The artistic great and good gathered at UNE yesterday to launch a book celebrating Armidale’s thriving cultural scene over the last few decades.
Deni McKenzie’s Jewels of New England is “a light-hearted record of the achievements of some of the extremely gifted people in Armidale and Uralla” – including actors, directors, musicians, artists, writers, and scholars, many with international reputations.
“It is an irreverent look at the huge talent that is in Armidale,” Mrs McKenzie said. “One might call it a ‘mini bio’ of each of these people, who are certainly at the top of their tree. Their achievements are inspirational.”
Mrs McKenzie profiled the 41 people in the book nearly 20 years ago, when she was voluntary editor of the now defunct Independent’s cultural page “Billboard”.
“I didn’t realise at the time the opportunities (and honour) now opening up to me in meeting so many incredible people. It broadened my own cultural sensibilities and heightened my awareness of the skills and commitment of these people.”
Encouraged by the parents of musicians she had interviewed 17 years before, Mrs McKenzie updated the profiles and prepared the book for publication.
“The layout of the book is different: just about every page has a colour photograph, or old newspaper reproduction, along with symbols representing their chosen field, and the few odd irreverent comments from me.”
The launch was held at Austin College, UNE, yesterday afternoon, and included a musical concert and retrospective of artists’ works.
Mrs McKenzie is planning another book, possibly to be called More Jewels or Culture Vultures and Other Critters.
Jewels of New England, by Deni McKenzie, is available for $30 from local booksellers, or online at https://www.jewelsofnewengland.org.