Best of the week: What to see, hear and do from May 31 to June 6 – Sydney Morning Herald

FILM Watch Kriv Stenders’ award-winning 2005 film Blacktown (rated MA) as part of Western Sydney Shorts (until June 9), which releases a film every Tuesday and Friday evening to watch for the next 10 days with the program offering a cinematic insight into the multicultural region. 7.30pm, free, blacktownarts.com.au

Hip-hop group Thundamentals are taking their shows online. Credit:Adam Scarf

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3

MUSIC Hip-hop group Thundamentals are partway through their month-long weekly video series Iso Tapes (until June 10), which has the group digging into their archives to share unreleased footage from past performances. Today they premiere a version of their catchy track True Love backed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. 7pm, free, thundamentals.com.au

THURSDAY, JUNE 4

FILM Catch a virtual screening of independent documentary In My Blood It Runs (rated PG), which follows 10-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa boy, Dujuan, and the prejudices he faces. After the movie filmmaker Maya Newell takes part in a question-and-answer session. 6.30pm, $14.75, inmyblooditruns.com

FRIDAY, JUNE 5

BOOKS Author Imbi Neeme launches her debut novel The Spill (Viking, $32.99), which picked up the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize, via Zoom as she discusses her writing journey in creating the story of a car crash in Western Australia and its effects on a family. 6.30pm, free (bookings essential), penguin.com.au

SATURDAY, JUNE 6

MUSIC Melbourne Digital Concert Hall’s new Aquilina Gala Series kicks off with its first weekly concert, a program of Haydn, Bach and Beethoven performed by violinists Dale Barltrop and Sophie Rowell, string ensemble Quartz Quartet and more. 7.30pm, $30, melbournedigitalconcerthall.com

Best of the week: What to see, hear and do from May 31 to June 6 – Brisbane Times

FILM Watch Kriv Stenders’ award-winning 2005 film Blacktown (rated MA) as part of Western Sydney Shorts (until June 9), which releases a film every Tuesday and Friday evening to watch for the next 10 days with the program offering a cinematic insight into the multicultural region. 7.30pm, free, blacktownarts.com.au

Hip-hop group Thundamentals are taking their shows online. Credit:Adam Scarf

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3

MUSIC Hip-hop group Thundamentals are partway through their month-long weekly video series Iso Tapes (until June 10), which has the group digging into their archives to share unreleased footage from past performances. Today they premiere a version of their catchy track True Love backed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. 7pm, free, thundamentals.com.au

THURSDAY, JUNE 4

FILM Catch a virtual screening of independent documentary In My Blood It Runs (rated PG), which follows 10-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa boy, Dujuan, and the prejudices he faces. After the movie filmmaker Maya Newell takes part in a question-and-answer session. 6.30pm, $14.75, inmyblooditruns.com

FRIDAY, JUNE 5

BOOKS Author Imbi Neeme launches her debut novel The Spill (Viking, $32.99), which picked up the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize, via Zoom as she discusses her writing journey in creating the story of a car crash in Western Australia and its effects on a family. 6.30pm, free (bookings essential), penguin.com.au

SATURDAY, JUNE 6

MUSIC Melbourne Digital Concert Hall’s new Aquilina Gala Series kicks off with its first weekly concert, a program of Haydn, Bach and Beethoven performed by violinists Dale Barltrop and Sophie Rowell, string ensemble Quartz Quartet and more. 7.30pm, $30, melbournedigitalconcerthall.com

As newsrooms disappear and shrink across Australia, these ‘invisible’ multicultural newspapers are going strong – SBS News

As News Corp became the latest media company to announce major cuts this year, one part of Australia’s news landscape continues to prove surprisingly resilient.

The country’s multicultural newspapers are by no means immune to shocks in the industry but loyal readerships and niche advertising have kept them afloat.

Committed readerships

Multicultural newspapers in Australia date back more than 150 years and boomed in the post-WWII years as the country welcomed waves of migrants.

A selection of local multicultural newspapers.

Nick Baker

While many have come and gone, dozens are still operating, including the 125-year-old Australian Jewish News (AJN).

“[We service] a really strong community that is very connected,” David Redman, CEO of AJN publishers Polaris Media, told SBS News.

“It’s an advertising-driven model and we have a subscription base. That combination does help, but really, the paper’s survival is a testament to the loyalty of the community more than anything else.

“The readership is very committed to having a newspaper that is able to explore the world through their eyes and be able to give them an insight into what’s happening from their perspective.

“It always comes back to stories … What holds any community together is the stories they share, the things that they talk about.”

Publishing stories such as “My Ramadan in lockdown” and “Hospitality unconstrained through virtual iftars”, the Australasian Muslim Times (AMUST) has also weathered the recent storm of media disruption.

Editor-in-chief Zia Ahmad told SBS News the newspaper has “really flourished” since it relaunched in 2014 and that interest had increased during the pandemic.

“It has been well-received by the community,” Mr Ahmad told SBS News.

