Lifting the lid on friendship

FIONA Palmer’s delicious rural romances and mesmerising descriptions of red dirt tracks and country sunsets could make any city person want to move to the bush.

Born and bred 300km north-east of Albany in the remote town of Pingaring, Palmer spent most of her early life speedway driving, tractor riding, rouseabouting and doing secretarial work.

Her heart fell for fiction writing after a story idea in 2006 resulted in her first book The Family Farm.

After eight successful rural romance novels, Palmer is excited to come to Albany to launch her new book, Secrets Between Friends, at Three Anchors on September 9.

Palmer spoke to the Weekender and revealed a bit about the novel, dealing with isolated living and her inspirations during an incredible career.

“Secrets is a story of three best friends going on a boat cruise to Albany as a ten-year reunion of their friendship,” Palmer said.

“On the boat, many of their secrets are revealed, even ones they have kept from themselves.

“It is a time to open up, face their secrets and fears, and find out what they really want from life.”

Palmer didn’t have to think twice when deciding on Albany as the stopover point for the novel’s cruise ship, after a trip with her author friend Rachael Johns.

“We went on a boat cruise and oh, those cocktails!

“The history in Albany and its beauty caught me, and I thought Secrets would be a fabulous way to combine them both.

“Albany was my number one place for the stopover point because of my history staying there with my grandparents over the holidays, and I wanted to include the new ANZAC memorial centre.”

Palmer is currently working on her next book, The Piano Tuner.

“I’m nearly halfway through The Piano Tuner, but this title may change yet as it’s still early days.

“It follows the story of William, who was a piano tuner in the mid 1970s, as well as his family in current day.

“Hopefully I’m on the right track and when I finish it and send it to the publisher, they like it!”

In spite of housework, kids, sport, work on the farm, marketing and procrastination, Palmer’s passion for writing is strong as ever.

“I try to aim for 10,000 words a week when I begin writing a book.

“Usually it’s crammed in between seeding and harvest, so I have about 3 to 4 months to get the first draft down.

“Sometimes when I’m close to a deadline I’ll stay up late and write, as I find this is the most productive time with no distractions!

“But I have to be mindful of family, I can’t write every night.

“It’s a constant juggling act.”

Despite living in the middle of ‘whoop whoop’ with poor internet slowing down her research, Palmer’s love for her remote, isolated, rural town and life inspired her career.

“I never had ambitions of being a writer, especially as English was one of my worst subjects and I left school early,” Palmer revealed.

“At the busiest time of my life, running a general store in Pingaring with two babies, I began writing down this story that popped into my mind.

“It began as a form of escapism and before I knew it, I had a story.

“I feel very lucky being an author and being where I am today.

“It’s something I never dreamed of; I wasn’t aware this profession was even possible!

“But now, I couldn’t imagine life any other way.” Palmer said the best advice she can offer aspiring authors is to just get the words down.

“Just write. Don’t think about it; do it.

“I put words on the page without any idea how it was supposed to be done, but it can be all fixed and sorted later.

“You can’t edit a blank page.”

Tickets to Fiona Palmer’s Secrets Between Friends book launch at Three Anchors can be purchased at Paperbarks Merchants or online at paperbarks.

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Epic night of electronica ahead

DENMARK Civic Centre is hosting the Electric Dreams electronica night this Saturday, with the promise of seven amazing local acts and tickets for just $10.

The likes of Allison Labs, Blue Rat and Harlequin Chameleon will be part of the Saturday night bash.

Mid-Level Disturbance member David McKenzie is also part of the evening’s line-up, and aided in coordinating the event.

“It all started as a result of the Brave New Works festival last November,” McKenzie said.

“Along with sponsorship from Denmark Arts, a few of us locals got together to do an electronica gig, as we are always getting folk music gigs but no electronica.”

McKenzie has been the other half of Mid-Level Disturbance with Simon Parre for three years, but his love of folk and electronic music started eight years ago.

“I rediscovered my love for new order music and I went from there,” he said.

A master class in music production hardware and software Ableton Live will be offered prior to the concert, to give aspiring DJs the chance to discover tips of the trade when it comes to creating and performing original hits.

“The number one problem people new to electronica tend to have is figuring out what equipment they should buy and how to use it,” McKenzie said.

“When I first started out, it was very difficult for me to determine how to use the equipment, so I encourage parents to bring their kids to the workshop and give them the chance to learn the basics of developing electronica music.”

