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On Sunday, 16 February 2020, the ANZ Stadium in Sydney’s Olympic Park will host FIRE FIGHT AUSTRALIA, a 10-hour concert presented by local and international music icons uniting to raise money for key organisations providing vital assistance to people in fire affected areas. Fittingly, the concert will be hosted by writer, actor and comedian CELESTE BARBER (see above), whose enthusiastic supporters raised over $50 million towards bushfire relief through Celeste’s record breaking online appeal. Can’t get there? Fear not! Tune in to Channel 7 and Foxtel, who will broadcast the whole glorious sold-out event live on Channel 7 and 7plus, and FOX8 and Foxtel GO from 1.00 p.m. AEDT on Sunday, 16 February 2020. See the NEWS for more. (Montage by L.J. May/Channel 7)


This is Brisbane! Queensland, Australia

Greetings and welcome to Watchwords. This site is about writers, readers, artists, filmmakers and our beautiful City of Brisbane.








The ANZ Stadium in Sydney’s Olympic Park will play host to international and local music icons in FIRE FIGHT AUSTRALIA, a 10-hour concert to raise money for key organisations providing vital short, medium and long term ‘Rescue’, ‘Relief’ and ‘Recovery’ and ‘Rehabilitation’ assistance to those in fire affected areas.

Can’t get to Sydney for the super concert – no worries! Tune in to Channel 7 and Foxtel, who will unite for a live broadcast of the whole glorious sold-out event. It will air live on Channel 7 and 7plus, and FOX8 and Foxtel GO from 1.00 p.m. AEDT on Sunday, 16 February 2020 (note: daylight saving time).

The telecast of the concert will be presented by Sunrise host Samantha Armytage and David Koch, along with Sonia Kruger and others. The concert itself will be hosted by writer, actor and comedian CELESTE BARBER, whose enthusiastic supporters raised over $50 million towards bushfire relief through Celeste’s record breaking online appeal.


For more about what’s happening, go to the website at


Just when we thought we were safe! The good news is that the rain currently deluging most states has put out many of the bushfires raging across the country, and areas that have been in severe drought for years are now receiving life-giving rain. The bad news is that instead of being burnt out of their homes, many people are being flooded out. It’s not been a good year for many Australians so far.

Go to the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC, for comprehensive, well researched, and accurate coverage of the current emergencies. Go to their website for the latest stories and insightful analysis at and Not only is the coverage up-to-date, it’s FREE. See NEWS PAGE 2 for how you can help people traumatised by the recent disasters and how the bushfire and wildlife recovery effort is going (coming soon).


The ABC advises that donations through registered funds and official appeals is the best way to help (according to the NSW Office of Emergency Management), as it allows people to choose exactly what they need and supports local businesses.

Affected communities often do not have anywhere to put donated toys, clothes and other goods during a crisis and they are being overwhelmed by your generosity. They just don’t have the warehousing facilities to store your donations of clothing and household goods, or the volunteers to sort and distribute them.

PLEASE SEND MONEY! People’s needs are different. It doesn’t help a farmer who needs to feed his animals to receive a donation of clothing – no matter how well meant.

For more in-depth information on how to help bushfire affected communities you can read the ABC NEWS article: How can I help bushfire victims?

Donate to charities that support bushfire affected communities

Donate to State Government and Local Council appeals

Donate to your local fire services and brigades

Donate to help animals affected by bushfires

Donate goods and services

Don't be put off by large donations being made by individuals and businesses (and good on them). Every donation, no matter how small, will not only help the people and animals who are desperate for help, but will let those who need comfort and support to keep going, understand that the people of Australia are behind them and will be in it for the long haul. 

While Queensland seems to be over the worst of it (for now) those who have lost their loved ones, homes, businesses and animals are still suffering badly. At the top and bottom of WHAT'S ON AUTHORS? (4 pages) find pics and information on the fire emergencies in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Go to the top and bottom of COMPETITIONS ETC. (4 pages) to find out how you can help the town of STANTHORPE and the wineries of the Granite Belt get back on their feet after, not only bushfires, but long-term drought as well. There's still lots to see and do and they'd love you to visit (also see article below).


