Icing on the Cake, Spreading the News

Comments (0) Susie Dunn

It’s been a strangely difficult time, this political year. Simultaneously nothing matters, and everything matters. And, I’m submitting this column on May 17, totally in the dark about what will happen on the 18th, and what you will all know when it’s published. So, I’m going to talk about other things, and look for some icing on the cake, while remembering drought is still with us.

For anyone with rather a weakness for French cooking, Armidale is a great place to be. The very smart new Tatts Hotel has brought us the delicious menus of Jean-Luc Morcellet, who puts his own modern, international spin on his native French cooking – definitely addictive!  And in Taylor Street, Nathan Walker and Enora Chanteperdrix have a devoted following for whatever Nathan bakes or produces through his passion for food. They’ve also taken this passion into opening their hearts and Café Patisserie to other cultures in Armidale, beginning with a special Tuesday, when new Ezidi citizens cooked for appreciative diners. This has led to them considering further nights reflecting, says Nathan, the “multicultural soup” in our community.

UNE has appointed Professor Brigid Heywood as the next Vice-Chancellor. This position is not only important for the university, but for the region as well, and we hope to see beneficial engagement for both, each actively reinforcing the other. The Professor commences her role in July.

In the framing of the Armidale Central Mall as a recreational public space, two bookshops feature. The Readers’ Companion’s Michelle Wheatley has just been awarded Best Business Idea 2019 by the Australian Independent Booksellers’ National Conference. She packages a book with its filmed adaptation, followed by a glass of wine at Charlie’s Last Stand to discuss the preferred version. A constant stream of book launches (tonight it’s UNE’s thoughtful Anne Pender on the greats of Australian comedy), plus other events, ensures the shop hums with people.  

Across the Mall, last minute purchasers saved Boobooks, relieving locals and visitors, and I hear events are planned there too. I remember when eight shops sold books in the Central Mall, so we treasure those keeping the flame. And books are showing a revival, instead of extinction as forecast.

There’s considerable sadness as the drought has finally forced the closure of the quirky, lovable Things with a Difference. Thanks for the memories, Jane, Greg and staff!   

New group Renew Armidale says their plans to reinvigorate the Mall are advancing. It’d be wonderful if new food outlets could offer choices at different times, increasing viable destination making. Surely these would help: weather protected seating areas (with locally made cast pub-style verandah posts and adjustable side curtains); clear, attractive signage pointing to the multitude of parking options; varying opening hours to match when people can congregate, signboarded event programmes; music; films. Embrace viable solutions, instead of talking in expensive circles!  We owe it to the gallant retailers and indeed, to the community. Again, development of attractive apartments in the East Mall would revitalise the city centre, helping bring the heart of the city back to life as more people stayed closer to home and foot traffic improved, with rising café culture and mixed use requirements.

Everyone has a value in this community of ours. Some people quietly make extraordinary contributions, and Arthur Rickards was one of those. Not only did he orchestrate  international beef programmes from ABRI, but also drove the establishment of the Conservatorium and was NECOM’s first Chair, until ill health meant he stood down. His wife Deidre, with her passionate musical involvement in the region, and their talented children, Alice and Gareth, are supported by many who valued and miss him.

NECOM’s Man from Snowy River Concert Event will be “one of the largest orchestral events in years”, accompanying the soundtrack to the screening of the film. It’ll take place at the Armidale Exhibition Centre on October 11 – sounds a diary must!

Let’s hope whatever the election result we’ll have a strong voice to fight for us in coping with the grave realities of species extinction, pollution and climate change.

Susie Dunn.

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