Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Blair Milan Scholarship and The Blair Milan Touring Fund – an update

My son Blair Milan was a talented and enthusiastic actor and all round joyful human being. We lost him to Acute Myeloid Leukaemia on 17 April 2011. I’ve previously written about the fund my partner John and I set up with Blair’s close friends in conjunction with Blair’s alma mater, Charles Sturt University Foundation to ensure his legacy will live on for years to come.

Blair graduated as a Bachelor of Arts (Communication –Theatre/Media) at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst with Distinction in 2003.  The Blair Milan Fund seeks to pass on Blair’s enthusiasm for the arts to future Theatre/Media students.  The two inaugural awards have now been made:

The Blair Milan Scholarship
About: A scholarship of $3000 will be awarded annually to one second year Theatre/Media student who exemplifies the generous artistic spirit and attitude of Blair. The student will be carefully selected by the academic staff of the Theatre/Media course with input from Blair’s family and peers. Selection will based on the student’s community involvement, academic and on stage performance as well as goals and motivation. The scholarship aims to encourage students studying Theatre/Media to demonstrate optimism, enthusiasm and a passion for their chosen field.

Recipient: Angus Wilkinson received this scholarship in May last year.  We were impressed with his written submission and even more impressed when we met him in person.  He reminded me of Blair and gave a magnificent thank you speech on behalf of all the award winners.  We have stayed in touch and he thoughtfully posted a photo of himself in his cap and gown, with his degree and wearing his “Good times” badge at his graduation. The “Good Times” badges were made for Blair’s funeral by his friends from CSU and their parents. I gave Angus one at the awards ceremony. He is doing well as he has got straight into the directing course at NIDA.

The Blair Milan Touring Fund
About: A $7,000 fund provides financial support for the presentation of work of final year theatre/Media students before metropolitan and/or regional communities.  The recipients will be selected by academic staff of the course with input from Blair’s peers and the Milan family. Profits realised from this presentation will be returned to the Blair Milan Touring Fund.

Recipient:  The group performing Sticky Feet are the deserved winner.  They were unanimously chosen by the CSU staff, including one who is an alumnus from Blair’s year. The team will take the show to ‘Higher Ground Inc’ at the Adelaide Fringe Festival from 27 February to 4 March 2013. This enterprising group have also secured a residency with Tamarama Rock Surfers (TRS) from 4 to 8 February.  The residency includes a performance at Bondi Pavilion which they are making a fund raiser for The Blair Milan Fund. They have asked me to speak, especially as entry is FOC but they ask for donations. I am so gratified they want to give back to the fund – reassures me they are the very best of winners. There are no allocated tickets so it’s first in best dressed for the 230 seats.  

The details
7:30pm on Friday 8 February
Bondi Pavilion Theatre
Bondi Beach
No booking required
Donation entry
All proceeds go towards the Blair Milan Touring Fund

About Sticky Feet
Have you ever found yourself in an awkward social situation? Gone in for a handshake when someone else goes in for a hug? Waved at someone who wasn’t looking or even called someone by the wrong name? We know you have. We all have.

‘Sticky Feet’ is the brainchild of a group of like-minded and often socially awkward young Sydney-based theatre makers. The show, two years in the making, is a short 30-minute physical comedy jam packed with cringe-worthy, bladder-pushing, side-splitting moments that will leave you wanting more.

‘Sticky Feet’ debuted at Charles Sturt University’s annual creative arts festival, ‘Sprung Festival’ in September 2012. It was awarded the inaugural Blair Milan Touring Fund, which is enabling the team to take the show to ‘Higher Ground Inc’ for Adelaide Fringe Festival from the 27th February to the 4th March 2013. Sticky Feet Productions is privileged to receive such a prestigious award and would like to kindly thank the Milan family for their support. The generous touring fund will ensure Blair’s legacy continues forever through the work and creativity of new Australian artists.

