Monday, October 2, 2017


It's well time to shine the rainbow spotlight onto the incoming SSO CEO Emma Dunch. Her guidance and honesty and gold dust words in the Marriage Equality debate reveal a confidence and air of a leader whose values are as deep as they are precious.

And there's a sparkling brightness and energy of purpose and joy in the future leaping out which betrays, admittedly to my prejudiced eyes and ears, an Australianness, dare I say even a Sydneyness.


                                                    (emma dunch, right, and elizabeth scott)

In a welcome about-turn, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Board has changed its mind on the pseudo neutral position it had taken in the current Marriage Equality debate. You may recall it supported the right of people to register their 'vote', but in deference to the mix of its stakeholders, found itself unable to take a stand one way or the other. To repeat myself, abstention is the failure to support the Yes, which is default support of the No.

The initial stance was met with outrage, ridicule, disbelief, and withdrawal of box-office support and patronage. It stays a wound which will heal and the extent of the scar is very much in their hands. My personal feelings are of overwhelming relief. I was ashamed and had taken steps to completely withdraw any formal association with the Orchestra to become an incidentalist.

And on the wave of public contempt, a tsunami even, the musicians themselves have made clear their own public support. It has been suggested the musicians were dissociated from the collective thinking by their recent trip to China, itself named as a possible constituent of those not to be disquieted.

But more significantly, for me at least, is the heartfelt and very moving statement by the incoming CEO, Emma Dunch. While her private life had been very much kept under the radar in the announcement and welcoming of her appointment, her beauty of thought and leadership on this issue augers well. We received this news, and these statements, via texts. Reading them out to K, I couldn't make it through Emma Dunch's in one read. Tearing up is one thing. Tearing up in Cross Street Double Bay quite another.

From the Board ~

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra initially decided that it should remain neutral on this question (marriage equality), taking the view that as a matter of principle it would not take a position that might be seen to commit its wide range of stakeholders to one side or the other. 

In doing so, the Board now acknowledges that it misjudged to need for such an organisation - with its long commitment to inclusiveness, equality and fairness - publicly to proclaim its support for the yes vote which plainly advances each of these ideals.

This decision has the overwhelming support of the SSO's musicians and staff.

From the musicians ~

The musicians of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra wish to unequivocally declare that we strongly support Marriage Equality.

We are proud of our history as a rich and diverse arts organisation performing every week to thousands of people who share our passion for the arts.

We believe in an inclusive and fair society fir all.

From the incoming CEO, Emma Dunch ~

As the incoming Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra next January and an out, gay leader, I am proud to express my personal and professional commitment to advancing equality and inclusion for the LGBTQIA community, and to affirm my unflinching support for marriage equality. I believe that same-sex marriage is inevitable in Australia, and that this outcome is right and just.

Over the weekend, I have joined the SSO's musicians, staff and Board members in discussions that have helped clarify the organisation's position of support of marriage equality in Australia. I deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness that has been brought to bear throughout a respectful and nuanced dialogue. I know that there are very diverse views across Australia on this issue, and I respect the Board's commitment to encouraging every Australian to develop his or her own opinion, and to vote.

For me, personally, this is about more than my own identity. I believe that our society and our institutions are made stronger and more vibrant by the diversity of the individuals who people them. And I believe that denying those of us in same-sex relationships the civil rights accorded the married is the antithesis of the Aussie "fair-go" and perpetrates profound inequality. I hope that my home country will soon be one that validates my committed relationship of seventeen years.

Artists and their art have long played an important role in challenging accepted norms. I am committed to leading a Sydney Symphony Orchestra that champions its exceptional musicians, serves Sydneysiders in new ways, and provides value to our city beyond traditional concert-givng. I hope that you will join me and my colleagues on that journey, confident that the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will continue to welcome and support our LGBTQIA community and be an organisation that fosters respectful and meaningful dialogue around complex issues.

After nearly two decades in New York city, I will be returning to Sydney with my life partner Elizabeth  Scott (above left). We have been gratified by the terrifically warm welcome we have received from the SSO's Board, staff, and musicians. We look forward to making new friends when we arrive next year and to proudly counting ourselves among the many Australians who support a fair and inclusive society for all.

#VoteYes #LoveisLove

Saturday, September 30, 2017


More on the SSO's inability to commit to Marriage Equality aka Same Sex Marriage aka Should Marriage be a Right available to all Citizens.

