Arts & Entertainment

Sedition Festival

By Irina Dunn

If you’re a child of the 70s, or you wish you were a child of the 70s, Sedition Festival has something interesting and exciting to offer you.

Loaded with nostalgia, the festival offers a seditious range of 70s entertainment, from cabaret to concerts to art exhibitions to films and talks.

Put together by co-curators, former Rolling Stones Editor, Toby Creswell, and Lesa-Belle Furhagen, Sedition is “an art event that celebrates public art and protest of the 1970s.” The event focuses on “the Sydney underground of the 1970s and the huge creative wave that broke during those years.”

They say, “the vision behind Sedition 2019 is that art incites action; whether that be protests about women’s rights or land rights or the creation of a film culture in Australia or an innovative, cathartic music scene and the poster art and ephemera that is its legacy.”

Artists featured in the show include Brett Whiteley, Martin Sharp, Garry Shead, Peter Kingston, Paul Worstead, The Tin Sheds Collective, Michael Callaghan, Reg Mombassa, Therese Kenyon, Marie McMahon, Michael Matou, Toby Zoates, and Jan MacKay. 

Long associated with the stage, Johnny Allen, I am pleased to say, is bringing us two cabaret shows.

One is The Cabaret Conspiracy, which was “a radical cabaret group that emerged from and reflected the gay-anarcho-feminist ethos of Darlinghurst in the 1970s.” 

The group started performing in February 1979 at Garibaldi’s, “a backstreet café above a motor garage in Darlinghurst that established a reputation for outrageous and entertaining alternative theatre.” (I remember Garibaldi’s, with the huge imposing portrait of the man himself painted directly onto the wall of the dining room.)

Johnny Allen is joined on the stage by a cabaret troupe of burlesque artists, singers and dancers including Martin Raphael, Fingers De Main, Jan Cornall, Elizabeth Drake, Funny Stories, Michael Shirley, Elizabeth Burton, Vittorio Bianchi, and Vashti Hughes.

That should shake the library up!

Another show is Cabaret, The Post Conspiracists curated by the multi-talented Vashti Hughes and composer and teacher Tim Hansen. They are joined by a host of performers including Christa Hughes, blues belter and vaudeville vamp, Imogen Kelly, renowned as Australia’s Queen of Burlesque, Betty Grumble, described as a Surreal Showgurl, and Celia Curtis, a burlesque/cabaret comedian.

One of the standout shows for me is Girls in Our Town, which features the “saucy and bold” Margret RoadKnight alongside the dynamo Jeannie Lewis. Girls in Our Town reprises the 70s show All Together Now that was so popular and toured the country. 

Margret’s rich deep voice and sense of humour make her a consummate performer, while Jeannie’s voice soars to impossible levels. A long time ago, I was in the Belvoir I think, and the audience was asked to close its eyes and listen to Jeannie duelling with Jim Conway’s mouth organ. It was hard to tell which was voice, which mouth organ.

Other “girls” to join Margret and Jeannie are Jan Cornall and Elizabeth Drake, who will perform songs from their musical cabaret Failing In Love Again, “a witty take on the sexual revolution with all its contradictions, self-doubt and bravado”. Janie Conway-Herron, founding member of the 70s band Stiletto, will introduce a new collection of songs that she wrote to accompany her fictional memoir set in 70s and 80s Melbourne music scene. Former lead singer from Tully, Shayna Karlin, will also lend her considerable vocals to the show.

In film, director Stephen Wallace presents three debut films from the 70s: Violence In The Cinema – Part 1, Love Letters From Teralba Rd and Wrong Side Of The Road.

The Palace Verona will host a double feature with The Night The Prowler, starring the inimitable Ruth Cracknell, and, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The talks are likely to be lively with titles like A Woman’s Place, So What Was That All About? Art in the 70s and Art Speaks Truth to Power.

And watch the oldies get their socks off to The Aints + The Flaming Hands and Shining Imposters, The Mangrove Boogie Kings, Dog Trumpet and Uncle Bob’s Band. 

And don’t forget the two exhibitions The Art of Agitation and Paper Tigers at the Amaze Gallery and National Art School respectively.

This festival will be spread across venues in Darlinghurst and neighbouring suburbs.

Sedition 2019 is partnering with the Power Institute, City of Sydney, State Library of NSW, Oxford Arts Factory, National Art School and Brand X Productions.

Perhaps Damien Lovelock sums up the spirit of the festival best in his comment on the art of the 70s: “They make their own posters. They put on their own gigs. They rent their own halls. They do everything themselves. That’s as radical to me as Brecht was to theatre.”

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