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IMPROBABLE BEGINNINGS: MY CHAOS THEORY OF RURAL ARTS FESTIVALS

YarnBombedTree_DSC00236-small30 March 2014: Latest post on my Rural Arts Festival blog 

my Chaos Theory of Rural Arts Festivals, their sensitive dependence on initial improbabilities, crazy ideas, and unreasonable dreams and desires; and on months, years even, of unpaid (and generally unacknowledged)  intellectual, emotional and physical labour. The most critical initial condition for any rural arts festival, however, is the presence of one or more truly frustrated creative thinkers with the passion, skill, incentive and courage (or foolhardiness?) to defy local tradition (or inertia?) by trying something new. Without such people rural arts festivals cannot exist. With them miracles emerge. More >>

HOMELANDS: MY PhD PROJECT ….

Refugees and asylum seekers behind bars in Indonesia for trying to reach Australia. Pekanbaru, Sumatra, 2012.December 2013: I’ve finally submitted my creative PhD thesis, Homelands, which traces the journeys of asylum seekers and refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Australia, and Australians’ reactions to them. It also offers a radical re-imagining of Australia’s relationship with Eurasia and what it means to be Australian. A book manuscript will be available for publication soon.  More >>

KALARI-LACHLAN RIVER ARTS FESTIVAL

FestivalPoster2013_72a-203x300The biennial Festival I founded in 2010/11, as a celebration of country creativity and resilience after a decade of drought, has taken flight. It’s time, therefore, for me to withdraw so it can become a truly community-driven event.

Read my statement to the local press here >>
Read Sophie Harris’s article in the Forbes Advocate here >>

NEW! Vince O’Donnell’s Arts Alive podcast recorded live from River Arts 2013 in Forbes: LISTEN here >>

THE KATE KELLY SONG CYCLE

The Kate Kelly Song Cycle, my creative collaboration with composer Ross Carey, premiered  on Sunday 4 September, 2011, as the headline act for the inaugural Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival. The Song Cycle, like the Festival itself, emerged from my Kate Kelly Project. Film maker Tracy Sorenson has since completed a documentary, Songs for Kateabout this ongoing cultural intervention.   More >>

CULTURAL EXCHANGE BETWEEN INLAND NSW & DERBYSHIRE

AustralianCrew@Chatsworth2013_ChrisWebbPhotgraphy_MG_0100_smallCroppedA dozen of we Creatives from Central Western New South Wales spent most of September 2013 in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, as part of The Pavilion Project, a visionary international cultural exchange facilitated through Arts OutWest, Derbyshire Council, and the Wirksworth Arts Festival. Check out Maryanne Jacques’ article about our sojourn, Rural To Rural: International Arts Links, in The Western Advocate, 6 October 2013 >>  And/or Jason Thomas’s Swapping Festival Ideas, in The Forbes Advocate, 12 September 2013  >>. And/or my own posts from Wirksworth on my new blog about Rural Arts Festivals >>
I returned home to inland NSW for our own Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival, having established cultural links in the UK, which, I hope, will lead to some very interesting creative collaborations for future festivals. So watch this space!

“OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION” AWARD 

RAA-AwardOct2012_webIn 2012 Merrill was presented with an “Outstanding Contribution” Award at the national Regional Arts Australia conference in Goolwa, South Australia, in recognition of her work to establish the Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival.

“As a writer, I believe passionately in the power of narratives to effect change, and in the responsibility of arts workers to be agents of change,” Findlay said.
More >>   More >>   And more >>

REPUBLIC OF WOMEN: A NOVEL

My first novel Republic of Women, a literary fiction set in the inner Melbourne suburb of St Kilda, was published by University of Queensland Press in 1999.

cover3In this novel of striking intellectual subtlety and authority, Merrill Findlay probes questions of sexual identity in a voice that is radical, humane, angry, tender, and always true to the complex reality of her characters. With the assured craftsmanship of an already accomplished novelist she brings past and present into relations that deepen her characters and their preoccupations and the reader’s pleasure in her evocation of contemporary St Kilda.  More >>

Reviews of Republic of Women >>

UNDERSTANDING PLACE THROUGH NARRATIVE

Book chapter first published in Frank Vanclay et al (eds), 2008, Making Sense of Place: exploring concepts and expressions of place through different senses and lenses, pp. 13-22, National Museum of Australia. [A review of this publication by George Main in Australian Humanities Review 46, May 2009 >> ]

No continent can be invaded, no massacre committed, no abuse perpetrated, no people subjugated, vilified or discriminated against, no land degraded, no wetlands drained, no climate changed, no species made extinct and no creeks or rivers despoiled – unless stories make it so. The reverse is also true More >>

RIVER STORIES: GENEALOGIES OF A THREATENED RIVER SYSTEM 

First published in the British international peer reviewed journal Futures, 39: 2-3, pp. 306-323, a special double issue on Australian futures I guest-edited in 2006. The Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival now celebrates this river and its people.

