Saturday, 30 August 2014

In Political Context: Researching my Irish family memoir in Newcastle - the plot thickens?


By Ruth Skilbeck in Newcastle

After writing some notes on my court case progress, yesterday (my car fine which I have been writing about here, connected to my coverage of the Sydney Biennale Boycott) I now have some more time to add the very latest news about what is happening in the wider context of Newcastle local politics, and the ongoing corruption inquiry by the ICAC which in the past two weeks has seen Newcastle Liberal MPS and the Lord Mayor Liberal Jeff McCloy stand down after they have all been found to be corrupt and in collusion over illegal property development plans and deals, which has also, it has been revealed also in the last two weeks, now been revealed to have smeared former Newcastle Labour MP Jodi McKay and cost her, her seat in the NSW Parliament, as the result of a corrupt ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against her as she opposed the plans of Buildev to install a coal loader terminal on the Newcastle Harbour rather than a container terminal that she supported, a plan that has been in place for a long time and is preferred by the state government, but which was opposed by property developers who stood to make 100 million from installing a coal loader (to the great detriment of the health of the local community research has shown). This was revealed in the ICAC this week.
So now rather than taking down my post of yesterday, I will add to it, weaving in the details that I have been reading about in the Newcastle Herald, and online.

It has been a while since I wrote about my ongoing research into my family history, on my long-lost mother’s side, which is Irish.
This will form the content of my next book, and more, but for now I cannot resist sharing what I have come across today completely by chance and serendipitously as all of this research into my mother’s family has been.

For a start, last night, I had a dream… of my mother and myself in The Old Manse, the old Georgian manse my family lived in for three and a half years, in the green fields of Country Antrim in Northern Ireland, before we moved to Australia in 1975.

Then today, following up on my legal case to do with the car (which I have written of on this blog) and making my appeal to have my case heard (which was granted) I walked past a very interesting building on the other side of the street to the Court House where I made my appeal. A tall blue painted stone building, in a state of faded elegance. My eye was caught by a heritage plaque almost on the level of the footpath, which I bent down to read.
It was very blustery weather, with a high wind blowing salt spray from the ocean at the far end of the street and I was almost blown over as I read the history of the building, which is on the site of the old “Sessions House”.
Clutching onto my scarf, I read that the Sessions House was a two-storey building that from 1822-1890 had served as Newcastle’s first Court House. I was fascinated to read this, as I thought my ancestor Cyrus Matthew Doyle had been amongst other things a local Magistrate who would have served in this very place, where I was standing now. Then I read that the same building was the first Post Office in Newcastle, from 1828, it served as a temporary Customs House from 1839. In 1859 it became a Presbyterian manse.  I was staggered to read this, as I live now in an old post office, the first post office in Adamstown, in Newcastle. I lived in an Old Manse in (Northern) Ireland, which was haunted.
My ancestors on my mother’s side came from Ireland, and as I have said here on this blog I have found out that the original ancestors who came from Ireland were political exiles, Rebels, from the 1798 rebellions.

I was quite shocked to read of this building’s history, and the odd resonances with my own places of abode, as I walked around the corner to the seafront and had a coffee at the Estabar overlooking the stormy seas as I mulled it over. I read the Newcastle Herald, more stories on the ongoing Independent Commission against Corruption Inquiry into corruption in Newcastle, and collusions between property developers, and politicians.  This has seen in the past two weeks, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, a property developer, Liberal Jeff McCloy, and Liberal MPs in Newcastle – Mr Tim Owen disgraced Liberal MP for Newcastle, and  Mr Andrew Cornwell disgraced Charlestown MP- found guilty and of one (Owen) accepting illegal money including from then Mayor, Mr Jeff McCloy, a millionaire property developer described as a “walking ATM” who gave people (Tim Owen) tens of thousands of dollars in brown paper bags, and two (Cornwell) lying to the ICAC under oath (giving false evidence). I read. I read about the current corruption inquiry into a scheme that would have made $100 million for development group Buildev (largest shareholder Nathan Tinkler- also before the inquiry) installing a coal terminal on a harbourside site that the government has long said is preferred as a container terminal, and which is cited in a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to smear sitting former Newcastle Labour MP Jodi McKay in the run up to the election in 2011 for her opposition to the coal terminal, which has great opposition in the Newcastle community (It would be a major polluter and very injurious for health of the local community). This was run through the Newcastle Alliance bank, ‘dirty tricks’ that drove MP Jodi McKay out of her seat in the NSW Parliament. (I remember the pamphlet that was delivered to my house in Newcastle before the 2011 elections “Stop Jodi’s Trucks”). This was all with the support of MP Darren Williamson who spent all day in the ICAC witness box on Wednesday.
Then I returned to Adamstown on the train, a wonderful evocative train journey from the historic Newcastle Train Station, which was built in the nineteenth century and is one of the things I like most about the city. And which extraordinarily is now under threat from property developers, including those who are being investigated in the ICAC inquiry.

