Feast of fine wine and food

HAVING A GOOD TIME: Some of the 1000-strong crowd at last year’s Forage ramble, enjoying food from the surrounding areas.THE Orange area is growing in stature as a centre of fine wine and food and these attractions will be showcased in more than 80 events at its FOOD Week Festival from Friday, April 10, to Sunday, April 19.
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The festival has been going since 1991 and this year’s program includes a host of wine dinners and tastings, a FOOD train excursion from Sydney for gourmet travellers, the Forage walking tour of some of the district’s most scenic vineyards and produce farms, and the 100-Mile Dinner in the village of Molong.

The FOOD train package includes the Sydney to Orange and return rail trip departing on Friday, April 17, participation in Forage, accommodation in Orange and dinners at some of the area’s best restaurants, including chef Shaun Arantz’s innovative Racine Restaurant.

The Molong 100-Mile Dinner on Monday, April 13, will have all its dishes sourced from produce grown within a radius of 100 miles (161 kilometres).

This will comprise food and wine from Cowra, Molong, Mudgee and Orange served on long tables set under the stars on Molong’s village green – with live music and “dancing highly encouraged”.

The cost is $105 per person and bookings are essential.

The FOOD program also will provide visitors with the opportunity to meet vignerons, food growers, cooks and chefs and to taste their products at two markets.

There will be a night market at Orange’s Robertson Park on Friday, April 10, and the Sunday Producer’s Brunch and Market at Cook Park, Orange, on April 19.

Both events have a gold coin admission charge.

The Forage ramble, which last year attracted 1000 people, will be held on Saturday, April 18, and the cost is $115 per person. It will feature tastings of local produce and wine and bookings are essential.

Orange FOOD Week president winegrower James Sweetapple said the success of Forage had been staggering and there had been a huge response to this year’s event.

The success of the festival reflected people’s increasing interest in discovering where their food came from and learning more about eating local and seasonal produce, he said.

Tickets for key events are available via the website orangeFOODWeek南京夜网.au, and details of other wine and food activities can be obtained and bookings made by contacting Brand Orange on 02 6360 1990, by emailing [email protected]南京夜网.au or by downloading the full program from orangeFOODWeek南京夜网.au.

The program includes a golf tournament, a brewery and beekeeper tour, wine tastings, a milk and honey exhibition and a venison masterclass.

Other events during the week are oriental vegetarian banquets, smoky barbecue dinners, sunset vineyard tours, wine blending sessions, and cider and cheese tastings.

The Friday, April 17, lead-up to the festival’s final weekend includes orchard and olive grove tours, a how-to-enjoy-chestnuts session and a cider dinner.

Free as a bird

PERFORMING: Dan Sultan is back on the road performing his ARIA award-winning album, Blackbird.IT’S been close to 10 years of performing, recording and touring for Dan Sultan, but it’s only with the release of his long-awaited 2014 album Blackbird that he finally felt free.
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Born in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown to an Irish father and Aboriginal mother, Sultan was raised both in the city and in Northern Territory town of Yuendumu, where his lawyer father worked for the Aboriginal Legal Service.

Propelled by Jimi Hendrix and classic guitar rock combining with his tribal culture, Sultan began playing music at a young age. In 2006 he released his debut album Homemade Biscuits, made with guitarist and collaborator Scott Wilson. Get Out While You Can followed in 2009, reaching No.1 on the independent album chart and earning an ARIA for Best Blues and Roots Album. Sultan also took home the trophy for Best Male Artist. Along the way Sultan also earned accolades and critical acclaim for his live shows, which ranged from all-out rock’n’roll to pared-back and raw acoustics.

But behind the scenes, he found himself in a rut and writing his third album was no mean feat. Finally, in 2014, Blackbird was released, written by Sultan – who stepped away from his working relationship with Wilson – and recorded with Grammy Award-winning producer Jacquire King, who has worked with the likes of Tom Waits, Kings Of Leon and more. Since its release when it debuted at No.4 on the ARIA chart, it has won the ARIA award for Best Rock Album, claimed victory at the AIR Awards for Best Blues and Roots Album, and earned three NIMA Awards (National Album of the Year, National Song of the Year and Best Cover Art). A genre-hopper, the album ranges from crackling gospel interludes to old-school rock and roll jams, pure country tones, bare and aching ballads, harmonies, horns, banjos – even an Arabic scale or two. You can hear – and feel – Sultan has come into his own.

