Photos

Taking music to the refugees on Manus

I really am not sure how to start this post because the past month and a half has been totally out of the box as far as my usual daily life goes. If you have read my previous posts you will see how I began to engage in the issue of offshore detention and the plight of the refugees being held indefinitely by the Australian government. How did it all begin? and why am I still engaged?

Well it began when I started to notice my good friend textile artist Ruth Halbert started to write letters to the Prime Minster (Malcolm Turnbull at that time) about the refugees on Manus on Nauru. She wrote a letter everyday for 2 years…..yep over 600 letters in all. I also saw her posts on social media condemning the government and it’s behaviour towards the refugees being detained. I found it hard to believe, but, I have a huge amount of respect for Ruth and she is an intelligent woman so I couldn’t ignore it. She was stepping out of her comfort zone and that is what stood out for me the most…I had to investigate further.

I then had a friend request from one of the refugees on Manus who was in a terrible situation. They were being forcibly moved to the new camps and they were having the power cut off and water tanks were being smashed by guards in 4WDs, it was terrible and he was in panic. I felt helpless and I needed to do something. I started protesting with Ruth and I wrote letters to the Members of Parliament but I needed to do more….I needed to dig deeper I needed to find something within myself that would rise and take action. So I had to go to Manus to meet these men and to engage with them and learn more.

I took a film maker and we went in March of 2018 and I took my guitar with the intention to play music and we were going to produce a documentary. I wanted to find a way to show the people in my town that these men were real people just like us. I wanted to show people that what we were doing to them as a nation was wrong very wrong. We came back with a documentary and I took it to many towns and communities in WA and NSW and it made an incredible impact. Everyone I met was horrified at what was happening and people would ask what can we do? How can we end this?

Music from Manus – 5 Days not 5 Years, March 2018 (Dawn Barrington and Tim Maisey)

I really wasn’t sure how people could help but my mission as a singer songwriter was to suggest to others to use their art like Ruth had and like I was doing to bring attention to the situation. This had been going on for over 4 years and 1000s of people across Australia had written letters to MPs and protested and yet the refugees were still there in terrible conditions.

By the end of last year I felt I needed to go again just to offer some more support through music and I also assisted Anne Moon with the work that she does to support the men. Anne has been working tirelessly for the past 5 years for these guys and she wasn’t getting any younger and I was able to offer some support for her. So off we went and we didn’t know if we were going to get it because it’s not easy to get there and since I had quite a large online presence I wasn’t sure if they would stop me at the airport and send me back. It had happened a friend of mine only 4 weeks earlier so it really was a possibility.

We spent time in Port Moresby and on Manus and the newspaper article below gives the rest of the story which was not what we were expecting. I did get to play some music with the refugees and I took an extra guitar and did some teaching and it was lovely to see the guys again and to meet some that I hadn’t met before too. But they were all very sick and many had multiple problems and many of them were not being treated and hadn’t been treated for years. It really is terrible what is happening there an there is so much more to this story. I have added a few facebook posts to give you some examples of what happened there.

I played music with Kazem and Farhad and I was there for my birthday so Kazem made me a beautiful cake shown here in the photo. I saw many of the refugees that I saw before and lots of new ones and they all put on a very brave face. They are the most graceful and kind people I have ever met and they all are very sick. They all have so many medical problems that have not been treated for so many years and Australia will not take responsibility for it. It is so frustrating and so wrong. I really quite honestly don’t know what to do with it in my head….it’s happening in real life and yet we are all powerless to change the situation because the government have this ridiculous policy in place. These are real people and they are being treated so badly and it’s all wrong so very wrong.

It was also wonderful to meet Behrouz Boochani the author of “No Friends but the Mountains” which is an incredible read. He is a humble incredibly smart man and he really does think big picture. We had a lovely day on my birthday a bunch of the guys came to the hotel and we had cake and music which was lovely.

It was a difficult time overall because I knew there was not really much we could except listen to their stories and I hope playing a bit of music helped in some way too.

Kazem and me on my birthday.

New Year ….. New Releases

We’re already half way through January of 2019 and what a great beginning to the year. I hope you all had a fantastic break and festive season and that it wasn’t too hard to get back into things again. I am having a bit of trouble getting going but I figured it was time to start the year with a blog post.

It was very quiet over the December/January break in my neck of the woods but I really enjoyed it. It gave me a chance to spend some time with friends and generally relax. My son is almost 17 and he’s quite indifferent to the whole fiasco but likes to have a few presents and some nice food which we did.

So what has been happening Musically?

