Memories of Friend #149

Summer’s almost here and with it, perhaps my favourite time of year, the Perth Festival!

This year’s Festival launch was a blast! An enthusiastic, vibrant new West Australian director, Iain Grandage, will lead the program and his passion for his home state is reflected in what’s in store for this year.


I have been privileged to grow up with the Perth Festival – it has always been part of my life.

As a child my mum was on the Friends of the Festival Committee, which meant that every waking hour before and during the Festival was consumed by meetings, party organising, cooking (for said parties), taxiing, accommodating, attending performances and so much more.

She loved it – she gave her time and passion for the arts with joyous, if not sleepless abandon. I do not think there was ever a single night during the Festival season that she was not feverously busy – she was always both exhausted and exhilarated!

To me this bred a love of the arts. From a very young age, I was attending performances and occasionally staying up later than I should with the artists. I will always be grateful for that. It also meant that I learned to like chicken liver pate – mum made buckets of it as her contribution to party nibbles.

I like to think that mum, and her fellow Friends committee members, played a small part in the Perth Festival we enjoy today – they helped to make WA a place that artists were happy to come to, they hosted and entertained them – they made them feel appreciated and welcome.

Sarah asked Mum to suggest some performances for her to attend – a mix to broaden her experience – and I asked her to share some memories, which we thought we would share with you…


Summer’s almost here and with it, perhaps my favourite time of year, the Perth Festival!

This year’s Festival launch was a blast! An enthusiastic, vibrant new West Australian director, Iain Grandage, will lead the program and his passion for his home state is reflected in what’s in store for this year.

In 2020, the Concert Hall is once again centre stage of the Festival which is exciting for me as I think back to the eighties when the life of the Festival revolved around this iconic building.

The Friends of the Festival committee members were volunteers who cooked, entertained, taxied and accommodated the performers as well as purchasing tickets and attending as many performances as we could manage. We lived and loved every moment.

During that time Western Australia had a reputation among performers for its hospitality, and there was a good deal of interaction between the ‘locals’ and national and international performers. As members of the Committee we provided after performance supper for the artists to keep their energy up!

Maybe it was because restaurants didn’t open later in the evening, but the upside was the amazing and spontaneous ‘after performance’ performances we enjoyed during these after-parties. Actors, singers and musicians would ‘jam’ on the stage on the ground floor of the Concert Hall. We enjoyed more of the artists and partied on into the night… perhaps this was the genesis of the Festival Club?

Many Festival Committee members offered ‘off stage’ entertainment for the artists – parties large and small. Boat trips on the Swan river or to Rottnest. We hosted a party for the London Philharmonic Orchestra which was a ‘big event’ – there are a lot of performers in the London philharmonic!

We also played the role of taxi. One year there were some actors from South America who were in Australia for the first time and needed transport from one venue to another. There were six actors and only one Toyota. They were absolutely positive they could all fit in, five in the back and one in the front plus me, the driver.

We were happily travelling along Canning Highway with much noise and laughter. When inevitably we heard a police siren and were directed to pull over… that was a dangerous situation for people in South American at that time – they were very afraid and silent. After an explanation to the officer, he gave us a warning and moved us on…I felt pleased to live in a free society.

Billeting! In 1987 all members of the Welsh mens choir, Pendyrus, were billeted in private homes, including mine.  

One Sunday the choir was to meet in Fremantle for some R&R. We met at the Sail and Anchor in Fremantle – all the choir members were there. We were all sitting in a large room in the Hotel – we had it to ourselves. After a while, some conversation, a few drinks, and despite orders about no public singing, the choir began to sing…it was breathtaking, the voices lifted and filled every inch of the space. When the song ended there was an outburst of applause and joy from all the people who had melted silently into the room to listen. Magical!

Other joys included seeing and experiencing Tim Minchin for the first time, The Flying Pickets were fabulous and falling in love with the performances on the forecourt of the Concert Hall.

This year’s program is celebrating WA and has much to offer, so here are some performances that you might enjoy. My advice is to find a good balance between what you know and enjoy and some that will challenge you a bit!  

Bran Nue Dae
Set out on the road trip of a lifetime with a spunky teenager running away from school, two hippies, a wily Uncle and a German priest. By the time you shake the red dust from your feet, you’ll know what it means to come home.

Meow Meow’s Pandemonium 
‘Devilish funny bones and heavenly vocal chords.’ Evening Standard (UK) 

Cloud Street 
‘Everyone should have the chance to experience this Australian classic told and retold.’ The Age 

Black Ties
‘A sharp, funny version… masterfully – and mischievously – played.’ The Australian

‘Ravishingly beautiful and deeply unsettling all at once.’ The Australian 
‘Extraordinarily powerful … It sums up yesterday, today and perhaps tomorrow.’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘Unlike anything you have ever heard: genuinely ancient and timeless, while sizzling with sparse symphonic modernity.’ The Sydney Morning Herald 

‘Alternately playful and provocative, funny and frightening, Mám is a stirring, sensuous showcase of the emotional power of the physical form.’ 
Irish Times 

Tao of Glass 
‘Marvellously entertaining and deeply touching.’The Times (UK)

Chevron Light House – just see everything and anything 

Plus follow any interests you may have for classical music, ballet, opera etc and pick a couple of those.

Enjoy your Festival.


Word: Claire McGowan and Marie Finlay a.k.a Mum & Member 149

Imagery: Festival of Perth | Iain Grandage_Jessica Wyld, Bangarra Bennelong_Daniel Boud, Bunggul_Jacob Nashg, Tao of Glass_Tristram Kenton