Each year Cheltenham Festival has a country focus and for 2015 it is Australia. We asked Christos about his role in curating the Aussie part of the programme as well as identity, myth and the future of what he calls the ‘Australian Project’
Australia is a country focus at Cheltenham Festival this year and you’ve been picked as guest director. What was your aim when curating the Australian part of the programme?
The festival had already invited guests so what I chose to do was frame the question of Australian identity and Australian culture in a particular way, wanting to ask: why is it that our sense of Australia is so extreme, either “God’s Earth” or “Arse-hole at the end of the world”? I think both responses are evasions and somewhat childish.
So in giving the festival this gentle push towards looking at this question, I hope that we as writers and attendees can use it as a springboard to ask further questions. One more I would like to pose I would be: is Australia’s apparent immaturity both a curse but also an indication of great potential?
You’ve been quoted saying “In many ways, Australia strikes me as a work in progress”. In what areas in particular do you think this is true?
Clearly there are great wounds in our national and historic psyche that have yet to be healed. First and foremost there is the history of Aboriginal dispossession, our failure to recognise how fundamentally our country is an Aboriginal country (which does not mean we who are from settler histories can’t be part of that). Second, I believe, is the violent history of convict transportation that so marks our character and our passive-aggressive relationship to the UK. And thirdly is the blight of the White Australia Policy.
All these enormous historic wounds are, of course, great burdens. But I think the potential comes from our still trying to understand and reconcile ourselves to these histories.
This is where I see multiculturalism as the great circuit-breaker to all these things; that the fact that we now all come from all over the world, that for most of us we don’t owe or comprehend allegiances to the UK, means that we are beginning to ask new questions and we are beginning to create new cultural forms. It is in this sense I see us as a “work in progress”, that we are still working out what nationhood might be.
You’ve mentioned ‘myths’ as a big part of the Australian identity. How much do you think the ‘bush, beach, beer’ identity is something fostered within Australia and does it ring true anymore?
Our relationship to the “bush” has been fraught because I think existentially, non-Indigenous Australians recognise it as distinctly Aboriginal. That’s why our literature, our films, our paintings are filled with terror of the interior: Wake in Fright or Wolf Creek.
Alcohol has been one way of Australia dealing with the paradoxes of our colonial founding; we drink to go “blind”, to forget. And we congregate at the edges of the country, on the water, not quite knowing where we belong. So you get the “white” myth of “bush, beer and beach”.
But with the seismic shift of multiculturalism, the increasing confidence and vigour of Aboriginal art, the lessening of that crippling passive-aggression within Anglo and/or Celtic communities we used to call the “cultural cringe”, then that myth is eroding. I think that’s a good thing. I love the bush but the ocean is home.
Do you think Australians particularly are often concerned with how the world views them? How much do you feel myths form a part of how we see ourselves?
I think that maybe Europe and Asia will always signify the “Old World” for Australians, as it does for American, Argentinians, Canadians and New Zealanders. I often envy the confidence I see in European identity, whether it be English, Scottish, French or Polish, or in Asian identity, be it Indian, Chinese or Thai.
It is hard not to think of oneself as “adolescent” when travelling in Europe or Asia. Certainly, travel, if only from the physical assault of jet-lag, makes one aware of how true the tyranny of distance is. We are also an island, prey to parochialism and to “island-fever”. Maybe all of this lends itself to self-doubt, to wanting to shout to let the world know we are there.
You have mentioned that Australia has “much unfinished business”. What issue would you like to see addressed foremost?
That we make our Aboriginal First Nations constitutionally and territorially integral to Australia. That we become a republic.
Your book ‘The Slap’ has been cited as being a “defining moment” in literature. You’re not afraid of touching on controversial topics. Will readers find ‘Merciless Gods’ shocking?
I have often said in the past five years that we are treating readers like children. Maybe culture journalists and critics have become like helicopter-parents, have fallen for the Calvinist ideology of the nanny-state.
