Walking in Banjo’s Boots

Congratulations to Moreton Bay Council for embracing the Anywhere Festival concept. Placing the North Pine Bush Poets’ Banjo’s Boots celebration of the spoken word in Burpengary Library was an enjoyable demonstration that libraries are ‘no longer shush places.’

Bush poetry is a much-loved genre of Australian writing, best enjoyed at a gathering where poets and entertainers recite (and occasionally sing) works old and new. Banjo Paterson is among the most popular and well known of the bush poets—with works including ‘The Man from Snowy River’ and the words of ‘Waltzing Matilda.’ So it is not surprising that those who celebrate Banjo Patterson’s work, and who seek to emulate his literary style, have created a show that walks in Banjo’s Boots.

Established in 1996, the North Pine Bush Poets are lovers of the spoken (and occasionally sung) word. It was great to see that the Anywhere Festival traditions were honoured in the 2021 festival placing of Banjo’s Boots in two Moreton Bay libraries. As repositories of memory and story, libraries provide a great community space. Welcoming the audience at the Burpengary Library 12th May premiere performance, Sarah Dashwood (Branch Leader) confessed to being a fan of ‘not shush’ libraries, so we knew we were in the right place.

Picture: North Pine Bush Poets’ Banjo’s Boots performers at Burpengary Library (L to R Mick Martin, Doc Bland, Keith Osborne, Dot Schwenke and Mike Gilmour). Picture credit Creative Futures Photography

The five performers presented a program of new and classic works of solos and duets (as well as an opening collective recitation of Clancy of the Overflow). Mick Martin was a professional compere of the program, demonstrating a range of ‘dad jokes,’ skilful harmonica playing, and an ability to slip easily into a performance of a number of pieces (I particularly enjoyed The Day I Shot the Telly and Gates on the Track). Dot Schwenke was compelling in performing two pieces, holding the full attention of the audience in both the first and second halves of the show (A Few Kind Words was delivered with excellent comic timing). Doc Bland brought musical flair into the program, where Moreton Bay was an apt highlight.

Newer members of the team, Keith Osborne and Mike Gilmour, demonstrated that they were a match for the more established performers. Osborne’s The Nar Nar Goon Pub was a poem in the best traditions of bush poetry (building up to a great punch line), and the audience greatly enjoyed the opportunity to play the role of chorus in his Different Day. Gilmour was a true entertainer, dressing the part for his performance of Banjo Patterson’s Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, while we all grimaced with him at the end of Lipstick Capers.

Banjo’s Boots is a very pleasant way to spend 90 minutes. I really must pay more attention to the programming of events at my local library. And if you are ever wanting to try out Bush Poetry, look up the North Pine Bush Poets, as they have an active program of events across the year.

Verdict: A free and enjoyable 90 minute show.

Audience tip: Banjo’s Boots is a free, ticketed event. There are two performances in the 2021 Anywhere Festival program. Tickets might still be available for the Bribie Island Library 19th May (1pm-2:30pm) show. 90 minutes. All ages.   

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Wednesday 12th May 2021 premiere performance at Burpengary Library.

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