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Ironfest: shifting gears for Lithgow


 

Steampunk inventor Bruce Hodsdon of Ingleburn at the 16th annual Ironfest at Lithgow Showground. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Steampunk inventor Bruce Hodsdon of Ingleburn at the 16th annual Ironfest at Lithgow Showground. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

By Ellen Hill                                       Photos: David Hill

“We have an executioner on duty. He’s explaining his craft to someone – it seems to work.’’

Emcee Friar Craig Batty has been whipping up the peasants with outrageous one-liners for years.

“Medieval torturers: the only people allowed to be drunk at work’’; “The grandstand is a designated bomb shelter; “It’s okay to get killed, just not injured – there’s too much paperwork’’.

Steampunker Augustus Smoke at the 16th annual Ironfest at Lithgow Showground. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Steampunker Augustus Smoke at the 16th annual Ironfest at Lithgow Showground. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

He continues as the ominous vibration of a procession of World War II vehicles take to the racetrack.

“There is an attack imminent,’’ Batty blares.

“Do please cover your ears and close your mouth as the firing starts.’’

Under thunderous skies, a medieval knight decked out in iron helmet and chainmail covers his ears while a French damsel in a cylinder caul headdress takes a picture on a smart phone and gluts of Steampunkers cheer and stamp their feet, trinkets and baubles jangling and glass eye pieces glinting.

Crowds of voyeurs in jeans and caps gawp in amazement at the mish-mash of history and unabashed exhibitionism surrounding them.

“Don’t stand too close to the fence or you might get hit,’’ Batty booms.

A camera drone buzzes overhead capturing the whole spectacle.

“The aerial attack has been thwarted. The displacements from Lithgow Small Arms Factory saw them off.’’

The crowd murmurs and shuffles in anticipation for the next instalment.

“Where else can you go to have your children disembowelled?’’

The Kingdom of Ironfest, in a windswept valley in Australia’s first industrial heart, Lithgow just west of the Great Divide, that’s where.

For 16 years, long before Game of Thrones, Vikings, Marco Polo and the like, the secret lives of those who cover inhibition with costumes have been played out in a surreal real-life fantasy for all to witness at Lithgow Showground.

The “Festival with a metal edge’’ has strayed slightly from its original intention of showcasing metal art and celebrating Lithgow’s industrial heritage.

These days there are fewer medieval groups and more Steampunk. Regardless, the event attracts an ever increasing number of people eager to transform from bland to brazen.

Chainmail jewellery maker Tamara Dalrymple of Blacktown, who attended Ironfest with partner Graeme Paterson, said: “When I dress up I can be myself.’’

Kendall Bailey of Redfern in her extravagent rendition of Maleficent. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Kendall Bailey of Redfern in her extravagent rendition of Maleficent. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Like every hard core cosplayer Kendall Bailey of Redfern knew her costume would create a stir amongst the watchers.

Resplendent in gold medieval-style gown, cosmetic cheekbones, towering horns and wings with a 1m span, she faced a wall of lenses at every step as her interpretation of silver screen character Maleficent.

“It’s one way you can do art without having to publish it, and everyone can enjoy it,’’ she says.

For Steampunkers Natalie and Ray Everton it’s a family activity they enjoy with sons Joshua, 16, and Fletcher, 10.

Deesh strides through the lush grass besides the row of Australian colonial era canvass tents, her navy blue medieval gown flapping in the wind, her dark hair playing around her face. She looks exquisitely regal.

Her slim frame is deceptive: Deesh is an expert – and ruthless – swordswoman, capable of packing and taking a bone-jarring wallop.

Swordsman Rob Lyon of Sydney prepares for battle. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Swordsman Rob Lyon of Sydney prepares for battle. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Partner Rob Lyon used to be satisfied playing Dungeons & Dragons.

These days, he likes a more robust game – sword play.

“Some people don’t like to be hit hard but I like to be flogged so I know I’ve been hit,’’ he says.

“You can be whatever and whoever you want to be. Some people take it to the enth degree.’’

John Pettigrew from Tamborine, Brisbane, likes the Viking era. With cascading grew/white hair and beard, he is on the road six months of the year peddling drinking horns on the re-enactors festival circuit.

“My wife passed away four years so there’s nothing to keep me at home now,’’ he says.

