Sessions

Five Minutes with Annabel Morley

Annabel MorleyAnnabel Morley has a rich and fascinating heritage. Her father was the renowned British actor Robert Morley CBE, her grandmother the society beauty Dame Gladys Cooper. She counts actor Joanna Lumley (The New Avengers, Absolutely Fabulous)  as a cousin and as a child enjoyed the company of such iconic stars as Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and Spencer Tracey.

Annabel’s recount of a childhood growing up in the English countryside, almost seems as if it has been ripped from quintessential English novels.  She now calls Australia home and we are delighted that Annabel will be joining us for the 2016 Batemans Bay Writers Festival to talk about food, the arts and her memoir about that amazing childhood, The Icing on the Cake.

Your memoir, The Icing on the Cake, is a fascinating insight into a life that seems straight out of fiction. What prompted you to put pen to paper?

I was first prompted by a low impulse – my elder brother Sheridan (who died in 2007) was a prolific writer (26 books about the theatre, plus14 books he edited and 4 stage shows) and when my father died in 1992, Sherry took over the telling of the family stories. But the problem was he would get them slightly wrong, if it was a joke of my father’s the punch line would be changed (and not for the better). I thought: I want to tell those stories – and get them right.

The other trigger was my mother’s death and the selling and dismantling of the family house. The book was a thank you letter to my parents, my father was so wonderfully buoyant and never really seemed old so I wasn’t prepared for him to die, with my mother it was a long, gentle decline and I did write her a letter telling her how wonderful she had been as a mother.

Basic CMYKI started writing the book about 5 years before it was published (in 2008) and every Christmas I would self-publish a section and sell it through our theatre groups and the response was very positive but there were several pitfalls – one was how long is a book (or a piece of string)? What in a life do you include or exclude? How to structure it?  Will the combination of memoir and recipes work? And will anybody ‘get’ it ?

By chance I met Jane Curry (who published Icing) and I had the little booklets and so I could say: this is it in embryo. And she being English and from a similar background to me (but much younger) ‘got’ it. So when she agreed to publish it, I had about half written it and I wrote the rest very quickly. The most difficult part to write was Big Brother, Little Brother.

In contrast, the section on my mother’s funeral Funeral Blues I wrote very quickly and easily. I tried it out at a library talk I gave (before the book was finished) and a man came up to me and said “Well, we certainly know a lot about you and your family now” and the inference was: Rather too much !

And I could hear my mother saying “Really, darling !” in the way she did when she thought one of us had gone a bit too far but I think she would have loved the book and I think my Pa would have been very proud – he wanted me to be a writer. (Sorry I took so long, Pa)

Food is central to your life. You love entertaining family and friends. I’m coming over for lunch on Sunday. What are we likely to be feasting upon.

As I write this I have half an eye on the clock, neighbours for supper. What are we having?

Anti pasto which we will eat on our laps – hummus and taramaslata, some Manchengo cheese and marinated artichokes, figs and dried pears, Aldi’s cheese biscuits. Then orange and oregano roast chicken with olive and fetta relish served with little potatoes roasted in olive oil and watercress salad. Crème caramel covered with sliced strawberries for pud.

Last dinner party ― I think I am one of the last people who still has dinner parties ― was Italian Wedding Soup (Recipe in Volume II), my fish pie (recipe in Icing) and an olive oil and chocolate cake for pud.

AnnabelMorley2Your father was the renowned actor Robert Morley CBE. You were an actress yourself. The theatre is still important to you but why should it matter to us? What draws people to your tours?

I have a confession to make – most of the time I would rather see a film than a play. In a bad film, there is always something to look at. Perversely, in the theatre I still feel that thrill when the house lights go down and the stage lights come up (once it was a curtain rising – very rare these days.) But oh ! The sense of growing horror if it’s going to be a dud night in the theatre. And I’m spoilt – I’ve seen the best. So I leave at the interval if I’m not enjoying myself – I have never walked out mid performance –although I was in a play when the audience did that, and asked for their money back.

