Sian Prior

Writer, Broadcaster, Singer, MC & Teacher

Blog

August 2

SP at Byron Bay Writers Festival and Melbourne Writers Festival

Heading off to the Byron Bay Writers Festival on Wednesday – hope to see some of you there. Here’s what I’ll be doing and who i’ll be talking to:

Thursday 5 August (all day)
Non Fiction writing workshop with Sian Prior

Friday 6 August 10.45am – 11.45am
IN CONVERSATION
From song to page: lyric to literature
Robert Forster and Linda Neil with Sian Prior

Saturday 7 August 9.15am – 10.15am
What women want: is it still OK to need?
Laura Bloom, Victoria Cosford, Susan Maushart
Chair: Sian Prior

Sunday 8 August 11.45am – 12.45pm
Aren’t you married to what’s ‘is name? A glimpse behind the scenes
Kathy Lette with Sian Prior

Sunday 3.45pm – 4.45pm
Music to our ears: the universality of song
Robert Forster, Damien Leith, Linda Neill, Monica Trapaga
Chair: Sian Prior

The latest articles of mine in The Age include a piece in the Travel section on 7th August about the Dampier Peninsula in WA and one in the A2 about the campaign to protect James Price Point from an LNG processing plant.

July 11

What’s Going On

Check out the feature article I’ve written about ‘Songs from the Middle’, the song cycle collaboration between Eddie Perfect and the Brodsky Quartet, in the July edition of Limelight magazine.

On the morning of July 21st my radio essay on shyness (first published in full in the Meanjin literary magazine) will be broadcast on ABC Radio National as part of the First Person series.

Come on down (or up) to the Byron Bay Writers Festival in early August. I’ll be conducting a one day workshop on non fiction writing on Thursday August 5th, and hosting a number of panels with guest writers including Kathy Lette and Robert Forster over the following weekend.

Or if you’d like to venture further afield for your literary holidays, check out the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali in October, where i’ll be a guest writer, courtesy of Meanjin journal.

Just back from a fantastic trip to the Kimberley in Western Australia and am planning to write some articles about my travels – i’ll let you know when they’re going to be published.

And looking further ahead, i’ll be performing with Paul Kelly early in 2011 for his ‘Paul Kelly A – Z’ gigs in Melbourne and Sydney.

June 1

Wild Things and Far Away Places

Saturday June 5, 5pm – Il Trionfo dei Napoletani – The Music of Baroque Naples – Armadale Uniting Church, 86A Kooyong Rd Armadale – a concert of beautiful and rare music from Baroque Naples, featuring arias and ensembles by composers Scarlatti, Porpora, Leo, Pergolesi, Vinci and Trabaci. Please join singers Kerrie Bolton, Ingrid Heyn, Katrena Mitchell and Sian Prior, along with instrumentalists Emma Ayres (from Classic FM!), David Dore, Sophie Maxwell, Myfanwy McIndoe and Eva Tandy, for a unique musical experience. Tickets $20 ($15 concession) at the door.

Sunday June 13th – Wild Things: Sian Prior in conversation with Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle about the things that ignite and inspire his imagination – 2:30 pm at The Malthouse Theatre in Southbank.

Thursday July 7th – Non Fiction Writing Workshop (first of five) conducted by Sian Prior for the Victorian Writers Centre, 1 pm to 4 pm. Enrollments now open.

Friday August 6th – [Byron Bay Writers Festival](http://www.byronbaywritersfestival.com.au/v1/index.php) (August 6th to 8th), with guest panel host Sian Prior.

You might like to check out my travel article about south west Western Australia which appeared in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Traveller’ lift out on Saturday 15th May.

In the Walkley Magazine’s online May edition (Media and Entertainment Alliance) i’ve written a column about why it’s important to report on the arts in East Timor and in Australia.

in July a feature article I’ve written about ‘Songs from the Middle’, the forthcoming collaboration between Eddie Perfect and the Brodsky Quartet, will appear in the July edition of Limelight magazine.

On October 1st I’ll be a guest reviewer for the Victorian Writers Centre’s Club Writers – Book Talk – along with David Astle and Elly Varrenti. From 1 pm to 2 pm at the Wheeler Centre.