“I like the Viking period but I’m damn sure I wouldn’t like to live in it. The average age was only about 24; very few would have gotten to see their grandkids; there was disease everywhere. It was a hard life all round.’’

For mechanical engineer Bruce Hodsdon of Ingleburn, Steampunk is all about the detail: “Too much glass is never enough.

“I like to look at that things and think: `That can actually work’.’’

Ironfest is as much about a gathering of artists, re-enactors and cosplayers as it is about an industrial town emerging from its time languishing in the shadow of the hulking golden Greater Blue Mountains escarpment.

Viking John Pettigrew of Tamborine, Brisbane. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Viking John Pettigrew of Tamborine, Brisbane. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Dotted with gritty industrial sites such as the Blast Furnace ruin, the Small Arms Factory and State Mine Museum, the largely working class population is reeling from the recent and imminent closures of its main employers – the coal mines and the power station.

Rather than wallowing in self-pity, Lithgow Council has implemented a range of morale-boosting initiatives.

Efforts to reinvigorate the town centre with murals, shop window displays and retail competitions aim to encourage local business while events such as Lithglo lighting show and Halloween encourage town pride and foster community spirit.

The plan has paid off, along with a new focus on local tourism.

The fact that the town’s first female Mayor Maree Statham supports these events in spectacular style must surely help too.

 

Magnificent in head-to-toe Steampunk costume with trademark coral coloured lipstick and immaculate coif, Madam Mayor made a jaw-dropping debut on the dress-up stage at the 2014 Ironfest and was unrecognisable in a red mask and cape at Halloween.

“I do it for Lithgow,’’ she says, again in full Steampunk attire.

The success of Ironfest, which began when metal artist Macgregor Ross convinced about 200 mates to turn up to the inaugural festival 16 years ago, is testament to that – about 16,000 attended on the April 18-19 weekend.

Detail work of the Steampunk outfit adorning the elegant Mayor of Lithgow Maree Statham. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Detail work of the Steampunk outfit adorning the elegant Mayor of Lithgow Maree Statham. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Icy rain begins to fall like medieval arrows from the sky, the freezing droplets stinging the eyes as they splosh on bodies unprepared for damp rising from beneath and suffocating fog bearing down from above.

Kids wearing Roman helmet-style beanies, wielding plastic swords and lance splinter mementos burrow into fleecy hoodies, stuff mottled hands into denim pockets and trudge slowly through the wrought iron gates of the showground.

Behind them, fantastic characters pull woollen capes tightly around themselves as they wander through the makeshift campground: members of Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s own 73rd Regiment in their red and white colonial uniforms chat with those of the Australian Armoured Vehicle Association while Danish wenches prepare hearty meals in cast iron pots and the kings of the joust brush down their steeds.

The stalls are battened down and the blacksmith fires doused until next time.

But next time is not next year. For these folk, Ironfest is not a one-off event. It is a mobile playground filled with every character of the imagination.

Members of the Macquarie's 73rd Regiment re-enactment group (l-r) Simon Fowler and Lea Barnett study an antique from the period. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Members of the Macquarie’s 73rd Regiment re-enactment group (l-r) Simon Fowler and Lea Barnett study an antique from the period. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

The weird and the whimsical roam the nation in search of playmates.

They cross paths (and swords) at the Australian Celtic Festival at Glen Innes in April, Rowany Festival in April, My Lords and Ladies Medieval Fayre at Doonside in May, Winterfest Sydney Medieval Faire at Parramatta in June and St Ives Medieval Faire in September.

They re-convene at Abbey Medieval Festival in Queensland in July, Gumeracha Medieval Fair in South Australia in May and Balingup Medieval Carnival in Western Australia in August.

They are the ones who have courage to act out their fantasies and breathe fire through their inner St George’s dragon while the rest of us gaze with jealous eyes from beneath safe floppy fringes in wonder and wish we too could unleash our inner Captain Victoria Winter-Buckingham, don squeaky leather corsetry, adjust our decorative cogs and pose ever so politely for photos.

 

 

Go to www.ironfest.net for more information about Ironfest and Lithgow Tourism for more details on other events in the area.

Go to www.deephill.com.au to see Deep Hill Media coverage of Ironfest throughout the years.