But what draws people to the theatre in our groups I think is that compact that you enter into as an audience member in a theatre. The cinema says: this is real (although of course, it isn’t. )The playwright says:  all aboard the train, we applaud at the same time, laugh, weep, shudder – this disparate group of people becomes one entity. Extraordinary! And to think people have been doing this since the Greeks went to see plays about their gods; when I go to the Globe in London and sit as the dusk falls and think, people have been listening to these words of Shakespeare’s here or very near here for 400 years….well, it’s incredible. It’s story-telling.

(Also in our groups, we organise the tickets, we all go together, to matinees and Charlie, my husband, is so amazing that if you are hard of hearing he puts you down the front and if you have a gippy knee he puts you where there aren’t any stairs and if you are claustrophobic, you are on the end of a row. And we tell you about the play before we see it and we might have one of the cast or the director to tell us about the production and we discuss it afterwards.)

What unexpected delights did publishing The Icing on the Cake deliver? Did old friends reappear or new ones made?

The biggest thrill when I wrote Icing ( apart from a great friend here in Australia and another great friend in London ‘launching’ it at two fabulous parties) was such a sweet note from Anna Volska (John Bell’s wife) congratulating me, also walking past an unknown man in Bondi Junction who just said out of the corner of his mouth “Great  book”. A dear friend of mine who I have known since I was sixteen saying it made him cry. Because he knew all the cast and misses them as I do.

We are so looking forward to welcoming you to the 2016 Batemans Bay Writers Festival. What are you plans whilst you’re with us next weekend?

I’ve never been to Bateman’s Bay. I love seaside places. I love being away for the weekend and not having to shop or cook or wash up and I love talking about myself, plus I’m always fascinated to meet the other writers at Literary events and the audience.

You can meet Annabel at the following events:

Saturday September 10 9am to 10pm

Lifestyles

What place does food play in our lives? Think beyond sustenance and nourishment with three authors for whom food is central to their existence. With Annabel Morley, chef James Viles and food photographer Simon Griffiths. Facilitated by Nick Rheinberger.

Saturday September 10 11.45 am to 12.45 pm

State of the Arts

Geoff Cousins, Annabel Morley and Sarah Rice have a wealth of experience in the arts sector. They explore how the arts can remain a vital and relevant expression of our many identities.

Sunday September 11 9.30am to 10.30am

Memoir—Telling True Stories

Although regarded as non fiction, memoir can easily merge with fiction. How does a writer distinguish memory from fact or determine truths long buried with their teller? Three authors, Annabel Morley, Deb Hunt and Rod Jones, discuss the telling of family tales and the process of discovering the emotional truths of their stories. Facilitated by Meredith Jaffé.

Five Minutes With Mark Dapin

Five Minutes With Mark Dapin

Mark Dapin is a man who wears many hats. He’s been a magazine editor for publications such as Ralph and the Australian Financial Review and a regular columnist for the Good Weekend magazine. He is also a writer of fiction and non fiction books. His novel King of the Cross won the 2010 Ned Kelly award for best first fiction and his 2012 novel Spirit House was longlisted for the Miles Franklin award. His recent works have a very different flavour as Mark explores the impact of war.

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Mark is joining us at the 2016 Batemans Bay Writers Festival where we will have a chance to hear him talk about war, politics and the importance of the arts.

You’re currently completing your PhD at ADFA. You’ve written and edited several books around the impact of war. Most of us think of you as a pretty knockabout funny bloke. Where does such a serious passion come from?

I never intended to be a “funny” writer. At first, I was surprised people thought my stories were funny because they were often just descriptions of the world as it looked to me. I was a serious journalist (of a sort) before I began to write first-person humour columns, and real journalism was always more important to me. That said, I like my serious work to surprise the reader with moments of (inappropriate) humour. As for the war thing, I’m not sure how that came about. I think I just got old and boring and interested in military history, in the way that old and boring men do.

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The Vietnam War has been the subject  of both a fiction and a nonfiction books for you,  R&R and The Nasho’s War respectively. What is it about that particular conflict that makes you put pen to paper?

R&R came out of my research for the Nashos’ War. I just wanted to make sure that some of the ideas I could not use in non-fiction (because they weren’t true) did not go to waste. I wrote my novel Spirit House about the Burma Railway. I considered using the research for Spirit House to write a non-fiction book – and as the basis for a PhD – so it could have gone either way, I suppose.

