Centenary of Canberra preview

Centenary of Canberra preview

Posted 12 March 2012 10:45am

I too wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we meet on this morning, and the many first peoples who have gathered here. I pay my respects to their elders past and present, and their continuing culture will be recognised and showcased in the Centenary of Canberra program in 2013.

On this holiday weekend, one year from now, on the eve of Canberra’s 100th birthday, we will gather again along the Griffin axis. Huge WORDS will have broken out around the lake–Canberra…in so many words–built by citizens young and old, and visitors alike. Words like WELCOME, in huge letters, built by families and friends on the slopes of Regatta Point, while live music plays from a stage nearby-Canberra bands young and old.

The word HOME appears in scores of different languages at Rond Terrace while marching brass bands, local and regional, entertain the builders who are drawn from the linguistically and culturally diverse communities of Canberra. Along Anzac Parade a word such as MEMORY appears , and at Aspen Island a word like LAND, accompanied by a program of folk, blues and roots music evolves.

In all, five different music stages, all with large screens so everyone sees everything, and on the lake watercraft bear musicians, visual treats and other entertainments: you are very close to what is happening, immersed in an experience you are helping to make happen, not sitting around and waiting for it to happen. Such has been the nature of Canberra since its inception; from the moment it was a glimmer in the eye; not passive, not borrowed, but active, original, bold, creative, full of life and imagination.

On this side of the lake words like ART, JUSTICE, LEARNING, SCIENCE, DEMOCRACY, hover around our great national institutions, and as the builders on the CIVIC side make their way across, perhaps following a crazy marching band whose instruments have been built from scrap, they see the words they have created. We are together creating iconic images for Canberra’s future.

At lake’s edge, from beneath the Library to the Gallery, we find the Longest Bubbly Bars in the World where we attempt to feed and water 800 people every half hour, in military precision, with a sip of local bubbles and tapas made of local produce. You’ll get a taste today as we pop the bubbly for the first time on Canberra’s 99th.

The cultural institutions will all be open throughout that weekend, linked on the Friday and Saturday nights by Enlighten; in the Gallery of Australian Design an exhibition CAPITheticAL finalists, at the National Library and the National Archives exhibitions about the Griffins (including the rare chance to see Marion Mahony Griffin’s fragile and beautiful renderings), at the National Museum of Australia an exhibition all about 1913-what life in Australia was like then–young , optimistic , hopeful. There will be Indigenous music and dance on Reconciliation Place. A display of local produce to be tasted (reminding us this is still a rich food-producing area), and the stage just down from the Museum of Australian Democracy will host local choirs, and works written for and about Canberra (think The Keating Tangos, The Canberra Cantata).

And the whole weekend will peak on this stage (but viewed on all screens) with the world premiere of composer Andrew Schultz’s Opus 91: Century, commissioned by the Centenary and played by the CSO with the Centenary Choir under the baton of Nicholas Milton. Yes, on the big finish (Andrew assures me there will be one], fireworks, not trying to emulate Sydney or Skyfire, but instead saluting the Griffins, bringing our celebration back to the meanings and symbolism of this centenary as we do in so many facets of the year-round program. Even the March special for kids, We Built this City nurtures budding Marions and Walters as they construct a huge city of cardboard, then trash it at the end of the week for recycling.

The birthday itself, Tuesday 12th March 2013, is a working day, on which we will conduct a modest formal ceremony at the Foundation stone (up there); but we will ask the whole of Canberra to raise a toast at work, school, in clubs, shopping centres or at home on the dot of 12 midday. We also have the awarding of The Canberra Gold, Citizen of the Year, the Canberra Oration and the announcement of the ultimate winners of the CAPIThetiCAL who will take home $100,000 in prizes.

The brochure you’ll receive today, leafed in the Canberra Times Wednesday, has some simple aims–to let you know that this is not a festival, but a year-round program, framed by the flow of Canberra’s 4 beautiful seasons and its natural cultural calendar. And I mean culture in the broadest possible sense: this program is about ideas, debate, science, architecture, education, the arts, all that this civil society is and always has been, and an invitation for comprehensive participation across the widest possible demographics of this city and this nation.

It embraces local festivals, especially those which have worked hard to create a Centenary fit, like the Canberra International Music Festival which celebrates the Griffin plan, the Canberra International Film Festival, with one big new idea setting it apart from all other film festivals, the Street Theatre’s Made in Canberra series, which supports local artists to make new works, and its new Capital Jazz program, and we have already invested in new festivals – like YOU ARE HERE, the festival of independent artists happening right now ( congratulations guys – great vibe in town), and participatory events for next year, such as Kick Up Your Heels which will celebrate 100 years of social dancing in the region.

One dance per decade, the right clobber and the right music, once a month–beginning perhaps in the Yarralumla woolshed, travelling to Goulburn to help them celebrate their 150th, populating the Albert Hall from March with the 20s to the 50s and then heading out to Queanbeyan around September to celebrate their 175th–how about a B&S Ball at the showgrounds?