Buildev is alleged to have illegally funded the FedUp! election advertising campaign run through the Newcastle Alliance. [That was against then Newcastle Labour MP Jodi McKay]
Buildev also made a series of illegal donations to the campaign of Ms McKay’s Liberal rival, Tim Owen, allegedly including $35,000 via the Free Enterprise Foundation that was channelled through the NSW Liberal Party, and payment of the wages of Owen campaign team member.”

When I sat down this evening to start my work on my book publication, I was for some reason suddenly inspired to look up post offices, in Newcastle, and found a link to a post office in Adamstown in Ireland. I thought it could possibly in time, or in imagination, be a sister post office to the old post office where I am living and running Postmistress Press.
I clicked on the links, and found a webpage to Enniscorthy in Wexford home of Adamstown in Ireland, and Enniscorthy Castle. I clicked on the link to Enniscorthy and went straight to the home page of the castle where the first thing I read was that it is a tourist site which celebrates and commemorates the 1798 Rebellion, hosting the “National 1798 Rebellion Centre”.  http://1798centre.ie/about
To my further surprise I read that this week from 23rd-31st August is Heritage Week 2014 at the National 1798 Rebellion Centre and Enniscorthy Castle.
A week in which there are public lectures about the Rebellion and its cultural and historical aspects.
On this very day, Friday the 29th August, there is a lecture on “Weapons of the 1798 Rebellion” by Rory O’Connor in the 1798 Rebellion Centre.
Well, my ancestors did not use weapons apparently as they were exiled for life on the grounds that they were non-violent, a plea made by my ancestor Sophia Isabella Doyle and granted by Lord Castlereagh who she was related to.
He granted that Rebels who were non-violent could be exiled for life, instead of executed, and so my family came to Australia. And they were from Dublin and the countryside near the Wicklow Mountains, rather than Wexford.
I will not go into any further details here, I have relayed some of my research so far in previous entries over the last three years, and will be writing it up into my next book or two.

But this has certainly made me feel once again that I am on the right track and have somehow, in some strange and mysterious way been brought to Newcastle to retrace, and find my long lost family, and write them back into life.

What’s more I am impressed by how in Enniscorthy the historic site of the castle and the cultural history is commemorated and celebrated, in a city like Newcastle this includes respecting the historical aspects of the railway, and buildings and not allowing corrupt property development, such as revealed in the ICAC inquiry, to exploit and destroy the cultural heritage of a unique city for the profit of a few.

Ruth Skilbeck   August 29, 2014
The Old Post Office, Adamstown, Newcastle

The National 1798 Rebellion Centre and Ennicorthy Castle in Enniscorthy, Wexford:


outlined/


“THE Buildev co-founders at the centre of a corruption inquiry stood to make $100 million if they had secured government approval for the Mayfield coal-loader proposal they relentlessly promoted, under an agreement to then sell the site to Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Ports.”

When former Labor Newcastle MP Jodi McKay was interviewed for this story it was before the ICAC inquiry into the Liberal MP who replaced her, Tim Owen, after the ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to smear her, bank-rolled by Nathan Tinkler –property developer major shareholder in Buildev- and his corruption, in the past two weeks he has been stood down for accepting illegal political donations, and corruption.

“Lord Mayor of Newcastle has just tendered his resignation in the latest fallout from the ongoing corruption enquiry into Newcastle's governance and development issues, which have seen two corrupt Newcastle Liberal MPs resign in the last three days.”  (Facebook post, August 18, 2014)
*

Twitter post:
         Newcastle"Corrupt" Liberal MPs quit Parliament after ICAC hearings http://t.co/qoTD3wYAMw via @ABCNews

            Former Liberal MPs quit Parliament after ICAC hearingsabc.net.auTwo former Government MPs quit the NSW Parliament after admitting to wrongdoing before a corruption inquiry.