“We are not just regurgitating the TV and other newspapers. For example, there’s a murder. You’ll find that on every channel, everywhere. That same story.”

Mr Ahmad said AMUST also differentiates itself from mainstream media in other ways.

“The mainstream newspapers are talking about wars and rapes and muggings and negative news, with the understanding that negative news sells,” he said.

“We market our newspaper as a positive story newspaper … [With stories on] interfaith dialogue, people being brought together – you don’t see that in most newspapers.”

Mr Ahmad also credited the newspaper’s ongoing success with its embrace of digital platforms.

“You can’t just rely on print,” he said.

Steady advertising dollars

A key reason behind the resilience of these newspapers has been a stable advertising base that wants to target Australia’s migrant communities.

The 28 May issue of Italian language newspaper, La Fiamma, featured ads for Italian food distribution companies, Italian social clubs and in-language political advertisements for both Labor and Coalition MPs.

Dario Nelli, the editor of Sydney’s La Fiamma and its Melbourne counterpart Il Globo, said there had been consistent support from advertisers through the years.

“They want to market to the Italian community,” Mr Nelli said.

An insert from the 28 May issue of Italian language newspaper La Fiamma.

Nick Baker

“Small firms, even big firms, clubs, associations – they can see the role of the newspaper and they support us.

“When councils want to communicate something to the Italian community they go through us … And politicians know they can reach the whole community through us.”

During the pandemic, La Fiamma, Il Globo and other multicultural newspapers have also featured COVID-19 public service announcements, often in full-page format.

A COVIDSafe ad in La Fiamma.

Nick Baker

As a result, Mr Nelli said he was optimistic about the future of his newspapers.

“The day is far away when there won’t be a need for La Fiamma and Il Globo. I’m optimistic we can keep going for quite a while.”

‘So much uncertainty’

However, all the outlets SBS News spoke to were keenly aware of the challenges around the news landscape, especially during the pandemic.

The Chinese language press has been particularly hard-hit this year. The Sing Tao Daily – the country’s largest and longest-running Chinese language newspaper – closed, while other publications stopped their print editions.

Christopher Gogos, the publisher of the 63-year-old Greek newspaper, Neos Kosmos, is worried about the sustainability of the newspapers in the digital age.

“We’ve had similar problems to what all other publishers have had. We’re not immune to it. Having a more niche audience and community does help … [But] there is still so much uncertainty,” he said.

Mr Gogos said readership is booming, but this is largely thanks to the digital version of the newspaper.

“It’s encouraging that there are a lot of people reading us in the digital space, but like every other publisher in the world, it’s about monetising that … How do we get decent enough revenue to have paid journalists and to make it sustainable.”

Mr Gogos said multicultural newspapers like Neos Kosmos play a vital role in Australia.

“We don’t just exist for commercial reasons … What we provide, there’s a community need for it,” he said.

“It’s important that we have community discussions, it’s part of the public discourse, part of our debate, part of our democracy, it’s critical.”

Neos Kosmos’ publisher Christopher Gogos.

Neos Kosmos

He said Australia would be far worse off if multicultural newspapers closed.

“The problem I see, if there is no viability for multicultural media to exist, you’re going to have a vacuum and it’s going to be filled up with discussions on Facebook and other social media and the quality of our information will deteriorate,” he said.

“It will be really sad if that happens.”

Former Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane.

AAP

It is a point echoed by Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s former race discrimination commissioner who is now the director of culture strategy at the University of Sydney.

“[These newspapers] are often invisible to Australians who don’t read them. But the reality is in multicultural Australian society, members of our community get their news from multiple sources, not only from English language sources,” Mr Soutphommasane said.

He said for new arrivals to Australia, these mastheads can “form an important bridge between one’s home county and one’s new country”.

“Mainstream Australian English language media just does not resemble what our multicultural society looks like in any meaningful form … We will lose diversity if we see these media outlets folding,” he said.

“The diversity not only of voices and faces, but also of the diversity of stories is going to suffer.”

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government’s coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone’s app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

As newsrooms disappear, these ‘invisible’ multicultural newspapers are going strong – SBS News

As News Corp became the latest media company to announce major cuts this year, one part of Australia’s news landscape continues to prove surprisingly resilient.

The country’s multicultural newspapers are by no means immune to shocks in the industry but loyal readerships and niche advertising have kept them afloat.

Committed readerships

Multicultural newspapers in Australia date back more than 150 years and boomed in the post-WWII years as the country welcomed waves of migrants.

A selection of local multicultural newspapers.

Nick Baker

While many have come and gone, dozens are still operating, including the 125-year-old Australian Jewish News (AJN).

“[We service] a really strong community that is very connected,” David Redman, CEO of AJN publishers Polaris Media, told SBS News.

“It’s an advertising-driven model and we have a subscription base. That combination does help, but really, the paper’s survival is a testament to the loyalty of the community more than anything else.

