) introduction p. 2
(3) Willett, John and Manheim, Ralph (eds with cooperation of Erich Fried) trs Christopher Middleton. Bertolt Brecht, Poems 1913–1956, (Eyre Methuen, London, 1976) hardcover pp. 416–7
(4)Jenks, Chris. Culture (Routledge, London and New York, 1993) p. 3
(5)Apologies to both Brecht and Middleton
Transcript of the Redmond Barry Lecture 2004, State Library of Victoria, Tuesday 6 July 2002.