· @RuthSkilbeck on Twitter              *
After being fined almost $2000 for having my own broken down car outside my own house, which I had discussed by phone with a Newcastle council representative (council ranger) several times and he had assured me it was ok to leave my car there until I decided to either have it taken to wreckers, or have it repaired and re-registered, I then was given a fine of $1200. The day I went to Sydney to see an artists talk at SCA on the Biennale of Sydney boycott and I interviewed international artists (story on my blog) - returned to Newcastle midnight- by train- and found the fines. Went to court to contest- told I would have to go to court again, heard no more about it until this week - after I put the blog stories on the Biennale Boycott back up on my blog The Daily Fugue- and I was sent an increased level fine of almost $2000. This is in Newcastle, where two Newcastle MPs have just resigned following an investigation by ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) where they were found guilty of corruption involving the Lord Mayor a developer who gave them money for political reasons (which is illegal). Not a welcoming place I have found for a poor arts entrepreneur such as myself setting up a new publishing house. I am now seeking legal help to contest this unjust fine.
12 August at 21:20 · Edited · Like  (Facebook post August 12, 2014)


Friday, 29 August 2014

Irish Rebels from Wexford to Newcastle NSW: Writing A Family Memoir


It has been a while since I wrote about my ongoing research into my family history on my long-lost mother’s side, which is Irish.
This will form the content of my next book, and more, but for now I cannot resist sharing what I have come across today completely by chance and serendipitously as all of this research into my mother’s family has been.

For a start, last night, I had a dream… of my mother and myself in The Old Manse, the old Georgian manse my family lived in for three and a half years, in the green fields of Country Antrim in Northern Ireland, before we moved to Australia in 1975.

Then today, following up on my legal case to do with the car (which I have written of on this blog) and making my appeal to have my case heard (which was granted) I walked past a very interesting building on the other side of the street to the Court House where I made my appeal. A tall blue painted stone building, in a state of faded elegance. My eye was caught by a heritage plaque almost on the level of the footpath, which I bent down to read.
It was very blustery weather, with a high wind blowing salt spray from the ocean at the far end of the street and I was almost blown over as I read the history of the building, which is on the site of the old “Sessions House”.
Clutching onto my scarf, I read that the Sessions House was a two-storey building on the site from 1822-1890, and had served as Newcastle’s first Court House. I was fascinated to read this, as I thought my ancestor Cyrus Matthew Doyle had been amongst other things a local Magistrate who would have served close to very place, where I was standing now. Then I read that the same building was the first Post Office in Newcastle, from 1828, it served as a temporary Customs House from 1839. In 1859 it became a Presbyterian manse.  I was rather astonished to read this, as I live now in an old post office, the first post office in Adamstown, in Newcastle. I lived in an Old Manse in (Northern) Ireland, which was haunted.
My ancestors on my mother’s side came from Ireland, and as I have said here on this blog I have found out that the original ancestors who came from Ireland were political exiles, Rebels, from the 1798 and 1801 rebellions.

I was quite shocked to read of this building’s history, and the odd resonances with my own places of abode, and I walked around the corner to the seafront and had a coffee at the Estabar overlooking the stormy seas as I mulled it over. Then I returned to Adamstown on the train, a wonderful evocative train journey from the historic Newcastle Train Station, which was built in the nineteenth century and is one of the things I like most about the city.

When I sat down this evening to start my work on my book publication, I was for some reason suddenly inspired to look up post offices, in Newcastle, and found a link to a post office in Adamstown in Ireland. I though it could possibly in time, or in imagination, be a sister post office to the old post office where I am living and running Postmistress Press.
I clicked on the links, and found a webpage to Enniscorthy in Wexford home of Adamstown in Ireland, and Enniscorthy Castle. I clicked on the link to Enniscorthy and went straight to the home page of the castle where the first thing I read was that it is a tourist site which celebrates and commemorates the 1798 Rebellion, hosting the “National 1798 Rebellion Centre”.  
To my further surprise I read that this week from 23rd-31st August is Heritage Week 2014 at the National 1798 Rebellion Centre and Enniscorthy Castle.
A week in which there are public lectures about the Rebellion and its cultural and historical aspects.
On this very day, Friday the 29th August, there is a lecture on “Weapons of the 1798 Rebellion” by Rory O’Connor in the 1798 Rebellion Centre.
Well, my ancestors did not use weapons apparently as they were exiled for life on the grounds that they were non-violent, a plea made by my ancestor Sophia Isabella Doyle and granted by Lord Castlereagh who she was related to.
He granted that Rebels who were non-violent could be exiled for life, instead of executed, and so my ancestors came to Australia. And they were from Dublin and the countryside near the Wicklow Mountains, rather than Wexford.
I will not go into any further details here, I have relayed some of my research so far in previous entries over the last three years, and will be writing it up into my next book or two.