“The readership is very committed to having a newspaper that is able to explore the world through their eyes and be able to give them an insight into what’s happening from their perspective.

“It always comes back to stories … What holds any community together is the stories they share, the things that they talk about.”

Publishing stories such as “My Ramadan in lockdown” and “Hospitality unconstrained through virtual iftars”, the Australasian Muslim Times (AMUST) has also weathered the recent storm of media disruption.

Editor-in-chief Zia Ahmad told SBS News the newspaper has “really flourished” since it relaunched in 2014 and that interest had increased during the pandemic.

“It has been well-received by the community,” Mr Ahmad told SBS News.

“We are not just regurgitating the TV and other newspapers. For example, there’s a murder. You’ll find that on every channel, everywhere. That same story.”

Mr Ahmad said AMUST also differentiates itself from mainstream media in other ways.

“The mainstream newspapers are talking about wars and rapes and muggings and negative news, with the understanding that negative news sells,” he said.

“We market our newspaper as a positive story newspaper … [With stories on] interfaith dialogue, people being brought together – you don’t see that in most newspapers.”

Mr Ahmad also credited the newspaper’s ongoing success with its embrace of digital platforms.

“You can’t just rely on print,” he said.

Steady advertising dollars

A key reason behind the resilience of these newspapers has been a stable advertising base that wants to target Australia’s migrant communities.

The 28 May issue of Italian language newspaper, La Fiamma, featured ads for Italian food distribution companies, Italian social clubs and in-language political advertisements for both Labor and Coalition MPs.

Dario Nelli, the editor of Sydney’s La Fiamma and its Melbourne counterpart Il Globo, said there had been consistent support from advertisers through the years.

“They want to market to the Italian community,” Mr Nelli said.

An insert from the 28 May issue of Italian language newspaper La Fiamma.

Nick Baker

“Small firms, even big firms, clubs, associations – they can see the role of the newspaper and they support us.

“When councils want to communicate something to the Italian community they go through us … And politicians know they can reach the whole community through us.”

During the pandemic, La Fiamma, Il Globo and other multicultural newspapers have also featured COVID-19 public service announcements, often in full-page format.

A COVIDSafe ad in La Fiamma.

Nick Baker

As a result, Mr Nelli said he was optimistic about the future of his newspapers.

“The day is far away when there won’t be a need for La Fiamma and Il Globo. I’m optimistic we can keep going for quite a while.”

‘So much uncertainty’

However, all the outlets SBS News spoke to were keenly aware of the challenges around the news landscape, especially during the pandemic.

The Chinese language press has been particularly hard-hit this year. The Sing Tao Daily – the country’s largest and longest-running Chinese language newspaper – closed, while other publications stopped their print editions.

Christopher Gogos, the publisher of the 63-year-old Greek newspaper, Neos Kosmos, is worried about the sustainability of the newspapers in the digital age.

“We’ve had similar problems to what all other publishers have had. We’re not immune to it. Having a more niche audience and community does help … [But] there is still so much uncertainty,” he said.

Mr Gogos said readership is booming, but this is largely thanks to the digital version of the newspaper.

“It’s encouraging that there are a lot of people reading us in the digital space, but like every other publisher in the world, it’s about monetising that … How do we get decent enough revenue to have paid journalists and to make it sustainable.”

Mr Gogos said multicultural newspapers like Neos Kosmos play a vital role in Australia.

“We don’t just exist for commercial reasons … What we provide, there’s a community need for it,” he said.

“It’s important that we have community discussions, it’s part of the public discourse, part of our debate, part of our democracy, it’s critical.”

Neos Kosmos’ publisher Christopher Gogos.

Neos Kosmos

He said Australia would be far worse off if multicultural newspapers closed.

“The problem I see, if there is no viability for multicultural media to exist, you’re going to have a vacuum and it’s going to be filled up with discussions on Facebook and other social media and the quality of our information will deteriorate,” he said.

“It will be really sad if that happens.”

Former Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane.

AAP

It is a point echoed by Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s former race discrimination commissioner who is now the director of culture strategy at the University of Sydney.

“[These newspapers] are often invisible to Australians who don’t read them. But the reality is in multicultural Australian society, members of our community get their news from multiple sources, not only from English language sources,” Mr Soutphommasane said.

He said for new arrivals to Australia, these mastheads can “form an important bridge between one’s home county and one’s new country”.

“Mainstream Australian English language media just does not resemble what our multicultural society looks like in any meaningful form … We will lose diversity if we see these media outlets folding,” he said.

“The diversity not only of voices and faces, but also of the diversity of stories is going to suffer.”

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government’s coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone’s app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Starz steps up for cancelled YouTube series – C21Media

Step Up: High Water was commissioned by YouTube

US premium cablenet Starz has ordered a third season of dance drama Step Up: High Water from Lionsgate Television, a year after the show was cancelled by YouTube.

The series revolves around the founder of the fictional Atlanta High Water Performing Arts School and his partner as they face criminal charges, financial ruin and powerful political enemies.

