Icing on the Cake

Comments (0) Featured, Susie Dunn

I’ve been thinking about the word “morale” lately … defined as “wellbeing that comes from confidence, usefulness and purpose”. Usually defiantly optimistic, I’ve privately been disturbingly downbeat lately and realised it was time to shake myself and look for that resilience we’re told to have. It’s too easy to let an accumulation of “bad” news dominate, and there’s certainly some on the list – locally and internationally.

But someone close said, when things go wrong, “Well, that’s good — now we’re free to take another direction”. That’s not automatically abandoning everything we’re doing; it means looking strategically with fresh eyes, thinking differently. That can be invigorating. Ask Bernie Shakeshaft and BackTrack.

Now, happy, positive things. We’re past the shortest day, on the way to spring and not mentioned in Australia’s coldest places list. The musical Singin’ in the Rain at the Hoskins has been a joyous, positive take on what we hope will mirror its title. Terrific ADMS production all round, and Pat Bradley’s magic trick of actually making it rain on stage was a showstopper. Perhaps we should reword “send her down, Huie” to “send her down, Pat”. Let’s be “happy again”.

In PLC’s function centre, the Fleece to Fashion team sent out cutting edge fashion, showing just how they can deliver. What energy, style and flair they created! Judge Akira Isogawa is a great supporter, and Bluey Merino plans manufacturing here. Gather the ambassadors to blitz it! [n.b. PLC is hosting Parched, a drought fundraiser at 7:30 pm, August 9 at UNE’s Lazenby.]

The Central Mall opening of The Social Club (“where everyone’s a member”) is another demonstration of growing strength in the way entertainment and nightlife are developing, catering for fast-growing demographics. Australia’s been urged to take lessons from European examples, where retail shops open at 10 and close at 7 or 8, with differing food outlets open for lunch, carrying through to the later evening trade. Events’ creativity help make the magic. Should we follow other places opening on weekends and closing early in the week? These are pragmatic business decisions. It’s interesting to note Melbourne is moving to close two city blocks to through traffic, with plans for other future closures. The world is moving to car-free CBDs.

Before going into recess, NE Visions 2030’s last speaker for the year was Michael Engeman, General Manager Costa Group – Tomato. An easy and engaging speaker, Michael gave a frank and thorough backgrounding to the company and its important Guyra operation, lifting employment to 700 in its next stage. He underlined their use of water, the future of protected greenhouse agriculture and the hi-tech directions Costa is taking. Professor David Lamb’s earlier talk touched on similar prospects for local business and employment. Both underlined an exciting future if the challenges are taken up. The times, they are a’changing, and regional economies are taking stock to build on their strengths, with wise producers adapting to changing markets.

And the Visions for Armidale Creeklands association is assembling exciting information on possibilities of water conservation and usage – worth talking to them!

NERAM continues delivering rewarding exhibitions, and events and crowds continue voting with their feet to attend. Special individual donors help put the icing on the cake: Bruce and Rose McCarthy have given $100,000 to refurbish the café kitchen, realising the importance and attraction of the café. Tim and Gina Fairfax have also donated substantially, funding an education officer to develop programs for local and remote schools over the next 18 months. With the efforts of the Friends of NERAM, such support helps fund needed initiatives. Current exhibitions include the lovely Biophilia, showing local Leah Bullen’s unusual international garden watercolours, plus a Barbara McKay Retrospective and Hadyn Wilson’s riff on the Hinton collection opened by SMH critic John McDonald. College on the Hill looks back at memories of the much-loved OTC. All draw people to the gallery. The inclusive Winter Blooming Festival celebrated diversity on July 13.

Balance good things happening locally against the drought, new imposed monetary pressures on the ARC and unrest within some schools in our important university. Believe a better future is do-able.

Susie Dunn.

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