“Freedom is the word, freedom is the word, the perfect word for it. For years I’ve felt like I wasn’t allowed to do this, I wasn’t allowed to do that. I was in a real rut and I wasn’t writing any new music,” Sultan says, his voice even more husky than usual thanks to a busy touring schedule. “I was touring a lot and that was when I was partying too much because I wasn’t really happy. But once I found fulfilment through healthier ways, better ways – creatively – it was very liberating.”

He is referring to his well-documented case of writer’s block – a creative rut which led to a five-year gap between releases. Looking back, he knows just what changed before the songs on Blackbird began to flow.

“Absolutely, I can put my finger on it. Out of respect for people that I used to work with, I can’t go into it too much, I hope you can understand that. But, I felt quite stifled in the relationship I had with Scott Wilson,” he says.

“He’s an incredible songwriter, an amazing guitar player and he taught me so much more than I’ll ever know, if that makes any sense…but I found that I really had to take ownership and take more responsibility as an artist. I found myself slacking off a bit just because he is so amazing as a songwriter and I found myself just resting on his laurels. I just had to take it on myself and sink or swim.”

And swim he did. Incredibly well. But Sultan says even without the awards and acclaim – even Blackbird’s No.4 debut that was beyond his “wildest dreams” – he’d be proud he pushed himself as a musician.

“It all could have gone horribly wrong but I feel very fortunate that with the awards and accolades, it’s affirming,” he says.

“I don’t take it for granted. I work very hard but at the same time I realise that I’m pretty handy at it, I can sing, I can play guitar and I can write songs. Equally as much I can definitely say I’m very lucky.

“You need three things: you need be very good, you need to work very hard and you need to be very lucky. That’s why it’s so rare.

“I know a lot of great songwriters, beautiful singers and great musicians who are incredible and just for some reason or another it doesn’t quite fit. I feel very fortunate for me, that for one reason or another, it seems to be working out.”

Working out is an understatement. As ever, Sultan is always touring, always thinking of the next release, even with his stripped back EP Dirty Ground only just released in November as an outlet for some more of the 50 or so songs he wrote for Blackbird. Fresh from touring with Paul Kelly on The Merri Soul Sessions, Sultan is heading on the road solo.

“I love being on the stage with my band playing rock and roll. It’s balls to the wall, it’s crazy, it’s loud, we’re shaking our fists at the crowd and the crowd go mental, but there’s something really special about being in a room where people are hanging off your every word. I love telling stories about the songs. It’s apples and oranges; I don’t enjoy one more than the other, I don’t compare them, I love them both.”

Dan Sultan plays at Newcastle City Hallon March 17. Tickets at Ticketek.

Review: Deana Martin

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Deana Martin: Memories Are Made Of This

Wests New Lambton

Starlight Room

February 18

DEANA Martin’s comments between her songs showed a presumption that audience members would be aware of the relationships of her actor-singer father Dean Martin and his “pallies”, the other performers who visited their Los Angeles home when she was a child and teenager.

Most of the people attending the show were certainly of an age to justify that view. And how they loved her performances of the songs that had been performed by dad and his friends in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, at one stage swinging their seated bodies joyously as they sang with her the chorus of That’s Amore.

The staging had the style of shows from that era, with Deana Martin wearing a glittering long red gown and diamond jewellery, and not only introducing the five members of the on-stage band to the audience but also letting them show their amazing playing skills with short instrumental pieces.

Deana Martin’s appearance was preceded by a 30-minute first half featuring amusing Australian ventriloquist Darren Carr and a 20-minute interval, leading those watching to expect a compact second half.