The show was inspired by Starz parent company Lionsgate’s Step Up film franchise, which grossed more than US$600m around the world.

It was one of YouTube’s first original scripted commissions but was canned in August last year as part of the platform’s wider move away from original drama. Starz has ordered a 10-episode third run.

Holly Sorensen, Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot, producers on the original Step Up films, exec produce the series version through their Offspring Entertainment banner.

Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, who co-starred in the original Step Up film, also exec produce through Tatum’s Free Association production company. Erik Feig, who served as producer on all the films and oversaw the franchise, is also exec producing via his prodco Picturestart. Bill Brown is also exec producing.

Christina Davis, president of original programming for Starz, said: “Holly and her team have created a new and dynamic iteration of the series that captures the hallmarks that have made the Step Up franchise so successful and elevates the storytelling for the premium, global audience. This, coupled with the worldwide appeal of the multi-talented, multicultural cast, will make this series a great addition to our slate.”

International Festival of Arts & Ideas finds a new executive director to guide key transition – Hartford Courant

The Ordway Center resembles The Bushnell in Hartford in the way it hosts national tours of Broadway shows, books lots of one-night concerts, houses a symphony orchestra and has more than one performance space. Where the Ordway compares with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas is in creating community-oriented programming geared to the unique cultural qualities of its home city, and by bringing in international artists, often with experimental leanings, that the more mainstream arts presenters haven’t discovered yet. Artists who’ve played both Arts & Ideas and the Ordway Center include Canadian punk-style Inuit throat singer Tanya Tacaq, the Connecticut-based modern movement troupe Pilobolus and the theater circus troupe Cirque Mechanics.

Multicultural community leaders honoured – Mirage News

A medical professional and humanitarian champion supporting the NSW Chinese Australian community for more than four decades has won top honours in the Premier’s Multicultural Community Medals.

Dr Leng Tan, a GP and community leader, was awarded the SBS Lifetime Community Service Medal on a virtual presentation call with all winners hosted by Acting Minister for Multiculturalism Geoff Lee.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was wonderful the winners still got the recognition they deserved despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Congratulations to all the winners and finalists. You represent what makes NSW such a strong state,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We especially owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Dr Tan and all our medical professionals as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even as we find ourselves living and working differently because of COVID-19, these incredible people and organisations continue to engage and connect with their communities when they need it most.”

Mr Lee said the medals are traditionally announced at the annual Premier’s Harmony Dinner gala event, however the video call ensured award winners were still recognised for the fantastic work achieved.

“While we wish we could have recognised our medal recipients in person it doesn’t detract from the incredible work you are doing to promote harmony in our community,” Mr Lee said.

“Our winners have made our society more compassionate and inclusive and I am proud of our harmonious community that welcomes everyone in NSW.”

Lifetime Community Service Medal Winner, Dr Leng Tan said that receiving the Medal was a great honour.

“This medal is recognition of the longstanding and tireless contribution of volunteers in the Asian community to migrants young and old. I am proud to have helped improved the wellbeing of individuals and to have contributed to society as a whole.”

Other medal recipients include a South Sudanese refugee and former child soldier who founded a highly successful basketball program for multicultural youth and an Arabic interpreter helping patients in hospitals across Western Sydney.

Visit the full list of the Premier’s Multicultural Community Medals.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Sydney Film Festival and awards to go online for 2020 with slimmer program – NME.com

Following the lead of film festivals around the country, Sydney Film Festival has announced its 2020 event and awards show will be held online.

Back in mid-March, SFF was one of the first film festivals to announce its physical cancellation after public gatherings restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus were instituted, pre-empting Melbourne International Film Festival. The original event was set to screen over 250 films at ten different venues,

Now, the 67th overall and first online edition of SFF will focus primarily on its awards program for Australian-made films, with 20 features and 13 short films in four strands. The emphasis on local films is designed to support the struggling industry through the pandemic.

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This year’s virtual event will see ten new feature-length Australian documentaries, including eight world-premiers, screen as part of Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Best Australian Documentary.

These include the third film in Jakeb Anhvu’s Vietnam trilogy, A Hundred Years of Happiness, a profile of the Multicultural Community Liaison Officer for the NSW Police Rosemary Kariuki, and Descent – a film about the world’s only professional ice free-divers who swim in freezing cold water without a wet suit, directed by Nays Baghai.

The Weather Diaries, directed by Kathy Drayton, is a six year study of her daughter Imogen as their relationship changes when she moves away from classical to pop music. Imogen now performs as a musician under the moniker Lupa J.

Elsewhere in the festival, ten finalists for the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films will also screen, as well as three short films for Screenability – a category for screen practitioners with disability.

The films will be available to watch on the SFF Festival website on demand, from June 10-21. Tickets for the streamed festival are on sale now here.

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SFF will run a curated selection of 40 features and documentaries that have screened at the festival in recent years on SBS On Demand, including The Square, Certain Women, Frances Ha, Ali’s Wedding, Toni Erdmann and many more.