The Ableton Live masterclass begins at 2pm and the 18 plus concert spectacular kicks off at 6pm, all on Saturday August 19 at the Denmark Civic Centre.

Tickets for both events can be purchased via David on 0478 615 432 or James Gentle on 0421 525 153.

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Just let the good times flow

IT’S going to get hot at the Albany Entertainment Centre on September 20, when platinum artists Justice Crew bound onto stage with their chart-topping smash hits and epic dance energy.

Albany is the first stop of Justice Crew’s Kicks On tour, after which the group will head to Bunbury, Perth, Geraldton and Esperance, before heading interstate.

Justice Crew shot to fame after taking the crown on Australia’s Got Talent in 2010.

Consisting of Lukas Bellesini, Paul Merciadez, John Pearce, Samson Smith and DJ Solo Tohi, the renowned Australian group has toured with Chris Brown, One Direction, Kesha and Pitbull.

The Kicks On tour will feature Justice Crew’s biggest hits and new material.

Boom Boom, Best Night, Everybody and Que Sera will be among the night’s setlist.

Justice Crew member Lukas Bellesini is excited to bring the tour down to Albany.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been out west and the fans have been patient, so we’ll make sure to hold a meet and greet post-show for everyone,” Bellesini said.

“We’ve also heard Albany has some great beaches close by, so I have a feeling we’ll be getting our tan on!”

Bellesini began his dancing career long before he got his hands on a microphone.

“I started dancing at the age of 11, was performing professionally in various hip hop and Latin dance shows by the age of 15, and began Justice Crew with the guys in 2009,” he said.

“The opportunity for music came along after we won Australia’s Got Talent.

“When we were offered a recording contract with Sony Music, we knew we had a great platform to expand our craft.”

The Justice Crew boys owe their audition success and consequential Australia’s Got Talent triumph to their loved ones.

“We were inspired to enter thanks to the encouragement and support we received from our family and friends,” Bellesini said.

“John’s mum was the one that suggested it – thanks Flora!”

Bellesini’s career highlight so far has been the Justice Crew five-week tour across America with Pitbull and Kesha.

“It was such an awesome trip,” he said.

“We learned so much, partied hard and had an absolute blast in a different city every night!”

Albany crowds can keep their fingers crossed for the reappearance of Bellesini’s famous dance move.

“The ‘Alien-boy’ is actually a break move called a ‘hollowback’,” he said.

“This is definitely one of my favourites.

“It always seems to please the crowd, or horrify them!”

Bellesini hopes young dancers and singers out there can follow in their idol’s footsteps and do their best, no matter what they want to pursue.

“Dream big, but don’t just dream about it, chase it!

“Nothing great comes easy, but with hard work, focus and determination, you can materialise those dreams.”

Tickets for the September 20 Justice Crew performance at the Albany Entertainment Centre can be purchased via the AEC Box Office or online at Ticketek.

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Haunting echoes of history

ALBANY born and bred international opera tenor Matt Ward graced audiences with his faultless voice at the 40 Years Later concert at Albany’s Historic Whaling Station on Sunday.

The 40 Years Later project comprises a series of workshops and performances, exploring the historical events of the 1977 Save the Whales campaign in Albany and has been running throughout August.

Ward’s spine-tingling voice echoed throughout the Skeleton Shed at Albany’s Historic Whaling Station, captivating the audience with his harmonies and humble presence.

Ward was accompanied by singer and pianist Matthew Quick, and together they created an ensemble of eerie, stunning songs that reflected both contemporary music, timeless classics and elements of the ongoing 40 Years Later project.

Ward led the audience in creating their own song about whaling, after hearing an old recording of an interview with a whaler.

The low hum of the audience and the “in the deep blue ocean” repeated chant was combined with a hint of sonar noise and Ward’s incredible vocals, crafting a unique piece of musical theatre to commemorate Albany’s whaling history.

Ward will continue his journey with open acting and singing workshops at the Vancouver Arts Centre on August 12 and 19.

The entire 40 Years Project will wrap up with a massive performance at the Vancouver Arts Centre on August 27, featuring the works of Ward and contributing artists.

Tickets can be booked online at

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Illy to rock out at the White Star

A SHOT of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey with his tour crew is a must, before Alasdair David George Murray, more commonly known as Illy, jumps on stage to rock out with his fans.

The Weekender spoke with the hip-hop sensation just before he kicked off his Two Degrees regional tour in Mandurah.

