Denmark Festival of Voice 2018 The sun was shining and there was a buzz in the air in Denmark as the Festival of Voice got into full swing. Our beautiful little town came alive with song, poetry and music scattered in every venue across town. I played at Mrs Jones Cafe on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday early evening Tim and I did a documentary screening of “Music from Manus – 5 Days not 5 Years” which was very well attended. Once again we had a fantastic response and people really engaged with the information being shared on the screen and thanks to all those who signed my petition and put money in the tin afterwards. I have been able to send some money to help a refugee get some urgently needed dental treatment today as a result of the money raised at the screening.
Thanks to the Denmark Yoga community for raising funds and to all the individuals who have approached me in the street to donate too, their money also was able to support the dental costs. We have a few more local screenings, one in Denmark and one in Walpole then the next ones will be when I go over east in August.
So life has been changing dramatically for me in recent months with so many more engagements than ever before. My music career has overlapped with my activism work and my purpose has become more clear. I am passionate about music and writing and recording songs and performing which always comes first. However, alongside that is my desire to see an end to the offshore detention of innocent people. I am passionate about that too and I am honoured that I can use my music profile to raise awareness and support change.
In the next few months I will be doing my usual gigs and they include my first time at Freehand Wines right here in Denmark and then I have been asked to perform a the Truffle Kerfuffle in Manjimup being organised by Kelsi Miller Good nights Bunbury on Sunday 24th which is fantastic!. A week before I go to Townsville I will be playing at one of my favourite local spots….well almost local….in Albany called Six Degrees which will be a great warm up for the pending trip.
Next Album in the making I have a heap of new songs that I want to get onto my next album so I’ve booked a weekend in September to record the first few songs and it’s wonderful to have Tony King there to do lots of the instrumentation and Al Smith from Bergerk! studios is coming down to set up his recording gear in my music studio. I’m going to ask a bunch of locals to participate too so it’s really going to be another local affair. I’ll keep you posted on that one folks.
Townsville Cultural Festival
July is a month where I will be getting organised for the biggest event for “Dawn Barrington Music” this year and that is that I will be performing at the Townsville Cultural Fest! This will be my very first visit to Townsville and it’s going to be awesome and especially lovely to catch up with Kallidad who are one of the headliners. This is an incredible festival where gender equity is a priority and all cultures are recognised in one big celebration. The organiser of this festival Farvardin Daliri and his team have been making this happen for many years and he is a great advocate for cultural diversity in his community and I am very looking forward to meeting him and his team in August for this fantastic weekend.
After the Townsville Festival I will be going down to NSW to do a heap of screenings down the NSW coast in Newcastle, Gosford, Sydney x 2, Wollongong and Eurobodalla. I am very excited because there is such enthusiasm by the people hosting them to make it happen and I will get to meet all the fellow activists/advocates over there who I have been conversing and liaising with on facebook for the past 18 months or so.
I am now keen to spread the word far and wide so please feel free to share the documentary and if you want me to do a screening in your town please make contact with me because I am very happy to come and do that.
I am sat at my computer 3 weeks after returning home from a 9,000km round trip that has changed me forever. I had no idea where I was headed emotionally and physically and I actually went with no expectations, but one thing I knew for sure and that is my life would never be the same again.
There has been much controversy over the offshore processing of refugees on Manus and Nauru. I wanted to find a way to seek the truth and I was feeling helpless and overwhelmed as I watched the cruel regime of our government and it’s treatment of refugees. So I planned to go to Manus to play music and document the trip…Why? because I wanted to use music to connect with the friends that I had made there and then show the world that the men on Manus are just regular human beings like us. Like mine and your sons, our brothers or cousins. Thank you to local film maker Tim Maisey for trusting in me and taking the journey with me and for doing a fantastic job of documenting the experience.
How did I get involved in this journey?