As previously announced, SFF will join forces with 20 major film festivals around the world for the We Are One: A Global Film Festival, to screen free over ten days on Youtube. SFF will contribute Mabo dir. Rachel Perkins and Mystery Road dir. Ivan Sen.

Last year’s SFF saw director Bong Joon Ho attend took home the festival’s $60,000 Sydney Film Prize for his now Best Picture Academy Award winning film Parasite. The festival also drew controversy with the Australian premiere of Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale. The screening sparked walkouts over its brutal depictions of rape and murder in colonial Australia. Moodley and Kent both defended the film to the ABC at the time, claiming only “20 and 30 people” walked out of each screening of 600 and 800 people respectively.

Journeying Through the Inner Life of a Music Teacher: A Eulogy for My Mother – Groundviews

Mary Maudwyn Hermine de Silva-Wijeyeratne, née Abayawickreme, LRAM, ARCM, FTCL, BMus (05-07-1937 – 20-04-2020)

My mother Hermine passed away in a London hospital on 20th April 2020. She was nearly 83, but I thought she had a few more years ahead of her. I want to honour the memory of Hermine and her post-colonial journey. She is mother to my older brother Shervon and myself, loving grandmother to Previn, great-grandmother to Raphael, and mother-in- law to Deepthi, Shervon’s wife. She was also a passionate lover of music and a respected music teacher of many decades.

Hermine was born in 1937 in the rather sleepy seaside town of Negombo, in the Crown Colony of Ceylon. Her parents, Charles and Nita Abayawickreme, were a public servant and teacher (English and Music) respectively – Charles an Anglican from Matara and Nita a Catholic from Negombo. An only child, Hermine grew up with an extended family, her first cousins Carmen, Cynthia, Milroy, Myrnie, and Maureen being at the centre of that wider family. All attended the Ave Maria Convent and were taught by nuns from Ireland. Outside the significant Catholic community of the Jaffna peninsula, Negombo was a key centre of Ceylonese Catholicism. But it was also a multicultural town with significant Burgher, Tamil, and Muslim communities. Hermine’s grandmother was bi-lingual and spoke fluent Tamil – as was often found among the Karava community of the west coast from Negombo to Chilaw at this period. How times have changed! I suspect Hermine herself would find the ethno-Sinhalisation of the Catholic belt of the island alien to her own more ecumenical upbringing.

Music was central to the family. Hermine’s grandfather David Peiris was a prominent baritone. Hermine started to learn piano from her mother at the age of five. She took Hermine up to grade 7, but by then her mother knew that Hermine needed to spread her wings. Charles, her father, heard the young British pianist and recent arrival to Ceylon, Janet Keuneman (sister-in-law to Pieter Keuneman) playing the piano on Radio Ceylon. He instinctively knew that this was the lady who should teach his daughter – and so it came to pass.

As a second instrument Hermine took up the cello and was taught by Louis Moreno, a Spanish émigré who had fled the Nationalist victory in the Spanish civil war. Moreno played in the legendary big band at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo that also included the clarinettist Reuben Solomon, a Sephardic Jewish refugee who had escaped the Japanese invasion of Burma – Reuben and his brother had escaped Rangoon with their instruments and a few possessions and fled over the Himalayan foothills into India, eventually making their way down to Colombo. Rueben married Charmaine (née Poulier), the famous writer on Sri Lankan cookery and Burgher cuisine.

In Colombo in the 1950s, Janet, Louis, and Reuben would regularly perform as a trio. And somewhat coincidentally, when Janet’s son, Gerald Keuneman (OAM), took up the cello as his first instrument in Melbourne in the early 60s he acquired Louis Mereno’s cello – what a small world! Both Moreno and Solomon would migrate to Australia in the late 50s and early 60s as part of the middle class exodus from Ceylon in the shadow of the Official Language Act 1956.

Most probably early exposure to these divergent strands of influence account for Hermine’s catholic musical tastes, of which more below. The engagement between Janet the teacher, and Hermine the student, led to Hermine studying piano at the Royal Academy of Music in London in the late 50s and early 60s. They enjoyed a close friendship that lasted many decades. To begin with, Hermine was one of three teenage girls (the other two being Daya and Glynis) to start piano lessons with Janet in the same year, 1950 – all three girls forged lifelong friendships. Daya continues to live in Colombo while Glynis passed away a few years ago. Janet, who had married Pieter Keuneman’s younger brother Arthur (a Crown Counsel) became a leading light in the small but influential classical music scene in post-war Ceylon. Janet trained Hermine in the classical repertoire with a focus on Beethoven, Brahms, and Chopin. While the German romantics would become Hermine’s first love (although she did not eschew Schoenberg’s own eschewing of tonality), she remained a devotee of Frederic Chopin’s elegant piano compositions. Janet passed away in Melbourne last year at the age of 98. When, in turn, I informed Janet’s son Gerald of Hermine’s passing, he texted wryly that soon the two of them will be able to play the piano again together – I am sure they are enjoying each other’s company again!

