Menu Sian Prior

Writer, Broadcaster, Singer, MC & Teacher


December 14

Forget Wikileaks: what about the Labor-leaks?

While the Australian media pack salivates over the scandalous morsels being dished up by Wikileaks, it may be missing an equally delicious manoeuvre going on right under our noses. Although The Greens weren’t able to outwit the major parties in the recent Victorian State election, the party seems to have learnt some lessons from the cunning preference deals which kept them out of the lower house. And I have to applaud their chutzpah. Blackmailing a member of the NSW right of the Labor Party into advocating a new debate over the party’s anti-nuclear power policy was a stroke of genius.

You doubt my conspiracy theory? If not the result of a blackmail attempt, how else can we rationally explain the timing of NSW Senator Steve Hutchins recent demand that a change in Labor’s nuclear policy be on the agenda at the next ALP conference? Surely no one in their right minds would want to alienate once and for all the remaining green-left rump of this formerly progressive party?

The ALP has been steadily leaking first preference votes to the Greens for over a decade. Not only that, it has been leaking membership, too. When I was working as an environment activist twenty years ago, many of my fellow campaigners were also active members of the ALP, attending local branch meetings, initiating and supporting the passage of green policies through the labyrinthine policy processes of their party. They saw value in working simultaneously with independent interest groups and within a mainstream political party.

Over time, though, most of those people (and the younger campaigners who’ve followed in their footsteps) have migrated to the Greens. Disappointed by ALP policy reversals on key environmental issues like uranium mining and, more recently, by the parliamentary Labor Party’s spectacular failure to tackle the threats posed by climate change and our unsustainable use of natural resources, green-left activists and voters opted to support a party which puts those concerns at the centre of its policy platform.

According to Labor historian Rodney Cavalier, author of Power Crisis, ALP membership in Senator Hutchins’ state of NSW dropped from 19,609 in 2002 to 15,385 in 2009, representing a decline of over twenty percent. In contrast, the Greens national membership climbed from 4889 in 2002 to 10,429 in 2009, representing an increase of over one hundred percent.

The ALP is not alone in facing this leakage problem. Speaking on ABC Radio National last week, Berlin-based politics professor Wolfgang Merkel claimed that in Germany, the membership of traditional social democratic parties has effectively halved over the past decade. In many European and Scandinavian nations, young people who are interested in politics join ‘either NGOs or environmental parties such as the Greens’, leaving labour parties to become ‘elite cartel parties losing their link to the population.’

If the ALP wants to reverse this trend and re-energise its membership base, the last thing it should be doing is trashing its remaining environmental credentials by adopting a pro-nuclear policy. Not only might it be the last straw for many ALP members who are considering abandoning the party, but it makes no economic or environmental sense.

Judging by the US experience, a nuclear power industry would require huge government subsidies to produce energy at an affordable cost for consumers. According to physicist and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Professor Ian Lowe, direct subsidies to the US nuclear industry totalled $115 billion between 1947 and 1999. Decommissioning nuclear power plants is expensive and dangerous, and no one has yet found an economically or environmentally sensible (or indeed a politically acceptable) solution to the problem of radioactive waste.

Furthermore, building new nuclear power stations would lead to a short term increase in our carbon emissions, at a time when we need to be quickly and efficiently reducing emissions to slow the pace of dangerous climate change. And even if we were willing to cop that increase, maintaining a reliable, long term supply of uranium ore to fuel those stations would also require increasingly carbon-intensive extraction and processing.

I challenge any Labor Government to persuade the residents of a major Australian city that a nuclear power station is safe enough to be built in their backyard. Our memory banks may be shrinking as digital technologies take over the work of our brain cells, but few Australians over the age of forty won’t shudder at the mention of the word Chernobyl. And which insurance companies would agree to insure an Australian nuclear industry without iron-clad government guarantees to underwrite the risks?

Given the astounding success of Team Wikileaks in sniffing out any dirty political underwear left lying around, surely it’s only a matter of time before this ingenious blackmail strategy is revealed to the world and Senator Hutchins is forced to back down from his patently ridiculous attempt to send more Labor members and voters into the waiting arms of the Greens. Watch this space.

November 23

Words and Music

On Friday 19th November I had an opinion piece published in the Age (available online in The National Times about the taboo surrounding the declaration of voting intentions.

On Friday November 26th I’ll be singing some French and German art songs and some original works by local composer Natalya Vagner at a bar called The City Tiler at 115 Bay St, Port Melbourne – 8:30 pm – come along (it’s free).

And i’ve finally dragged myself into the 21st century and got on board with Twitter: you can follow me on @sianprior

October 27

Radio, Print and some Gigs

I co-hosted The Conversation Hour today with Jon Faine on 774 ABC Melbourne: guests were novelist and fashion columnist Maggie Alderson and presenter of ABC TV’s ‘art + soul’ series Hettie Perkins. We had a lively discussion about the past and future of Aboriginal art and women’s fashion.

The Victorian Writers Centre have invited me to run a year-long series of workshops on non fiction writing in 2011. The program will be out a little later this year, but you can check their website for news of when 2011 enrollments begin.

My article on ’10 Things You Should Know About Reporting The Arts’ is in the October edition of The Walkley magazine. Check out the online edition here.

I’ll be performing with Paul Kelly in some of his forthcoming A to Z concerts in 2011: Sydney 20th to 23rd January (SOLD OUT), Melbourne 2nd to 5th March.

September 6

Ubud and Beyond

Plans are firming for my appearances at the forthcoming Ubud Writers And Readers Festival in Bali (October 6th – 10th), courtesy of Meanjin literary magazine. I’ll be appearing on a panel called ‘Writers Speak Out’ with Meanjin editor Sophie Cunningham, author Christos Tsiolkas, poet and rapper Omar Musa and non fiction writer Antony Loewenstein on Friday October 8th. I’ll also be interviewing Tony Maniaty, author of the memoir ‘Shooting Balibo’, taking part in a panel discussion on the future of criticism, and running a workshop on reviewing the arts.

(A review of my Reviewing Workshop can be found here!) And on the evening of October 7th i’ll be singing a couple of songs on a lunar theme at the Jazz Night at Casa Luna.

Keep an eye out for my forthcoming profile of debut author Maris Morton (winner of the 2009 CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for an unpublished manuscript) with a focus on her forthcoming novel ‘A Darker Music‘ (pub. by Scribe). It will appear as part of the Readings New Australian Writing series.

And you can hear me playing clarinet on Paul Kelly: A to Z, the forthcoming set of 8 CDs to be released in late September, along with PK’s mongrel memoir, ‘How To Make Gravy‘ (pub. by Penguin).

August 18

Horacek Launch and forthcoming Limelight article

On the evening of Wednesday September 29th i’ll be launching Judy Horacek‘s new book of cartoons, ‘If You Can’t Stand The Heat’ (Scribe), at the Trades Hall in Carlton (cnr Victoria and Lygon Sts) – 6 pm for a 6:30 start..

Keep an eye out for my forthcoming article about the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s concert series: 1910 – A Miracle Year, to be published in the next edition of Limelight magazine.

My 2010 series of non-fiction workshops at the Victorian Writers Centre is going gangbusters – third class coming up on September 9th – if you’d like me to run a workshop (or series) in your community, drop me a line via the contact page on this website.

And on Sunday September 5th I’ll be hosting a session at the Melbourne Writers Festival on poetry, journalism and songwriting at ACMI 1, Federation Square, 1 pm featuring poet August Kleinzahler, songwriter Robert Forster and journalist Craig Mathieson.

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
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]( (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.