I assume some readers might find parts of Merciless Gods shocking. Being shocked, awoken to the world, is part of what made me fall in love with art.
What do you think about the political turmoil in recent years in Australia says about their national character?
I think that the shifts in Australian politics over the last seven years reflects exactly what I have just spoken to, how we are still struggling to reconcile our different histories.
What kind of nation are we? I don’t think the Liberals or the ALP know how to answer that question. It is difficult, it is huge and complex, but both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott thought they could ignore the enormity of the future and settle for the lowest-denominator goals. It was excruciating being Australian over the last seven years, just how small-minded we had become, and how ignoble.
What would you like to see for the future of the ‘Australian project’?
More immigration and the building of the great infrastructure we need: rapid trains, new state schools and hospitals, metros etc. We have been asleep for too long.
CHRISTOS TSIOLKAS is author of ‘Merciless Gods’ published by Atlantic Books, out now.
He will be at Cheltenham Festival, Friday 9 Oct 2015 8:00pm – 9:00pm. Tickets can be booked here
IMAGES: Christos Tsiolkas (By Zoe Ali)]]>
This is how it worked. The Uni got 51 students together and gave half the group a brief passage that emphasized the importance of focusing of the full experience of dishwashing – the scent of the detergent, the feel of the suds, the shape of the dishes, etc. The other half was given nothing.
Each participant then washed 18 plates before answering a questionnaire to evaluate their state of mind and their level of well-being.
Those who were mindful in their dishwashing were found to show positive effects such as inspiration, decreases in nervousness and over-estimations of dishwashing time.
Nervousness ratings decreased by 27 percent in the mindful dishwashers, while mental inspiration increased by 25 percent.
This research isn’t completely new, though, research has previously shown that chores can be a good way to wind down. So, the next time you’re feeling a little be irked, get your hands into some soapy water.]]>
Watch this man’s desperate (and honestly, pathetic) bid to save the body of his precious vehicle. Seriously mate, it’s just not going to work.]]>
This was as good a match as Australia have played in a Rugby World Cup since their semi final win against the All Blacks in 2003.
It would be easy to lay into England for their display but their problems were brought on by a phenomenal performance by Australia. Michael Cheika has managed to perform miracles in 12 months, especially after the controversial end to Ewen McKenzie`s tenure, let alone the struggles of Robbie Dean`s reign.
Cheika has quite quietly gone about his business by concentrating on the well-worn subject of the scrum by bringing Mario Ledesma onboard, and what an investment that has been. The confrontation up front was always going to be a contentious area and Ben Morgan, Australia`s destroyer in the autumn, will be eating some humble pie by making the cardinal error of stating that the Wallabies would be scared of England`s front five.
Very rarely does mouthing off against your opponents work in any sport. Too many times it comes back to bite you on the behind and I was surprised to see England fire shots at Australia, having suffered such a disastrous defeat to the Welsh last weekend. Surely Lancaster should have insisted that his team put up and shut up and do your talking on the pitch. Ben Youngs and Danny Cipriani did not help the PR exercise either later on in the week.
The talk before the game was how tight this game was going to be and how England could deal with the almost unbearable pressure bestowed upon them with so much on the line. A positive start with solid meters gained in the opening salvos seemed to suggest that England were going to use the grandeur of the occasion to their benefit. Enter, Bernard Foley, a thus far not well known stand-off floating around in the World Cup. What a match this young man had. Watching him pull the strings expertly throughout the game was like watching Michael Lynagh in his pomp, such was his maturity.
In truth, it would be difficult to pick out individuals, save for one – David Pocock. It is well documented what an impressive bloke this guy is. Having been banished from his homeland in Zimbabwe due to Mugabe`s henchmen, he is at the forefront of social issues which are so often brushed under the carpet. From handcuffing himself to coal machinery to defending homosexual rites, he also doubles up as one of the best backrowers of the modern era. No mean feat with two knee reconstructions behind him and endless hours of painstaking rehabilitation. I remember writing about his virtuoso performance in the quarter finals against the Springboks in 2011. This one was even more significant given the enormity of the match and the fine lines of the ever evolving modern day turnover battle.