A few years prior to leaving for London on what was a three-week journey by ship, Hermine married Rienzi de Silva-Wijeyeratne, a lawyer from Colombo. They married in Negombo at St Mary’s, a church that dates back to the Portuguese period. Her first son, Shervon, was born in 1954, and four years later Hermine, dad, Nita, and Shervon embarked for London. Her father, Charles, had passed away in the early 1950s. Our grandmother, Nita, was designated child minder for Shervon. Hermine thus took her place as part of the second generation of post-colonial women from Ceylon to set sail to London for the completion of their education. The glamour of London was fully embraced by mum and dad.

The family settled in Paddington, which made for an easy journey to and from the Royal Academy in Marylebone. While Shervon started his schooling, dad set to work in the Patent Office on Chancery Lane. At the Royal Academy Hermine was influenced by Professors Guy Jonson and Harold Craxton – Jonson memorably told Hermine that she ought to remain under his tutelage so that he could fashion her into a concert pianist. Alas, mum, much younger than dad, was unable to convince him to remain in London for her to fulfil that potential – in this too, sharing the thwarted ambition of so many middle class women of her generation.

At the Royal Academy Hermine also carried on with the cello as her second instrument. Later, she would relate comical stories of young men volunteering to carry her cello on and off buses on the way back and forth from the Academy! This short, joyful sojourn in London did not prevent Hermine from achieving the highest grades at piano for someone enrolled in her programme of study.
With her studies completed, the family returned to Ceylon. They settled in Colombo and lived a relatively comfortable life during the 1960s, with Hermine building a stable of private piano students that included cousins and the children of notable politicians (of all stripes). Radio Ceylon’s English Language service offered Hermine a vehicle to perform her classical piano repertoire to a wider audience. Needless to say, her distinctive light touch shone through in her performances. But there was another side to Hermine’s musical passions.

While those who knew Hermine think of her accomplishments and love of classical music, not many people beyond her extended family will be aware of her predilection for American country and western music. We recall her stories of listening to Gene Autry and Roy Rogers on the radio in the 1940s. Not surprisingly Jim Reeves occupied a special place in her heart – but even fewer know that she struck up a correspondence with Mary Reeves, his widow. The story, as mum told it, was that she wrote to Chet Atkins in New York who then passed on her letter to Mary Reeves. This exchange of letters continued into the early 1970s. All in all, what is most memorable about the house in Colombo was the tumult of music of all sorts of genres being played. While country music complemented classical, Shervon was at this stage immersing himself in a small R & B combo that he and his friends had got going. Hermine would assist the boys master tricky chord progressions in the music they were covering. Deep Purple, The Who, and Hendrix were usually on the boys’ menu.

We suspect that the letters from Mary Reeves got lost as the next significant journey in Hermine’s life began. By the end of the 1960s she had an addition to the family, me. Owing to political instability in the early 1970s, as the island transitioned from Crown Dominion to Republic, mum and dad decided that leaving Ceylon was in the best interests of their children. Our grandmother Nita had passed away in 1972. Shervon was a teenager at this point and I was just four. Drawing on family friends, Hermine secured a teaching post in, of all places, Gibraltar, on the southern tip of Spain.

In Gibraltar Hermine taught music in two schools and dad worked in the Inland Revenue while Shervon also worked in the public service. I in turn started my schooling and, in order to adapt to the bi-lingual nature of Gibraltarian society, Hermine and Shervon set out to learn Spanish.

Dad however was not well. Indeed, he had been unwell for a considerable period of time before we left Ceylon in December 1973. In February 1975 he had a fatal heart attack. With Hermine widowed at a young age, she and Shervon decided that the family should relocate to London. By the end of 1975 the three of us were staying with dad’s sister in south London – Aunt Cleta’s family had also migrated to London in the early 70s. And so London would become Hermine’s final home.

When the family moved to West Hampstead in north London, Hermine returned to studying both music and literature for her ‘A’ levels, while Shervon started work and I began schooling in Kilburn. Then, moving back to south London in 1978, Hermine undertook paid employment – after a short spell in retail, she worked in the area of music copyright and eventually settled into a teaching career in 1980. She spent the next 23 years teaching music and piano in schools in south London. But it was teaching piano at home – which she began as soon as she acquired her Broadwood upright in 1979 – where she truly came into her own. Meticulous about detail, she pushed her students to perform to their full ability.

In the late 90s she undertook her Bachelor of Music at Kingston University, fulfilling an ambition dating back to 1960, and in 2003 she acquired her pride and joy, her Bluthner grand piano. 2003 also marked both the year of her retirement and the award of her degree in music. I played a minor role in her music degree. I had, thanks to my doctoral supervisor at the University of Kent, the late Professor Peter Fitzpatrick, introduced Hermine to Theodor Adorno’s essays on music – far from easy going! Undaunted, she proceeded to write an undergraduate dissertation on Adorno.

