Thursday, May 29, 2014

#Human Brochure - Museum of Australian Democracy

John and Janette Howard looked down at me from their portrait hung in the oak paneled lobby of Old Parliament House. John with his fluffy eyebrows, uncomfortably clutching his wife, with the beauty of Kirribilli house gardens behind them. John was never much of a fan of Canberra which is why he was happy to spend so much time of his Prime Ministership in Sydney. It was strange for me then to see him here.

When a man as outstandingly colourless as John Howard turns his nose up at a place, you know it must be worth a look,” American Author Bill Bryson once wrote on Canberra.

And so it was I found myself in Old Parliament House now metamorphosed from the daily hang out of politicians to the Museum of Australian Democracy - a museum which describes their antics. I wonder what Honest John would make of it all.

The building held the Australian Parliament from 1927-1988, designed by John Smith Murdoch as the 'temporary' home for the Australian Government it was designed to be stripped back and basic so as to reduce costs.  

In this endevour the architect failed significantly - the building is a nationally-listed heritage building containing precious furniture and beautiful artwork (the 'beauty' perhaps excluding the subject matter of John Howard). Yes, the building is simple - a long way perhaps from Rome's famous "wedding cake" building of Altare della Patria, but certainly still making quite a nice 101st birthday cake for Canberra.

Separated at birth?
I was a guest virtue of being one of the "101 Humans" chosen to learn more about what Canberra has to offer tourists through a series of VIP events of which this was the first. I felt privileged to be one of the chosen few.

It was great to mingle with the others - an eclectic but friendly bunch - all of us with a couple of things in common - the pride of being chosen and our unified love of Canberra!

We were treated to incredible hors d'ouvres - beetroot and goats cheese marshmallows - delicious cocktails topped all topped off with prawn dogs. All of it accompanied by cool mood music from a live band. It was well and truly red-carpet treatment.

I was lucky enough to attend a session with Geoff Pryor former cartoonist at the Canberra Times and now practicing his art at the Saturday Paper. Others went to mix cocktails and see the incredible kitchens in the building.

Geoff Pryor's story was fascinating - his stories of life in the press gallery watching journos painfully spending days frantically tapping away on typewriters, while he sat back contemplating his one big idea which would take pride of place in the following day's paper.

Geoff explained that his working day was typically divided in two parts - "BI" and "AI" - 'before idea' and 'after idea'. He said the pressure existed as if he didn't produce the goods then there would be a blank space in tomorrow's paper, the "BI" something that the journos he sat with, didn't need to contend with. Cartoonists seem to be a special breed; able to blend astute analysis of the days news with a graphic sensibility. 

A picture really does speak a thousand words - although that said, I could have listened to Geoff speak all evening.

Afterwards there was more time to meet our fellow Humans. We dined on eclairs and other goodies while two other talented cartoonists drew portraits of us.

It was a wonderful night out and fantastically showcased all that the Museum of Democracy had to offer. Thanks so much MoAD - I love you even more today than yesterday!

photo by Mark Nolan
That's me on the right

a great memento from the evening


Jessica Hancock said...

I love the opening thoughts on John Howard and his opinion of Canberra. This was beautifully described, well done!

Anonymous said...

Great summary, Trevor. It was certainly a top night.