December 16, 2015
200th Birthday Patron, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales

200th Birthday Patron, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales

Lion Gate Lodge in Mrs Macquaries Road was the setting for Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden to launch the celebrations for their 200th Birthday Programme in 2016 and showcasing the year long plans they have in store for this historic milestone through events, projects and a range of new opportunities for the community to enjoy.

200th Birthday Patron, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales gave an informative speech, detailing the history of the Royal Botanic Garden through to future plans that will enhance both visitor numbers and scientific usage.

The Garden is already among the top ten tourist destinations in Australia and is recognised as one of the top ten most beautiful botanic gardens in the world. In 2016 everyone will be encouraged to come and discover what makes the Garden such an iconic destination.


As Australia’s oldest continuously operating scientific institution, the Garden has been at the heart of Sydney’s horticultural, cultural, educational and scientific life for 200 years.

Naturalist Charles Darwin visited the Garden in 1836, 23 years before his ground breaking book, “On The Origin Of Species” was published. Darwin maintained a long distance working relationship with Charles Moore, Director of the Royal Botanic Garden. A signed first edition of Darwin’s book is stored at the Garden today.

The Garden was also home to Sydney’s first zoo, which opened in 1862. Monkeys, an anteater and a Chinese deer were among the many exotic animals on display. The zoo relocated to Moore Park in 1883.

In 1901 a Herbarium was added to the Garden which today stores over 1.2 million preserved specimens and has samples from Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Daniel Solander’s collections, dating back to 1770.

Before the advent of DNA research, archives from plants and seeds kept at the Garden famously helped NSW Police crack the Graeme Thorne kidnapping/murder case of the 1960’s, amongst other crimes.

DSC07709Kim Ellis, Executive Director, Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands advised that celebrations will start with a special surprise during the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks, then will move into the award winning Tomato Festival, the fantastic Treecycle exhibition and the prestigious Florilegium. The Garden will be lit up during Vivid and will bring the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition to Sydney.

The key legacy of the 200th Birthday programme will be the opening of The Calyx, an engaging and inspirational living art gallery with state of the art, rotating botanical interactive exhibitions that will excite and educate. This new world class attraction will be the first of its kind in Australia and will feature the largest indoor green wall in Australia.

The 200th Birthday programme will also see the Garden leap into the 21st century digitally, with a cutting edge new website, social platforms, blog and an extension of its eLearning programs that will enable regional communities to benefit from the Garden’s expertise through eConference facilities that have delivered education programs into China.

Sandra Tiltman Photos: John Pond 


December 16, 2015

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Kenneth Grahame’s immortal story of life on the riverbank, “The Wind in the Willows”, is returning to the beautiful surrounds of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, continuing its well loved summer tradition as a favourite family entertainment.

Playing from Wednesday 6 January to Saturday 23 January 2016, this rollicking yet gentle adventure, starring the pompous, arrogant, vain, hilarious Toad, is a favourite with children everywhere.  Toad, along with his better behaved friends, Ratty, Mole, Otter and Badger, as well as the rascally Weasel, have come to life every summer for the past 14 years providing enchanting and lively entertainment for all the family.

This critically acclaimed outdoor theatre production delivers music, songs and laughs. There is fun for young and old as the Head Chief Rabbit transforms the audience into rabbits with a waggle of the ears and a wiggle of the nose. The young ‘rabbits’ are encouraged to get involved in the action, and are given every opportunity to scream out loud, sing along and become part of the adventure. With laughs and surprises for children and adults, this is interactive theatre at its best.

Pack a picnic, pack the kids and head on down to the riverbank at 10.30am & 6pm Wednesday to Saturday (no show 10.30am on 6 Jan, no 6pm on Sat 9 Jan). Single Tickets $25, Family of Four $90.

Sandra Tiltman


December 16, 2015
Abby Earl - Flickerfest's "Marilyn"

Abby Earl – Flickerfest’s “Marilyn”

FLiCKERFEST, Australia’s only Academy® accredited and BAFTA recognised short film festival, recently held their official launch event to kick off the summer film festival season for 2016.