Despite its effusive self praise, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as I noted has withheld public support for Marriage Equality in Australia which the vast majority of other arts institutions have endorsed - the MSO, TSO, WASO, ACO, Brandenebrg, Orch Victoria, STC, MTC, Malthouse, Belvoir, Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, Syd Phil Choir, Musica Viva, Bangarra Dance ...  ASO and QSO have not made statements.

The orchestra's Current Sponsors make for interesting reading.

One sponsors presumably because of a belief in the product and as a marketing tool - the consumer supports the sponsor who supports the product. Then, there's the reverse.


Australian Government
NSW Government

Credit Suisse


One Circular Quay
Sydney Airport

Official Car Partner

Technological Partner

Allens Linklaters
Symphony Services International
Theme Variations

Austria Arrive And Revive
The Committee for Sydney
Wilson Parking

Media Partners
ABC Classic FM
Fine Music FM

Vanguard Partner
Young Henry's

Regional Tour Partner
Rex Regional Express

Thursday, September 28, 2017


I first heard the Sydney Symphony Orchestra live in 1965 in the Great Hall of Sydney University in Orientation Week. They were playing the New World. And it was a new world with which I was suddenly in love.

I have three loves now - Kim, Sydney and Music.

Now, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors has resolved, apparently unanimously, whatever that might mean, that:

"There is no question that the SSO strongly supports the rights of all citizens to place on the record their views, by way of private and confidential postal plebiscite and as such, the company does not feel it has the right to take a position and commit our stakeholders to be on one side or the other and had decided to remain neutral."

Weasel words. I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies - they at least support the right to vote, but even that seems a stretch for them, in that they have to say so.

Never one to mince words, Leo Schofield says it like it is, calling them cowards. Which They Are. Cowering in the face of whatever it is they fear - loss of patrons I suppose. Well, they just lost this one. And fear is what it is; fear of what exactly in their case, other than dollars, is another matter.

Leo continues

"In defying the palpable solidarity of the arts community and its manifold supporters, the craven directors of the SSO have, by this decision, aligned themselves with the antediluvian Catholic Archbishops of Sydney and Brisbane, the ginned-up contributors to the skewed letter pages of the Australian, the smoke-screening non-entities of the Christian right and those parliamentarians too cowardly to put the issue to a vote on the floor of the house."

"But despite the current frenzy of piety, hypocrisy, prejudice and hatred, whether by a victory in this farcical process or by the sheer force of history, Australia will, and sooner rather than later, bow to the irresistible force of time and join the twenty-two other enlightened countries that have legislated for same sex marriage"

"The reason the board, supposedly unanimously, has opted for this course is that they don't want to politicise music. Utter drivel. Music, even in the pursuit of change, has always been political."

There is no abstention. There is only Yes and No. Abstention is a default No.

If I hadn't just renewed my sub, I would now not. Whatever concerts I might be interested in in next year's uninspired programming, I'd be more than happy to take a chance on. That's how I feel. Music for me is all but completely an emotional experience. And so is my politics.

As I said to them today - 'I am deeply saddened by the failure of the SSO board to have the courage and decency and respect for all persons to publicly support the Marriage Equality issue. There is no way that I (and I suspect others) can divorce that from how I feel about the organisation. I am absolutely in shock. Even a change of mind on their part I would now see as a capitulation to public ridicule, rather than a reflection of their mind set. This will take a long time to come to terms with.'

Friday, March 10, 2017


(dogs with federation pavilion)

"We demolish your houses, destroy your avenues, build hotels on your parks and zoos, flog your institutions, lock your bars, empty your streets of life, fill your burbs with motorways."

Elizabeth Farrelly's piece in the SMH today touched a nerve. Read it. She's genuine and heartfelt, and not bunging it on. I'm not saying she ever did, but there's something there, some end-point, that feeling that enough is enough and 'the point' is close if not reached. You really don't know you are at those moments till you are there, till something goes snap. SNAP.

I had a less than pleasant experience last week in Centennial Park. A bit of a snap experience. The park has been the subject of some criticism for its increasing privatisation of various parts, for varying periods of time, some regular (out door movies), some recurring (fun runs), some one offs, two offs, who knows what's next (film shoots). Plus film festivals, food fairs, garden shows, you name it, they've probably thought of it. Even camping or glamping is mooted. I bet the wildlife can't wait.