“As a kid, I did a lot of creative writing and poetry, and that started my interest in singing,” Illy said.

“I started listening to hip hop artists like 2Pac, Jay-Z and later the Hilltop Hoods, and I never looked back.”

Illy learned to play the drums when he was 11, but other than 6 months of formal lessons, his musical career has been based on self-teaching.

“I started singing lessons last year, just to keep improving my voice and making sure everything is in good shape, but I was mainly self-taught,” he said.

Illy got his foot in the entertainment door with band Crooked Eye, who he performed with after high school until he was 22.

The crew split after members decided to focus on their individual careers.

“I owe a lot to those guys for their guidance; they showed me the ropes,” he said.

Illy’s solo career took off in 2009 after signing with Obese Records, but then later decided to build his own label, OneTwo, with a licensing deal with Warner Music.

Illy has had many chart hits, with his 2012 Bring It Back album winning him an ARIA Award and his 2016 Two Degrees album hitting number 1 on the ARIA album.

Illy’s favourite performances are with his ‘big songs’.

“They are the best to perform as you get big concert reactions,” he said.

“I love all of my records; I can’t pick a favourite.”

Illy will be performing at the White Star on August 19.

Tickets are on sale now and are available from

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City of Albany Band raise the roof

THE City of Albany Band’s performance In Full Swing on Saturday night has been heralded a success, according to conductor Colin France.

Apart from the enjoyment of the audience, and the band itself, the band was able to raise enough money to start repairs on the rehearsal hall.

“There’s problems with the roof leaking and the drains,” France said. “What we raised will be able to fix that and to paint the Hall to make it look a bit nicer.”

Both Friday and Saturday night’s shows at the Port Theatre proved to be a success, with audience members stunned at the solo performance by guest player David Rastrick.

“David played the flugel horn and was as close to perfect as you could get,” France said.

“The audience loved the performance, and the band loved performing.

“Musically it was a huge success.”

Mr France commended the performers, saying that the local talent was at a high standard and the guest performers topped the night off.

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Sabbath sorcery

A BIT of old school rock came to the Whitestar Hotel on Saturday night as live music lovers took refuge from the cold with the offerings from local band Trash Pandah and Perth’s tribute to Black Sabbath – The Sorcerers.

Trash Pandah warmed the crowd with their eclectic set of alternative rock covers.

There were b-sides galore as veteran frontman and live music rustler Geoff Scott led the band through a powerhouse 45-minute set.

The newly-minted rhythm section of band-backstay Tim Jeffs and freshly- ordered bass player Andrejs van Burgel was more than worth the cost of free entry.

They were dynamite, and apparently there was a young-gun guitarist for hire on stage too.

For such a young musician, it appears Mitchell Page has spent an awful lot of time hunched over his axe, learning to shred. For all the notes he played (there were a lot), none fell awkwardly to the floor.

With Trash Pandah’s ripping set done and dusted, The Sorcerers set their tassles loose.

It was wall-to-wall Sabbath (this was not the time or the place to request Ozzy Osbourne solo tracks – sorry.)

War Pigs, Iron Man, Paranoid – the lot – done to perfection, with just the right amount of gimmickry to back up the bona fide ability to do Black Sabbath justice.

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A snap back in time

NOTHING says a snapshot of history like a collection of old photographs.

The ACE Camera Club’s upcoming exhibition Rewind: Traditional Photography Revisited at the Vancouver Arts Centre will explore an era of traditional film and chemistry used to create memories, in a time before digital media existed.

The exhibit opens on Monday, July 31, and will display photographs taken with 1950s, 1960s and homemade cameras, of places, objects and people around the contemporary Great Southern.

“Some of the homemade cameras are made with drainpipes and even a potato!” ACE Camera Club’s Bob Symons said.

“The drainpipe camera I made was using a 150mm drainpipe, and it creates a pinhole camera effect.

“These types of cameras create photos with some weird things, quite unpredictable. You can’t get those sorts of effects with Photoshop.”

The Rewind: Traditional Photography Revisited exhibition will display the works of the ACE Camera Club’s six members, including a short story about how each of the photos was produced.

“I had the chance to use a 1926 studio camera, the one you have to put a cover over your head to use, and a 100-year-old lens that takes 20 minutes to capture just one photo,” Mr Symons said.

The ACE Camera Club now has a permanent studio on the top floor of the Vancouver Arts Centre and is open to people seven days a week.

“Our main aim is to get everyone to do to their own thing,” Mr Symons said.