So what of English rugby and more significantly the futures of Chris Robshaw, Stuart Lancaster? As a proud pom it hurts, to say the least, to see England dumped so humiliatingly out of our home World Cup.
It could be argued the writing was on the wall when Lancaster picked a squad lacking in genuine game breakers. Not selecting England`s two best players in Danny Cipriani and Nick Easter, after both played blinders in the warm up defeat to France, was a sign of things to come. Also jettisoned were Messrs Eastmond, Burrell and the exciting Elliot Daly, all of whom are capable of producing magic out of nothing.
Having a team of grafters can win you many games but to win a World Cup you need x-factor players at crucial times. Seeing England`s bench for the last two games saddened me, and I daresay all England fans, over Lancaster`s criminally conservative approach. Not having Danny Care, the ridiculously underused Henry Slade and Jamie George stank of blurred management thinking, which is still hard to fathom.
Of course, the selection of Sam Burgess will rankle with many, but I see the arguments from both sides. Such was the significance or confusion of his place among the match day 22, one feels that all members of the squad, including the initial 50 players going into camp beforehand, may not have been too happy. The centres were the most contentious position in the World Cup for England, Jonathan Joseph an honorable exception.
England looked pedestrian and lacking in direction in this World Cup. One cannot fault their commitment but in comparison to the Wallabies, it was men against boys. Sadly, if I were to put heads, on the line of which there will be a few, it would be Robshaw first over Lancaster. Robshaw is as an honest toiler but he is not an international class number 7. He looked horribly exposed against Warburton and Hooper and therefore England must look for a specialist openside if they are to compete for the 2019 World Cup.
English rugby needs to take a look at how the national cricket team changed direction earlier this summer against the New Zealanders as a potential footprint to follow. They should be bold in selection, investing in youth and spark of which there is a refreshingly good spread in the England premiership (and certain players involved in the Top 14, but that is for another time). There may be a few losses along the way but England are in danger of being left behind the super powers if they do not make some serious changes.
This then leaves the question of Stuart Lancaster. He is a good man and has done positive things for English rugby since taking the reigns in 2011. That said, there is no other way of looking at this exit other than a complete disaster for English rugby and there are no excuses. The buck stops with Lancaster and unfortunately that means finding someone who can ignite the men in white again.
Australia are in rude health and they will approach the knock out stages massively confident of going all the way. They will be battle hardened from this group of death and they will be safe in the knowledge that their nearest rivals have been coughing and spluttering their way through the group stages.
The Wallabies seem to have the right blend of experience, youth and talent to be able to raise their game through the finals. Hooper, Folau and Pocock remain pivotal to their hopes but they crucially have strength in depth, which not many of their rivals have.
One cannot underestimate what a hugely significant win this was for Cheika and his squad. Australian rugby is on the move again and few would bet against them toppling the All Blacks on this form, if we are to assume that they meet in the final.
What we all hope for is that the terrific atmosphere generated so far during this tournament does not peter out with the exit of England. We need the crowds to keep coming, as there is so much superb rugby to look forward to.]]>
The Aussie singer was on her way to the Caloundra Music Festival on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast over the long-weekend when she was allegedly shown the door at the Qantas members’ area of an Australian airport.
Among clothing forbidden in the dress code of the domestic Qantas member’s lounge are gym wear, Ugg boots, bare feet and thongs.
Ceberano says she was wearing open feet sandals. A technicality?
“Disappointed to be evicted from the Qantas Lounge after being a member since 1990 for wearing ‘inappropriate footwear’? hahaha (new rules),” she posted her Facebook page.
