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Graeme's glib at Gulgong
Report on the Henry Lawson Heritage Festival, Gulgong 5th-8tj June 2009

By Graeme Johnson
Posted Friday, June 26, 2009

Latest News from 'The Rhymer from Ryde'

Rhymer wins Second Place in the prestigious Leonard Teale Memorial Spoken Word Award held as part of the annual Henry Lawson Heritage Festival

Graeme Johnson, "The Rhymer from Ryde" has had a long association with Gulgong in the Central West and has been a previous winner of both the Written & Spoken word competitions held as part of this event. Once again Graeme's talents as an entertainer came to the fore during this particular Festival, one of his favourites, I'm led to believe.

Historic Gulgong’s cobbled & crooked streets once again rang to echoes of the past and visions of the future as artisans, poets, musicians, thespians & visitors enjoyed the June Long-Weekend’s Henry Lawson Heritage Festival 2009.

A jam packed programme ran from Friday evening to Monday lunchtime as lovers of the arts participated in and listened to a plethora of Henry Lawson related activities.

Prominent local identity Des Kelly (accompanied by Daryl Honeysett) got the ball rolling with his “Tales of the Swag” concert at the Prince of Wales Opera House. Also on the bill was Kim Deacon whose themed shows “The loves of Henry Lawson” presented Henry’s poems in song & music with harp, guitar and banjo thrown in for good measure.

Guest Speakers gave talks on Lawson’s works in the Henry Lawson Centre where the Monday Writer’s Morning Tea was also held and the Hunter Bush Poets Association ran the Poet’s Breakfast on the Sunday as well as the very popular “Just Henry” session where, you guessed it, only Henry Lawson’s work was to be heard, be they verse or short stories.

Geoff Sharp (patron of the Henry Lawson Society) gave a Workshop on the art of Performance Poetry on the Saturday afternoon, sharing his considerable knowledge & experience with anyone who cared to partake of it.

Ellis Campbell was the 2009 ”Festival Guest of Honour”. Ellis was born in Gulgong in 1926 and lived there for 50 years.

Alter 'ego's' antics

The Festival was also visited by Henry’s ‘alter ego’ James Howard from Melbourne who has Henry’s mannerisms & quirks ‘down to a tee’. James entertained not only in the set venues but also dallied around the town falling into conversation with many a layabout & drunken rascal. A wonderfully engaging personality to have at such an event.

Those in the right place at the right time could also participate in the cutting of Henry’s 142nd Birthday Cake or join in Old Time & Highland Dancing (not at the same time of course). The Gulgong Community Singers warbled away on various street corners & those wanting a walk could join in the guided tours of the town’s points of interest.

Of course the highlight of the weekend (for lovers of Bush Poetry) was the Literary Awards Presentation at the Opera House on the Sat night. It is here that the winners of the Henry Lawson Adult Literary Awards and the Short Story Competitions are announced. The 11 finalists from the Leonard Teale Memorial Spoken Word Award also strutted their stuff for the judges who had their work cut out for them with a very strong field of competitors indeed.

What a 'Line-up'

The field (containing no less than 2 former Australian Bush Poetry Champions) included Terry Regan, Roderick Williams, “The Rhymer from Ryde”, Robert Markwell, Ellis Campbell, Ron Brown, Robyn Sykes & the husband & wife pairing of Jacqui & Max Merckenschlager and believe me, each and every person had their eyes on that beguiling bronze bust of Henry Lawson that is First Prize.

Judges (for the first time) were using the new performance judging sheets as accredited by the Australian Bush Poets Association and struggled to separate the first 3 place winners in a ‘photo finish’ so to speak.

Henry Lawson Heritage Festival 2009 Competition Results

Leonard Teale Memorial Spoken Word Award
1st: Roderick Williams
2nd: Graeme Johnson
3rd: Robert Markwell

Henry Lawson Adult Literary Award
1st: Max Merckenschlager
2nd: Matthew McLoughlin
3rd: Arthur Green

Adult Short Story Award
First: Chris Blackford
Second: Max Merckenschlager
Third: David Campbell

All in all the Henry Lawson Heritage Festival 2009 was of great credit to all involved & Cheryl Peters & her Committee should be heartily applauded for their collective efforts.