* David and Ellen Hill received complimentary into the Ironfest event

Steampunkers and their bling. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Steampunkers and their bling. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

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Autumnal hues season Greater Blue Mountains attractions


Autumn in the Greater Blue Mountains is a glorious season. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill, Blue Mountains Attractions Group

Golden hues, crisp mountain air and exhilarating activities mark the onset of autumn, one of the most visually spectacular seasons for the premier attractions of the Greater Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains Attractions Group president Dave Robertson said: “Every season here has its charm but autumn is one of the most beautiful.

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mt Tomah, in autumn. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism“The weather is ideal for physical pursuits such as bushwalking, the air is fresh and then there are the colours – from exotic trees and autumn blooms to brilliant sunsets and the soft veil of mists that create a magical dreamy landscape, the Greater Blue Mountains in autumn is glorious.’’

Visitors and locals can surround themselves with some of the most exquisite floral displays at Everglades Historic House & Gardens at Leura.

If arriving in the Blue Mountains by train or if you just want to leave the hassle of driving at your accommodation, hop on a red double-deckerBlue Mountains Explorer Bus or vintage-style Trolley Tours at any of stops around the Katoomba and Leura circuit and hop off at Everglades.

For a different perspective, continue your car drive up the Great Western Hwy, cut across the Darling Causeway at Mt Victoria and turn right down the Bells Line of Rd to The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah. From there it is easy to continue through the Hawkesbury on to Sydney or head back to the Central West through Lithgow.

Also on the hop-on/hop-off bus circuit, catch a bird’s eye view of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area from one of the thrilling rides at Scenic World and soak up authentic indigenous culture atWaradah Aboriginal Centre.

Everglades Historic House & Gardens, Leura, in autumn. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon TourismExperience the outdoors indoors at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre interactive World Heritage Exhibition at Katoomba, visit the home of one of Australia’s most loved characters, the Magic Pudding, at Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum at Faulconbridge and warm up with a delicious Devonshire tea or traditional high tea at Bygone Beautys while browsing the vast number of items on sale.

Grab a bear hug at Australia’s largest and most awarded specialty teddy bear store, Nana’s Teddies & Toys at Blaxland and visit some real life furry friends at Featherdale Wildlife Park at Doonside on your way to or from the Blue Mountains.

The fun and fascination continues over the Great Divide.

Stop in at Talisman Gallery at the Hartley Historic Site and watch metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick create a masterpiece before exploring the underground at the world’s most magnificent cave system, Jenolan Caves (Blue Mountains Trolley Tours runs a daily coach service there and back).

Mr Robertson encouraged visitors to “stay a night or three’’ to fully experience the wonders of the Greater Blue Mountains region.

Remember too that we reward loyal local tourism ambassadors through our Residents Rewards program simply for showing family and friends around the region and visiting our attractions businesses,’’ he said.

Go to bluemountainsattractions.com.au for more information about what to see and do in the Greater Blue Mountains region, special offers and news and the Residents Rewards program.

* Blue Mountains Attractions Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

 

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mt Tomah. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

 


Leura Harvest Festival connects with community and its sustainable bounty


Leura Harvest Festival will be held in the famous Leura Mall on May 3, 2015.

Leura Harvest Festival will be held in the famous Leura Mall on May 3, 2015.

By Ellen Hill for Leura Village Association

Discover nature’s bounty in the Blue Mountains at the second Leura Harvest Festival on Sunday May 3 and immerse in innovative sustainable living, browse more than 60 street stalls, and  witness the reinvention of the iconic Australian lamington.

Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley executive chef Jason Martin is festival ambassador

Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley executive chef Jason Martin is festival ambassador

Set among the famous cherry trees of Leura Mall, the Leura Village Association event will showcase all facets of sustainable living including outstanding regional produce, handmade and recycled items, to the latest clever initiatives in the Blue Mountains and wider region.

Visitors and locals can learn about everything from food preserving to clean energy, permaculture, beekeeping and micro-farming from an impressive line-up of guest speakers. Visitors can also meet this year’s Leura Harvest Festival ambassador, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley executive chef Jason Martin who is passionate about sourcing the very best regional, seasonal organic produce for the resort’s restaurants.

Other highlights will include regional wine and beer tastings, jam-making and knitting competitions, the traditional art of wool spinning, a chook show and dozens of stalls exhibiting sustainable, organic and locally grown food and produce, clean energy.