But the featured singer was on stage for almost 100 minutes and made the time seem much shorter than that for the rapt gathering.

An archival piece of film showing Dean Martin introducing his very young daughter to an audience greeted her appearance, and her opening song, I Love Being Here With You, associated with dad’s friend Peggy Lee, set the warm mood for what was to follow.

One of the show’s many highlights, True Love, had Deana performing a duet with her father, using a recording he made decades ago and backed by photo and moving film images of the family and visitors to their home.

And when she got three male audience members on stage to provide the backing chorus for Memories are Made of This, the audience certainly felt that was the case.

House of the week: Smart nod to the future

WHEN the client approached Jon Webber, of Webber Architects, with the brief to renovate their “caravan of a home” on Bershire Avenue, the brick home sat quaintly at just 85 square metres.
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With 550 square metres of land on the site, it’s safe to say there was room to grow.

The original home, built in the 1960s and finished in a cement render on brick with a tiled roof, had become too small for the Merewether Heights family.

Following the renovation, the now three-bedroom, two-bathroom home retains the original soul of the home but has been brought into modernity with internal moderations.

The home now also boasts a curvaceous semi-detached pavilion off the rear of the structure, inspired by the movement of the ocean.

“The client has strong connection with the ocean, so the concept of a wave is reflected in the dramatic curve of the roof line,” Webber tells Weekender.

The addition of the pavilion area was chosen to have minimal impact on the existing fabric of the home.

The client felt it was important to maintain the facade of the existing dwelling, nestled neatly on a street lined with distinctive 1960s-era homes.

As a result, Webber designed the renovated level to appear only slightly elevated from street view, just 1.8 metres higher than the ridgeline of the home.

This intentional design feature was done to demonstrate that demolition isn’t necessary to modernise a home.

But it was given an aesthetic contrast with the use of flexible material selection in the external construction of the area.

Lightweight fibre-cement cladding with timber battens was used, while sheet metal roofing creates the dramatic oceanic curve atop the structure.

The client is an environmental consultant so sustainability was an essential consideration in the design and construction.

The new windows were placed in the extension to be well-protected from the elements yet effectively positioned for cross-ventilation.

The curve of the pavilion assists with heat purging, with the heat moving through the area and escaping through high-level glazing.

A “posi-strut” with the raked ceiling was also employed to promote air movement within the ceiling cavity.

Vents in the eaves allow the air to escape and provide the opportunity for cabling for future fans if required.

This pavilion area created new master bedroom, kitchen and living areas that lead on to a new deck, with views over the garden.

Large format, thin profile matte porcelain tiling was used throughout the new area, keeping it feeling light and open.

A dramatic black kitchen consisting of glossy polyurethane cabinetry was built by Grasco and sits proudly on the upper level of the extension.

An island bench of Caesarstone benchtops sits prominently in the space which also includes a dining area that looks out on to a deck with elevated views beyond.

The upper level is a mezzanine with a view linking kitchen and dining to the living area, accessible by an open timber staircase.

The living area allows access to the grassy yard through unobtrusive sliding glass doors, meaning there is an abundance of natural light filling the space.

The tall ceiling of the living area curves to the shape of the pavilion, creating an area that balances cohesiveness with spaciousness.

This a careful balance that is retailed throughout the formerly cosy ’60s home, with the addition of the open and expansive area that doesn’t compromise the soul of the ’60s structure.

‘Lunatic’ farmer changing world

INNOVATOR: Joel Salatin is campaigning against unsustainable environmentally damaging farming.HEADING to the city to learn how to farm seems counter-intuitive, but that’s exactly what hundreds of people from all around NSW did recently to hear American farmer Joel Salatin speak about the joys of farming.
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He is a farmer in Virginia, and creator of a holistic farm management method that he calls Polyface farming, meaning “farm of many faces”. On his 200-hectare property in the Shenandoah Valley, Salatin farms a mix of livestock, including cows, sheep, pigs, rabbits, and turkeys, as well as fruit and vegetables, honey, and even timber, which he uses to construct most of the farm’s infrastructure, and many of his inventions, including the “eggmobile”.