In the meantime, Shervon had married Deepthi in 1982, and I went to Brisbane in 2001. When Shervon and Deepthi’s son Previn was born in 1984 in London, Hermine happily took on the role of designated babysitter and piano teacher to her grandson. She maintained her close friendship with her piano teacher Janet in Australia and made frequent trips to Melbourne to visit Janet and her husband Arthur. Of course, Hermine had another reason for visiting Australia, to spend time with me in Brisbane. On one trip to Brisbane in 2010, Hermine’s friend Pam Adams (who worked with me at Griffith University) took her to Newstead House, an old colonial residence where a grand piano was on display. Encouraged by Pam, Hermine gave a short impromptu performance. Pam recalls her “abiding memory of Hermine … taking to the piano at Newstead House – without [sheet] music – and playing so beautifully. That lovely music rippled throughout the house.”

Retirement for Hermine did not mean the end of her teaching from home. On the contrary, she carried on teaching till pretty much the end, or at least until our public health emergency intervened this year. In 2010 Hermine was diagnosed with vascular disease and thus began a struggle against a health condition that would impact on her throughout her remaining years. No matter how much pain she was in, she sustained a determined streak that would not let her be bowed down by pain. Shervon returned from Sri Lanka to spend a significant period of time with Hermine and manage her care at home. I would regularly return from Brisbane to enjoy her company and offer support in the long university break every Christmas and New Year.

In 2014, in a period of good health, Hermine persuaded Deepthi and Shervon to visit Vienna where she fulfilled her desire to spend time at Beethoven’s Pasqualati House. The dream trip was capped by an evening at the Vienna Concert Hall.

Hermine was a woman of strong will – don’t her sons know it! Once she made up her mind there was no change of tack. Faced with adversity, her sense of self-will enabled her to confront that adversity with an extraordinary optimism. She was stoical in the face of daily discomfort and, even after her first minor stroke in October last year, she carried on teaching. Dr Karen Kee, her stroke consultant at Croydon General Hospital, recalls testing Hermine’s cognitive functions by taking her to play on the hospital upright. The video footage reveals a small crowd gathering to the sounds of Christmas carols and a few old classics like the Isle of Capri. Dr Kee added that Hermine was soon telling her off for getting her timing wrong as they attempted a duet! When Hermine was readmitted to the stroke unit at Croydon General in April, the entire staff showed such love as they took care of her in her last week.

It is fitting that almost the last words here should come from some of Hermine’s students, two of whom were about to restart their lessons once we came out of the coronavirus lockdown. When Naseem Crawford, who was about to start grade 7 with Hermine, heard that his teacher had passed away, he recalled how, “We would play the piano and laugh together, she was a special lady with special gifts and she will be dearly missed”. Linda Jimenez and her daughters, Natalia and Rebecca, both Hermine’s students, spoke of Hermine as “an extraordinary piano teacher and a person who had a witty and caring personality. Hermine inspired a passion in us to play the piano. She was also a great mentor as well as a teacher. May you rest in peace and we will never forget you.”

Well, mum, you will forever be in the hearts of your family and friends wherever they are, in London, Sri Lanka, Australia, and the United States. When the time is right Hermine’s ashes will be returned to her home town Negombo, where she will be laid to rest with her parents, Charles and Nita. Her parents would be extremely proud of the legacy their daughter leaves behind. And her sons, Deepthi, and our families, are immensely proud of the love and care this sparkling and elegant woman brought out in others. She was ‘old Ceylon’ embodied.

Dr Roshan de Silva-Wijeyeratne is a Member of the Advisory Board, Centre on Human Rights in Conflict, University of East London, and a Member of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law, University of Edinburgh. This eulogy was delivered at the South London Crematorium, Streatham, London SW16 5JG, on 19th May 2020

Creativity urgently needed in COVID-19 response – ArtsHub

The creative industries have a critical role in a modern economy. Creative industries include the traditional arts, but also broader sections of the economy that have been hit hard by COVID-19.

Victoria has major strengths across the creative industries. Our small to medium and independent sector is described in the Victorian Government’s strategy as a creative powerhouse, globally-connected, innovative and a source of local pride and enjoyment. Victoria is the national focus of visual and performing arts, music and design. We account for about half of Australia’s television drama production and half of Australia’s digital games sector, but much is at risk.

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Victoria’s state-owned cultural institutions anchor our global profile and reputation for cultural accomplishment. Before COVID-19 they hosted more than ten million local and international visitors each year, holding cultural collections worth more than $5 billion. Victoria is the home of philanthropic support for arts and culture – it’s the strongest in the nation. Our strong multicultural base has strengthened the arts in Victoria and continues to influence our creative and cultural offering. Key bodies like Multicultural Arts Victoria continue to bring the art and culture of our immigrant communities to the fore. Again, prior to COVID-19, officially Victoria’s creative industries made up 8% of the economy, contributing almost $23 billion and 289,000 jobs.