There's one area of the park which is especially dog friendly. It's the valley - Federation Valley -where the Federation Pavilion sits, a large sandstone edifice which all but totally overwhelms the sandstone plinth commemorating the union of the states therein. In years I don't think I've seen anyone inside (it's mostly gated and somewhat forbidding) looking at this memorial, which once sat in a bit of a rough paddock, surrounded by a steel picket fence, open to the elements.  But it did ask the question - who am I?

If you look at a map of the parklands, you can see why this doggy area is just that - a hugely popular doggy area.

(map 1 - overview)

Below is the detail of top-right of map 1, and shows the Federation Valley below the Moonlight Cinema area and surrounded by all the parking hullabaloo that goes with it  :

(map 2 - detail)

Now, dogs aren't allowed off-leash within what's called Grand Drive (the white circle in the top map) and for reasons of access (foot or car), topography (level and grassed, suitable for all ages, with good wide visibility), animal safety (a good distance from roads) and free of competing interests, this Federation Valley is essentially the only decent place for dogs and their owners to (both) socialise safely. It wasn't always to be. Park management went through a phase of wanting to ban dogs in the Valley, as hard as that is to believe. A public outcry, Rally for the Valley, eventually saw the public emerge the winner. 

But you wonder if there is still is some smouldering resentment. There's no poo-bag dispensers except for one, not infrequently empty, a steep climb was up yonder beyond the sandstone ridge (see map 2). Bins are scarce and roadside, for ease of emptying, not for ease or safety in disposing. 

And (slowly getting to the point) the Valley has been recently taken over for a film shoot (Peter Rabbit). For months, maybe 3 or 4 months if memory serves me well. The closed off area (it even had no photos notices splattered around at first) occupies the whole of the Valley but falls short of the Monument, effectively forcing dog users elsewhere, or around the Monument, and therefore much closer to the main road, cars, and bicycles. 

Note the "Centennial Parklands is proud to support the Australian film industry". They're not doing it for free - that's the whole point - and the subtext is a pretty strong:  if you have any problem with this, then you're not supporting the industry.

Anyway (very slowly getting to the point). recently there have been signs advising that there may be loud explosions from the set. Like loud explosions that could scare dogs, off leash dogs. Indeed they could. 

We arrived the other evening, and getting out of the car, with the dogs of course, were met by a pleasant woman from the shoot, warning that explosions were imminent. Thank you I said, quite calmly actually. It wasn't till I got down to the Valley and saw the dogs on the roadside side of the monument, with a ranger driving through them in a ute, that the prospect of a loud BANG and scattered dogs became quite real. I was worried for the puppy. Before I could gather myself, let alone the dogs, the ranger had arrived in the ute. 

"Are those lovely kelpies yours?"
"Yes, they are."
"Well, there ..."
"I know, the lady up the hill told me. And can I say I am really pissed off about it."

(Verbatim, continues)

"Dog owners are usually nice people. What happened to you?"

And off she sped, across the dog off-leash area, waiting-for-loud-explosion-to-panic-the-dogs area, leaving me wide mouthed.

SNAP. It was a snap moment. I was playing the ball. She had played the man. I phoned the Park management. He was polite and indulged me. But, as I unleashed about having used the park almost daily since the man walked on the man (when I had first moved into the immediate area - yes I was a University student, and now I'm old), and about my father born 1902 who had played in the quicksand, probably the swampy lands in the centre, and how I felt strongly about the park being a people's park, he eventually got a word in edgeways, and pointed out that no I wasn't paying anyones wages, that as a tax and rate payer I wasn't contributing to the Park, and that the Park actually got no funding from Government, none. From a Government not exactly short of a quid. He seemed rather proud of the fact. 

I was left to say : "So it isn't my Park. In fact I am a guest in your Park". To which he did not disagree. 

SNAP. My attachment was severed. I felt disenfranchised. I felt I knew something of what it was like to be disenfranchised. I felt I glimpsed some understanding of how people who are disenfranchised took action - at the ballot box, on the street. And moreover, the more I thought about it the clearer it became that apart from the dog issue, which will revert shortly to the status quo, at least until the next 'Proud to support the Film Industry' episode, there is simply nowhere in Centennial Park where there is guaranteed peace and solitude. Not like the great parks of the world - Regent's Park, the Vondelpark, the Tiergarten, even the heavily used Central Park in New York. 

I'm with you Elizabeth Farrelly. 

By the way, the inscription on the Federation Monument reads:

                                     MAMMON OR MILLENIAL EDEN