Leura Village Association president Barry Jarrott. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Leura Village Association president Barry Jarrott. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Leura Village Association president Barry Jarrott said: “The Leura Harvest Festival is a result of a growing demand for quality locally-grown produce from a population that is disillusioned with the multinational corporations that dictate what we eat, how it is produced and where it comes from.

“The success of last year’s festival proves that the Blue Mountains and wider community craves a stronger connection with the environment, better quality food and support of local growers and manufacturers.”

The second Leura Harvest Festival has received funding from the NSW Department of Premier and State Cabinet’s 2014 Bushfire Recovery Grant. The festival’s theme is “connecting the community’’.

The event will celebrate food from a 100 mile radius and promote recycling and re-purposing and encourage visitors to notice and immerse themselves in the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area around them.

Go to www.leuravillage.com.au to find out more about Leura and its accommodation options. Visit http://leuravillage.com.au/fairsandfestivals/ for details about Leura Harvest Festival and event registrations. To apply for a stall, email bookings@leuravillage.com.au.

 

Leura Harvest Festival will be set among the famous cherry trees of Leura Mall. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Leura Harvest Festival will be set among the famous cherry trees of Leura Mall. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media


Bringing the Blue Mountains to Sydney CBD


Experience the Scenic Skyway and the Blue Mountains in the Sydney CBD

Experience the Scenic Skyway and the Blue Mountains in the Sydney CBD

Words by Ellen Hill for Scenic World

Perch on a clifftop at Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Blue Mountains escarpment and feel small again – in the heart of the city. Capture the moment in a photo and share it with the world next Friday (March 20) and Saturday (March 21) – all from Circular Quay.

Urban residents can experience a small slice of Australia’s most visited privately-owned tourist attraction and the nation’s most accessible wilderness when multi award-winning 3D chalk artist Anton Pulvirenti transforms Customs House forecourt into a World Heritage-listed landscape.

The 10m x 15m canvass 3D drawing will offer a glimpse of the Scenic Skyway as it glides 270m above ancient rainforest between clifftops, against the backdrop of the iconic Three Sisters and spectacular Katoomba Falls.

Scenic World brother and sister Joint Managing Directors Anthea and David Hammon said: “We have grown up with the Three Sisters as our view, breathed the fresh Blue Mountains air and enjoyed the rides at Scenic World as our playground our whole lives yet we never take the size of this vast one million square hectare landscape for granted.’’

Anton Pulvirenti will create the 3D chalk drawing using forced perspective to create an illusion of scale, meaning the scene will be so realistic that passers-by could be forgiven for believing they have truly been transported to the Blue Mountains.

So “stand’’ on the Scenic World clifftop and ask a friend to take a photo and share it with the world on Instagram with #feelsmallagain and receive an instant keepsake photo from the Scenic World team.

The top 10 most creative photos will receive a family pass to Scenic World so they can experience the thrilling attraction for themselves – for real.

The Scenic World Feel Small Again 3D chalk art will be staged in front of Customs House, Alfred St, Circular Quay, from 8am to 6pm Friday (March 20) and 10am to 5pm Saturday (March 21).

The family-owned Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Three Sisters landmark at Katoomba is home to the world’s steepest passenger train, the highest and largest cablecars in Australia and the longest boardwalk in Australia.


Hydro Majestic hosts historic dance event


 

Charleston Challenge 01

Words by Ellen Hill                                        Photos by David Hill

The world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath hosted another historic milestone when 360 costumed dancers high kicked their way into history to smash their own Guinness World Record at the launch of the annual Roaring 20s Festival and all that Jazz on Saturday, February 7.

The world record-breaking Charleston Challenge in full swing.

The world record-breaking Charleston Challenge in full swing.

In the flamboyant yet elegant style of legendary former Hydro owner Mark Foy, the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge and the following Majestic Long Lunch attracted hundreds of chicly-draped visitors.

Hydro Majestic co-owner Huong Nguyen said: “We at the Escarpment Group were very proud of the refurbishment of the buildings and were confident they were true to the Mark Foy style.

“But no amount of beautiful décor and furnishings can bring a building to life – we needed the laughter and chatter, the movement and essence of people in the hallways and rooms.