Fans of their popular ‘Fool Us’ television show need no further introduction to PENN & TELLER – Jimmy Fallon dubbed them ‘the greatest performing duo in showbiz’, and that’s a fair description. The world’s most famous magic duo was due to appear at both the Sydney Opera House and the Concert Hall in the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), South Brisbane, as part of their first Australian tour in January.

Alas, the evil geniuses of magic have had to postpone their appearances to a later date because Teller (the short and silent one) needs urgent surgery on his back after ongoing health issues – not surprising given what he gets up to. Teller apologised (he spoke?) to fans and expressed his disappointment at having to reschedule their trip. We wish Teller well and hope our two favourite magicians will be able to come to Brisbane soon.

For those who have already booked in Brisbane, QPAC says that those who purchased tickets using a credit card via QPAC would be refunded within 10 business days. They also advised anyone who used cash, Paypal or EFTPOS to pay for their tickets, to contact the QTIX Box Office on 136 246 to organise a refund of the full purchase price. 


For lots of good reasons why you should head for the Queensland TOWN OF STANTHORPE, see pics and information at the top and bottom of the COMPETITIONS ETC. (4 pages). Experience stunning sights and activities, community help with stories of drought, bushfires and sheer resilience, some excellent street art including dunny art (huh?), and visit some superb wineries.

Christmas may be over but during January you can still drive up to Applethorpe (near the town of Stanthorpe) and check out the CHRISTMAS FARM – open from Wednesday to Sunday from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. (closed during February and March). Entry is FREE and the kids can embrace the fresh air, explore, and feed the animals.

In the Mistletoe Store you can treat yourself to their handcrafted chocolate creations and sweet treats made in-house from the finest Belgian chocolate and fresh local produce. Find the farm at 321 Aerodrome Road, Applethorpe. Visit their website at and phone them on 0412 826 842 if you have any questions.

See THE MIND-BOGGLING GIRRAWEEN NATIONAL PARK for a greater appreciation of the need to protect the natural environment – visit the links below.

Stanthorpe is just 90 minutes south west of Brisbane and the area is well known for its breathtaking natural landscapes, excellent wine experiences, and fresh local produce (particularly stone fruit and apples – hunt down a 1 litre bottle of Ginger and Tumeric Apple Juice, a lovely crisp 100% pure juice blend of pink lady and granny smith apples – no preservatives or sugar added. Can’t find any? – phone (07) 4685 2220. It’s worth it.)

THE STANTHORPE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE has a great range of information and assistance to visitors travelling throughout the Stanthorpe and Granite Belt area. You’ll find it at 28 Leslie Parade, Stanthorpe. Give them a ring on (07) 4681 2057 to find out if anything you want to see has been impacted by the drought or water restrictions – but water has been trucked in and the town is operating pretty well as normal. The Visitor Centre is open all year (except Christmas Day) from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Visit the area’s website on

GIRRAWEEN NATIONAL PARK is one of the world’s natural wonders. Located on the Queensland–New South Wales border, 260km south-west of Brisbane (halfway between Stanthorpe and Tenterfield). Girraween, meaning ‘place of flowers’, is a park of massive granite outcrops, large angular tors, and precariously balanced boulders. Spectacular wildflower displays splash colour among the granite in spring and usually there is usually a display during summer as well.

Enjoy family-friendly short walks with an easy meander along the water-sculpted rocks of Underground Creek track or ramble beside Bald Rock Creek to the amazing Granite Arch. Challenge yourself and rock-hop or climb your way up to one of Girraween's signature peaks, such as Castle Rock or The Pyramid, which reveal spectacular vistas stretching out across the park and further beyond.