Well I played at the Denmark Arts Markets on January 5th which is one of my favourite gigs because it’s just down the road and I reckon it must be one of the biggest market stages in the southern hemisphere. The sound is awesome and it carries all across the town. Sorry no photos to prove I was there though this time.

I also spent a lot of time listening to my new tracks which I will be releasing this year. We had to go through the process of listening to the tracks and checking to see if there were any final changes that needed to be done. I am very grateful to Tony King and Al Smith from Bergerk Studios for all their time and work into this project and also Luke Tulloch for his beautiful violin work. Three very professional and wonderful human beings who are always a delight to work with and so generous with their time.

New YouTube video uploaded

Back in September of last year I spent a day standing in for Ruth Halbert Textile Artist at her Exhibitions “Castaway” and “Witness” which was part of the Great Southern Art Trail. Rob Castiglione (Film maker) turned up to do some filming with Ruth but there was a mix up over dates and Rob suggested that he record me playing my song “Fly Free Little Bird”
instead.
It was a special moment because I wasn’t feeling my usual bubbly cheerful self and Rob was able to capture the essence of my mood and I was very excited about the results.

Fly Free Little Bird – Performed at the Sanctuary Denmark WA
Filmed by Rob Castiglione

So what’s happening over the next few months?

Well I have a few gigs lined up and the next one is at Gallery 152 in York WA and it is an evening of stories through song. Chris Gibbs is the person organising and he is a professional artist too so I am looking forward to meeting him and maybe even getting him to play some of my songs with me. I love these types of gigs because the audience are usually very attentive and I get to play in a line up with other great artists. I then have Albany Boatshed Markets gig before of take off on my 3 week trip overseas. I am also planning to go to Papua New Guinea to play music and even do a bit of teaching which I am really looking forwards to.

I’m almost ready to release my EP which will consist of 5 tracks. After much deliberation I have chosen a track to release first and it will be the title track of my EP and that track is “Can’t Let Go” . I am very excited about this one because we tried a different format in the studio. We worked on the vocals first and the music was created around the vocals and the vocal melody and I am sooooo happy with the results.

I think I have covered everything to date and I hope you all have an enjoyable next few months and see you all soon.

WAMFest and Recording

WAMFest (West Australian Music Industry)

I was lucky enough to be selected for WAMFest this year, so after a gig at Freehand Wines in downtown Denmark I then got myself organised for a some original sets, one in Albany at the White Star for Regional WAMFest and then 2 in Perth.  One was at the Perth Cultural Centre where I did a busking spot and the other was at Yagan Square which is an amphitheatre right in the centre of Perth which was amazing.  Something even more amazing happened and it was a total surprise to me and that is my song “Fly Free Little Bird” got chosen for the KISS MY WAMi Compilation CD. I didn’t even realise till I checked the program to see when and where I was playing and the songs that had been chose were on there. All in all it was a fantastic weekend and a great honour to be a part of such a big Western Australian Festival

It’s hard to believe that so much has happened in the past 7 years and to be a part of this festival was something I had never imagined would happen because I thought that the music industry only catered for people who were not in the 20s or 30s.  It has been a real slog being a woman and middle aged for that matter to get noticed and be treated as an equal. I  am not using age and gender as an excuse, it’s just a reality, and I think our culture really doesn’t take mature women seriously and it’s not easy for young women either because

 they have to deal with expectations placed on them. However, I have noticed that things are changing and gender equity is starting to happen so hopefully this will happen more and more.  I notice that when I play at venues where there are people from Europe or the Middle East or India they are always much more attentive and interested in listening, so maybe we need to learn something from those countries.

Recording

Since my last post I have finished two recording sessions. Al Smith from Bergerk Studio came down from Perth for the

weekend twice, once in September and again in October and we recorded 4 songs for my upcoming EP which I will probably be releasing in January.  Tony King is amazing and once again he offered to do my instrumentation and he also helps with production which is awesome! I love recording andI love how the songs evolve and it really is a collaboration because I never know where each one is going to go. We just start with my acoustic version which is literally lyrics and chords and then Tony adds his magic as he comes up with ideas throughout the process.  This was the first time working with in the studio with Al although he has mastered all my tracks since I started recording. Tony has known Al for 20 years and they worked brilliantly together and what I love the most about working with these guys is that there’s no inflated egos. It’s all pure fun and creativity. Luke Tulloch came in and did some violin tracks, he is an incredibly talented young man that I met at TAFE a number of years ago now and it didn’t take him long to find some lovely violin melodies to accompany my songs.