‘Sticky Feet’ came to life through an 8-week devising process, involving students from all three years of the Bachelor of Communication (Theatre/Media) course at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst. The story follows three unique strangers; Mel, Phil and Geoff, and their journey towards overcoming communication faux pas, fears of being judged and accepting that everyone has a little weirdo inside them.

In preparation for Adelaide Fringe Festival, ‘Sticky Feet’ are undertaking a second development of the show with Tamarama Rock Surfers who have offered the company a residency. The residency will culminate in a public showing in the iconic Bondi Pavilion Theatre on Friday 8th February 2013 at 7:30pm. All proceeds from the showing will go back into the Blair Milan Touring Fund.

‘Sticky Feet’ has something for everyone and is great for all ages, young and old. The set beckons you, framed in a 3x4 metre box that makes you feel like you are peeping into a wacky and wondrous offbeat world. The colours and crazy faces keep you glued to your seat. The supreme awkwardness drags you to the edge and then throws you back again with cathartic laughter.

More information
Visit their website, facebook page or send an email.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre hosts 25th Australia Day Council’s Australia Day Lunch

Summer berry chocolate meringue with cinnamon-spiced hunter valley mascarpone and peach buttermilk ice cream
Which venue showcases one of most glorious views in Sydney?
And boasts a world-class innovative food and beverage team?
With facilities to cater for 1,400 guests at Australia’s largest corporate lunch?

The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Australia Day Lunch both celebrated a milestone last  Friday.  It was the 25th Australia Day Lunch to be held at the Centre and one of the first major events to herald the Centre’s 25th anniversary year.

In my capacity as Australia Day Ambassador I’ve attended this lunch many times. Even as an ex-caterer who has fed large numbers myself, it never fails to blow me away.  The standard and quality of food and wine served is impressive and I have heard from other Australia Day ambassadors  that this year’s lunch was just as special, if not the best ever, given the milestone.  Unfortunately, due to filming commitments and my ambassadorial posting in Nundle, I was unable to attend.

Planning for this lunch begins months before.  Menus are developed, tested and re-tested to showcase the best of New South Wales produce, much of it award winning.  Ordering food requires a great deal of forward thinking.  Executive Chef Uwe Habermehl ordered 300kg of lamb for the  main course – 375 9-bone racks for the main course – from 2012 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medallist, Milly Hill Lamb.  He even made his own elderflower wine for the marinade.

Four days before the event the fun really starts!  The halls are set up and installation of the elaborate theming, staging and rigging begins.  Six satellite kitchens are built in adjoining halls too.

An astonishing 10,000 pieces of cutlery, 7,500 items of glassware and 5,000 pieces of crockery are polished.
On the day over 130 wait staff are briefed to serve and clear the four course lunch which is plated by 54 chefs and served in six waves of 250 plates at a time with military-like precision.  

Uwe’s menu embraced the food we traditionally eat on Australia Day, but with many modern twists and turns!
  • Macadamia nut and chilli marshmallow with avocado smoothie was served on arrival, matched with Tyrrell’s Traditional Method Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2009.  Country Valley Luscious Yoghurt and Pepe Saya Buttermilk were whizzed with the avocado and served in a brandy balloon with the savoury marshmallow on the side.
  • The entrée of Sugar-cured salmon and kingfish terrine with carid prawn rémoulade and asparagus salad was matched with Tyrrell’s Single Vineyard Stevens Semillon 2008.  Uwe sourced 28,000 tiny carid prawns from Western Australia which were painstakingly peeled by his team.
  • The main course featured two elements – lamb and pie!  Duck confit and quail breast pie with spicy mango relish and elderberry wine-cured rack of Milly Hill lamb with horseradish galette and green pea purée.  Tyrrell’s Lunatiq Heathcote Shiraz 2010 was the wine match.
  • Quintessential pavlova was Uwe’s inspiration for his dessert of Summer berry chocolate meringue with cinnamon-spiced hunter valley mascarpone and peach buttermilk ice cream.
Amazing to serve so many people, with each person being treated with all the care of a fine dining restaurant.