Explore Girraween's forested back country on two-wheels with a mountain bike adventure along the Peak trail. Marvel at the dazzling springtime wildflower displays at Dr Roberts Waterhole and The Junction. Camp under the stars at the shady Bald Rock Creek or Castle Rock camping areas, or relax with the family to enjoy a picnic lunch at the Bald Rock Creek day-use area.

Drop into the Girraween Visitor Centre to chat to the friendly rangers and get the most out of your visit. Here are some handy links to more information and a series of maps:  

PLEASE NOTE: Until 31 January 2020, as a result of the current drought and water unavailability, the Castle Rock and Bald Rock Creek camping areas, as well as all remote walk-in campsites, will remain closed. Camping at these sites will be re-opened when substantial rainfall is received (let us pray), but Girraween National Park will remain open to day-use activities. Please check park alerts for updates at


‘A word, after a word, after a word, is power.’ – Margaret Atwood

Join fellow enthusiasts for an unmissable evening of conversation, discussion and Q&A with one of the most vital authors of her generation, as MARGARET ATWOOD shares her signature insight, humour and intellect. FANE presents 'In Conversation with Margaret Atwood' live on stage across Australia in collaboration with Andrew Kay, Phil Bathols and BBC Studios Australia.

In Brisbane, you can see Margaret at the Concert Hall on Saturday, 22 February 2020. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday, 29 November 2019 at 12.00 noon. To be the first to know when tickets go on presale, sign up to the waitlist at

The publication of The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985 and the current, Emmy-award winning television series have created a sweeping global cultural phenomenon, as ‘handmaids’ have become a symbol of women’s rights, standing against misogyny and oppression.

‘In Conversation with Margaret Atwood’ is an Australian premiere literary event spanning the breadth of Atwood’s remarkable career, her diverse range of works and why, in the Booker Award winning The Testaments, she has returned to her seminal story, 34 years later. (See NEWS PAGE 2 for more about the 2019 Booker Prize.)


The name CAROLL SPINNEY, talented American puppeteer, cartoonist, author and speaker, may not register with the general public, but several generations of children across the world are very familiar with his alter egos. This is the man who became famous for playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, from its inception in 1969 until 2018.

Caroll Spinney was born in Waltham, Massachusetts on 26 December 1933, to Chester and Margaret Spinney. His mother was a native of Bolton, England, and named him Caroll because he was born the day after Christmas (if there’s one thing that kids hate as far as presents are concerned…).

Caroll spent a lot of his childhood drawing and painting, and developed a love of puppetry after seeing a performance ofThree Little Kittensat the age of five. Three years later he found a monkey puppet in a rummage sale and put on a puppet show starring the monkey and a plush snake. The following Christmas, his mother gave him a Punch and Judy puppet theatre which encouraged him to continue puppeteering through childhood and adolescence, using his performances to raise money for college tuition.

Spinney first met JIM HENSON in 1962 at a puppeteering festival, where Henson asked if he would like to ‘talk about the Muppets’. Since he didn’t realise that he was being offered a job, he did nothing about it. Luckily, he met Jim again in 1969 when he performed at a Puppeteers of America festival in Utah.

Caroll’s innovative show, using a mixture of live actors and puppets, was ruined by a faulty spotlight that washed out the animated backgrounds. Nevertheless, Henson noticed Spinney's performance and told him: ‘I liked what you were trying to do,’ and again asked him if they could ‘talk about the Muppets’. This time, they did have the conversation, and Spinney joined the Muppeteers full-time by late 1969 – the rest is history.

While Sesame Street was still in planning stages, it was Spinney who suggested to Jim Henson that the show have unscripted conversations between the Muppets and real live children, which created the charm, empathy, and close audience connection with the television series.  

Caroll Spinney received awards too numerous to mention, including four Daytime Emmy Awards, two Gold Records, and two Grammy Awards. As Big Bird he was honoured with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame and, again as Big Bird, in April 2000 was awarded the Library of Congress Living Legend Award. Caroll was also the subject of a full-length documentary by Copper Pot Pictures called I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story which premiered at the April 2014 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

As a part of THE SESAME STREET 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONSthe Empire State Building was lit on 10 November 2019 in green and yellow. Two days before, on 8 November, Spinney and Big Bird participated in a lighting ceremony, where, by mayoral proclamation, the day was named ‘Caroll Spinney Day’ in the City of New York.