To top it all off I had a great gig at the Three Anchors in Albany with Tony King and it was the first time that I had done a three hour gig with him, and I was a bit nervous hoping that he would know how to play all my songs, but I realised very quickly that there was nothing to be concerned about, Tony is a legend when it comes to improvising, he really is an outstanding musician.  We had a great gig and he managed to compliment every song brilliantly and thanks to John King we got a photo to prove it. 

Townsville & NSW Tour of “Music from Manus” Documentary Screenings

Townsville was a Blast!

I had the best time in Townsville! It was warm, actually compared to Denmark it was really hot!! Townsville was much dryer than I expected and I’m not sure why I was expecting the tropics because it’s not that far north really.  Even though it was the middle of winter it was very dry and quite flat too to my surprise but quite a vibrant multicultural community which was fantastic to see and be a part of.  It was wonderful to meet Farvardin Daliri organiser of the Townsville Cultural Fest at long last and his son Erfin Daliri…they are both doing fantastic work in the areas of social cohesion and raising awareness of the important things in life…equality, justice and peace on earth.

I met some amazing people there including the lovely Anisa Nanduala who is activist/poet studying politics, she is only 19 years old but incredibly astute and aware.  She speaks really well and her poetry is very powerful.  Interestingly she had her performance just before mine and the man who was in charge of the engineering company heckled her….I was disgusted…he was an older guy and obviously did not approve of a young strong Ugandan woman speaking up for what she believed in….but she kept going regardless which in itself was powerful.  However, it was very disappointing to witness and I hope that he is in the minority.  All in all I met an incredible diverse group of people who come from all corners of this very round planet and they were smiling, dancing and generally having a great time. My favourite band Kallidad were there and it was wonderful to catch up with the Jace, Julz and Tom because I have missed them twice when they have been in Denmark WA (my home town).  I haven’t seen them play for at least a year so it was great to dance my socks off again.  Another highlight was to see Baker Boy, what an awesome band they are….they really do bring energy and fun to the stage.  Danzal Baker is fantastic with the audience, he really does know how to interact with them well. It just so turned out that they were staying in the same accommodation as me, so it doesn’t get much more exciting than that!!  I even got almost all of 2 seconds of time in this promo video….Folk n Roll!!!

NSW Documentary Screenings

After the Townsville Festival I hopped on a plane to Sydney and grabbed a car and drove up to Gosford for my first “Music from Manus” documentary screening that was being held at The Avoca Picture Theatre in Gosford.  It was a fantastic evening and Danni Habib did a great job of organising the event and I had the most amazing response to the documentary which really set me up for the rest of the tour. The format I used was that I first

introduced myself and talked a bit about how I got engaged in the whole issue and then I sang 2 songs and then we did the screening and then we had Q and A afterwards.  There were many great questions asked and the overwhelming response was that people were inspired to do more after the event.  It’s much more than I could have ever asked for. My whole purpose for going to Manus was to try to engage people in the issue and hope that they would be encouraged to do more.

The next day I drove up to Newcastle where I stayed with Amanda Perram, another great advocate for the refugees on Manus and Emma Comely joined us from Sydney.  It was our first meeting with Amanda who is a wealth of information when it comes to the recent years of lies and deceit coming from the Australian government. It really is great to at last meet with all these amazing women who are doing incredible work across Australia in supporting the refugees.

In Newcastle I met with Nikola Leka who organised the screening with Hunter Asylum Seeker Avocacy group and it was another great night with lots of new connections made and a fantastic response to the documentary itself.  I then drove down to Sydney the very next day where I stayed with Emma Comely for a couple of days.  That night was the Teachers for Refugees and Refugee Action Collective screening in Surry Hills which was a great location. That is where I met with Mark Goudkamp and also film director Ian Stevenson and a number of other advocates that I have been in contact with on facebook throughout this whole journey. Ian was very impressed with the documentary and he was very keen to talk about submitting it to SBS which we talked further about and he has now submitted it. So we are waiting for a reply and fingers crossed that something can come from that because that would be a much wider audience and a real chance to see more change in attitudes.