But this has certainly made me feel once again that I am on the right track and have somehow, in some strange and mysterious way been brought to Newcastle to retrace, and find my long lost family, and write them back into life.

Ruth Skilbeck   August 29, 2014
The Old Post Office, Adamstown, Newcastle

The National 1798 Rebellion Centre and Ennicorthy Castle in Enniscorthy, Wexford:
http://1798centre.ie/about

Australian Dictionary of Biography entry: Cyrus Matthew Doyle
http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/doyle-cyrus-matthew-1990






Friday, 15 August 2014

Historic Newcastle Train Station Under Threat by "Corrupt Developers"

One of the best and most striking features of Newcastle's city centre is the 19th century Newcastle train station yet developers backed by and in the Newcastle City Council (the mayor is a developer) are now planning to destroy it- so they can develop the site for their profit. This has been opposed for years in Newcastle by the community but the community is being pushed aside and the city destroyed for profit, whilst those at the top are under investigation for corruption by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The starting date for destruction of the historic train station and ripping up of the railway tracks is Boxing Day 2014. Can their plans be stopped until the ICAC enquiry is over- before it is too late to save the Newcastle train station and its cultural significance? Read UNSW academic and critic Elizabeth Farelly's article below on this.

"ICAC’s ongoing Operation Spicer has heard evidence suggesting all sorts of sinister links between developers such as McCloy and Nathan Tinkler, politicians including Tim Owens and Joe Tripodi, and the friendly-fire campaign – ''stop Jodi’s trucks'' – to winkle Labor MP Jodi McKay from office. Less a can of worms, all this, than a pit of ruthless trouser snakes.
None of it furthers the public interest. Indeed, if we, the public, stand by, it will destroy a system that could benefit Newcastle’s city economy a thousand times more than all the third-rate high-rises those guys can erect between them.
We should demand a moratorium, halting all inner-city rezoning, development approvals and rail-destruction until ICAC sheds its light." (excerpt from 'CBDs are For All of Us Not Just Suits' link below)


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/cbds-are-for-us-all-not-just-suits-20140813-103hzu.html#ixzz3AQ1E8wX6

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Biennale Breakthrough: Gabrielle's Good Seeds Triumph over Flowers of Evil in Transgressive Fields

Saying Something Different, and Good, with Flowers

By Ruth Skilbeck

It may to some seem ironic that the main point that has emerged from a Biennale ostensibly on promoting libidinal desire, in accord with the desire that propels "upmarket" advertising to represent and glamorise objects with the allure of mediated sensations, that evoke pleasure and/or (in the "right way") pain; is very far from this, is its converse and counter-balance in a world out of control: Ethics.

A word far from the postmodern euphorias that Baudrillard recognised as "obscene" yet which have propelled the world of illusion and deception, the false images of promotion, and advertising, into university departments to replace the former courses in Literature which gave a grounding in critical thinking.

This is a libidinal state, where the catalogue essays reveal, desire may not even be for the pleasurable, but in the text by Edward Colless, for the pain of torture, and hideous defilements. Colless illustrates his imaginings with the image of the "corpse bride" a figure from myth and literature where a living young woman was forced into an embrace with a rotting corpse, until she too, tied to the corpse, was consumed and killed by its literal embrace of death, as she could not escape, tied to the corpse, by her torturers. It seems like an odd image to use as a motif in a catalogue essay on a Biennale with the theme You Imagine What You Desire (a quotation from Bernard Shaw apparently), yet this is the motif that Colless plays with and works up - and which even more oddly acquired a very real and unintended resonance in this Biennale, when the artists participating in it refused to let their works be used to, figuratively speaking,
illustrate this foul sick play of words.

For a long time in the art world and postmodern critical theory there was an idea that the Real was illusory, inaccessible, that we live in a world where emotion and real affect is not only impossible to convey, as impossible to transmit through writing or art to others, as our intentions, in words. Also deeply uncool, although that in itself is a contradiction.

What this leads to logically and illogically, is the efflorescence of decadence that emerges in ideas of Flowers of Evil, and the corpse bride, though I still don't get the associations that Colless was trying to convey with his foul images. He also slanders facebook as a means of communication and likens those who use it to communicate as zombies, the living dead, their "communication" a form of contagion and sickness. Ironically or otherwise, what he criticises in others, is evident and manifest in his own words and writing, the image of the young woman tied to a rotting corpse that he cannot leave alone, it seems, throughout his essay is a rather disturbing reflection of the author's mind, and yet he is using this to project onto the artists and art in the Biennale. Or is there something more to it, that the reader does not know??