Celebrating its 25th year, the launch was held at Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, overlooking Bondi Beach where Festival Director, Bronwyn Kidd, who continues to be the driving force behind FLiCKERFEST, spoke to the crowd about the sensational year to come. Once again, Bronwyn and the selection committee have received record numbers of film submissions (over 2,400 this year) and will tailor the 2016 programme to showcase the very best 100 films to audiences across Australia from January until May.

Those present enjoyed a night of entertainment, including world premiers of the official FLiCKERFEST trailer as well as a witty and moving short film developed and produced through The Exchange program, an initiative of Screen Australia’s Indigenous department.

Guests were treated to a world premier screening of the witty and moving, drama, “Nan And A Whole Lot Of Trouble” produced by Lois Randall, written by Sue McPherson and directed by Dena Curtis. Starring Noeleen Shearer, Pamela Young and Amba-Rose Atkinson, I really enjoyed watching this story which was told with warmth and humour. The film tackles cultural taboos around death and grief, highlighting the complexities and tensions that arise around culture, traditional and identity in a modern multicultural community, even within one family.
Another exciting part of the evening was watching the official FLiCKERFEST trailer which was unveiled for the very first time. Written and directed by talented Flickerfest alumni DSC07859Kacie Anning, the trailer sees a glamorous Marilyn Monroe (played by the gorgeous Abby Earl) descend upon Bondi Beach. The play on ‘Marilyn comes to Bondi’ culminates in Marilyn singing a very well deserved ‘happy birthday to Flickerfest’. Abby Earl leads a star-studded cast with additional appearances from Callan McAuliffe (The Great Gatsby, Flipped, I Am Number Four), Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins (Bondi Rescue) and Roy Billing (Underbelly – A Tale Of Two Cities).

FLiCKERFEST is second to none on the Australian short film festival circuit with loyal patrons of the event continuing to support the much loved and respected fixture on Sydney’s summer calendar. A selection of the festival’s fans who made it along to the launch included Alyssa McClelland, Anna Bamford, Abby Earl, Matt Day, Adrienne Pickering, Damian Walshe-Howling and Roy Billing to name a few.

Playing at the Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach from 8 January until 17 January 2016, FLiCKERFEST will run for ten days before taking the rest of the country by storm. The festival will screen at 50+ venues across Australia between January and May.

Tickets on sale and full programme released on 18 December 2015. Go to FLiCKERFEST website for all the details.

Sandra Tiltman   


December 16, 2015


The Australian curators of Vivid Sydney’s famous Light Walk and Sydney’s Lights of Christmas, AGB Events, will share their creative expertise with the city of Boston, Massachusetts, delivering a Holiday Season lighting spectacular in conjunction with local organisation Luminartz.

Anthony Bastic, Director of AGB Events and Curator of Vivid Light as part of Vivid Sydney said “We are thrilled to be sharing our creativity and celebrating the magic of the Holiday Season with Boston.” 
AGB Events are experts in large scale holiday lighting, providing Sydney-siders with the hugely popular Lights of Christmas at St Mary’s Cathedral for the past five years. The Lights of Christmas draws large annual crowds, cementing the event as a modern Christmas tradition in Sydney.

The façade of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square will be brilliantly illuminated with 3D digital animation this December.
 Forming part of Boston’s Holiday Season celebrations and kicking off a new festive tradition for the city, Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh said; “I am pleased to welcome Anthony Bastic of AGB Events and a taste of Vivid Sydney to Boston. All who choose to come to Boston to celebrate will boost support for local businesses and secure the longevity of our most cherished traditions.”

AGB Events have also been responsible for other international offerings including the original iLight Marina Bay in Singapore and a stunning projection show in New Delhi, India as part of the OzFest showcase.

Sandra Tiltman     PHOTO: Anthony Bastic


December 4, 2015

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Silversea Cruises is recognised as an innovator in the luxury cruise line industry. This mid-sized luxury line, with eight ships in their award winning fleet, offers guests large ship amenities aboard their intimate, all-suite vessels, which are designed to offer an atmosphere of casual elegance.