Around 2 years ago I noticed that my very good friend and textile artist Ruth Halbert was becoming more involved in the very politicised issue of offshore processing on Manus Island and Nauru. I wasn’t really aware of what it was all about and after all I was way too busy with my music career and my family to fit anything else into my life. But then she started writing letters to the Prime Minster Malcom Turnball every day….I mean every day. She was writing for every woman, man and child in offshore detention. I was slowly starting to notice more and more facebook posts that were damning of the Australian Government and the name Peter Dutton kept coming up. I don’t have a TV so I had not idea who he was but I could see he was creating a few problems. Then in June 2017 Ruth was asked to contribute her work to the Denmark Festival of Voice, so she asked members of the community if they would read aloud the letters for 30 mins at a time. So i put my hand up to be one of the readers and I felt a bit uncomfortable with the idea but I did it and it was a very moving experience. People there were very moved by the readings and it was an incredibly powerful way to share the stories of the refugees and to bring more awareness to the issue.
I was playing at the Festival of Voice and it was time for me to start taking a stand for these people who had been detained indefinitely for 4 and a half years in terrible conditions. So this was when I started to dedicate one of my songs to the refugees. The song is called “Cross to Bear” and I sang it for the first time with real purpose. Then something happened in August….I liked a post on Ruth’s facebook page and it was a video of a song played at a protest in Melbourne. The video was written by a refugee on Manus, “Moz” and a lady in Melbourne called Dr Emma Obrien who had a recording studio recorded the song with a bunch of amazing musicians. The song is called “All the Same”
I received a friend request from ‘Moz’ and we started chatting, I was scared because I had only heard about the refugees being terrorists and criminals on the news although I knew that couldn’t be true. I found myself chatting with this beautiful, charming courteous intelligent young man who was in a terrible situation. We talked about music and shared songs and I realised then what Ruth was doing, she was being a voice for these innocent people who were not able to defend themselves from the lies and deceit of our government. I found more friend requests coming in and I became more and more involved.
We arrived in Port Moresby on March 16th and then on Manus on March 17th. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left we were taken care of by the refugees, they organised a place to stay and they brought us food everyday (from their own rations) and they joined us for music and they sat and shared their stories – it was heart breaking and heart warming at the same time.
Here is a preview of our documentary, thank you to Tim Maisey for filming and editing and thank you to Dave Anger for recording and mixing the song while I was in Tasmania last month.
I had to do something – I’m an artist (singer/songwriter) and that’s my job to ask the tough questions.
So before I had time to even think about what I was doing I had started the crowd funder to go to Manus. Donations came in quickly then an incredibly unbelievable thing happened while I was on tour in NSW. While in Gosford I met a total stranger at a coffee shop. She told me later that she was so taken by my passion and drive to do something that she offered to pay the balance for the trip, it was a very emotional moment….I cried because someone actually believed in me and she cried with the gratitude that she could help. It was a moment in time that I couldn’t have organised if I had tried…..the stars were aligned and I was going to Manus. Below is a reflection that I wrote on the way home from Brisbane.
5 DAYS NOT 5 YEARS ON MANUS REFLECTION
We’re on our way home and I just don’t know where to start. There’s just so much to process and right now I am filled with rage and compassion all at the same time. I can’t imagine the torture these guys have endured and I can’t imagine the pain they are carrying. I am amazed they still have the warmth in their hearts to greet us after all that they have endured under our government our sovereign nation under the guise of our National Anthem which use the words “with those who come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share”.
Today on our last day William (name changed) came and his story is tragic. He was flown to Darwin for a small infection on his wrist then back to Manus where he waited a year to have the operation in Port Moresby. He said the doctor said it would be back to normal in 6 weeks. The doctor cut the nerves in his wrist and his hand is now paralysed. He is in pain all the time and he takes Tremedol, panadeine forte and anti depressants and 2 other medications for his stomach, kidneys and liver. It’s been 12 months since the operation and he no longer has the use of his left hand and he feels he is half a man now. He is 31 years old and he has children back in his homeland in Iraq. He came to the Hotel to give us some discs with x-rays and medical records, for me to pass on to the person coordinating all the medical misconduct cases.