People across the world lost part of their childhood when Spinney died at his home from dystonia in Woodstock, Connecticut, on 8 December 2019 at the age of 85. Go to the bottom of this page for a pic of Spinney, Big Bird and Oscar. His many fans also can head for to remember Caroll’s work, and real enthusiasts can visit: 


Well, after years of threatening to do so, one of our favourite ex pats, CLIVE JAMES has gone to the choir invisible. Read more about the Kid from Kogarah under WRITER WATCH on this website at CLIVE JAMES. There is a link to Clive's website at the bottom of that page. Also, see NEWS PAGE 2 for who won the 2019 Booker Prize and pics of Clive at the bottom of the page.

On Clive’s website, click on the menu at top left to enjoy videos of the many fascinating and often funny interviews he conducted with a wide range of people. Series 5 of 'Talking in the Library’ includes conversations with Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and many others.

Update: Clive's website at is currently running really slowly (if you can get to it at all), probably due to the onslaught of thousands of fans trying to log in at once, but keep trying – there are many treasures to be had within.

If you want to see the man himself in full flight, head to YouTube and search for 'Clive James'. Do yourself a favour and click on the links on YouTube for ‘Clive James Postcards’ and spend many happy hours touring with Clive as he visits the cities of the world searching for the interesting, the unknown and the downright hilarious. His style was one of a kind and we will miss him greatly.


Find information and pictures of EVENTS happening around Brisbane and Queensland on EVENT QUICKLISTS!, EVENT QUICKLISTS! P2, and WHERE IS BRISBANE? See NEWS PAGE 2 for who won the 2019 Booker Prize and pics of Clive James. At the top and bottom of WHAT'S ON AUTHORS? (4 pages) find pics and information on the fire emergencies in Queensland and New South Wales. Go to the top and bottom of COMPETITIONS ETC. (4 pages) for a visit to STANTHORPE – a nice drive into the country with a chance to see some stunning sights. And it's time to contemplate NEW YEAR'S thoughts and pics at the top and bottom of the WHAT'S ON NOW? (5 pages).


Dreading the ‘I’m bored’ scenario with your kids? There is a lot happening at the MUSEUM OF BRISBANE (MoB) during the holiday period. Escape to the Museum's cool oasis for activities, exhibitions and workshops the whole family will enjoy. 

To finish the year, head for the Museum of Brisbane this Summer for a range of exhibitions, workshops and events such as High Rotation, New Woman, and MoB Kids workshops. Note that the Museum will be closed on New Years Day (1 January 2020), but will be open every other day!

Family Fun at High Rotation

Children of all ages are loving THE HIGH ROTATION EXPERIENCE; putting on headphones, choosing their own music and dancing to some of Brisbane's best music. Play with sound in the immersive Tributaries installation, dance to the most memorable tunes and see costumes, guitars and platinum albums up-close in this exhibition. Entry is $12 for adults, $9 concession and FREE FOR KIDS UNDER 12. While you’re at the Museum, book in for the High Rotation Family Tour led by Museum Educators.

Always wanted to go up THE CLOCK TOWER AT CITY HALL? It's now easy to secure your spot online! Take a trip up in the original hand-operated 1930s lift, past the Art Deco clock face to arrive at the final, 64m-high platform for a bird’s-eye view of the city.

The time-honoured tradition remains FREE with daily tours operating from 10.15 a.m. to 4.45 p.m., and until 6.45 p.m. on Fridays. Please note: Bookings are only available two weeks in advance. Book a free tour of the Clock Tower at BOOK NOW.


The Australian Writers' Guild (AWG) is deeply concerned that the federal government has announced a restructure, abolishing the current Department of Communications and the Arts and rolling it into the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. Prime Minister Scott Morrison's justification for the public service overhaul is to ‘bust bureaucratic congestion’.