An exciting optional six day pre-cruise “Accra & the Ashanti Kingdom” land adventure is available for guests travelling on board Silver Cloud’s sixteen day West African cruise departing on 16 March 2016 from Tema (Accra) to Barcelona. Guests who choose to take this optional land adventure prior to sailing will gain unique insights into the culture, history and people of Ghana. The highlight will be the rare opportunity to participate in the Festival of Akwasidae. Set within the walls of the royal palace in Kumasi, this authentic, centuries old ceremony, honouring the community’s ancestors, is presided over by the king of the Ashanti people.

Ghana Coastline

Ghana Coastline

One of the most powerful nations in Africa until the British annexation at the end of the 19th century, the traditions of the Ashanti empire still live on in Kumasi, a city of nearly one million inhabitants, that features one of the largest central markets in Africa. Beginning in Accra, Silversea guests will have the opportunity to extensively tour this fascinating cultural hub, with a three night stay in Kumasi.

The Akwasidae Festival is presided over by Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the 16th ruler of the Ashanti people. Perched beneath a colourful umbrella and adorned in gold ornaments and ceremonial dress, the king’s dignitaries are assembled at his feet, surrounded by elders and advisers under the authority of the royal speaker. During the ceremony, griots tell stories of past Ashanti rulers, while drum and ivory horn players serve as the inspiration for traditional dance performances.

“Like all of our overland adventures, this exciting programme has been hand crafted to enhance our guests’ experiences ashore and to provide them with cultural immersion opportunities that would simply not be possible otherwise” said Karen Christensen, Silversea’s General Manager and Director Sales/Marketing, Australasia.

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Programme participants will also be able to roll up their sleeves and learn how the traditional adinkra textile, developed by the Ashanti people, is made. A traditional hand painted fabric used by royalty in religious ceremonies, the people of Ghana decorate this cloth with Ashanti symbols by using a black dye made of bark called adinkra aduru. The workshop chosen for this event is one of the most important in the country, sought after by international scholars and students.

Guests on the “Accra & the Ashanti Kingdom” land adventure will enjoy two nights’ accommodation at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, along with a three night stay at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Kumasi. Daily breakfast is included, along with five lunches, four dinners and all ground transportation.

In addition to West Africa, Silver Cloud’s itinerary will feature calls in Las Palmas, Arrecife, Agadir, Casablanca, Gibraltar, Cartagena and Valencia.

Sandra Tiltman


December 4, 2015

Ghost The Musical Jemma Rix and Rob Mills DSC_8299

Its now Australia’s turn in early 2016 to experience Ghost The Musical, which will be live on stage in a stunning production showcasing breathtaking illusions, special effects and the power of love, brought to the stage by Tony Award winning Director Matthew Warchus and based on the Oscar winning film Ghost,

After successful international seasons on Broadway and London’s West End, the Australian season of Ghost The Musical will star Rob Mills as Sam Wheat, Jemma Rix as Molly Jensen and Alex Rathgeber as Carl Bruner, direct from his Helpmann Award Winning performance in Anything Goes. Wendy Mae Brown, the British theatrical and television actress, will play Oda Mae Brown, the role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg.

Set in modern day New York City, Ghost The Musical is a timeless fantasy about the power of love. Walking back to their apartment one night after a romantic dinner, Sam and Molly are mugged, leaving Sam dead on a dark street. Sam is trapped as a ghost between this world and the next and unable to leave Molly, whom he learns is in grave danger. With the help of Oda Mae a phony storefront psychic, Sam tries to communicate with Molly in the hope of saving and protecting her.

Employing special effects never before seen in a stage musical, Ghost The Musical features an incredible array of illusions. Sam as a ghost walks through a solid door, inanimate objects take on a life of their own while spirits ascend to the heavens and subway passengers are thrown in the air and people disappear and reappear.

Written by Oscar award winner Bruce Joel Rubin, with music and lyrics by Grammy award winners Dave Stewart & Glenn Ballard, the musical score will also feature the song “Unchained Melody”, made famous by The Righteous Brothers.

Ghost The Musical will play at Sydney’s Theatre Royal from Friday 18 March 2016 with performances on Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Matinees on Wednesday at 1pm, Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm.

Sandra Tiltman