The COVID-19 crises and its devastating economic impact is unlike anything Victorians have witnessed in our lifetimes. In line with the unparalleled bipartisan response to the COVID-19 health emergency and the pressing need to get the economy recovering and new jobs underway as soon as possible, the Victorian Liberal Nationals recently made a series of recommendations for measures we would support to help restart the economy, including the creative industries.

Amongst other things, we recommend the State Government dip into the massive COVID-19 response resources provided to it by the Parliament in April to establish a $50 million Creative Industries Restoration Fund, in addition to already announced and welcome Victorian Government support.

Creative industries are being seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The creative industries and the arts on the early figures are the second most severely impacted sector. Department of Treasury and Finance modelling shows Victoria lost over 46,500 jobs in arts/recreation or 18% from 14 March to 4 April. The impact on the creative industries sector-wide is a much larger number. The cultural and creative sector employed an estimated 289,000 Victorians in 2018-19 and we believe the Victorian Government has a responsibility to facilitate the recovery of this sector to pre-COVID-19 employment levels by June 2021.

While the Commonwealth Government has reacted to the crisis with packages such as the JobKeeper package and the JobSeeker package, accessible to many in the traditional large companies, such as the orchestras, opera companies and galleries, not all have been able to access these programs or equivalent and this is a weakness in a federal response otherwise marked by a swift and well-resourced national intervention.

Not all have been able to access these programs or equivalent and this is a weakness in a federal response otherwise marked by a swift and well-resourced national intervention.

The Victorian Coalition Government between 2010 and 2014 instituted the highly successful White Night, which had gone from strength to strength. Concerningly, Labor had begun to tamper with the successful White Night formula, even before COVID-19. It is to be hoped that an early opportunity a full White Night can again occur, but as an interim measure, given the challenge of large crowds and the need for social distancing, the Coalition believes there should be, and would fund, a 2020 virtual White Night. Events such as White Night have not only supported the creative arts and unique innovation, but have also driven massive local employment and supported tourism. That is why our advocacy for a White Night expansion has called for a focus on additional regional cities. Separately, in Our Plan to get Victoria back to work and back in business, we have called for $200 million in regional tourism support.

Daniel Andrews has locked the state down hard. Initially, tough restrictions were warranted given the undoubted threat, but he and Labor have been slow to open up; slow to open up for cafes and restaurants, with Victoria still lagging behind every other state; slow to open up, with appropriate social distancing, pubs and clubs, with Victoria lagging weeks behind other comparable states. This is clearly important, not just to those sectors, but to the live music sector and other parts of the creative performance sector that rely on pubs and clubs.

The travel lockdown needs to be lifted now, with appropriate rules and proper social distancing in place. Tourism and the regional arts sector are heavily dependant, both in country Victoria and in Melbourne, on the ability of the community and patrons to move and visit. New South Wales has led the way, removing travel restrictions. It is time Victoria belatedly caught up.

The Victorian State Government has announced some packages of support for the creative industries, but they are not enough. Our $50 million Creative Industries Restoration Fund goes a lot further. It would provide active assistance and targeted support. We have called on Labor to adopt our idea.

Our $50 million Creative Industries Restoration Fund … would provide active assistance and targeted support. We have called on Labor to adopt our idea.

Outside venues may play a role in restoring early concerts and performances, given the favourable social distancing aspects of venues like the Myer Music Bowl. Government must lead on the development of a summer series taking advantage of Victoria’s great outdoors.

The damage to key companies is exacerbating pre-existing issues. In critical organisations like the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a dispute between the highly-talented and world class musicians and management rumbles on. It needs to be resolved. There appears to be a leadership void given the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has reached a collaborative conclusion with its musicians. The continuing silence of Creative Industries Minister, Martin Foley, does not absolve him of responsibility to resolve this dispute. No matter how many times he washes his hands in this COVID-19 crisis, he will still be responsible for a solution to the MSO musicians’ problems.

In Opposition, our task is to scrutinise and hold the government to account. It is also to develop alternate policy and we will do so in the lead-up to the 2022 state election. In a time of crisis, like the COVID-19 crisis, one key role is to put forward propositions and ideas that the Government can adopt in the public interest. Our Plan to get Victoria back to work and back in business seeks to do this on a wide front, proposing ideas that government could adopt. It’s all about getting Victoria back to work and back in business, including our creative industries.

The Victorian Parliament has authorised the State Government to borrow $24.5 billion to spend this financial year and next financial year for COVID response. Some of this extraordinary surge in borrowings – to be added to the $50 billion the State already owes, bringing the total state debt to $75 billion – will be diverted by Daniel Andrews and his ministers to fund the cost overruns and blow outs on a series of major transport projects. The Opposition is very concerned the COVID destined money will be siphoned off to deal with the Government’s mismanagement. This risks leaving the creative industries and many other sectors short. The borrowings should be spent on new capital works that are shovel ready and support for hard hit sectors, like the creative industries.