He is so traumatised by it all that he can hardly function. He’s a beautiful kind grateful young man and as I sit next to him to listen to his story I am filled again with shame of the government that we have accepted as our leaders.
There is no leadership in this government, no leadership traits; honesty and integrity, commitment and passion, good communication, accountability, delegation and empowerment, creativity and innovation. I saw more leadership in all of these young men, they are all incredibly smart but they are more than that they have courage and wisdom beyond their years. They have open hearts despite having it sliced into so many piecesby the systematic torture that they have endured on a daily basis for 5 years. Every part of their being has been shattered into many pieces and thrown into a hole so dark and deep that any regular person would never have survived. Yet these guys have managed to salvage the shards and found a way to hold them together and maintain integrity and generosity for others. They carry a huge amount of the guilt and blame themselves for what is happening to them.
They told me how each night 80% of the men can’t sleep because as soon as they put their heads on the pillow the pain of torture runs out of control, regrets and what if’s keep running round and round and they just can’t sleep. Some of them sleep sat up. Farvard said ‘I can’t sleep lying down but I can’t get up because I am so tired then around 4 – 5 am I fall asleep till lunchtime’ …..approx 80% of them live like this and have done for the past 5 years.
Lukini lodge was a good choice because the men were willing to come to visit us. Lukini lodge was in town and the men don’t usually go into town on Saturday or Sunday or after 5pm each evening because it’s not safe. There is a big problem with alcoholism amongst the locals and robbery is the main problem. It’s a bit different to Australia because if you don’t hand over your money or phone there is a high chance that they will knife you.
Each day new men arrived and shared their pain, they all had the same disposition. They sat politely in the chair or on the edge of the bed, shoulders slightly hunched, head tilted slightly forwards. As the stories unfolded of the torture they had endured and the pain they had experienced I found myself sitting helpless. They all began with the same words. We have been here almost 5 years, not 1 day, not 5 days, not 3 months not 8 months but 5 years and some of them would say the actual number of days. Then they would say again 5 years almost 5 years holding out their hand with 4 fingers and a thumb showing.
Hazara believed that the Australian people hated them and he said “we thought Australia was different to where we fled from, but they hate us”. When I explained that many people didn’t know the truth about Manus and that the government had been lying to its people for the past 5 years he was shocked. It was the first time that he had heard that, he really believed that everyone knew and that they were all filled with anger and hatred towards all refugees.
Some of the guys actually believed that the guards, teachers and caseworkers were an example of all Australians. The guards were all horrible, abusive and total rednecks. The refugees believed that this must be what all Australian’s are like. There were some really good teachers and caseworkers but they usually left because it was too traumatic to witness such inhumane conditions or they spoke up and were sacked. Many were cruel and very unkind. When the refugees went to the caseworker they felt they were not supported and they were left to feel like no one cared and no one could help them.
Najaed said we don’t want to go to Australia we hate Australians. Then there were the ones who know there are many wonderful people in Australia and that is was the government.
Something else I heard over and over again was we are dead, we are all dead inside and we have nothing left for them to take. I would say to them “yes I can see that, I can see the life has left, but in all of you I see a tiny sparkle in your eyes” and they would show me a huge smile. A huge smile. The guys I met all still had a glimmer of hope but there were many who didn’t come to the hotel too and I know there are many men staying in their rooms or in the camps feeling helpless and very depressed most of the time.
Sometimes when I was talking to some of the guys I felt like I was talking into air, air that was filled with no hope and I would feel this wall rise and I felt like an idiot. Like what am I saying? Nothing I say could possibly be of any help to them and I almost felt like I was needing to dig myself into a hole to get out of the mess I had gotten into.
