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television October 12, 2019

Fantasy bestseller Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman found fame in the 1990s with the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy. Now, the children who grew up with the heroine, Lyra, can revisit her as an adult in The Secret Commonwealth. The author talks about having his work adapted for the small screen, the dangers of single vision and the allure of dust. “We know we’re conscious, but philosophers are still struggling with what David Chalmers calls ‘the hard problem’ – how do we get from matter to consciousness? Once you accept that consciousness is a normal property of matter, and that everything is, in however dim and rudimentary way, conscious, everything becomes clearer. This is the question towards which The Book of Dust is working.”

dance October 5, 2019

Chinese cultural hero Yang Liping

At age 60, dancer and choreographer Yang Liping is still going strong, determined to keep the cultural traditions of China’s ethnic minorities alive. She speaks about her 50-year career and her striking new version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. “I want to fill the movement with traditional culture and art to make it more solid, more relevant, and more how I think contemporary dance should be.”

film September 28, 2019

Actress and director Rachel Griffiths

Throughout her illustrious acting career, Rachel Griffiths has often spoken out against injustice. She discusses power and its abuses, her upcoming ABC series, and how Catholicism informs her feature-length directorial debut, Ride Like a Girl. “I think my faith is aesthetically Catholic, not through any allegiance to Rome. I have no faith in the Catholic structure or any structure that doesn’t include women and is designed to entrench power using secrecy and threat.”

culture September 21, 2019

The fiery resistance of journalist Mona Eltahawy

Journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy has dedicated herself to fighting what she calls the most dangerous ideology in the world: patriarchy. “The quickest way for these men in power to show their power, to flex their muscles, is over the bodies of women … History is not linear. Just because we achieve progress in something, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to continue progressing.”

music September 14, 2019

The high notes of ACO violinist Satu Vänskä

As the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s principal violin, Satu Vänskä teases astonishing music from her centuries-old instrument. But away from the stage, Vänskä’s musical tastes march to a very different beat. “You know what’s really sad? You can go through your whole life without ever hearing ’90s grunge. Not to mention Bach or Mozart. Or 1970s popular music. If we want to keep our art form alive … we try to bring back music in everyday conversation, so you can encounter something and awake that curiosity.”

music September 7, 2019

Composer Lebo M and that famous movie chant

Exiled from South Africa as a teenager, Lebo M made his way to the US with nothing but his talent. Eventually he escaped poverty and built a career, creating one of cinema’s most iconic and enduring musical moments. “You get driven and get motivated by the fact that where you come from opportunity was zero, and you have an indirect responsibility to be somebody.”

art August 31, 2019

Artist and activist Peter Drew

Peter Drew’s posters can be seen on streets throughout Australia, throwing down a challenge to passers-by to consider our national identity. But far from being a strident activist, the artist is happy to question rather than lecture. “You’ve got to approach it with curiosity and the possibility that you might be wrong. There might be something you’re missing. You can’t forgo that possibility and bathe in the certainty of your convictions. You can’t be puritanical, because that is the worst thing of all.”

film August 24, 2019

Film director Jennifer Kent

Five years after her much-lauded The Babadook, director Jennifer Kent has returned with The Nightingale, which tackles Australia’s brutal colonial history. She reveals what drew her to tell this story – and what she thinks of audience reactions to the film’s violence. “The whole point of The Nightingale is what happens when that rage winds down. What are you left with? That to me is the most interesting part of the story: what lies underneath it is a broken heart.”

music August 17, 2019

Supergroup Seeker Lover Keeper

On their second album, Wild Seeds, Seeker Lover Keeper took a more collaborative approach to songwriting. While the process was challenging, it created a more cohesive record and deepened the three musicians’ friendship. “It’s a real relief when you can relax and lean into that,” says Sarah Blasko. “You don’t have to get everything right or have all the perfect ideas. It’s really nice to see each person take the song forward at a different moment and you can kind of rest in that.”

music August 10, 2019

Melbourne indie band Art of Fighting

After releasing three successful albums and winning an ARIA award, indie rock band Art of Fighting all but disappeared. Having returned with their first record in 12 years, Luna Low, they discuss their thoughtful brand of songwriting, their collaborative process and their long hiatus. “Maybe we felt like we’d run our creative course to a point,” says Ollie Browne, “and there was a fear of eroding the artistry even more.”

music August 3, 2019

Conductor Simone Young

Back in Australia for a series of concerts around the country, Sydney-born conductor Simone Young discusses her storied career, the jewel-like music of Richard Strauss and the portrayal of women in 19th-century opera. “The composers, however appallingly these women might be treated, clothed these figures in some of the most glorious music ever written. And that’s what Strauss does. Strauss takes these difficult situations and creates compassion for the women in the audience by giving them music that is deeply moving.”