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You’re a journalist by trade, when you’re not writing books, your teaching others how to write them. Why is teaching about writing important to you?

I enjoy it. I like the sound of my own voice – except on tape, of course. Also, I like the idea of helping people, My life can seem a bit selfish at times.

You’ve interviewed some pretty cool celebrities in your time, from Nick Cave to Lee Kernaghan to Frederick Forsyth. Any funny stories to share?

Kostya Tszyu once punched me and broke my rib. But I’ll save the other stories for the festival.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you at the 2016 Batemans Bay Festival. We’ve got you chatting about everything from life after war to the state of Australian politics to the state of the arts. What are you most looking forward to at the Festival?

Hearing myself speak. Selling and signing loads of books. Eating stuff.

You can meet Mark at the following events:

Saturday September 10 11.45 am to 12.45 pm

State of the Arts

Geoff Cousins, Annabel Morley and Sarah Rice have a wealth of experience in the arts sector. They explore how the arts can remain a vital and relevant expression of our many identities. Facilitated by Mark Dapin

Saturday September 10 1.45 pm to 2.45 pm

Keeping the Bastards Honest: the 2016 election in review

Join political and economics commentator George Megalogenis, and journalists Mark Dapin and Malcolm Knox as they reveal the horrors and humour of the 2016 campaign and what questions this latest shuffling of the deck chairs raises for the immediate future.

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Saturday September 10 4.30 pm to 5.30 pm

Life after War

Authors Mark Dapin (R&R and The Nashos’ War) and Leah Kaminsky (The Waiting Room) have written about the impact of war and how the effect of war crosses generations and affects lives long after the conflict itself is over. Facilitated by Suzanne Leal, a lawyer experienced in child protection, criminal law and refugee law.

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Five minutes with Deb Hunt

Five Minutes with Deb Hunt

English born Deb Hunt has been a librarian, teacher, event manager, PR executive, actress and journalist. She has worked with Shakespeare in the Park in London, Australian House & Garden magazine in Sydney and for the past five years as a writer with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Her memoir,  Love in the Outback, reveals Deb’s experience of discovering an unimagined land and true love far from the green fields of home.  Her latest book, Australian Farming Families explores what it is that binds Australians to the land. Travelling tens of thousands of kilometres, Deb met farming families who are challenged every day by the weather, economic ups and downs and isolation and yet remain passionate and determined.

Deb is joining us at the 2016 Batemans Bay Writers Festival in September. We spent five minutes with Deb to find out a little more about her.

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The summary of your 2014 memoir, Love in the Outback, goes along these lines: “The true story of a tree-hugging vegetarian from a small English village who gave up a job she hated, stopped stalking a man who wasn’t interested and moved to Australia to work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.”  What were some of the culture shock moments in that transition that make you laugh now?

I had so much to learn about the Outback. A single property in Australia can be the size of several English counties so it can take a couple of hours to drive across. I could never admit that I used to stop for a nap mid-way through a two-hour drive in England. That was considered a long way! I remember one time I found a mouse at home in Broken Hill so I captured it, thinking I might keep it as a pet or maybe release it. Then I heard about an epic plague of mice causing havoc in town, so I kept very quiet about the one I’d tried to save. And until I lived in Broken Hill I’d never heard of anyone having all their teeth removed when they got married. Apparently it saves having to visit a dentist.

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Before you came to Australia, did you have any idea of what the RFDS was and how important it was to outback life?

My only understanding of the RFDS was through watching that old TV series about the Flying Doctor from the 1970s and I’ve learnt so much since about the incredible work they do. I fully appreciate that tyranny of distance now, which is an ever-present threat in the Outback. I had no idea how vital the service is for survival in rural and remote areas.

Your experiences in rural Australia have also led to a collection of true stories called Australian Farming Families. Is it possible to sum up what you learned from them about life on the land?

I learnt it takes grit and determination to be a farmer in Australia. It’s not a question of if disaster strike, it’s when. Farmers, graziers and pastoralists cope with drought, fire, flood, debt, disease and the invasion of pests on a regular basis. Add to that the lack of schools, hospitals, dentists, libraries, shops, mechanics and all the other services the rest of us take for granted and you begin to understand how hard it is to operate in a remote area. Yet the people I interviewed wouldn’t live anywhere else; they’re passionate about what they do.

