The Other Side of Absence – Discovering my father’s secrets

By Betty O’Neill
Impact Press, an imprint of Ventura Press, Australia 2020

To create a work which is at once beautiful and terrible is indeed a mark of literary talent and Betty O’Neill achieves this to perfection with The Other Side of Absence.

Barbie talks to Betty O’Neill about The Other Side of Absence
Continue Reading“The Other Side of Absence – Discovering my father’s secrets”

Paul Kelly – the Man, the Music and the Life in Between

By Stuart Coupe
Hachette, Australia, 2020

For those who read Paul Kelly’s autobiography How to make Gravy (Penguin, 2018), Stuart Coupe’s latest book Paul Kelly, will fill many gaps in the narrative of this musician’s life.

Barbie talks to Stuart Coupe about Paul Kelly the Man, the Music and the Life in Between
Continue Reading“Paul Kelly – the Man, the Music and the Life in Between”

The Last Lighthouse Keeper – a memoir

John Cook with Jon Bauer
Allen & Unwin Australia, 2020

This beautifully told story of John Cook’s time as keeper of remote lights off the Tasmanian coast is both a history of the lighthouses and a slightly fictionalised autobiography. Working collaboratively with British author, Jon Bauer, John Cook has retold the minutiae of lighthouse life, but has also delved into his own turbulent feelings during those 25 years in the service of sea safety.

Barbie speaks with John Cook about The Last Lighthouse Keeper
British author Ben Bauer talks about his collaboration with John Cook on The Last Lighthouse Keeper
Continue Reading“The Last Lighthouse Keeper – a memoir”

No word for black and white

Renate Rienmueller & Tim Selwyn
Suki & Hugh Gallery, Bungendore NSW, 8-30 August 2020

Open 10am to 4pm Saturdays & Sundays, other times by appointment

The focus of this exhibition is Renate’s relationship with Tim, a sculptor whose Indigenous ancestral line comes via his mother from the Wiradjuri / Wongaibon people (Central West NSW). Together they explore ideas around connection, responsibility to our land and its people, selfhood, community, identity and the need to challenge the stereotypes that separate us.

Barbie spoke to Renate Rienmuller and Tim Selwyn at Suki & Hugh Gallery
Continue Reading“No word for black and white”

First Response – Documenting Canberra’s response to COVID-19

Tuggeranong Arts Centre
25 July – 19 September 2020

First Response is a series of four new works from artists Martin Ollman, Marissa McDowell, Anna Georgia, and Shannon Hanrahan commissioned to document Canberra’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The works aim to show the profound and personal effects of the pandemic on individuals and communities in the ACT.

First Response artists Martin Ollman, Marissa McDowell, Anna Georgia and Shannon Hanrahan discuss their work at a panel session chaired by Living Arts Canberra’s Barbie Robinson
Continue Reading“First Response – Documenting Canberra’s response to COVID-19”

Film review – 23 Walks

Palace Electric Canberra from 30 July 2020
103 mins, rated PG

I first saw Dave Johns (Dave) on screen in Ken Loach’s powerful 2016 film I Daniel Blake when it was included in one of the British Film Festivals – it was a standout. And Dave Johns – once seen, never forgotten. He is a consummate actor, capable of expressing a world of emotions within an always restrained performance.

Continue Reading“Film review – 23 Walks”

House of Cardin- film review

Palace Electric Canberra from 23 July 2020
97 minutes, rated G

House of Cardin begins with a montage of rapid- fire footage and sound-bites, mainly dedicated to admiring assessments of Pierre Cardin as an innovative genius. It is rather a relief when the pace slows somewhat to examine Cardin’s background and early career and then the various periods of his (mainly professional) life.

Continue Reading“House of Cardin- film review”

Inter-play 2020 – The Street

31 July to 26 November 2020

Led by Canberra theatre artist barb barnett, Inter-play 2020 is a new online forum where playwrights can connect to share ideas and new work and discuss issues of concern in theatre making.

There will be seven sessions over four months accessible via Zoom. The program aims to address some of the changes and challenges thrown up by COVID-19 restrictions on live theatre.

barb barnett talks about Interplay 2020

Concurrently, The Street will present a series of eight discussions with established playwrights from each state and territory.

Interested people are asked to contact The Street via the website

The Tale of Barnaby Glurp – The Boy who Burped

Felicity McVay (words) and Caroline Seltz (pictures)
New Holland Publishers, Australia, 2020

Gosh! We are all in need of a bit of fun right now (and always) and The Boy who Burped is guaranteed to inject a dose of this for its readers and listeners. Most small children are rather interested in bodily functions, and those involving embarrassing noises always invoke hilarity.

Barbie speaks with Felicity McVay, author of The Boy Who Burped
Continue Reading“The Tale of Barnaby Glurp – The Boy who Burped”

Peter O’Brien – Bush School

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020
Available for pre-order

This is a book so near to my heart that I find it hard to write impartially – in fact, I will not try.

Peter O’Brien’s memoir, Bush School, is mostly an account of that part of his life when as a 20-year old single young man he was sent in 1960 to Weabonga, one teacher school in a remote area out of Tamworth.

As one whose first teaching post in 1972 was a four teacher school, though not particularly remote, I felt such a deep sense of familiarity with everything he writes that I was immediately transported back to my 20s and the challenges of beginning teaching.

Barbie talks to Peter O’Brien about Bush School
Continue Reading“Peter O’Brien – Bush School”

Ashley Dawson-Damer – A Particular Woman

Ventura Press, Australia, 2020

Memoir is an interesting form of writing, as one always speculates what has been left unsaid. In A Particular Woman, we fancy this is also true but Ashley Dawson-Damer has generously shared a great deal.

She speaks with honesty and heart about many aspects and periods of her life and times (she was born in 1945, as she once proudly announced in a Board meeting, when her capacity and experience were subtly called into doubt).

Ashley Dawson-Damer talks to Barbie about A Particular Woman
Continue Reading“Ashley Dawson-Damer – A Particular Woman”

Padma Menon – Moving Archetypes Indian Dance and contemplation

Term 3 classes from 20 July
Come and Try class – Saturday 18 July (face to face – please book at

Moving Archetypes studio is now open for in person classes whilst continuing online teaching for those who prefer this model at this time.

Term 3 courses will focus on the beauteous and powerful deity, Saraswathi. Padma says: ‘Saraswathi is a contemplative space of depth and profound relevance to our times. As the deity of Vaak, vac or expression, she invites us to expression that is free from delusion and dependence on the conditional narratives we use to frame our reality.

Barbie speaks with Padma Menon about the Saraswathi classes
Continue Reading“Padma Menon – Moving Archetypes Indian Dance and contemplation”

Laura Bunting and Nicky Johnston – Coco: Big City Kitty

Scholastic, Australia, 2020

This charming book is both beautiful to look at and highly appropriate in its message  – ie that we all need to be prepared for change and able to adapt to new circumstances. This moral is, of course, not just one of our times, but is a particularly salutary one for both young and old in the COVID-19 world.

Barbie speaks with Nicky Johnston about Coco: Big City Kitty
Continue Reading“Laura Bunting and Nicky Johnston – Coco: Big City Kitty”