And latest news – I’ve been invited to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali in October. Nice work if you can get it…

May 2

Forthcoming Concerts and other events

Saturday 29th May, 5 pm – Crazy in the ‘Bool – fresh from their sell-out performance at The Toff in Town, Opera Sessions (Sian Prior, Vanessa West, Angus Grant) will be re-staging the show ‘Crazy! Songs of Mad Love, Jealousy and Revenge’ at Simon’s Waterfront restaurant in Warnambool. Tickets $22 ($17 conc). Bookings 03 5562 1234.

Thursday May 27th – Sian Prior will be co-hosting The Conversation Hour on 774 ABC Melbourne, featuring guest author Joel Magarey talking about his wonderful new travel memoir ‘Exposure’; 11:00 am.

Thursday May 27th – Madmen forum, hosted by Sian Prior, ACMI, Federation Square, 7pm. Panel discussion of the hit US TV series, featuring screen experts Mark Nicholls and Debi Enker.

Sunday June 13th – Wild Things: Sian Prior in conversation with Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle about the things that ignite and inspire his imagination – 2:30 pm at The Malthouse Theatre in Southbank.

Thursday July 7th – Non Fiction Writing Workshop (first of five) conducted by Sian Prior for the Victorian Writers Centre, 1 pm to 4 pm. Enrollments now open.

March 30

Writing opportunity courtesy of Readings

I’ve just been informed that I’ve been awarded a Readings Fellowship from the Victorian Writers Centre, which will provide me with a rent-free studio at Glenfern Writers Studio until the end of 2010. Great opportunity to have a quiet space to write in for a good amount of time. Luxury!

And on that very topic: do you know anyone who’s shy?

I am currently researching the topic of shyness for a series of articles and/or a book on the subject. This follows the publication in Meanjin literary magazine last year of an essay i wrote about grappling with shyness myself.

You can read the essay here if you are interested.

My aim is to further explore and illuminate this particular personality trait, both for shy folk AND for non-shy folk.

I am trying to gather as many ANONYMOUS anecdotes as possible from people who would describe themselves (now or in the past) as being shy, with a view to incorporating some of them into my writing.

I have designed a ten question survey which can be filled out ANONYMOUSLY online by simply clicking onto this link.

Please alert anyone you know who might be interested and willing to answer these questions in some detail. And of course, if you think you fit the bill, please complete the survey yourself!

And finally: my column about food intolerances will be published in the A2 section of The Age on Saturday 10th April.

February 28

Forthcoming Events 2010

Saturday March 13th – Recital of French songs and clarinet pieces, featuring Sian Prior (soprano and clarinettist) and Katherine Gillon (pianist), Benalla Art Gallery, 5:30 pm. Tickets at the door – $20 / students free.

Sunday April 11th – Crazy! Songs of Mad Love, Jealousy and Revenge, featuring Sian Prior and Vanessa West (sopranos), Angus Grant (baritone) and Warwick Sharpin (pianist), at The Toff in Town, Swanston St, 5:30 pm. Tickets $20 / $15 (concession) Moshtix 1300 GET TIX (438 849)

Thursday May 6th – Kenneth Myer Lecture, George Fairfax Fellowship, featuring guest speaker Kim Williams and a panel discussion hosted by Sian Prior, St Michael’s Centre, 6:30 pm.

Thursday May 27th – Madmen forum, hosted by Sian Prior, ACMI, Federation Square, 7pm. Panel discussion of the hit US TV series, featuring screen experts Mark Nicholls, Debi Enker and Russell Howcroft.

Sunday June 13th – Wild Things: Sian Prior in conversation with Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle about the things that ignite and inspire his imagination – 2:30 pm at The Malthouse Theatre in Southbank.

Thursday July 7th – Non Fiction Writing Workshop (first of five) conducted by Sian Prior for the Victorian Writers Centre, 1 pm to 4 pm. Enrollments now open.

Friday August 6th – Byron Bay Writers Festival (August 6th to 8th), with guest panel host Sian Prior.

Keep an eye out for forthcoming feature articles by Sian Prior in The Age newspaper on the topics of food intolerances and travelling around the south-west corner of Western Australia.

January 23

Mad for Madmen

I have been invited to host a panel discussion on the award-winning US TV series ‘Madmen’ for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI, at Federation Square) on Thursday May 27th. Panellists include Mark Nicholls (Melbourne University), Debi Enker (The Age Green Guide) and Russell Howcroft, and the event runs from 7 till 9 pm.