I had Thursday off then I drove down to Thirroul on Friday to meet with Patrick Harrison who was organising the screening there where we had a full house and very keen bunch of people.  I met a lovely lady Naomi Lai there too who is also an advocate and she sent her mum to the screening for the following in the Eurobodalla region. I stayed with Mairi Peterson in Shell Harbour which is  a lovely spot and it was wonderful to see Russell Hannah at the screening too. I have stayed with Mairi a few times now and I have talked about her before….she is this incredible woman who has been fighting for refugees for 20 years and I have a huge amount of admiration for her.  Once again in Thirroul we had a very attentive audience and I am just amazed each time at how everyone gets something different from the screening but the end result is everyone wants to do more which is brilliant.  I know I keep using the words amazing, brilliant, fantastic over and over but there is no other way to describe how much I love this work and the fact that it overlaps with my work as an artist (singer songwriter) is even more incredible because I can use the very essence that drives me to create social change in my own small way.

It was a three and a half hour drive down to the Eurobodalla region where I was staying with Marn and Peter Cole.  I think I got the presidential suite and I was totally spoilt and it was wonderful to meet and spend time with Marn and Peter too. We did the screening in Moyura and this was the last one so I was feeling a sense of relief that I had gotten through the 10 days.  I met more wonderful people from the Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla who organised the event.

It was a five and a half hour drive back to Sydney the next day….it was beautiful drive and I was buzzing with adrenaline from the previous days and I was really happy to get back to Emma’s where we hung out for a few days and  I enjoyed a rest.  I flew back to Perth on the Tuesday and drove back down Denmark which is another 5 hours the same day so I was buggered once I got home.  It really has been an incredible journey and from here I am going to be spending some time recording and playing music and writing new songs and engaging more in my music.  So I will close for now but I’m going to write update in just a few days to report on the recording weekend that I had a few weeks ago and festivals and gigs that are coming my way. YEW FOLK N ROLE!!! LOVING IT!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Townsville Festival and beyond

It’s almost time to pack my bags and get ready to go again. Next week I am off to Townsville Cultural Fest and I am soooo excited about it.  I am even more excited to have a little feature photo on the program.  The Townsville Cultural Festival is an all inclusive all ages festival which is the amazing work of Farvardin Daliri who has been running this festival for the past 30 years.  He has a wonderful team of people there including his son who have worked hard to make it happen each year with no government grants or funding. (I have inserted the program at the end of this post)

GIGGING LAND
I’ve had a fair variety of gigs the past couple of months, the Manjimup Truffle Kerfuffle was a great opportunity to play to a totally different audience and what a fantastic venue! I also played my first gig at Freehand Wines which was lovely…Matt and Danni are a lovely couple who are passionate about what they do and they love to have live music at their cellar door 2 nights a week which is wonderful for us musicians.

Then I got an opportunity to play for the WAM Winter Sounds Series which was at Brookfield Place in Perth.  This is a very upmarket dining place in the big smoke where the corporate mob go to have lunch. It was a great gig and once again nice to get paid well for a gig of all original songs. Thanks WAM for that. On Sunday just gone I played at Six Degrees Albany and it was my first 3 hour gig for while and I have to say probably my best.  I had an awesome night, with great hosts and an wonderful audience.  I hope I can do it all again soon.

Documentary screenings have also filled my time and as much as I try to keep my music separate to the documentary screenings it seems like a strange thing to do now.  My music has been inspired by the things that I am concerned about and the plight of the refugees is the most current concern right now although I am not limited to that issue.  There are many concerns and my music is my vehicle to express what I need to say with clarity. I am a communicator and I spend most of my time engaged in the big issues we face today and expressing those concerns is, I feel, the most useful thing that I can do for myself and for the planet and humanity.

DOCUMENTARY SCREENINGS
I have done a number of documentary screenings and I absolutely love doing them! I have done one at the Agricultural Colllege of Denmark, the B’hai youth group and a home schoolers group as well as a community group in Walpole WA.  I have a heap of screenings organised in the next couple of weeks from Townsville to Newcastle, Gosford, Sydney, Thirroul and Eurobodalla.  I am so excited about meeting all the refugee groups and advocates that I have become friends with on social media over the past 12 or so months. I absolutely love the work that I do and it gives me so much pride that I can do this.

The format for the screening events is that I introduce myself and I talk about how I got involved in this whole thing and then I play 2 songs which are the songs I have dedicated to the refugees on Manus and Nauru since June of 2017.  Then I show the documentary and then I do a Q and A afterwards and I have found people really do engage with the whole situation. I feel that people really do care but they are just overwhelmed with the terrible way in which the policy has become a political tool and the magnitude of it.  Many people are fearful to discuss about the subject matter because it has become so political and I find that when the bare facts are placed there with the music and the joy of playing music with these lovely young men the viewers become disarmed.  They actually see the refugees are real people with the same human traits as all of us and that is the most exciting moment for me because it’s at that moment that I can see change is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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