I was explaining that we wanted to take footage and take it back to Australia and show the people what we have seen so that we can help shift their views. But I felt like my words were empty like what the hell can I do it’s 5 years too late. How many people have been before and said the same thing only to do nothing or have no impact no matter how many people they tried to talk to or write to. Because every time people take action the government tell more stories of boarder safety and terrorists and the red necks all jump up and follow the governments lead. The advocates are all called ‘do gooders’ and are shut down. Dutton changes tact and makes up new rules.
Isaac was there in 2013 and he watched as the Australian guards and PNG police for no reason attack his friend Reza Barati. Reza was tall and he looked strong and they “piled on him and beat him till he was dead” the refugee said he watched his friend get murdered by Australian guards and PNG police officers. This refugee was only 20 yrs old when he witnessed that by our government under our watch.
Isaac sits in the chair in the hotel room in Port Moresby. He has been living there for 9 mths. He went there after some refugees were offered the option to go there to “integrate”. That door closed very quickly and recently refugees were sent back to Manus. Isaac felt it would be a better option to go to Port Moresby to keep his mind busy. He works 14 hours a day 6 days a week for 200 kina (approx. $85).
He sits in the chair slightly hunched over and shoulders slightly forwards. He is 6’4” and he has a beautiful strong face and that same sparkle in his eyes. He tells the story from a place in him that is devoid of emotion, that’s how they all share their stories from a place that keeps them safe from the pain. Just enough expression to get our attention.
We need to be strong and we don’t want to burden them, Abdul said “it’s too much for people, many case workers and psychologists have left because they can’t cope.”
* I have changed the names of the guys to protect them from retribution or hindering their chance to go to the USA.
Where from here? Artist and Musician finding her path
On the home front I have been busy with gigs and a week after I got back from Manus Island I was asked to play at Arcadia Wines for Easter Sunday which was a real treat and I’ve come back with a new perspective on my work as a musician and artist. It was lovely to catch up with Gaye and John again and to get back into the swing of my regular work if you know what I mean but I also have a new vigour and passion for my work. I now know that I have to play my original songs when I perform and I am happy to do a mix of originals and covers for a 3 hour gig but I have to do my original music in the mix. I know this means I won’t get some gigs because some venues think that the audience wants all covers and there are the venues who want musicians to play covers to entertain the audience as they slowly get drunk . This is not my opinion I have been told this by venues. The brief usually is to play covers and lift the beat towards the end of the night to get the punters buying more alcohol. It’s just how it is in the music industry in Australia. I’m not sure how it is overseas but I would love to find out one day.
The week after that I was booked to play at the Three Anchors where I haven’t played for ages so that was a lot of fun too. I am now gearing up for a couple of gigs in May and then it’s the Denmark Festival of Voice.
Then my very very big news is that I am off to Townsville in August for the Townsville Cultural Festival. I will keep you posted on that news next.
I thought it was time for an update on what’s been happening the past few months. As soon as I got back from Kalgoorlie I started getting ready for a House Concert which is the first one that I have booked through House Concerts Australia.
It was at Arcadia Wines in Kendenup which is only an hour or so away from Denmark. Gaye and John are a lovely couple and they have only had the cellar door open for the past 18 months and they are doing really well. They have award winning wines and I would personally recommend the aged Riesling. Gaye and John are lovers of live music and they are really passionate about having regular live music events which is awesome. All the tickets were sold and we all had a great night. The photo isn’t brilliant but it’s just evidence that I was there lol!
Then a couple of weeks later I took a trip up to the big smoke for a couple of gigs. One in York which is about an hour east of Perth where I played at the Settlers House York, which is a beautiful old heritage building. York is the the first inland town Settled in WA. We had a few drinks at the end of the night and I heard a few good ghost stories which was a bit unnerving.
On Sunday I played at Jackadders Music Club. I had a really warm welcome from Carmel and Ron and we had a lovely afternoon. It was great to hear the audience sing along to my original songs and the whole gig was recorded which was fantastic.