Rather than farming only one type of animal in giant industrial sheds that are filled, wall to wall, and floor to ceiling with pigs, cows or birds crammed in small cages, Salatin views the farm as an ecosystem, like in nature, and bases his farming practice on the principles of how an animal would behave if it lived in the wild. Then he attempts to emulate those conditions, as closely as possible. For example, his rotational grazing system is meant to mimic a roaming herd of buffalo, but instead of a herd of buffalo it’s a herd of cows.

Salatin’s cattle graze within a series of segregated pastures for one day, before being moved on to the next. A portable hen house, known as an “eggmobile”, then follows them, a few days later, and allows the chickens to free range over the grass that the cows have just grazed, where they eat flies and other bugs that get attracted to the cow poo. The chickens scratch and spread the cow manure throughout the pasture, which naturally fertilises the soil, and eliminates the need for synthetic chemical substitutes. Salatin says this diversity in production better utilises the grass growing on his pastures, breaks pathogen cycles thereby reducing disease, and creates multiple income streams.

During the winter, when the farm is dormant, Salatin spends most of his time giving lectures and seminars, around the world, about his Polyface farming methods. He has written many books about farming, including You Can Farm, which shares the same name as the seminar he hosted in Sydney, in association with the Milkwood social enterprise group.

At this one-day seminar, Salatin talked to a mixed group of attendees, from already established farmers looking for ways to improve sustainability on their land, to what he calls “Dilbert Cubicle Urban Refugees”, or city people looking to leave the drudgery of big city life and attempt to live their own idyllic versions of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage.

Speaking from experience, Salatin covers a lot of ground about what it takes to be a farmer these days. As well as how to develop a working farming model, he urges those interested in farming to “push the pencil” and treat the farm like any other small business by making it profitable and seeking to find “the sweet spot, where ecology and economics are both satisfied”.

Salatin also places a big emphasis on the importance of family relationships and team-building, and how they can impact on the running of a successful farm enterprise. He also touched on the unique ways farmers are able to market and sell their various products, including leveraging the power of the internet, direct marketing, effective and positive communication, and value-adding.

Salatin’s enthusiasm for what he does was evident from the outset. Each of the four 90-minute presentations were packed full of information and practical advice for any established, or wannabe farmer, and he delivers it all with great humour and humility, and just a sprinkling of motivational inspiration. He accepts that his practices are different and unusual, compared with many conventional agricultural models, and both he and his family have experienced the isolation that this kind of approach can bring: “Society will only let you be so weird,” he says. “You can be a Buddhist or a nudist, but a nudist Buddhist is a bit too far!”

This is the sixth time that Salatin has visited Australia and shared his stories, means and methods for his self-confessed “lunatic” style of farming. And while he admits he doesn’t have all the answers, his advocacy for positive agricultural change through alternative, local and community-driven approaches to farming makes him a pioneer for ecologically principled agriculture.

Candidates clash over power plan

LABOR Party candidate Debra O’Brien and Country Party chairman Peter Mailler have both slammed Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall’s assessment of the draft determination by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).
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Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall.

The AER recommended a reduction to Essential Energy’s revenue allowances, which Mr Marshall said he feared would weaken the provider.

“The issue is the draft determination of the federal energy regulator, and it wants to absolutely destroy Essential Energy’s viability, which in this area would ultimately result in job losses and the closure of some depots,” Mr Marshall said.

“I’ve put in my own submission on behalf of the electorate opposing that vehemently, and I would encourage everyone to oppose it as well in the interest of safe and reliable electricity for country people. Make submissions to the AER and your federal Member.”

Labor candidate Debra O’Brien.

Ms O’Brien said the Labor Party’s position was clear; it was opposed to the Coalition’s proposal to sell 49 per cent of the electricity ‘poles and wires’.

“Mike Baird has said that the full privatisation of the electricity network will be a matter for the next parliament. So even Essential Energy may be up for grabs, according to Adam Marshall’s boss,” Ms O’Brien said. “How many more concessions will the Nationals make in favour of their Liberal bosses in the City? They are committed to 100 per cent privatisation of our electricity network.

