November 27, 2016
American Queen

American Queen

Fans and admirers of Elvis Presley will be pleased to learn of the new cruise tour which traces his path to stardom that departs Australia in May next year.

2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of the king of rock’n’roll, Elvis Presley, history’s greatest solo singer who sold more than 600 million records. To mark the occasion, Cruise Express is offering Australians the opportunity to experience a cruise tour which will take music lovers to the legend’s birthplace, recording studios and home at Graceland where he is buried.

This new 17 night “Mississippi, Elvis and the Southern Sounds” cruise tour will visit iconic music centres in southern USA, including places pivotal to Elvis’ rise to stardom as well as Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music and New Orleans, Louisiana, the birthplace of jazz.

The tour includes a six night cruise on the Mississippi aboard the elegant “American Queen” river ship via historic towns, river ports and plantations, evoking memories of Gone with the Wind and Huckleberry Finn.

This music themed journey departs Australia on 28 May, 2017 and begins in New Orleans, a vibrant city famous for its live jazz scene, where passengers will embark on the luxurious “American Queen” and journey up the mighty Mississippi, visiting river towns like Natchez, which was first inhabited by native Indians and French explorers, as well as sprawling plantations with some of the world’s stateliest mansions.



Passengers will disembark at Memphis, Tennessee, where they will take part in a guided city sightseeing tour, visiting various Elvis sites, including the theatre where he gave his first paid concert, the Rock’n’Soul Museum and Sun Studio where the first ever rock’n’roll single was recorded and where legends like Jonny Cash, Carl Perkins and Elvis recorded hit records throughout the 1950s.

Visits will be made to Elvis’ birthplace, a small, two room house built by the singer’s father, Vernon and the Elvis Presley Museum. A whole day will be spent at Graceland, Elvis’ mansion, with its decadent and quirky rooms and Meditation Garden, where the King is buried.

The journey will conclude at Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music, with a visit to the Johnny Cash Museum and time to experience a private performance from Cash’s son and experience the Nashville Country Music Festival.

The cruise tour includes return flights from Australia. For details call Cruise Express on 1300 764 509 or visit

Sandra Tiltman


November 17, 2016
Kim Williams with Joanna Murray-Smith

Kim Williams with Joanna Murray-Smith

Melbourne based screenwriter, novelist and one of Australia’s most successful playwrights on the international stage, Joanna Murray-Smith, has won the inaugural Mona Brand Award for Women Stage and Screen Writers which was presented in a ceremony at the State Library of NSW on 7 November 2016.

Joanna was awarded the $30,000 prize for her extensive body of work comprising over 15 published plays which have been performed in Australia, London, on Broadway and many other countries in numerous languages. Her recent work includes “Switzerland” which premiered as part of Sydney Theatre Company’s 2015 season and was performed in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2016 season, as well as the hugely successful comedy opera miniseries, “The Divorce” that screened on ABC TV in 2015.

Senior judge Kim Williams AM, Chairman of the State Library of NSW Foundation, said “The judges are pleased to shine a spotlight on Joanna Murray-Smith, one of our most widely produced playwrights whose international success is insufficiently celebrated in Australia. The quality and breadth of Joanna’s work and its wide international uptake and endorsement are deserving of her being the inaugural recipient of the Mona Brand Award.”

Billie Pleffer with Joanna Murray-Smith

Billie Pleffer with Joanna Murray-Smith

A second award, that recognises fresh new talent, was presented on the evening. The Mona Brand Emerging Writer Award, which carries a $10,000 prize, went to “Cleverman” actor Jada Alberts for her first produced play “Brothers Wreck”.  The judges also Highly Commended writer and director Billie Pleffer for her screenplay “Baby Baby”.

The Award’s patron, Australian actor and director Robyn Nevin AM, unfortunately was unable to attend the award ceremony but commented in a video address “It is an honour and privilege to represent this marvellous initiative for women writers thanks to the generosity of the late Mona Brand and the State Library. This significant prize money might make a huge difference to the lives of these particular women, the discipline is significant, the struggle is significant, and money matters!”

Acting NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive, Lucy Milne commented “As the custodian of Mona Brand’s literary papers, the State Library is pleased to administer and present this award that not only honours the rich legacy of Mona Brand, but celebrates the best of contemporary writing for stage and screen by Australian women.”

The Mona Brand Award for Women Stage and Screen Writers will be presented biennially and is the only award of its kind in Australia. It was made possible by a generous bequest to the State Library of NSW Foundation by the late Mona Alexis Fox nee Brand (1915– 2007). This trailblazing Australian playwright also wrote under the name of Alexis Fox. Mona Brand was a formidable playwright, writing nearly 30 plays, as well as an accomplished poet, author and social activist who was better known overseas than in Australia.

In 2002 the Library acquired Mona Brand’s papers, which include professional and personal correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, photographs, sound and video recordings as well as many other records from her remarkable life and career.

Sandra Tiltman   Photos: John Pond


November 14, 2016


As part of the Sydney International Art Series 2016-17, Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything is now on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in The Rocks and marks the artist’s first major exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere.

Museum of Contemporary Art Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE said “Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect with Everything introduces audiences to works from across the artist’s extensive career from early LEDs prototypes through to large scale environments, as well as video and performance works which have expanded his object based practice over time.”

One of Japan’s leading contemporary artists, Tatsuo Miyajima is known for his immersive and technologically driven sculptures and installations as well as video and performance works which draw on Buddhist philosophy with its exploration of mortality and the human cycles of life, death and renewal.

Central to the exhibition are numerical counters that count from 1 to 9 repeatedly using light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which then go dark momentarily. For Miyajima, the repetition of numbers, along with the shift from light to dark, reflect the importance of time.

The vast installation Mega Death with its brilliant, blinking blue LEDs, each representative of human life or energy, is a silent twinkling memorial to death during the Second World War, recalling Hiroshima and Auschwitz. The lights are programmed to switch off at intervals, plunging viewers into complete darkness, before lighting up and counting once more.

Counter Coal which comprises of a vast black mound of coal, punctuated by red LEDs has a second work around its perimeter entitled Time Train to the Holocaust which features a model train that hauls tiny blue counter gadgets in its wagons.

Another highlight is a new installation, Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life) which was recently presented at The Met Breuer, New York.

Each weekend from 19 December to 8 January, families can experience the Miyajima space on Level 3 for art making activities inspired by the artist’s practice, where they can turn light into music or meditate on a larger than life lotus leaf.

After viewing the exhibition art lovers can visit the pop-up Cherry Blossom Bar where they can try signature cocktails and enjoy a food menu that pays homage to the cuisine of Japan.

The exhibition runs until 5 March 2017.

Sandra Tiltman Photos: John Pond