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John Rickard

John Rickard

John Rickard is the author of Australia: A Cultural History (2017). In his youth he worked as an actor and singer.

John Rickard reviews 'The Australians: Insiders and outsiders on the national character since 1770' edited by John Hirst

November 2007, no. 296 01 December 2007
Back in 1981, Richard White, in his seminal study Inventing Australia, dubbed the Australian concern with defining national identity ‘a national obsession’. It was a time when ‘the new nationalism’ associated with John Gorton and Gough Whitlam had reignited debate about anthems, flags and the paraphernalia of nationhood. The converse of this fixation has been the recurrent fear that the ... (read more)

John Rickard reviews 'Nobody’s Valentine: Letters in the life of Valentine Alexa Leeper 1900–2001' by Marion Poynter

February 2009, no. 308 01 February 2009
Valentine Alexa Leeper: it’s a name to conjure with. The daughter of the first warden of the University of Melbourne’s Trinity College, Alexander Leeper, she was christened ‘Valentine’ because she was born on 14 February. No name could have been less appropriate: she was to prove a committed spinster. She was remarkable for a number of reasons, not least of which was that her life spanned ... (read more)

John Rickard reviews 'The Master: The life and work of Edward H. Sugden' edited by Renate Howe

September 2010, no. 324 01 September 2010
Edward Sugden was the first master of Melbourne University’s Queen’s College, a position he held for forty years. One needs to provide this identification, because although in his day Sugden was regarded as one of Melbourne’s best-known citizens, his is one of those names that has dropped from view. Along with his contemporaries Alexander Leeper of Trinity College and John MacFarland of Ormo ... (read more)

John Rickard reviews 'Judith Anderson: Australian star, first lady of the American stage' by Desley Deacon

March 2020, no. 419 24 February 2020
In the past we have tended either to ignore or to marginalise cultural ‘expatriates’. In today’s cosmopolitan culture, we are more used to varied career paths, but it is still possible for someone who has made most of their career abroad to be overlooked. Judith Anderson is a case in point. Born in Adelaide in 1897, Francee Anderson (her first stage name) made her professional stage début i ... (read more)

The Dressmaker: A Musical Adaptation (Monash University)

ABR Arts 23 October 2018
Australian musical theatre has had a long if chequered history going back to the popular, localised melodramas and pantomimes of the nineteenth century. In the more recent past, we think of successes such as Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994) and The Boy from Oz (2003). We tend to overlook more intimate exercises in musical theatre, such as the innovative Sydney Phillip Street revues of the 1950 ... (read more)

John Rickard reviews 'Collecting for the Nation: The Australiana Fund' edited by Jennifer Sanders

December 2017, no. 397 28 November 2017
In 1976, when Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and his wife, Tamie, were on an official visit to the White House in Washington, she was shown the collection of Americana acquired through the White House Historical Association, an idea of Jacqueline Kennedy’s as First Lady. Her enthusiasm for a similar Australian fund coincided with government concern about the care and condition of not just one but ... (read more)

John Rickard reviews 'The Enigmatic Mr Deakin' by Judith Brett

September 2017, no. 394 23 August 2017
There has been an argument going on in the Liberal Party about the nature of the Menzies heritage – was Robert Menzies, the founder of the modern party, a liberal or a conservative? Notably absent from this discussion has been the national figure who was the first leader of a united anti-Labor party and who also happens to have been a father of Federation, Alfred Deakin. If our politicians still ... (read more)

John Rickard reviews 'Of Labour and Liberty: Distributism in Victoria 1891–1966' by Race Mathews

June-July 2017, no. 392 30 May 2017
I was a student at Sydney University when, in 1954, the embattled Labor leader Dr H.V. Evatt went public, accusing a small group of Labor MPs of disloyalty, their attempt to gain control of the party being directed from a source outside the labour movement. He identified the Melbourne News Weekly as their mouthpiece. Few had heard of B.A. (‘Bob’) Santamaria, who ran News Weekly, but his name n ... (read more)

John Rickard reviews 'Divas: Mathilde Marchesi and her pupils' by Roger Neill

January–February 2017, no. 388 20 December 2016
Finding the right teacher is always a challenge for young singers, and the relationship between student and teacher can see the formation of a lifelong bond. By the same token, when there is a falling-out there may be a legacy of hurt or bitterness. Mathilde Marchesi, the subject of Divas, was in her eighties, with more than fifty years of teaching behind her, when the New Zealand born Frances Ald ... (read more)

'On John Foster' by John Rickard

May 2016, no. 381 26 April 2016
When Take Me to Paris, Johnny was first published in 1993, the AIDS crisis seemed to be at its worst. Many of us had friends and acquaintances who were dying. One began to notice men who, thin and haggard, one feared were suffering from AIDS (women victims being relatively few in number). There was no sign of the drug therapies that would, towards the end of the decade, begin to transform the trea ... (read more)
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