Perpetual Stage: The Value of Pretend Play

I just binge-watched a TV show; rare for me, these days. I love TV but it’s so time-consuming. Your evenings and weekends just seep away in front of the screen.

But I felt I had to watch FX’s Legion, the show about a troubled young man who may be mentally ill and may have psychic powers. It’s a gorgeously shot and well acted eight-part show from Noah Hawley, who was also responsible for Fargo.

I saw people online complain about the show being too whimsical and indulgent; I’ve seen it called pretentious and precious.

I’m not convinced. Yes, a lot of goofy stuff happens in the series – but I found it easy to forgive, because it felt like the adult version of kids playing with action figures.


Did you do that as a kid? I couldn’t get enough of it. Transformers. Action Force. Manta Force, even. I played Star Wars, too – I didn’t even like Star Wars films much, but I loved the toys. When I went to hospital when I was about 10 years old, I found He-Man figures in the children’s ward. I’d never played He-Man before, but it didn’t stop me.

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Visions from Bundaberg

Last weekend I was the guest artist at “Dispatches from Bundy”, a writing workshop in the Queensland town of Bundaberg.

Working with staff from Creative Regions and Queensland University of Technology, our team took a group of local writers and storytellers through a two-day session aimed at engaging with stories from the past, exploring visions of the future, and nurturing regional literature.

One of our activities saw participants creating science fiction stories and postcards from future worlds. We stitched these stories into a timeline of future history stretching a thousand years hence.

Check out the result via YouTube, incorporating images by Peter Miller aka Scribbletronics and music from Disasteradio.

Marvellous, Electrical: Consider the Ravens

“Take only what you need…share what you have. The idea is not that radical. We teach sharing to our kids but it gets lost somewhere along the way.”

In this week’s Marvellous, Electrical, Brisbane activist Andy Paine tells of a life spent striving to live without money.

Consider the ravens over at Marvellous, Electrical.

Write Here: The Worst Song I Ever Loved

In Library Journal this month, Henrietta Verma discusses writers’ groups and gives a shout-out to The Worst Song I Ever Loved, a writing project I ran for the Parkes Shire Library in New South Wales.

Library Journal calls me an “Australian librarian”; I’m neither of those things, but will let them off as the project was devised for a creative residency in public libraries Down Under.


The Worst Song I Ever Loved was based on a university task created by Daniel Nester.

You can find out more about the project here at The Signal In Transition.

Brisbane Writers Festival

Brisbane Writers Festival Logo

I’m appearing twice at the Brisbane Writers Festival this September.

The program is out today in papers across the city and you can see it online at the website of organisers UPLIT.

On Saturday 10th September from 4-5pm, I’ll be at Queensland Art Gallery speaking on “The Rules of Engagement“, a panel with Kate Pullinger and Caroline Keins exploring the changing ways that artists, institutions, and communities interact.

Then on Sunday 11th September, I’ll help a panel of scientists and science-fiction writers to explore science, imagination, and identity. Join Dr Maggie Hardy, Prof Tamara Davis, Ellen van Neerven, and Dr Maree Kimberley for “Science and Belonging“, which I’ll be moderating from 11.30am-12.30pm at The Parlour in the State Library of Queensland.

Find out more at the UPLIT / Brisbane Writers Festival website.

Curious, Mysterious, Marvellous, Electrical: Move

The people who made me came to England from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and other places besides. My parents met in Spain, a country where I would work in my early twenties. From my first year of life, Germany and Spain were as important to our sense of family as the green fields of England.

I was born in London, that great world city, and I moved straight back there from the country when I turned eighteen. I was a student and a barista at the Soho YMCA. The people around me were from Finland, Austria, Colombia, Ireland, Brazil. I kept studying: my doctorate looked at refugees, exiles, and émigrés who came to Britain fleeing the Nazis, and from that I went on to work with asylum-seeking children.

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to travel and work overseas.  I’ve been made welcome in communities thousands of miles from where I was born, found new family, found new friends; I hope I’ve done that, in turn, for people who have come to live and work alongside me.

It wasn’t so much a choice as a vocation. Everything in my life has involved crossing seas, crossing borders. So much of who I am is founded on a sense that our lives and identities are about routes more than origins; time more than territory. That freedom of movement is vital.

This week’s Marvellous, Electrical finds hope and horror and secret identities in an ordinary-looking Queensland cafe.

The Library Ghost

During #BlogJune, workers in galleries, libraries, and museums Down Under commit to writing daily blog posts about their work.

One of my favourites is The Library Ghost, written by Kyla Stephan of Gold Coast Libraries in Queensland.

The blog, which has run intermittently for several years now, records the correspondence left at a librarian’s desk by the ghost which haunts her building.

Library Ghost Episode 1

We only ever see the ghost’s side of the conversation, but follow the progress of their relationship over the months and years, as the icy spirit – “I could not, in all honesty, be described as benign” – develops a certain affection for the mortal whom they haunt.

I love that Kyla invites us into a tender and wryly mannered fiction, invoking library magic to share the world of her imagination. Go check out the Library Ghost this #Blogjune.

Curious, Mysterious, Marvellous, Electrical: Night of the Ibis

This week’s Marvellous, Electrical explores the intersection of urban ecology and Brisbane burlesque.

Read ‘Night of the Ibis’ here.

Marvellous, Electrical: In The Doll Hospital

I was expecting hokey gothic from my trip to Brisbane’s Doll Hospital.

Instead I got stories from the Greek Cypriot migration, and some thoughts on how Australian attitudes have changed.

Australian migration posters from the mid 20th century and early 21st century

Read more in this week’s Marvellous, Electrical.