I write this in a small town in central New South Wales on a river that is slowly meandering towards its terminal wetland, the Great Cumbang Swamp, in the state’s semi-arid Riverina. For most of its 1500 kilometre journey this river flows through Wiradjuri country to trace the presence of Baiamai, the father of creation, Wawi the rainbow snake, and other ancestral beings who shaped and ‘animated’ these inland plains. Wiradjuri descendants know the river as Galiyarr, or Kalari, and two, perhaps three thousand generations of their ancestors are buried in its alluvium.  >>
Download the pdf version, as published >>

ROMANCING THE GRINDSTONE ON GUNNINGBLAND CREEK

First published in Futures, 37:8, October 2005, pp. 893-903.

The days are lengthening, crops are ripening, and the air is sweet with Spring as I write. For the first time in years of drought there are pools of muddy water in Gunningbland Creek, the ephemeral stream that meanders across our farm towards its river, the Lachlan, in south-eastern Australia; and a brood of grey teal ducklings is dabbling in the sparse rushes and nardoo, a native aquatic fern, now miraculously regenerating after the recent rain More >>

BEYOND AUSTRALIA’S GREAT DIVIDES

Book chapter first published in The Hitchers of Oz: Hitchhiking Stories and Observations from Australasia and Beyond, edited by Tom and Simon Sykes, Interactive Press, 2009, pp. 57-70.

Australia is divided east from west, the coast from the rest, by a cordillera of low mountains, uplands and dissected plateaus stretching from Cape York Peninsula in Queensland’s far north to the island state of Tasmania in the Great Southern Ocean. On one side of this watershed is the densely populated Pacific seaboard, on the other the sparsely populated inland. And the twain need never meet. Indeed, the coastal plain and the remainder of the continent might as well be completely different countries. More >>

EDDIE MABO COMES HOME

First published in Good Weekend (Fairfax), 1 June, 1996.

It’s hot on the rim of this extinct volcano at the far northern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Bonita Mabo has been waiting in the shade of a battered fibro shed all morning. A small crowd has gathered around her: children, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, members of the Meriam Council of Elders, young warriors from her late husband’s Piadram clan, a documentary film crew, plus this writer from Melbourne. And there it is, the light aircraft descending from the sky to bring the exhumed remains of Edward Koiki Mabo home to Mer, or Murray Island. More >>

THE TIMELESS BOND BETWEEN BIRDS & PEOPLE

First published in The Age Weekend Extra, Melbourne, Saturday 22 August, 1998.

As the days grow shorter in the far-off waters of the North Pacific, hundreds of thousands of hungry, dun-coloured seabirds, millions even, begin their long annual flight south to Big Dog Island from their Arctic feeding grounds to mate, lay their eggs and rear their young, the next generation of short-tailed shearwaters, or mutton birds. More >>

BALOCHISTAN: THE INVISIBLE WAR

First published in Arena Magazine no. 91, Oct-Nov 2007, pp. 36-38.

Even my Pakistani friends warned me about Balochistan, and not without reason. In the days immediately before I was to catch the train to Quetta, the provincial capital near Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan and Iran, ‘terrorists’ detonated a bomb in a shopping plaza in the city’s military cantonment and fired rockets at two of the regular express trains below the Bolan Pass More >>

ERITREA, JUST A QUESTION OF TIME

First published in The Canberra Times, 7 June, 1989.

In a stone room dug into the side of a narrow rocky gorge we bent towards a tiny transistor radio. It was news time and we were listening to the Voice of the Masses, the frequency of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, transmitting from deep within Eritrea’s “liberated zone”. More >>

GREENING THE FAMILY FARM

First published in Habitat Australia (Australian Conservation Foundation) way back in February 1988.

Country town. Interstate bus. They’re all there to meet me. It’s spring time and the roadsides are splashed with purple Patterson’s curse and the exotic yellow daisies we call pee-the-beds. The crops are young and green, just starting to head, and the trees silhouetted against the setting sun as we drive home — well, I’m afraid there aren’t many of them left these days, except along the road reserves. European agricultural practices haven’t been good for trees in this country. Nor for the land itself. >>

 

Credit: Photo at top of page of Merrill Findlay by UK photographer Chris Webb, September 2013.  Thank you Chris.

Last updated 31 March, 2014. Permalink: www.merrillfindlay.com

Copyright Merrill Findlay 2013.