Next was one of my regular gigs at the Earl of Spencer in Albany. Peter Caron joined me on guitar and I love playing with Peter because we have a lot of fun and he adds lots of fancy guitar work to my songs, and the covers, that we do. I usually do an even mix of originals and covers when I do pub gigs which is pretty cruisey and generally good fun. Peter set up the video so we got some great footage of us playing too.
Then last but not least I did another house concert but this time in Manjimup at a beautiful historic building called Dingup House Bed and Breakfast which is managed by Chris and John. Dingup House is one of the first houses built on the original town site of Manjimup until they moved the town a few kms down the road. Chris and John do a fantastic job there and we had a wonderful intimate evening with soup and song. The photo isn’t the best but it just gives you an idea of the set up there. Half the guests stayed the night and the rooms are all beautifully presented with heritage style beds and lovely patchwork bed covers. I would highly recommend a stay there if you’re travelling through that neck of the woods.
My son has gone to New York for a school trip so my husband and I have decided to go for a little holiday across to Augusta and Margaret River and I’m going to play at the Goodfellas i cafe in Margaret River while we’re there. I know what you’re thinking….can’t she just have one weekend without playing music…and the answer is most definitely not….lol! It just so happens our friends own Goodfellas and I just love playing there.
Then the following week I’ll be doing a double gig with Peter Caron which means we will be at the Albany Boatshed Markets in the Morning and at The Earl of Spencer in the evening. I’m really looking forward to doing a house concert in Northam in October. I’m also busy planning another Eastern States tour for Jan/Feb or next year which is very time consuming and fun at the same time. I’ve also been busy writing songs for recording next year. That’s it for now folks! Stay warm and dry in this crazy weather if you live on this side of the planet and down this far below the equator.
I’m home and dry now but it wasn’t that way on the East Coast a few weeks ago. I arrived in Sydney on the receiving end of cyclone Debbie that hit the northern NSW coast and there was plenty of rain to make Newcastle, Sydney and beyond very wet and a bit on the chilly side at times. Weather aside it didn’t dampen my spirits and once I arrived at the airport and picked up the hire car I was on my way. I headed straight over to Drummoyne where I stayed with some very good friends for a couple of nights before I headed up to Newcastle with the help of the very lovely lady behind the voice of google maps. We became good friends and she took me everywhere I needed to go as well as a few places that I didn’t need to go too. I started my tour at the Sunset Studio where Gleny Rae was there to greet me for my performance. I had trouble finding the venue because my friend at google maps didn’t know where it was and I guess I could understand her making that mistake when I eventually got there with only 1 hour to spare. The studio was behind a little coffee shop and one person pizza bar in the most unassuming of places, however, it was a lovely room with beautiful wooden floorboards and a grand piano and curtains all round. Gleny is one of the movers and shakers of all things musical in Newcastle and she teaches piano at the studio and holds intimate concerts. A bunch of lovely people showed up and I had a great first gig and I even had a local guitarist come and join me on a song and everyone had a bit of fun singing along too. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any photos and the very next morning after leaving my air BnB I headed off down the coast to Shell Harbour where I had organised to stay with Mairi Peterson again for my Illawarra Folk Club gig. Mairi is the wonderful lady that I talked about last time and she’s a delight to stay with and very interesting to chat to so it was really good to catch up with her again and talk about all things political and not so political. I got caught up in a huge rain storm on my way to Shell Harbour and I had to pull over for some time to let it pass with a lot of other cars, it was quite dangerous and I didn’t want to take the risk. Once I got close the Wollongong the sun was shining and I could see the countryside again and I was familiar with the territory.
I had a fantastic night at the Illawarra Folk Club and I got to catch up with some folks that were there last September and a lot of new folks too. I was the support act for a fantastic Canadian folk band called Les Poules a Colin. I actually managed to get a photo just to prove that I was there and once again the audience were awesome! It was lovely to see Russell Hannah again and catch a bit of his wit on stage. The next morning Mairi and I went for coffee in Shell Harbour and Russell and his wife were there with a couple of friends too so we had a chinwag about all of our favourite things political and musical and the like.