“We leave the studio set up and people can come in and use it for an hour or two, or however long they need, and we have a photo printer here too.”

“When we first started, we focused mainly on film, but now we have expanded to include video and anything to do with light, really.”

The Rewind: Traditional Photography Revisited exhibition will close on September 16.

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PIAF pulls the plug

THE Great Southern leg of the Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) will no longer operate in its current form, leaving a void for the arts community to fill.

Rod Vervest has been the PIAF Great Southern program manager for 15 years and said he regarded this as a positive move, as it would clear the way for a new local festival.

“It’s up to us now to forge our own direction and bring a festival that is very much about here and what it is that we want to say to the world now,” he said.

Mr Vervest said he attended an “encouraging” meeting of about 20 people in Albany on Monday, where it was confirmed PIAF would no longer operate in the Great Southern.

Albany MLA Peter Watson, representatives of PIAF, the City of Albany, Great Southern Development Commission and local arts organisations were also present at the meeting.

Mr Vervest said the region’s cultural landscape had changed with the development of the Albany Entertainment Centre and the steady stream of high-end arts events that were held.

“The case around delivering a festival such as PIAF has been reduced to a degree,” he said.

“They’ve suffered quite a heavy funding hit themselves, and one way and another after 15 years it’s felt that the program as we have known it is no longer a sustainable model here.”

Mr Vervest said he was confident money could be found to fund a new festival.

“We’ve put together a draft plan of how we think a new Albany festival could look, and we have commitment from all our major stakeholders that they will continue to support this idea,” he said.

“Whilst it potentially still has that international gloss coat sitting over the top of it, everything that falls underneath that will have a distinct Albany story and message behind it.”

Mr Vervest said PIAF would still have a role to play.

“We’ll still negotiate with PIAF on bringing acts down here,” he said.

“They will do all that sort of heavy lifting in terms of bringing the international product to Western Australia by paying all those flight costs and transfers.

“All we’ll have to do is basically find the performance fee and accommodation costs on the ground here.”

Mr Vervest likened PIAF to a “parent” and the Albany festival to a 15-year-old teenager that needed to start entering adult life.

“I think the important message is it becomes an Albany-driven event and that we negotiate with PIAF now for the sort of things that we want to curate,” he said.

Member for Albany Peter Watson said he was disappointed PIAF had pulled out of Albany.

“We’ve supported it for so long and the community’s supported it, so I have expressed my disappointment,” he said.

“It’s a sign of the current times; money is tight everywhere.”

However, Mr Watson agreed it was important to maintain a relationship with PIAF so Albany could continue to host international artists.

“We’re obviously not going to get the full bang we used to get before, but at least now we’ll have the opportunity to pick the acts we want,” he said.

“Now we can pick the eyes out of PIAF, and the fringe festival too.”
Mr Watson said the next step was to form a group that would host a local festival and seek funding.

“We’ve got to do something fairly soon, but not much is going to happen until after the budget in September,” he said.

“I’ll be talking to regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan about ways we can help get acts down here.”

In the meantime, Mr Vervest said he now had no official role in the process.

Besides program-managing PIAF Great Southern for 15 years, he has also coordinated Pinjarra’s Fairbridge Folk Festival for the past three.

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Ballroom blitz

ALBANY ballroom dancers have once again waltzed their way to a gold medal performance at the prestigious Dancesport Australia Nationals held in Wollongong.

Jim Watmore and Helen Gee won first place in the Masters 3 division New Vogue dance style, and picked up silver medals in the two other dance styles, Latin and Standard.

Under the watchful eye of former Ballroom Dance champion Joy Hearn, Mr Watmore and Ms Gee have been dancing and competing as a couple for over 5 years.

“We would not be the dancers we are today without Joy’s guidance and her vast knowledge of ballroom dancing,” the couple agreed.

“We consider ourselves very fortunate to have Joy as our dancing coach.”

The couple’s next big dance tournament is the Australian Dancesport Championship, held in Melbourne this December.

The Australian Dancesport Championship is celebrating its 72nd year and was initiated by the Australian Dancing Society.

Hisense Arena in Melbourne will be the heart of the competition, set for December 8, 9 and 10.

The winners of the 2017 Australian Dancesport Championship will take out the title and represent Australia at the World Championship dance events.

“This is very much an international event, with couples coming from every part of the globe,” Mr Watmore said.

“The Europeans are especially strong in ballroom dancing, so we are in for some stiff competition.”

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