Australasian Convention 2011 in Melbourne

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in NSW Branch News

The following report on the convention of the Australasian branches of the Richard III Society, which took place 5 – 7 August 2011 in Melbourne, is  by long time Society Member Ann Chandler.  Thank you, Ann, for your entertaining report of what must have been an interesting weekend!

The date finally arrived and we all converged on the Victoria Hotel in Melbourne’s Little Collins Street in the early evening of Friday, August 5. The hotel is a lovely old building with much charm and character, recently renovated and the perfect venue for the convention.

Michael Iliffe, Chairman of the Victoria Branch, welcomed us all very graciously. It was great to catch up with friends from our own and other Branches of the Society. We received our bags, each containing information, the programme for the weekend, and a most beautiful hand-made table centre in murrey with Ricardian insignia . We were regaled with drinks and canapés and had a really enjoyable “meet and greet”, and then we split into various groups to head off into the cosmopolitan Melbourne night. Most New South Wales members joined with the New Zealanders, and enjoyed the evening in a fabulous and very authentic Japanese restaurant nearby.

Early on Saturday morning we met up again and, after a brief “briefing” when Michael also read out good wishes from the Executive Committee in the UK sent by Secretaries Sue and David Wells, Babs Creamer and the Dorset Group, and Deirdre Drysdale, Chairman of the New Zealand Branch, the programme commenced with a lively discussion about the Dukes of Norfolk, given by Kevin Herbert (New South Wales). It was a fascinating insight into a long and noble lineage. This was followed by a presentation on bookbinding by Phil Ridgeway, an obviously skilled professional with a strong interest in medieval work. Phil provided us with some great examples of the work.

Ron and Robin Piddock (VIC) (photograph by Julia Redlich)

Then came Kaye Turnbull (Victoria Branch) with a talk on “Witchcraft in the Houses of York and Lancaster”, which proved very insightful, and a subject that Kaye had researched well. It left us spellbound. She was followed by David Studham of the Australian Heraldry Society who gave a terrific lecture on heraldry and accompanied it with some fantastic visuals that explained the intricacies of the subject and showed some lovely examples of Richard’s arms.

“The Welsh Connection” was then examined by Jenny Gee (Western Australia).  A map showing many sites was provided and it was yet another example of the speaker knowing their topic well.  After lunch another presentation by a Western Australian member was given, this time it was Carole Carson who stepped up to the podium to deliver a most interesting lecture on “Medieval Wall-painting”. This shed light and illumination on faith in the 15th century.

Manning Imperial took the floor and surprised us all with a recreation and re-enactment of clothes and armour worn in the late 15th century. They welcomed enthusiastic questions and we were amazed at how heavy the armour was and how intricately it was constructed. A wonderful display – and now we know where to buy our armour!

Gillian Laughton (South Australia) had a hard act to follow, but she rose to the challenge admirably with her talk on “Justices in Richard III’s time”. It was an excellent and detailed discussion to which she certainly did justice. Michael Iliffe was next with his talk on “Medieval Holidays and Festivals”. “Without festivity life can be tedious” and that quote held true as Michael so intelligently demonstrated with an entertaining talk.

The final item on the day’s programme was a presentation of “Richard III: the posthumous hunchback” given by Helen Portus and Denise Rawlings of New South Wales. This proved to be a wonderful examination of history versus propaganda and a real look at how we study history. It was a lively, articulate presentation that was provocative and motivating. A  DVD showing where Richard was born, lived and died, and his recognition in many memorials had a musical accompaniment that left many of us near to tears, inspiring us to continue to defend the truth!

After such an interesting day we had a short time out before we convened again for the banquet that was absolutely delicious, abundant and splendid as were the wines in which we drank toasts to HM the Queen of Australia and Queen of New Zealand, to our fellow Ricardians around the world – and to King Richard III.

It was a terrific night and many members had gone to great medieval lengths with costume. Julia Redlich (New South Wales) looked superb in blue and silver and fellow Branch member Kevin cut quite a dash as Pope Sixtus IV! The executioner (Victoria) and his gory handbag should also be mentioned, although thankfully demonstration of his skill never went too far! A later entertainment of young and energetic Hungarian dancers, and then some amazing belly dancers kept us entertained. Finally to see if our brains were still in working order, we split into three tables while Michael produced a mind-numbing quiz! Surprisingly, the collection of many intelligences at each table brought some interesting and often correct results.

Pope Sixtus IV, aka Kevin Herbert (NSW) (photograph by Helen Portus)

So, on to Sunday and by 9am we were all together to begin the session. This commenced with a talk about “William Marshall and the Marshall Curse” presented by Betty Fleet (New Zealand). She had undertaken much research into the family and there was frequent audience participation as we all chanted under Betty’s instruction:  “He had no sons”!

Annette Parry, also from New Zealand, followed with her talk about Jasper Tudor, someone who for many of us had always seemed to be on the outskirts of history, but her fascinating examination of this loyal statesman showed him to be a key player in the events of his time.

We then had a business session conducted by the Australasian Vice-President, Rob Smith of New Zealand. First he was re-elected by unanimous acclamation. He then spoke about the special committee convened by the Executive in the UK to consider publication, printing and postage of the Journal and the Bulletin and the possibility of the use of electronic media in this regard. As representatives from the executive were augmented by representatives from Canada, Australasia and the USA, David Bliss from the Victoria Branch had been appointed to represent us.

Australasian Vice-President Rob Smith finds himself in a dangerous situation! (photograph by Helen Portus)

The next item was the venue for the next convention in 2013. Unfortunately, the South Australia Branch who had been memorable hosts in 2001 had indicated that did not have the personnel now to run a convention. Rob had been in touch with New South Wales Branch regarding this. Julia, the Branch Secretary, said the Branch was happy to be hosts in 2013 – although Victoria had given us a hard act to follow. They looked forward to welcoming everyone in two years’ time.

Further points of discussion in this section included the advantages and otherwise of electronic downloads and the problems of using other Branch journal material in our own newsletters. Most felt that we were all fellow Ricardians happy to share information, but recognised the necessity to acknowledge author, publication and date of its first use. In asking permission for use, any copyright should be cleared. Usually this would be cleared for private publication, but if any journal or DVD was for profit, this would need further examination.

After morning tea, the next presentation posed that very provocative question: “What If …?” Hazel Hajdu (tireless Victoria Branch Secretary) handled it so well, painting a very different picture of our world if Richard had missed meeting Edward V at Stony Stratford. What a lot we had to consider – and what very different lives we would be leading today.

This led to the final presentation of the convention: an extract from the play “Now is the Winter …” which took the words of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” and given a good shake by actor/director Kate Saffin to provide a fresh look at Richard from the point of view of one of his lowly but very loyal servants, Bess. Julia (New South Wales) gave a wonderful, stirring performance to end what had been a most memorable convention.

After lunch we said reluctant goodbyes, gave our thanks and praise to the hard-working Victoria Branch for hosting such as successful and well-run weekend for us all.  They certainly did Richard proud, giving us time, once again, to celcbrate our good king and our united fight for his cause

Ann Chandler

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