“We have had several successful events at the Hydro since October but the Charleston Challenge and the Majestic Long Lunch was the real clincher – the Hydro is back to its rightful place as a centre of fun and activity in the Blue Mountains.

“Congratulations to all the dancers who helped keep the Blue Mountains on the international stage.’’

Mavis Gibbs was born in 1925 and attended the Charleston Challenge as a spectator to watch her daughter dance.

Mavis Gibbs was born in 1925 and attended the Charleston Challenge as a spectator to watch her daughter dance.

The day began with the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on the lawns when 360 dancers aged from 3 to 92 and dressed in 1920s-style costume broke the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of costumed people to dance the Charleston. The event set the record with 276 in 2013, 319 in 2014 and aimed for 350 in 2015.

After the dance challenge, 250 guests indulged in decadent local fare at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Majestic Ballroom.

 

 

In Great Gatsby style, they spent a long afternoon grazing on gastronomical delights, promenading on the lawns and dancing to the 1920s-style band.

Hydro head chef Mate Herceg with his signature main course at the Majestic Long Lunch.

Hydro head chef Mate Herceg with his signature main course at the Majestic Long Lunch.

Hydro Majestic head chef Maté Herceg and other Blue Mountains food heroes prepared a feast from regional food.

An antipasto platter from award-winning Princess Pantry featured meats and locally grown vegetables. Maté showcased his culinary skills with a memorable main course, followed by delicious cheeses from the Carrington Cellars & Deli. The finale of the feast was a wickedly indulgent dessert from Josophan’s Fine Chocolates.

Guests included Australian food and wine identity and Majestic Long Lunch ambassador Lyndey Milan OAM, Roaring 20s Festival ambassador Claudia Chan Shaw, festival patron Charlotte Smith and a host of food and wine writers.

John Calton and Lyndey Milan OAM at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Hydro Majestic Ballroom.

John Calton and Lyndey Milan OAM at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Hydro Majestic Ballroom.

“To have interest from specialist food and wine industry media and a sell-out event is testament to the quality of food produce in this region,’’ Ms Nguyen said.

“That is why we are so confident about the success of the new providores pavilion at the Hydro Majestic, where visitors can buy their own taste of the Greater Blue Mountains food basket.’’

Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism’s Roaring 20s Festival continues throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region until February 22. (Details: www.roaring20s.com.au)

The Roaring 20s Festival events were part of a continuing program of events and entertainment at the Hydro Majestic Hotel including the weekly Live at the Hydro gigs featuring high calibre acts such as Dragon, Adam Cohen, Diesel, Wendy Matthews and Christine Anu.

Go to www.hydromajestic.com.au for more information about events, dining and accommodation at the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Main course served at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Hydro Ballroom.

Main course served at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Hydro Ballroom.

 


Hydro Majestic Hotel Blue Mountains: elegant festival venue


The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel will be a magnificent host to the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on February 7, 2015. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel will be a magnificent host to the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on February 7, 2015.

Words by Ellen Hill                                                    Photos by David Hill

The refurbished Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath will be the ultimate period party palace at which to launch the annual Roaring 20s Festival and all that Jazz on Saturday, February 7.

Hydro Majestic co-owner Huong Nguyen said: “The Hydro in its heyday was the place to be for people who wanted to have fun.

Cats Alley at the Hydro Majestic will come alive with colourful characters. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Cats Alley at the Hydro Majestic will come alive with colourful characters.

“The Escarpment Group has refurbished the buildings back to their original elegance but what really makes a building come alive is people.

“So we invite everyone to dress up in their most sophisticated 1920s-style costumes to celebrate the return of colourful characters into the venues and hallways of the Hydro Majestic Hotel.’’

The day will begin with the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on the lawns at 11am. Practice onsite from 10.30am and register on the day or pre-register at www.roaring20s.com.au.

Participants are encouraged to arrive by train and alight at Medlow Bath railway station conveniently located opposite the hotel.

The challenge aims to break its own Guinness World Record for the greatest number of costumed people to dance the Charleston. It set the record with 276 in 2013, 319 in 2014 – let’s make it 350 in 2015.

After the dancers have high-kicked their way into history once more, indulge in decadent local fare at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Majestic Ballroom.

Immerse yourself in the era during a long afternoon of informal grazing, promenading on the lawns and dancing to the 1920s-style band.

