Arts, Culture & Entertainment - Dickens, Binchy, Walkleys, Hoskins

Charles Dickens' Great Expectations at ACMI
Of Paupers and Gentlemen: Charles Dickens on Film, is a collection of films inspired by Dickens' novels to be presented at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne this month. Spanning three days, commencing Monday 20th August, this new collection is part of "Melbourne Celebrates Dickens", an acknowledgement of the 200 years since his birth.

The films the collection includes are A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935), Great Expectations (1974), Alfonso Cuaron's Great Expectations (1998) and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1947). Tickets are $15 (full), $12 (concession) and for ACMI members, only $11.

ABC TV's First Tuesday Book Club is hoping for your vote in a bid to find the 10 Aussie Books to Read Before You Die. Upon casting your vote, you will be in the running to win the collection of the finally announced, great Australian reading list. A shortlist of 50 Australian classics is supplied to choose from, and well-known Australians have put forward their suggestions, but the option for voting for other titles is also available. The announcement of the final list will be aired in a one hour special on ABC 1 at 10pm Tuesday 4th December.

The Walkley Foundation hosted its Brisbane Nikon Slide Night at the Powerhouse Museum this past Tuesday, and Girl With a Satchel was in attendance. A night held in each Australian state to promote local talent in the area of photojournalism, there was a positive turnout, with the crowd encouraged to vote on their favoured piece.

The Brisbane winner was freelance photographer Brian Cassey whose piece 'Life in a Coffin' exposed a moving story about a lesser-known impoverished people in Hong Kong, one of the richest countries in the world. Cassey described the challenges he faced in capturing the story to the audience, which is not an altogether flattering depiction of the country's social inequalities.

Hong Kong, where some property prices eclipse even London, is home to approximately 1.2 million people living in poverty, and that that figure is only likely to increase. Many resort to living in "coffin homes", which allow few remnants of their lives and space barely large enough for them to sleep. The rent that is charged is appalling, about $150 a month, which most can certainly not afford.

Navigating the local law enforcement, Cassey was finally able to access to a few of the men and women living in these homes. After witnessing the poor living conditions and the many broken spirits in residency, he found that the influence of this issue was forever to be implanted upon his mind and heart, so there was no choice but to go with his passion.

The passion was well received by the audience, with an overwhelming vote for Cassey's piece. He received a coveted Nikon V1 camera for his efforts, which will surely be put to good use, though the juxtaposition of the poverty and the shiny new tool was not entirely lost on us. In one discussion with a fledgling freelance photojournalist, the realities of the professions were discussed: working with the subjects to create a story is the preferred method, in addition to compensating subjects where possible.

You can view Cassey's 'Life in a Coffin' here. Entries are now open for the Walkley-Nikon Slide Night awards for 2013 at

The Australian Ballet's Colin Peasley is retiring after 50 years with the company, aged 77. A founding member and long-serving dancer, he performed in 6,406 shows, 56 ballets and 32 international tours. Swan Lake was his most-performed ballet, and it is also the last ballet he will perform in. "It's going to be good because it begins and finishes my career," he told the ABC. "The first ballet I did in '62 was Swan Lake and the last one this year will be Swan Lake." Peasley had originally considered architecture, but discovered a love for dance which initially did not get his father's approval. Cute fact: GWAS' Erica was given her first (and only) part in an Australian Ballet production, Swan Lake, by Peasley himself.

English actor Bob Hoskins is set to retire due to his recent diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. At only 69, Hoskins has had a successful acting career with roles in films such as The Long Good Friday (1980), Brazil (1985), Mona Lisa (1986), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1992). His most recent appearance on screen was in the 2012 blockbuster Snow White and the Huntsman.

While reflecting on his career with fondness, the actor is said to be looking forward to retirement and spending more time with wife Linda Banwell and his four children (two to a previous marriage), after struggling to come to terms with his decision, and is asking for privacy.

We were remiss in this sad news last week. "Warm, witty and wonderful" Irish novelist Maeve Binchy passed away at the age of 72 on July 30th from a short illness. Born in County Dublin in 1940, Binchy's career in writing began as a journalist for The Irish Times, and ultimately flowed into novels, short stories and other dramatic writings. Her works have influenced the lives of many and, as said by the Prime Minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny, "She is a huge loss wherever stories of love, hope, generosity and possibility are read and cherished."

Binchy's career at The Irish Times commenced after her parents forwarded the letters she'd written to them during her stay in Israel to the publication. "I thought, it's not so hard to be a writer. Just write a letter home," she said. This remarkable talent eventually evolved into the writing of what would become highly acclaimed novels and short stories. Her most notable works include, Circle of Friends, which was made into a film starring Chris O'Donnell and Minnie Driver, Tara Road (also adapted for the screen, starring Andie MacDowell and Olivia Williams), and Scarlet Feather (2000).

Aside from film adaptations, Binchy received extensive notoriety for her works in the circle of literature, becoming the recipient of such awards as British Book Award for Lifetime Achievement (1999), People of the Year Award (2000), W H Smith Book Award for Fiction (2001), and also the Irish Book Award for Lifetime Achievement (2010).

Her writing was not the sole love of her life. She married children's author Gordon Snell, with whom a budding friendship had turned into romance, in 1977. Her husband was present in all manners and in fondness of speech. He was, she said, "a man I loved and he loved me and we got married and it was great and is still great. He believed I could do anything, just as my parents had believed all those years ago."

With her work at The Irish Times, Snell and Binchy were able to live in London for a time, until they moved to Ireland where Binchy recalled the invaluable benefit of the fax machine: "...and the fax was invented so we writers could live anywhere we liked, instead of living in London near publishers."

Writer Cathy Kelly said of Binchy's work: "You’d read a Maeve book and when you’d finished, you somehow felt as if the world was a better place... she wrote she wrote about people and all their failings with such kindness." And novelist Anne Enright: "Reading Maeve was like being with a good friend. Wise, generous, funny and full-hearted, she was the best of good company on the page and off it."

Father William Stuart described Binchy's benevolent character in his homily: "There isn't a person here or beyond here who cannot recall her infectious personality." She leaves behind her husband and other cherished family and friends to carry on her legacy. According to The New York Times, a posthumous novel, A Week in Winter is due to be published this year.

Amidst her considerable works and infectious character, Binchy's passing has left the world of feel-good literature in mourning.

Compiled by Brooke Lehmann