“As I travel around the Northern Tablelands talking to people, the cost of electricity is high on their list of concerns. The other concerns are unemployment and cuts to services. Yet, the sale of electricity assets proposed by the Liberal National Party government will make all of these concerns even worse, and, as has happened in other states, it will result in job losses, loss of services and an increased in costs.”

Mr Marshall said in terms of the ownership of the poles and wires, Essential Energy would remain 100 per cent public owned and that is absolutely not negotiable.

“That is absolutely guaranteed, in fact it will be further protected in legislation should the government be re-elected,” he said. Mr Mailler said the AER draft determination reduced Essential Energy’s revenue allowances by $6.5 billion, or 27 per cent over five years, and that determination was based on demonstrable reductions in the cost of capital, reduced forecast operating expenditure and more than a 60 per cent real reduction in the capital investment program, compared to the previous five years.

“It allows it to operate at a rate of return on capital of 7.15 per cent,” Mr Mailler said.

He said the simple truth was that AER determined the price of our power was too expensive, and had acted in the interests of rural and regional consumers.

“Any suggestion that Essential Energy would be ‘forced’ to cut maintenance staff is political scaremongering,” Mr Mailler said. “High electricity prices have cruelled many businesses out here and as soon as the AER steps in to ease the burden our local Member starts arguing against it. It is disgraceful. AER expects Essential Energy’s average residential customer’s annual bill to fall by $346 in 2015-16.”

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Champion effort from racing club

FOR many years, harness racing has been the premier horse racing sport in Bathurst. Famous trotting names such as Hondo Grattan, A.D. Turnbull and the Gold Crown are known throughout harness racing circles right across Australia.
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And the sport’s move to new headquarters on College Road seems certain to take it to even greater heights in the years to come.

But that’s not to say that the gallops are going to be left behind all together in this town.

A major shake-up of the local thoroughbred racing bodies some years ago is now reaping real benefits for the sport locally.

Having split from a joint-run operation with Orange, the Bathurst thoroughbred industry has rarely looked stronger.

And this weekend Tyers Park will host what is being billed as the city’s richest ever race day when Bathurst Thoroughbred Racing presents the first round of The Country Championships.

It will be a great day both on and off the track, with celebrity guests and a rich $100,000 prize pool in the main event.

And that purse could get even bigger for a local owner as the first and second place getters on Sunday get the opportunity to run at Royal Randwick for a $300,000 prize in the final of The Championships.

Such an injection of cash shows Racing NSW is serious about growing the sport in country areas, and the Bathurst committee has done a great job in preparing the event.

It should be an exciting day, and not only for regular racing fans and punters.

One of the keys to the continued success of The Championships will be its ability to draw people to the track who might normally not be interested.

And any new event on the Bathurst sporting calendar has to be good for the whole region.

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‘Went to fight for humanity’

A man reported killed fighting against Islamic State in Syria, and identified as 28-year-old Australian Ashley Kent Johnston.
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An Australian killed fighting for the Kurds against Islamic State in northern Syria – and thought to be the first Westerner to die in battle against IS – has been identified as 28 year-old Ashley Kent Johnston.

Mr Johnston, born in Maryborough, Queensland, is believed to have been a resident of the ACT before joining the fight against IS in Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Australian Kurdish Association president Gulfer Olan confirmed Mr Johnston had died in the fighting and said she was trying to contact Mr Johnston’s family to pass on the Kurdish community’s condolences.

Fairfax Media has obtained an image of Mr Johnston’s passport from Australian Kurdish representatives. He was born on April 15, 1986.

A Defence spokeswoman confirmed the dead man was a former Army Reservist but would not confirm his name.

Ms Olan said: “He was a hero. He went all the way from here to fight for humanity. We will have him in our hearts forever.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in London, announced on Thursday that an Australian man was killed in an IS assault against a position of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) near Tal Hamis in Hasakeh province.

The YPG posted a Facebook tribute to Mr Johnston, who they called “Heval Bagok Serhed”.