The Majestic Long Lunch will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Majestic Long Lunch will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Hydro Majestic head chef Maté Herceg and other Blue Mountains food heroes will prepare a feast from regional food.

An antipasto platter from award-winning Princess Pantry will feature meats and locally grown vegetables.  Maté will showcase his culinary skills with a memorable main course, followed by delicious cheeses from the Carrington Cellars & Deli. The finale of the feast will be a wicked, indulgent dessert from Josophan’s Fine Chocolates.

Guests will meet Australian food and wine identity and Majestic Long Lunch ambassador Lyndey Milan OAM, who has visited the region often and features the Blue Mountains in her Taste of Australia TV series and accompanying book.

“The glorious Blue Mountains continue to raise the bar with fun events, showcasing the increasing number and standard of local producers,’’ she said.

“The Long Lunch was great fun in its inaugural year in Leura and promises to ramp it up in the newly restored Hydro Majestic.’’

The Majestic Long Lunch and the Charleston Challenge will begin Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism’s Roaring 20s Festival held throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region from February 7-22. (Details: http://www.roaring20s.com.au)

Take the opportunity to explore the magnificent hotel on a guided tour and stock up on local produce in the newly opened providores pavilion during your visit.

End the day with another Australian icon, music legend Richard Clapton when he performs some of his hits including Girls On the Avenue, I Am an Island, Capricorn Dancer and Best Years Of Our lives. Cost: $57.50 + booking fee (show only). Doors open at 6pm, support act Chris Rose will perform at 8pm with Richard Clapton onstage at 9pm.

Dinner, show and accommodation packages available. Details and bookings: www.hydromajestic.com.au.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel has long been associated with fun.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel has long been associated with fun.

 


Official kick off for Festival of Walking


WHEN:                 10.30am to noon, Saturday, October 6, 2012

WHERE:               Wentworth Falls Picnic Ground, Falls Rd, Wentworth Falls

WHAT:                 Official launch of Festival of Walking

Step out for the annual Festival of Walking this weekend

The annual Festival of Walking kicks off with a range of free walks, entertainment and tucker for the whole family on Saturday, October 6.

The annual nine-day event (October 6-14) celebrating the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area spanning through to Lithgow and Oberon will include an extensive program of events with something for everyone – from street walks to hard core treks into the wilderness and even a beer enthusiasts walk.

Promoting fresh air and the grand backyard of the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region, the festival will feature treks and challenging bushwalks, history tours combined with local wine and cheese sampling, ambles through the day and walks at night, garden tours, singles walks, indigenous experiences, a phone film competition and family events.

The Festival of Walking will be held at locations throughout the region including Jenolan Caves, the Glow Worm Tunnel near Lithgow and Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah, as well as Blue Mountains towns.

The official launch will be held at Wentworth Falls Picnic Ground and will feature Discovery walks, a guest appearance by NPWS mascot Wanda the Wombat and a barbecue lunch for all. The event will also feature the popular Junior Rangers choir singing some especially tailored lyrics to familiar favourite tunes.

Arrive at Wentworth Falls by train and meet a NPWS Discovery ranger who will take you for a guided bushwalk along the easy Charles Darwin Walk, arriving at Wentworth Falls Picnic Area in time for the 10.30am festival opening.

Early birds can meet a ranger at 7.45am in search of birdlife, also arriving in time for the official festival kick off. Learn about the amazing birds that inhabit the Blue Mountains in spring and the habitat resources they rely on. Bring your binoculars.

A Family Meander will be held at 8.45am and 9.15am, when a Discovery ranger will take you on a family friendly adventure down Charles Darwin Walk in search of signs of wildlife. Discover what makes the Blue Mountains such a fantastic location for family bushwalks.

At 8.45am, join a Shadow of Time walk guided by a Discovery ranger with in-depth knowledge of local history. Discover more about Charles Darwin and his time in the Blue Mountains as well as the development of the amazing Blue Mountains walking track system.

All walks will be free. Bookings: (02) 4787 8877.

Festival of Walking director Sean Greenhill said the festival was “our chance to share our backyard with the world and we intend to take the opportunity to do so’’.

Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said the concept of a Festival of Walking in the area “is one whose time has come’’ given the plethora of experienced quality accommodation providers, the famous history and diverse range of events all perched on the edge of Australia’s largest city and all within a World Heritage Area.