It’s been a bad weekend for Kate. On Saturday she was the talk of an otherwise mundane AFL Grand Final when she fluffed the words to the national anthem. In the pre-match ceremony, she sang “In history’s stage, let every stage, Advance Australia Fair” instead of “In history’s page, let every stage, Advance Australia Fair.”]]>
The 17-year-old Australia broke down in tears following the routine, part of the ‘Most Memorable Year’ themed week of the programme.
Bindi and dance partner Derek Hough scored 28 out of a possible 30 for their contemporary interpretation set to the classic song “Every Breath You Take”, dedicated to the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, who was killed by a stingray in 2006.
An emotional Bindi said she still feels like her dad “is going to come home” as her brother Robert and mother Terri, who were in the audience, also wiped their tears.
When asked what the dance meant to her, the barely consolable Bindi Irwin replied: “The dance is for my dad and for my family, for everyone back at home, but for my dad… this is for him.”]]>
The matches will be shown on a huge 80-inch screen, and you’ll get a pre-match brewery tour and tasting, a BBQ burger, and two free pints. Or wine or soft drink, if that’s your wont. They’re nice like that, given they’re a brewery.
While England fans may have lost their taste for the tournament recently, that’s no reason to lose a taste for beer, and the Wimbledon troops have a variety of bevvies to wet the palate, from a summery Common Pale Ale to the more hefty Quartermaine IPA.
As for the southern hemisphere fans, there’s still plenty to look forward to as the knock out rounds draw near. Have the Springboks done enough after that shock defeat? Will the Wallabies and All Blacks remain triumphant?
Book your tickets now by mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 0203 674 9786. Check out the brewery website here for more details on their products.]]>
And why not, when for the first two weeks of the league, there has not been a cloud in the sky, but a light breeze to cool players down. Who wouldn’t want to be involved?
The teams that have signed up this autumn feature many established faces. The likes of Hot Custard, Galaxy, and CSSC (who wouldn’t mind us naming them in this group of clubs) have been playing every year, no matter what time of year it is. They just enjoy the competition… and social pint in the pub at the end of the day.
What is heart warming to see is the teams and individuals who, having played all summer, venturing out of the comfort of their local O2Touch league and join in here, making a mate or two on the way through the Sunday League.
The league began on the 20th of September, with all the teams putting in the effort to get out of bed after a late Saturday night to push towards the finals that will be played at the end of the eight weeks.
There are 24 teams playing in this year’s autumn league. While the league is now full, do not be put off as there are leagues starting up all the time.
Otherwise, if you are unsure if touch is for you and want to give it a try, there are free O2Touch training/taster session taking place every Sunday in Clapham Common, Regents Park, and Richmond.
Make sure you have a look online at www.in2touch.com to see when and where the leagues and training will begin. While you are there, take a look at some of the action photos and see what you are missing out on.]]>
As many as 10 people were killed (revised down from an earlier report of 13) and 20 wounded when a man said to be in his 20s went on a shooting spree at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon on Thursday. The shooter was reportedly shot dead by police.
A sullen and desperate President Obama took to the White House podium in the hours following the incident to plea with his nation to act on gun control, sighting Australia as an example.
“Somehow this has become routine,” Obama said.
“The reporting is routine, my response here at this podium ends up being routine.
“The conversation in the aftermath of it; we’ve become numb to this.
“We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg; after Tucson, after Newtown; after Aurora, after Charleston.””
He noted that the US was the only advanced nation where these types of mass shootings are a regular occurrence and that stricter gun ownership laws, like those in countries most closely aligned to the US, are required.
“We know that other countries in response to one mass shooting have managed to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings – friends of ours, allies of ours, Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.
“So we know there are ways to prevent it.”
He bitterly rebuked the position of America’s pro-gun lobbyists, such as those from the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), that broader gun ownership would allow citizens to better protect themselves in the face of mass-shootings. States with the toughest gun laws tend to have fewer gun deaths, he noted.