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Where to next with your writing? Are you sticking with non-fiction or is there a novel lurking in there?

I love non-fiction but I’ve always been an avid reader of fiction so right now I’m exploring an idea for a novel – set in the Outback of course!

We’re so looking forward to welcoming you to the 2016 Batemans Bay Writers Festival. But what are you looking forward to when you visit in September?

You’ve got a great line-up of speakers so I’m looking forward to hearing as many as I can. Tim Fischer was influential during his time as Chairman of the RFDS so I’m really looking forward to hearing what he’s got to say. And I’ve heard the coastline around Bateman’s Bay is spectacular.

Meet Deb at the following events:

Saturday September 10: Time 3 pm to 4 pm

The Royal Flying Doctor Service & Outback Life

Deb Hunt (Love in the Outback and Australian Farming Families) talks with Ian Campbell about the important role the RFDS plays on outback life.

Saturday September 10: Time 5.30 pm for 6pm to 7 pm

Free event

4 X 5 minutes

Four authors, four readings, four sets of literary trivia. Join us for drinks, trivia and book-readings. Authors Deb Hunt, Meredith Jaffé, Paul Hetherington and Rod Jones, give short readings from a work of their choice. In between, tease your brain with four sets of literary trivia. Prizes to be won.

Sunday September 11: Time: 9.30 am to 10.30 am

Memoir: Telling true stories

How does a writer distinguish memory from fact or determine truths long buried with their teller? Author Meredith Jaffé facilitates a lively discussion with Annabel Morley, Deb Hunt and Rod Jones.

 

 

 

Five minutes with James Viles

James-Viles 

Five Minutes with James Viles …

 James Viles has made a name for himself as one of Australia’s most innovative and respected chefs and restaurateurs. His two-hatted Southern Highlands restaurant Biota Dining, situated in the picturesque town of Bowral, has a list of accolades to its name. In 2015 alone, it was listed in the Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Restaurants and named as the Sydney Morning Herald’s Regional Restaurant of the Year.

All this from a man with a very simple philosophy—take inspiration from the place that surrounds you.

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James is joining us at the Batemans Bay Writers Festival in September. We spent five minutes finding out a little bit more about the man and what motivates him.

How old were you when you started to cook and how soon did you realise you wanted food to have a central place in your life?

I was 14 when I started to cook and about 15 when I started my apprenticeship. I really enjoyed the kitchen environment. It was addictive and energising and still is. I just felt like I belonged.
Your two-hatted restaurant Biota Dining and the accompanying cook book Biota are all about showcasing seasonal, ethical produce and delicious dishes from the surrounding region. Why is this important to you, as a chef, and to us at-home cooks?

It’s important because it’s simple and real. Why chase the globe for obscure ingredients when the best ingredients are on our doorstep? By using our ingredients, in our country, we are supporting our farmers and growers.
Chefs are always asked which three ingredients they can’t live without so how about we ask instead, which three ingredients do you think are the most underrated?

Easy one – duck tongues – fish throats and a controversial one, but – unpasteurised milk … SHHHH
Australians buy more cook books than any other nation in the world. What is it about our relationship with food that makes us such avid consumers?

We are curious and not bound by tradition, it makes us adventurous in our approach and savvy on what’s around us.
We are thrilled to have you as a guest at the 2016 Batemans Bay Writers Festival. What are you looking forward to on this visit to the South Coast?

I’m going to enjoy meeting all the people and learning about the regions produce.

Meet James at the following events:!cid_DFA2E465-0286-40E1-A82E-8ADBBD8DA535

Highlight opening event

Friday 9 September: 5.30pm for 6pm

Debate: Pictures speak louder than words

Words enrich our lives, entertain us and inform us. Painting, photography, film and the vast array of visual arts move us, alarm us and cast a light on the world around us. But which is the more effective medium? Do we respond more to what we see than what we read?

Saturday 10 September: Time: 9.00 am to 10 am

Lifestyles

Nick Rheinberger leads a discussion with three authors for whom food is central to their existence: Annabel Morley (The Icing on the Cake), Chef James Viles (Biota ― Grow Gather Cook) and photographer Simon Griffiths (Salute! Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook and Boat).

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