The Festival of Walking is a celebration of the beauty of nature, the health and wellbeing benefits of walking, acknowledgement of Aboriginal custodianship and culture, and homage to the history, heritage and conservation of this special region.

Visit http://www.festivalofwalking.com for more information about the Festival of Walking.


Tim Burton meets Bizet in circus opera


Review by Ellen Hill    Photos: David Hill

Opera can’t be fun, sexy and a little bit naughty. Can it? Oh yes, it can.

Fresh from a sell-out season on London’s West End, cabaret-style show The Carnival plays the new auditorium at the Fairmont Resort MGallery, Leura, every Friday night until mid-November.

A stunning blend of opera, classical music and circus acts, it is a first for the Blue Mountains and sweeps aside any false notion of predictability and mustiness in Australia’s original holiday destination.

If The Carnival is an indication of the regular schedule of events promised by Fairmont general manager Geoff York, then the nightlife of the upper Blue Mountains will soon be the place to be.

Audiences know from the first note that this is no traditional piece when singer Keara Donohoe warbles through an aria repeating the lyrics “it sucks to be me’’.

The show features an all-female cast and is a very intimate introduction to Australian composer and The Carnival co-creator Chloe Charody.

Crazy characters from her imagination manifest themselves on stage and reach out to the audience, crossing that invisible boundary between the stage and the audience and stream up the aisles.

Violinist and co-artistic director Sonja Schebeck doubles as a flame eater and Donohoe and fellow songbird Michaela Leisk belt out tunes suspended from hoops. These divas have the voices of La Stupenda but the bodies of Mariah Carey.

The show centres around the beautiful young Mischa unencumbered by a job and elated by her impending marriage to a wealthy stockbroker. Her world is turned upside down when a shock encounter at her family’s annual masquerade ball reveals that her Romeo has a Romeo of his own.

Distraught and alone, Mischa stares into her bedroom mirror. Through it, a parade of bizarre characters and mythical creatures step and take her on an adventure, after which she is reborn a woman of virtue and strength.

Operatic-burlesque-music-meets-carnival in style, The Carnival debuted in London’s West End with a sell-out season in March 2011, again in October 2011, and went on to run a series of successful shows in Australia.

Charody hopes the circus tricks, outrageous costumes and more modern storylines will help entice a new generation of opera lovers – not to mention the spiciness of pole dancing.

The controversial dance genre performed by Bailey Hart in the first act is very PG, romantic rather than sexy, and the aerial tissue routines stunningly beautiful.

The show hots up in Act 2 when Miss Stacey Minx, clad in leather and attitude, wraps her lithe limbs around the pole, shiny black thigh-high boots glinting as she moves.

Just as the temperature on-stage threatens to boil over, Hart returns to cool things down with her white and silver leotard and long red hair tied in a casual ponytail, a picture of girlish innocence.

Fairmont general manager Geoff York said he was excited to bring the work, which has been hailed “a showcase of genius’’, to the Blue Mountains and looked forward to a regular schedule of events at the hotel in the future.

“This work is a small-scale production with large-scale theatricality, combining classical musicians and circus artists in a bold new show that will delight audiences of all ages.

“The show really pushes the boundaries of theatre and will help to attract visitors from all over Australia to the Blue Mountains.’’

Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “We would not have a tourism industry unless operators are prepared to take a risk and make an investment. I commend the owners of Fairmont Resort for investing in bringing The Carnival to the Blue Mountains, it is a new and colourful genre of culture.’’

The Carnival will be staged at The Fairmont Resort, Sublime Point Rd, Leura, each Friday evening until November 16. Tickets: $43.50 adults, $33.50 concession, $23.50 children (10-14 years). Bookings and information: http://www.foxtix.com.au. Accommodation inquiries: (02) 4785 0000.


Step out for Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Festival of Walking


Step out for Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism’s Festival of Walking

By Ellen Hill    Photos: David Hill

HOW do you make a global icon?

Take a swamp rich with flora and fauna and wait until it all dies. Squish down all the rotting bodies in layers and leave them to bake in the sun for endless millennia until they have morphed into coal and rock.

Then slice the “lasagne’’, push up wedges, let the elements mould them and allow plants and animals to reclaim the new-look landscape.