Perhaps this is part of what caused the deep abreaction from the international artists in the Biennale. Not only do they find that they are in an environment where they are subliminally being married to corpses, they are also then to find out that their works are being used to endorse a sponsor who is running offshore mandatory detention camps where - as the media reveals during the month prior to the Biennale opening- inmates are held in conditions which amount to forms of torture, and are even murdered in the supposed care given to them, as happened in the last month prior to the Biennale, when 23 year old architecture student, Reza Barati had his "head stamped on" and died as a result in attacks on inmates by locals and service providers at the camps run by the now-ex Biennale sponsor (due to the boycott).

Given this it is not surprising perhaps that the young artist whose work, Garden of Bad Flowers, was made in reference to Baudelaire's book of poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of evil) that she should suddenly wish to withdraw her work, when she found out about these shockingly real links and connections, ties to funding which is analogously as appalling as finding you are tied to a rotten corpse. Gabrielle de Vietri, aged 31, who led the artists group who boycotted the Biennale for this very reason, is one of the two artists who did not return when the Board subsequently acted on the artists' boycott and the looming boycott of the international governments who were about to withdraw their funds, in support of their artist representatives.

Her "site-specific work", The Garden of Bad Flowers, was a literally ecological work, of flowers and grasses filling many planters, which had already been situated on Cockatoo Island (a former convict prison island in Sydney Harbour and as of 2008 a Biennale site), the Biennale catalogue still includes her work, as if she is still a part of the Biennale. Yet she is not. The catalogues were printed three months ago, curator Engberg said in the media preview, apparently they could not be altered and reprinted, and failing this neither could a slip of paper be inserted into the catalogues- one of which I bought at the MCA shop yesterday- with the change of artist representation, as the artists themselves wished and requested that their withdrawal be marked with a statement that they had withdrawn. This was ignored in Gabrielle's case.

Most of the artists boycotting the Biennale went back, and installed their works, after the Board severed ties with the  detention camps sponsor. But not Gabrielle de Vietri.

She had made a garden, and an installation of floriography,
the language of flowers.

What her statement says, unwritten though it may be on paper, or in the Biennale exhibition guide, is that her flowers are now saying something very different.

This week, Gabrielle de Vietri has moved her garden of flowers, with the help of "burly women and men" off Cockatoo Island and she has relocated her garden of flowers. With many helpers she moved the garden to a community Farm in Sydney's outskirts.

She wrote on her website of her work last year:


[For] the 2014 Biennale of Sydney I am creating a Garden of Bad Flowers - plants that have been given negative symbolic meanings according to the 19th century publication "The Language of Flowers". Lavender means distrust, lobelia represents malevolence, cypress symbolises mourning, basil, hatred and mandrake, horror, etc.
It will be...



As it turned out the 'horror' of mandrake became real, with the detention camps link becoming apparent, and Gabrielle de Vietri withdrew her work.

She should be commended for her ethical leadership and her work in changing the language of flowers, which has achieved an important cultural change, in the real world, where symbolic art meets politics, and makes a social difference.


Ruth Skilbeck,  19.3.2014



Sydney Biennale Boycott Repercussions - for this writer- a huge fine


Well, no doubt the authorities are simply dying for me to write this, but my fines for having my car parked outside my house ( I could not park next to it off the road because the kerb was too high to drive over and the Newcastle council was not prepared to help me) have now escalated to almost $2000 even though I have been to court, long ago sold my poor car to the wreckers for $100 and was assured by the judge in my first court case that he agreed with me that I was Not Guilty as I had assurances from the council ranger that it was ok to leave my car until I had worked out whether to re-register and fix up (if I could get the money) or have it taken to the wreckers. Strangely enough the first fine notice was delivered the very same day that I went to Sydney to interview the international artists in the 19th Sydney Biennale boycott who were giving a talk at SCA. I interviewed them with the Refugee advocates and trauma counsellor they were working with to make their piece that in the end was shown at the Biennale (on my blog The Daily Fugue)- as the boycott was successful and Transfield sponsor managing detention centers using torture resigned. However Transfield is instrumentally involved in public transport and roads infrastructure and I am sure there are connections here. I am not scared. They can't bully and intimidate me in such a pathetic way. I feel sorry for them.

Ruth Skilbeck.