Before that, though, i’ll be co-hosting The Conversation Hour on 774 ABC Melbourne with Jon Faine on Friday 19th February (11 am) – our guests are Niki Savva, author of the new memoir ‘So Greek – Confessions of a Conservative Leftie’ and Rebecca Starford, founder of the literary journal ‘Kill Your Darlings’.

On Saturday March 13th I’ll be performing a recital of French art songs and clarinet pieces at the Benalla Art Gallery – all welcome.

On Sunday April 11th I’ll be performing in an Opera Sessions concert called ‘Crazy!– Songs of Mad Love, Jealousy and Revenge‘ at The Toff In Town, Swanston St. Melbourne – starts 5 pm.

And keep an eye out for my review of David Carlin’s memoir ‘Our Father Who Wasn’t There’ in the A2 section of The Age on Saturday 30th January.

December 26

2009 – The Good, The Bad and The Bloody Marvellous

As the young folk say – So Random! That’s how i always feel about the end of the calendar year. Why do we insist on these numerical markers of change, when really we’ll all wake up on Friday and the same sun will be shining and the same possum will have relieved itself inside my loungeroom wall cavity again?

And yet I’m always exhaustedly grateful for the end of the year and feel a whole lot fresher on January 1st. In spite of the possum piss. Go figure.

But no journalist worth their salt can let the year end without doing some kind of sum up of the highlights and lowlights.

So here goes:

THE BAD

– ‘Poor Boy’ – Melbourne Theatre Company musical involving a bunch of songs by Tim Finn (whose work i love and for whom I am always happy to go into bat in the eternal Neil vs Tim debate that rages around me) strung together by (usually brilliant) playwright Matt Cameron and featuring a big-hearted performance by Guy Pearce. But good songs and big-hearted performances are not enough. It all felt strained and at times really obvious. Unmemorable, I’m afraid. (So why am i reminding you of it, you may well ask?)

– The Victorian bushfires of February 7th. Hard to comprehend the level of horror for those involved – and we all know someone. My parents former home disappeared in the inferno. I still shudder to remember my relief when the wind changed direction at dusk. That’s when things went from appalling to entirely hellish just about a hundred kilometres from my safe little inner suburb.

– Art Garfunkel’s original songs, which he sang at the ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ reunion tour gig at the Rod Laver Arena. Listening to them felt a bit like eating way too much fairy floss and later on finding pink shards of it sticking to your clothes. Thank god for Paul Simon’s songwriting genius.

– Swine flu. Well, any flu really. And i had about three of them. In a row. Winter wipe-out. Blech.

– St Kilda losing the Grand Final. I mean come ON guys! To take us so far, so gloriously, and then to throw it all away with some slip-sliding away on the day. Winter wipe-out. Blech again.

– Some idiots destroying The Knitted Bridge, a key part of the ever-inventive Big West Festival, the night before it was officially launched. Made me want to weep. I guess it’s just ignorance. If you knew how much heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears had gone into knitting that bridge, you wouldn’t dream of wrecking it. Would you?

– Another year of failure to grasp the nettle on a carbon-reduced economy. Twenty years ago i was campaigning for the Australian Conservation Foundation on the so-called ‘greenhouse effect, and two decades on we STILL haven’t acknowledged how bad climate change is gonna get. Read Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘Oryx and Craik’ if you need some scary scenarios to get your campaigning juices flowing.

– The new fee structure for TAFE courses, announced this year and to be introduced by the Victorian Government in 2010. So now if you’ve had some education but want more, you’ll have to pay thousands of dollars. Wanna become a writer or an editor? Considering doing a TAFE writing and editing course? Start saving now, and maybe i’ll see you there in about a decade.

THE GOOD

– ‘The Flood’ – a gothic drama by playwright Jacqui Smith at La Mama Theatre which was one of a raft of shows i’ve this year about children in danger. (See the post below for a weblink to my article about this cultural trend). Great performances by the three female actors and i loved the set design – incredible that a black box the size of a large bathroom could be transformed into a whole farmhouse in the middle of the wide green yonder, inundated by flooding rains

– ‘Spontaneous Broadway’ – a comic impro show by a bunch of folk whose imaginative leaps take my breath away (or is it just that i’m laughing so hard i can’t get any air in?) Julia Zemiro is a goddess. The Goddess of Naughtiness. And John Thorn’s piano improvisations in the style of whatever-the-hell-you-like just get better and better. (And better.)

– ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ – Opera Australia’s production of Andre Previn’s version of Tenessee Williams’ play. What a great choice, to stick so faithfully to the original text. And what a great example of how new(ish) operas can still feel so fresh and relevant and theatrically satisfying and musically listenable. (See my second-last post for a weblink to my review in The Age). OA’s ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ was definitely in the GOOD basket too – sexy, silly and beautifully sung.

– ‘Dirtsong’ – the latest musical production by The Black Armband. Almost all songs were performed in indigenous languages. Moving, inspiring, and yet another interesting new development from this ever-changing ensemble. Congratulations to the BAB on being awarded a big fat dollop of Australia Council funding for 2010.

– A bunch of great new Australian films – ‘Blessed’, ‘Beautiful Kate’, ‘Samson and Delilah’, ‘Balibo’, ‘Mary and Max’, to name just a few. What a relief, to come out of the cinema feeling like your money’s been well-spent on a home-grown product. Go see’em, cobbers.

– A bunch of great Australian theatre productions, including the MTC’s ‘Knives in Hens’ and ‘My Year of Magical Thinking’, Theatreworks’ ‘The Lower Depths’, Malthouse Theatre’s ‘One Night the Moon’ and ‘A Commercial farce’, and My Darling Patricia’s ‘The Night Garden’.

THE BLOODY MARVELLOUS

– Travelling the world – this year i went to Italy (Sicily and the Amalfi Coast), East Timor (third trip), New Zealand (to play at the Christchurch Festival), Byron Bay, NSW (twice), Cabarita, QLD (surf heaven), Alice Springs, NT (and the community of Santa Theresa), Sydney, NSW (no Bondi Beach Rescue required) and Altona Meadows, Vic (often). Hello Samantha!

– Devouring entire TV series on DVD – ‘The Wire’ (all seasons), followed by ‘In Treatment’, followed by ‘Mad Men’ (can’t wait for season three). Why leave home? (and yet it seems i did, often)

– ‘Africa’ – the latest show created by theatre ensemble My Darling Patricia. To all Ye who scoff at puppetry – eat Thy words. There was more subtle characterisation in the little child-puppets in ‘Africa’ than i’ve seen on offer from many flesh-and-blood actors on the theatre stage. This tale of three children who are struggling to make sense of an often indifferent and violent adult world was entirely gripping. Funny, sad, nutty, abject and cathartic. Suburban Australia is more dangerous for many children than the wilds of Africa, and the Victorian Ombudsman has the stats to prove it. My Darling Patricia are one of the most original and inventive theatre ensembles in the country at the moment and I can’t wait to see what they will do next.

– ‘Progress and Melancholy’ – the latest physical theatre show created by director/choreographer Bagryana Popov. She took Chekhov’s play ‘The Cherry Orchard’, delicately dismembered it and sewed it back together again with its own movement language and a cast of performers who were allowed to simultaneously play themselves AND the characters in the play, constantly blurring the lines between the two. As a result, the ground continually shifted under our feet – just as it does for the members of the Russian aristocracy whose beloved cherry orchard is about to go under the hammer. Even the performance space (forty-five downstairs) became part of the fluid universe of ‘Progress and Melancholy’, with subtle comparisons drawn between the history-laden, rickety old Melbourne city building (presumably eternally vulnerable to re-development) and the hallowed cherry orchard. The ensemble cast of actors from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds brought their own rich emotional and cultural provenance to the production. The third wall crumbled, the audience talked back, the violinist serenaded us and Chekhov would have been waltzing with joy to see his play so (dis)respectfully treated at the end of the twenty-‘noughties.

December 4

A Streetcar Named Desire; Remembering Balibo; Tiny Tots in Terror

Check out The Age website for my recent review of Andre Previn’s opera ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘ (Opera Australia).

On the afternoon of Sunday December 13th i’ll be doing a reading at the St Kilda Library (Carlisle St) from my essay about the Balibo Five, ‘Remembering Balibo’, originally published in the 2009 Spring edition of Meanjin literary magazine. The event runs from 2 – 4 pm, there’ll be wine and cheese, and it’s free.

Keep an eye on the arts pages of The Age newspaper on Monday 14th December for my Canvas piece on our communal anxiety about children manifesting in Australian theatre and film.