Then I headed up the Thirroul to Kathryn White’s home where she very kindly allowed me to stay in her lovely Self Contained cabin in their garden and the next day I got myself organised for a house concert in the main room of the cottage which was lovely. Once again it was a very intimate all acoustic concert with family and a few friends of Kathryn and Andrew. Thirroul is a lovely spot and I would definitely recommend a drive along that coastline there’s so many lovely spots to check out. But I had no time for that because I had to get back to Sydney to get myself organised for the next gig which wasn’t until Wednesday but I just wanted to get back to my friends so that I could have a few days rest. It was lovely to see Scott and Nicole again and have a few laughs and tell them about my travels and about the funny and not so funny things that happened especially when the google lady took me to a steel recycling centre in the middle of an industrial estate 1 hour before my gig. There was another surprise when I got to Sydney and that was that I got to meet my 2nd cousin for the first time since we were kids and I had no idea he had been living in Australia for the past 17 years. So it was lovely to catch up with him and his partner Anne and they both came to my gig at Sappho Books, Cafe & Bar. That was a really lovely spot to play, it’s a beautiful bookshop/bar in Glebe and I had very appreciative audience. Paul is a great photographer and he also has a really good camera that could do video’s so he took some videos of me playing which you can see on his youtube page.
Humph Hall was one of the highlights of the tour. The venue is owned by Wayne and Gial Richmond and it’s an old church that they bought to create a music venue. Wayne had a dream to do it many years before and when the place became available he went ahead and it is now a music venue and their home. The church hall is where the music happens and it’s a fully professional set up where Wayne has stage lights, condenser mics (to record the performance) and video cameras set up throughout the performance. I played a set of songs and a lovely couple by the names of Greg and Lesley played a set and we then did an encore together where we got the whole audience to join in. It was a magic evening and I met a lot of lovely people. I forgot to mention the most important part of it was that I showed up a whole day early and didn’t realise that the concert was on Saturday night and Wayne was totally ok with me staying 2 nights after much laughter about me showing up early. I felt that I did my best performance at Humph Hall and to my surprise I have found that I perform at my best to a fully attentive listening audience which I never expected. I thought I would be more nervous but I find that the pressure makes me concentrate more and I can be really focused and I can really engage with the listeners.
Here’s some of the video’s that Wayne took: Women of War
It was you
Then on Sunday I had to get my act together pretty quick to get to the Petersham Bowling Club for my next gig at 4pm. I was really excited about playing here because I was in the same lineup as Moondog and Monuelle Monuelle who are Eamon Dilworth and Henry Manuel. Moondog is my favourite man of blues and I just love what he does and I was so excited when he said he would come from Canberra to play at the Petersham. Eamon is a lovely young man I met early this year when some friends came to stay and he was in town too. He’s a fantastic trumpet player and he plays for an awesome band by the name of Tijuana Cartel. It was a great night and some friends from Sydney showed up which made it even more special. All in all I had a fantastic time and lots of adventures and I learnt heaps about how I would do it next time. I know I said that there were highlight gigs but they all were very special in their very own way and trying to pick a favourite is like trying to choose your favourite kid…impossible….well not for me because I only have one son but I kinda think I know what it would feel like. On the subject of family it was so lovely to get back home a couple of days later after a flight, air bnb in Perth and then a long coach trip back down to Denmark to be greeted by my husband, Warren and well my son found a bit of time to greet me between games.
During my NSW Tour I played at a very special venue called Humph Hall where Wayne Richmond took these videos of some of my performance.
Women of War
Women of war was written to commemorate the women who “held the fort” on the homefront during the 1st and 2nd world wars. They worked in munitions factories, on the land and took care of the kids and were there to receive the wounded soldiers and this is just to name some of what they did. Lets honour those ladies and sing for them.
Break of the Day
It was you
Then just for fun we all got together at the end and did an encore playing Heavens Door and These Boots were made for Walking