That’s the surprisingly effective explanation Wild At Heart Safaris eco-guide Keiron Sames gives visitors on his guided walks through the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area at Katoomba.

The tale will be told to those who take part in an eco-tour during the annual Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism Festival of Walking (October 6-14), during which visitors and locals will be encouraged to put their best foot forward and explore the wild beauty and unique streetscapes of some of the most popular locations in the world.

Promoting fresh air and the grand backyard of the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region, the festival will feature treks and challenging bushwalks, history tours combined with local wine and cheese sampling, ambles through the day and walks at night, garden tours, singles walks, indigenous experiences, family events and child’s eye view walks.

It will be held at locations throughout the region including Jenolan Caves, the Glow Worm Tunnel near Lithgow and Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah, as well as Blue Mountains towns.

Blue Mountains, Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said the festival was “a fantastic opportunity to explore the unique beauty of this magnificent World Heritage Area’’.

“It’s also a chance to rediscover well known paths through themed walks that highlight the region’s history and gastronomical experiences.’’

Sames’ environmental lasagne story is bound to be told during Wild At Heart Safaris eco-tours most days of the Festival of Walking.

He tells it at Honeymoon Point about halfway along his two-hour long easy grade walk while the tourists point their camera phones at the endless vista of trees and cliffs and try to grasp the magnitude of one million square hectares of genuine wilderness.

Every few paces along the track, Sames stops to share a titbit of geological or agricultural trivia (“the process of the claystone being undercut and the land falling off is called `sapping’,’’ did you know), point out an interesting plant species or magnificent view or “shush’’ the group to listen to a bird call.

Tall, slim and super fit, Sames has been an eco-guide for about a decade, a role which satisfies his urge to share the environment with others and encourage them to be more considerate of it.

He peppers his tours with questions encouraging people to think and learn from the experience.

“Why do you think this is called the Blue Mountains?’’ he asks. “Does anyone know why the Blue Mountains are blue?’’

The tourists shuffle their feet and look at each other expectantly, each hoping someone else will have the answer.

Sames lets them squirm for a moment before relieving the tension with an explanation of the Rayleigh scattering affect.

Caused by the elastic scattering of light or other electromagnetic radiation by particles much smaller than the wavelength of the light, it can happen when light travels through transparent solids and liquids but is most prominently seen in gases.

In the case of the Blue Mountains trees, especially eucalypts, “sweat’’ and release oil into the air, which magnifies the Rayleigh scattering giving the mountains their blue hue.

As Sames talks, we move from temperate rainforest to open woodland in a few steps.

He pounces on some yellow flowers (a type of pea from the Fabaecea family, apparently). Shrubby in appearance, “often they are the first to regenerate after an upheaval like bushfire’’.

Next thing, everyone’s huddled around a shrub, bent over double to see the tiny pores on the leaves, through which the plant breathes like skin.

“Anywhere you go in the bush have a look, touch may be nice if it’s appropriate, but never take anything,’’ Sames says, striding off towards a towering fern.

We soon learn that: a) only the top of the plant is living; b) what appears to be the trunk is actually the roots; c) it looks the same on the inside as the outside; d) its pithy inner material was an important source food supply for the indigenous Gundungurra people; and e) the plant grows higher than others so can reach the light source from the sun and its canopy catches falling leaves from other plants which decompose and feed it.

We move onto a scene unique to the Blue Mountains – a hanging swamp on the side of a hillside, and Sames explains how it is created before seamlessly moving onto another topic, then the next.

During the next five minutes we learn that the mountain ash eucalypt is the tallest flowering tree in the world, the sight of eucalypts shedding great strips of bark like a snake skin is a spring giveaway; gum leaves hang down (“They’re like: `Don’t let me get hot and lose water’ ’’); and of the 111 species of eucalypts, 25 per cent are found in Australia and 25 per cent of them are found in the Blue Mountains.

We move down to a temperate rainforest, which used to be the dominant plant community when Gondwanaland was all one land and the environment was moister.

“This area is a living example of that, and that evolutionary process is the specific reason why we were given World Heritage status,’’ Sames says.

We amble up a few shallow steps and are surprised to find ourselves back at the roadside, much the wiser and already missing Sames’ easy company.

  • Visit www.festivalofwalking.com.au for more information about Wild At Heart Safaris guided eco-tours and numerous other activities during the Festival of Walking.