But the Centenary of Canberra celebration is in itself a year-round program which sets out to bust forever the silly myth, that somehow nothing happens in the capital apart from politics (which for me would be enough but for others is often a subject of unjustified cynicism about this terrific town). We will establish once and for all that Canberra is a vital, creative 21st century city most apt to be our national capital.

If people think Canberra is this (flat back of hands gesture) – flat, boring, peopled only by some inhuman version of public servants who have no other life – then this program sets out to bust that myth. This is what Canberra is really like. [Flip the hands and wiggle the fingers gesture]

In 2013 we re-view, re-imagine, and re-mix what this place is and always has been. We expose the real cultural calendar for the first time and while folk may say at the end, “My God, you did all that in one year in Canberra?” We can say yes it was a special year, but in fact the city is pretty much like this every year. And we wouldn't achieve that realisation if all we did was one big boastful flash in the pan event – here today, gone tomorrow.

The special bits we announce today include the 40th anniversary of the moment when Gough ‘flicked the switch’ at the Deep Space Tracking Station at Tidbinbilla – all part of a celebration of science and innovation here in Canberra – the 25th anniversary of Questacon, the growing list of Nobel prize winners, the phenomenal work being done at the John Curtin Medical Research Centre and at NICTA.

The list of sporting events grows daily: the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Golf Championship hosted at Royal Canberra for the first time and allowing us to celebrate women in sport, especially Canberra’s unique achievements in women’s sports. [And on that note, congratulations Senator Kate Lundy – our new minister for sport – richly deserved]. On June 18th 2013 the Brumbies will meet the British and Irish Lions, but Canberra will also host national finals in sports as diverse as Archery, Squash, and Darts while the Kanga Cup for kids will have something quite moving to offer in 2013.

Canberra has more cyclists per capita than any other city; Stromlo is the undisputed home of mountain-biking, vintage car clubs thrive here and by 2013 Canberra will be the first Australian city to have an electric car network. So we will celebrate a love of the wheel in an event called SPIN. Over 2 October weekends and the days between, Canberra’s weekends on wheels will include the detailing shops at Fyshwick, a fairground site with fashion from car-parts, a bike track which creates a soundscape, the Petrosexuals who only sing songs about cars, family cycling at Woden, skate-boarding, the Scott 24 at Stromlo, a vintage car rally from our port at Jervis Bay, through Braidwood to Canberra, the roller-derby gals at Tuggeranong…

but we won't forget prams, wheelchairs, motorbikes, caravans, even spinning wheels, potters wheels, spin-bowling and our local specialty – political spin. A multi-site, whole of city heap of fun. Like a number of things we announce today, it’s just a taste, with full detail in our big launch in early September. Two of the key artists in SPIN are Donna Jackson and Jon Rose and they’re here today.

Also here today are the winners of our Legacy of Good Design competition. We wanted to ensure that, in addition to the Correa Canberra Bells( buy now and plant), the books and local wine we have invested in, we have beautiful objects as memorabilia. Craft ACT ran the competition on our behalf and 5 protoypes have been chosen : these will be produced in quantities for sale by September. The quality of entries proves the excellence of craft and design in this region, and now artists partner with local manufacturers to spread their skills more widely. Ladies and Gentlemen the winners are, in alphabetic order:

  • Sean Booth – ACT silhouette brooch in laminate, ply and silver;
  • Fiona Hooton – Shape a Nation in cardboard;
  • Megan Jackson – the Marion scarf;
  • Dan Lorrimer & Mitchell Brooks – the Griffin Blueprint dish; and
  • Kate Ward - - screen printed tea-towels    

 [– stand up and wave – and let’s give them a hand.]

This is not a ‘highlights’ launch, because between now and September we will announce more great projects as they complete the complex process of scoping and contracting and are ready to be made public. And it’s only natural that we save up a few juicy bits for that big September launch: there are many highlights still to come, but there are, as you’ve already heard, some rippers today.

We have commissioned around 20 new works: here are a few. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of new Parliament House we have commissioned the Australian Ballet for a new work by a trio of choreographer, designer and composer for each of whom this will be their debut with the AB – and it will be about the architecture of Parliament house – the democratic, faithful to the Griffin plan approach by which Aldo Giurgola led his team. It will have its world premiere here in Canberra (not the small company, but the full company) and then go on to seasons in Melbourne and Sydney.

Kate Grenville’s Man-Booker nominated novel The Secret River will be adapted for an epic stage production co-directed by theatre and dance heroes, Neil Armfield and Stephen Page, for the Sydney Theatre Company. We have co-commissioned this work and the full production in all its glory will be seen here.

British artist Jyll Bradley is our only directly commissioned international artist and her work City of Trees is being specially created for the Centenary – a set of broad and narrowcast recordings of walks in wooded areas with people who know and love them: these plus her large format photographs in light boxes will constitute an exhibition in the new gallery at the National Library of Australia.