The arts community is dismayed that their industry continues to be devalued and disregarded. Annually, the industry generates $111.7 billion of economic activity. Department of Communications and the Arts Secretary Mike Mrdak will not be continuing in his role and was not consulted on any changes to the structure or operations of his department. This is an abrupt and unceremonious end to a 32-year career.

Emma McDonald, senior adviser to the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, today confirmed to the AWG that neither the minister's title nor his portfolio has changed in the wake of the announcement.

AWG President Shane Brennan plans to continue conversations with Paul Fletcher early in 2020, in relation to the screen industry's regulatory framework and quotas. Mr Brennan said the increasing demand for content by streaming networks around the world presented an amazing opportunity for the Australian film and television industry, ‘But taking on the world begins at home,’ said Mr Brennan. ‘The industry's vast potential to become a genuine content provider to the world will be lost if the government doesn't lend us the support we so urgently need.’

It remains to be seen what effect this departmental restructure will have in practical terms for the arts community. It is clear however that this decision represents a lack of respect and appreciation for the arts in this country, which is deeply concerning. The AWG encourages members to contact both your government and opposition members in response to this announcement and state your case. Click here to contact your member.

Government releases response to Digital Platforms Inquiry

The Federal Government has released its response to the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry, which includes an outline for the implementation of media regulation reforms to commence in 2020. In a joint media release by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Attorney-General Christian Porter, and Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, they state the following: 

‘The first stage of media regulation reforms will commence in 2020 with a focus on:

  • Developing a uniform classification framework across all media platforms.
  • Determining the extent of Australian content obligations on free-to-air television broadcasters (including drama and children's content), and whether there should be Australian content obligations on subscription video-on-demand services.
  • Identifying other aspects of the policy framework to support Australian film and television content.'

They go on to state that in early 2020 ‘the Government will release an options paper co-authored by Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority that will look at how to best support Australian stories on our screens in a modern, multi-platform environment.’

The ACCC's final report was handed down in July 2019 and concluded that the fragmented regulatory framework surrounding Australian broadcasters has led to digital services such as Netflix and Stan achieving a competitive edge. Recommendation 6 of the report suggests that a new platform-neutral regulatory framework be developed and implemented to balance the playing field. 

As the Government looks to implement their plans for reform in the New Year, the Australian Writers' Guild will continue to advocate for an updated framework that ensures new and diverse Australian stories, including drama, documentary and children's television, are available across every platform without weakening current content quotas on free-to-air television. 

AWG President Shane Brennan plans to continue these conversations with Minister Paul Fletcher in early 2020, and members can voice their support for Australian content via the Make It Australian campaign

(Thanks to the AWG for this information!)


THE BRISBANE SQUARE LIBRARY is now open until midnight on Wednesday and Friday nights. Turn up late for an exciting range of programs and events after work, or catch up on your reading or study using the free Wi-Fi and comfortable spaces. Visit for more information about up late events and programs.



See NEWS PAGE 2 for who won the 2019 Booker Prize and CLIVE JAMES pics.


9. Jan, 2020
See THE NEWS above for the exciting events happening in Brisbane and around Queensland. As usual, during January 2020, there are COMPETITIONS to enter and OPPORTUNITIES for creators, as well as AUTHORS to meet, WORKSHOPS to attend, and GENERAL EVENTS to go to – most events are FREE or LOW COST.
CAROLL EDWIN SPINNEY was a puppeteer who performed as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on ‘Sesame Street’ for nearly 50 years. He described his experience as Big Bird as ‘a lot like growing up to be Mickey Mouse... only taller!’ Spinney was born in Waltham, Massachusetts on 26 December 1933, and was an accomplished artist before he began working as a live performer. The world lost part of its childhood when Caroll died on 8 December 2019. Go to to remember his work – and to check if Big Bird is available for roasting. (Photo by L.J. May S/S. Thank you Caroll and thank you Sesame Street for all the great years!)