“We the YPG regretfully inform you of the death of one of our bravest Western fighters Heval Bagok Serhed. He is the first Western fighter to be martyred fighting the evil of ISIS. Rest in peace our brother,” the Facebook group “the Lions Of Rojava” said.

“Throughout his time in Kurdistan he had a positive impact on my people’s lives though his humility and kindness to everyone he met. He was taken from us in a heroic assault on ISIS positions in a small village near Shingal. His squad of eight fighters were in a truck which had broken down and it was critical that they dislodge ISIS form their positions so they pushed on fearlessly with little regard for the own safety.

“They where massively outnumbered and outgunned but fearless in the face of this as they knew another ISIS death meant saving the lives of countless civilians. He was a fearless and exceptional soldier as well a great man.

“Please keep his family and loved ones in your prayers and remember him and his heroic actions, which saved his comrades.”

It is believed that Mr Johnston was with Jordan Matson, an American volunteer who has criticised the Australian government for making it a jailable offence to fight for the YPG.

Fairfax Media also spoke to a Kurdish Syrian translator, Sabry Omar, who saw the Australian, who he named only as “Ashley”, on Mount Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan last month.

“He was on the frontline when he was injured – I saw him in hospital, but he was not seriously hurt,” he said. “A suicide bomber in a car exploded near him and his eyes were injured.”

Mr Omar last saw Ashley on some social media sites, on January 28 or 29, he said.

“His nickname was Gabar – which is the name of a Kurdish mountain in Turkey.

“He had many tattoos … I am sure he must have been a professional soldier in Australia from his level of experience [as a fighter] …”

The news of the Australian’s deathtravelled fast through Kurdistan and the Kurdish controlled enclave of Jazira in north-eastern Syria.

Mr Rahman said dozens of Westerners had joined the YPG’s ranks.

“There are foreigners fighting on all sides of Syria’s war … They are volunteers, they don’t get paid anything at all,” he said.

“The YPG isn’t actively recruiting foreigners, but people from countries like Canada, the United States, Britain, Spain, Australia, Holland, Austria and France have travelled to Syria to join their ranks,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government could not confirm the man’s name.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said: “We are aware of reports that an Australian male has reportedly been killed in northern Syria (on Tuesday 24 Feb).

“The Australian government’s capacity to confirm reports of deaths in either Syria or Iraq is extremely limited.Due to the extremely dangerous security situation, consular assistance is no longer available within Syria. Australians who become involved in overseas conflicts are putting their own lives in mortal danger. Any Australians fighting with non-state militia in Syria or Iraq should end their involvement in the conflict now and leave the conflict zone.Australians are strongly advised not to travel to Syria or Iraq; any Australians in either country should leave immediately.For further information, please seeThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

NRL players thunder into Inverell for Youth Off The Streets

CRUISIN’: NRL Ambassadors (back) Ian Schubert, Brad Fittler, Steve Menzies, Matt Cooper and (front) Nathan Hindmarsh and Josh Perry rolled into Inverell on a posse of Harleys.YOU could hear the rumble on Otho Street before you saw the Hogs for Homeless on Tuesday afternoon. The posse of NSW National Rugby League players growled in on a parade of colourful Harley Davidsons for the third annual road trip to raise money for Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets program in Sydney.
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The 2014 ride raised $150,000 and hopes are that 2015 will squash that total.

The crew lined up the bikes outside Jobs Australia where a stall was set up for donations, memorabilia items and raffle tickets for a new Harley.

All proceeds from the ride through purchases and tickets are helping homeless kids.

The ride was NRL legend Brad Fittler’s brainchild, and after kindly signing a number of autographs and sharing some time with Inverell locals, he said he was grateful to the NRL and Harley for supporting the event.

As NRL men are often youth role models, he said there was one inclusive message he shared when it came to life.

“You’ve got to learn to make strong choices. And everyone here would have made mistakes, and gone through challenges,” he said.

“Once you start taking about responsibility and making choices, and that covers everything; domestic violence, it covers homelessness, it covers everything.