The multi-awarded art-in-community company, bigHart , will bring the world premiere of a new work from Roeburne in the Pilbara , and this will form part of two large streams of Indigenous programming in February and July; including Craft Act’s Selling Yarns, Canberra Museum and Gallery’s Gathered Together , the National Museum of Australia’s Old Masters: early bark painters of Australia, Gary Foley’s one man lecture-performance, Bangarra’s new triple bill , Indigenous music from all over the country and a local project from the excellent QL2 which will also include young Indigenous dancers. But this is just a bit of it; Indigenous presence will be huge in 2013.

And these Centenary celebrations are not just us – and by us I mean the now 20 plus team in the Centenary Unit – I’d like to take a moment to praise their incredible commitment and hard work in realising this ambitious program - stand up guys, give us a wave and let us give them a hand. They are really at the coalface right now.
But even then, it’s not just us: other significant areas of the ACT government – Tourism, Events, Communications, Health and Multicultural, TAMS, local cultural institutions such as the Canberra Glassworks, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Craft ACT, Belconnen and Tuggeranong Arts Centres.

It’s our federal partners and specifically all the national cultural institutions including the Botanic Gardens , the Australian War Memorial, the National Film and Sound Archive and the Australian Institute of Sport who have worked so hard to do something special for the Centenary: you’ll find a number of their programs mentioned for the first time today, but it’s by no means the full list which will be exceptional.

And it’s this community who through the Community Initiatives grants and often just off their own bat, have come up with superb Centenary Contributions – from the Royal Show to the Scouts, photographers to archivists and special projects for children :the list of grant recipients so far confirms just how comprehensive the reach of these celebrations will be.

There are a number of wider-reach projects still to be announced and from them you’ll eventually discover that we have engagement with every state and territory, both the capitals and remote locations – this is a celebration for the entire nation, as it should be, as all Australians have a vested interest in, and ownership of, this place, this symbol of one of the most successful democracies in the world.

Already young designers from every state and territory came here to help design our logo, already we plan to have productions of theatre and dance from every state and territory as part of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s season next year – Collected Works: Australia. The Tournament of Minds finals will bring clever kids from all over the country to the capital.

But one project I formally launch today is Portrait of a Nation. Canberra’s street-names are a collective tribute to famous and sometimes forgotten Australians. We are asking every Canberran to research the person their street is named after – and upload their stories, especially the anecdotal and personal which may not make it into dictionaries or Wikipedia, to the dedicated website portraitofanation. com.au and in 2013 we suggest each street has a toast to their person, perhaps on their birthday – and invite descendants from all over Australia.

There’s a link to the High Court and the Portrait Gallery , the hundreds of thousands of Year 6 kids who visit through the PACER program, people in the rest of the nation who live in a street of the same name. That well known Hackett street-party-enthusiast, Andrew Leigh MP is patron and he has written about the declining % of people who know their neighbours. This is a project for neighbourly co-operation, learning and fun.

Portrait of a Nation , like the Canberra Diaspora, Capithetical, the books we have invested in – Dave Headon’s history booklets, new curriculum units, Betty Churcher’s Treasures ( her pick of the best of Canberra’s cultural institutions), 100 Canberra Houses, an anthology of one hundred years of writing in this region, and so many ephemeral and tangible projects, will leave a lasting legacy for Canberra and the nation – this has been my goal in planning, not to spend financial and human resources on flash in the pan big-name event, but to devise a program which acts as a fulcrum to the future of this city and this nation.

One of the most important is the official opening of the National Arboretum Canberra at the start of February 2013 – it really kicks off the Centenary Celebrations - a project which will be at its very best in one hundred years time: I love that breadth of vision, beyond political term, beyond even one lifetime – and it was a superb gesture of generosity, especially at a fiscally restrained moment ,when the Federal government gave $20 million towards the development of this project. Prime Minister, thank you.

And John Mackay – you wear many hats and they all suit you in dapper style, but today wearing the tri-chapeau of Arboretum , Chancellor of UC ( we have great collaborations with UC, ANU and CiT) , and ACTEW-AGL ] I thank you , my friend, for this incredible corporate support. And I thank all of our supporters thus far you’ll find in the program – and that list is growing too.

The presence and contributions of the international embassies, completing this profile of Canberra as local, regional, national and international , will be showcased through Windows to the World, a series of weekends in Spring when there will be special tours of the gardens and architecture of these places through which Canberra is, like no other place, hard-wired to the rest of the world.

And it will be in Spring , when we see those remarkable buds begin to appear, when that ever-inspiring blossom reaches into the coldest , oldest, heart and makes it sigh with joy still to be alive, then we will start to look in earnest at the future of this amazing city and the next 10, 20 50, 100 years. My mantra has been Seed now ( and we have done that in so many ways already) Blossom in 2013, flower for another hundred years. By the end of 2013, no-one will ever look at Canberra in the same way again, and it will have been my privilege to have worked with a splendid team, and all of you here today, to create that transformation of perception about a capital we need as a potent symbol of everything that we as Australians aspire to.

Grab a program, have a look, have a sip of Centenary bubbly, and look out for further announcements and then our big launch in September. Ladies and gentleman if this is a small slice, just start to imagine what a year 2013 is going to be.