“There is a gun for roughly every man woman and child in America, so how can you with a straight face make the argument that more guns will make us safer”, he said
Obama also highlighted Australia’s gun laws as an example of a successful approach to reducing gun violence, in a candid interview with WTF podcaster Marc Maron in June.
Try Tag Rugby pride themselves on being a welcoming, inclusive and friendly environment for players and individual sign up tournaments such as this one help stop cliques forming as well as helps to create new friendships which in turn make the regular weekly leagues more social and enjoyable.
Teams that were represented at this year’s International Cup tournament were:
Mixed: Asia, Australia (3 teams), Barbarians, England (5 teams), France, Ireland (5 teams), New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, USA, Wales & West Indies
Men’s: Celts (Ireland/Scotland/Wales), France (2 teams) & Germany
With Australia fielding three teams in the 22 strong field in the mixed division, one Aussie team finished up in the Cup division (teams placed 1st to 6th), one in the Plate division (teams placed 7th to 14th) and one in the Bowl division (teams placed 15th to 22nd).
The Australia Diamonds finished in 4th position, Australia Kangaroos in 14th position and Australia Wallabies in 21st position. All Australian teams fared well in their respective divisions but were unable secure any silverware this year.
Australia Diamonds: Andrew Davis, Stephen Dawson, Isaac Guillen, Matthew Lowe, Dom Paton, Stephen Wirth (c), Megan Callinan, Aoife Coakley, Debbie Howitt, Michelle Howley, Janie Murray
Australia Kangaroos: Anthony Crewdson, Alex Gardner, Aaron Peardon, James Pearman, Grant Maskell (c), Adric Mason, Sophia Barry, Michelle Franco, Lani Henry, Katie Mackillop, Aly Moffat
Australia Wallabies: Michael Dieu, Darren Jeung, Steve King, Ming Lai (c), Andrew Nguyen, Shawn Salerman, Emma Butler, Richelle Glynn, Brenna Huth, Emily Irish, Veronica Pham
The teams that walked away with silverware in 2015 were:
Men’s - Germany
Cup Division – England Red
Plate Division - England White
Bowl Division – Wales
Following the International Cup tournament, all the taggers enjoyed the prize giving presentation and then got comfortable to watch the England vs Wales Rugby World Cup match on the big screen in the Wasps Rugby club’s onsite bar. It was a great atmosphere to enjoy the game with plenty of emotion shown from the English and Welsh supporters.
Are you unsure or curious about tag rugby? Want to try it before committing to a league? Then why not come along to one of our taster sessions and give it a try.
The sessions are free and although we are sure you will love it, there is no obligation to sign up for a league if you decide it’s not for you. The fun and friendly sessions are a perfect chance for adult players (male & female) who have never played tag rugby before to have a go and see what it’s like. Players of all sporting abilities and rugby experience levels (rugby league, rugby union, touch rugby etc…) including complete rugby novices are welcome.
Tag rugby is a great way to improve your fitness but there is no need to be super fit to start playing. The taster sessions are a gentle introduction to the game and suitable for all levels of fitness.
The next upcoming free taster sessions scheduled to run are:
Acton – Wednesday, 14th October from 7.30pm
Finsbury Park – Saturday, 17th October from 11am
Reading – Monday, 19th October from 7.30pm
Balham - Saturday, 31st October from 11am
Olympic Park – Tuesday, 10th November from 8pm
For details and to register for a free Tag Rugby Taster Session, click here:
If you’re an Aussie new to the UK, if you get involved you will make a heap of new friends, keep fit and have plenty of fun! We hope to welcome you to a tag rugby pitch soon.
If you would like to get involved in a Try Tag Rugby league or event, go to www.trytagrugby.com or email email@example.com for more details.
TOP IMAGE: Australia Wallabies team at the Try Tag Rugby International Cup tournament. (Sally Mills)