“And starts with diet and all start with all those things,” he said. Former Newcastle and Manly Sea Eagles prop Josh Perry came into town on one of the hogs. He said it was generous of Harley Davidson to donate the bikes for the ride and admitted he was more than a little smitten.

“I’m pumped, I’m addicted now, I’ll have to go home and buy one,” he grinned.

He felt the NRL youth clinics and charity fundraisers along the route have been smash hits to help the charity.

“Amazing. We were at Harrigan’s on Saturday night-that was the first night, and people couldn’t get money out for their wallets quick enough,” Perry said. “As soon as we say it’s for Father Chris Riley, people just get whatever they’ve got out and put it in.”

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The man behind Opera in the Paddock

Bill and Peta Blyth on the stage at Mimosa.BILL and Peta Blyth are a noticeable couple. She is a small, lively woman with a lifelong commitment to the arts and a very big voice.
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He is a tall man with an infectious grin who maintains the 107-year-old family farm, Mimosa, and keeps their joint venture, Opera in the Paddock, ticking along with healthy optimism and lots of ideas.

The opera will hit the large stage outside their house yard on March 21, with its 12th production. Besides many other stellar talents, Mimosa will host Australian stage sensation, Teddy Tahu Rhodes in his only regional performance of the year.

Bill takes it all in stride. Growing up as a country kid on the same ground where he now runs his mixed farming operation, he was given an intense education in opera after he and Peta tied the knot in 1977.Four days after the wedding, they travelled to London where Peta had been awarded a three year scholarship to train with the Royal College of Music.

While Peta was busy at the college, Bill embraced London life and found work.

“The first job I got was with an employment agency. I got the sack and I went. I don’t know why I got the job. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” Bill laughed.

“He’s very confident,” Peta chipped in.

He never failed to find more jobs, and said some of it was good fun. Sitting on their veranda, the two reminisced about their accommodation and memorable landlords, Molly and Frank.

“I paid the rent, and I said, ‘Look Frank, if I ever forget, please tell me.’ He said “I shan’t but I will notice.’ I don’t think I ever forgot to pay the rent,” he chuckled.

Bill said he grew up with an appreciation and plenty of access of good music, though it wasn’t necessarily opera. Peta lent a hand in the early days, when they would meet after work to see productions at Covent Garden.

Before the show, she would quickly fill him in on the storyline of the piece, though one night, there wasn’t time.

“It was a couple of hours of really heavy German opera; Salome, by Richard Strauss. We’re sitting separately, no interval, and at the end, we came out and he said, ‘What the bloody hell was that all about?’” Peta laughed.

Now years later, she said Bill has supported her endeavours all the way.

They returned to the land in the recession and drought, did up the derelict house on the place, living with the kids out of a caravan.

”We had a great time,” Bill said.

“Then we realised there was a good place to do an outdoor event, because the sound just hangs here, and it’s a beautiful paddock as you can see.”

Peta believes Bill is the optimist in the relationship. Balancing the vast amount of work to put on the show with the demands of the farm does not deter him.He felt despite the expense and labour, they should take the opportunity afforded by their support from Opera Australia, experience and access to the international talent that takes their stage.

“I’m a very positive person, I knew it would go. Peta didn’t, but I did,” he said.

He affectionately blamed Bingara’s Martin Hansford for the opera’s inception. Martin was formerly the sound engineer for Sydney Opera House and Bill heard about it on ABC radio.

“Then I knew we could do it, we had our sound man,” he said.

“They also value their lighting engineer, Roy Jeffery. Roy was lit the first opera at Sydney Opera House and for 28 of his 37 years with the ABC, was the company’s lighting director.

“So we do have some experts here. I’m the only non-expert,” Bill said with a grin.

“It’s ok. You’ll do,” Peta smiled.

All the same, Bill felt that growing up as a country kid has given him a diverse skill set that he can apply to many things. His ingenuity is often the engine behind the opera production.

“And it’s just not me. Country people are very good at adapting to do things,” he said.

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