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Blue Mountains: Cheeky fun returns to Hydro Majestic

Opera singers (l-r) Damien Whiteley and Brad Cooper will perform at the Hydro Majestic Hotel

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group            Photos: David Hill

Seat-swapping, hand-crossing bravura, drama, passion and cheeky fun will return to the original Blue Mountains party palace as a string of musical events rolls out during the next few months.

Tenor Brad Cooper performing at the Hydro Majestic Hotel last year

The music program will see the return of popular opera and classical instrumental performances, reviving the traditions established by original Hydro Majestic Hotel owner, Mark Foy, in the early 20th century.

General manager of Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic, Ralf Bruegger said: “The Hydro Majestic and Foy himself were famous for their revelry and decadence and we’ve reignited the celebration by filling the calendar with festivals, events and performances and an endless round of public and private parties.

“Guest are welcome to swap seats, cross hands and indulge in cheeky fun but please keep the passion and drama to yourselves.’’

Choose one or more from the following performances:

Cellist Teije Hylkema performing at the original Blue Mountains party palace recently

 

Le Grand Tango, June 11: Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra principal cellist Teije Hylkema and internationally-awarded pianist Grace Kim will present a program to ignite passion and fire featuring Le Grand Tango by Astor Piazzolla.

4 hands, 2 pianists, 1 piano, August 19: One of the busiest pianists in Australia, Kristian Chong, will team up with Grace Kim to present a brilliant program of seat swapping, hand crossing bravura. You will see why four hands are better than two.

 

 

 

There will be plenty of operatic humour from bass Damian Whiteley

2017 Blue Mountains Opera Festival, September 30 – October 1:

  • High tea, Saturday: Mozart’s magnificent masterpiece, his Clarinet Quintet, will begin the weekend on a high note featuring Sydney Symphony Orchestra clarinettist Frank Celata with the Enigma Quartet.
  • Opera Gala Dinner Concert, Saturday: After a glowing inaugural success last year, Opera Australia tenor Brad Cooper, mezzo/soprano Sally Wilson and bass Damian Whiteley will take guests on an evening of drama, passion and cheeky fun.
  • High tea, Sunday: The festivities crescendo when eight of the finest string players perform with the ever popular Mendelssohn Octet.

Teije Hylkema will return to the Hydro Majestic

Each high tea concert package ($85pp) includes a glass of sparkling wine on arrival with a sumptuous three-tier offering including an indulgent selection of gourmet sandwiches, warm fluffy scones, delicate pastries and the finest selection of handmade desserts served with Vittoria Coffee and La Maison Du The teas. The concert will be from 12pm to 1pm.

The Gala Dinner Concert package from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Saturday, October 1, will include drinks and canapes on arrival followed by a two-course dinner with beverages. Cost: $150pp.

Go to www.hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book concerts, accommodation and dining.

  • Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

 


Positive surprises on “the dark side” in PR

FIVE years after unexpectedly finding ourselves “on the dark side’’ in PR, we have discovered it’s not that bad after all.

That’s possibly because the media landscape has shifted so much that “the dark side’’ is now filled with our own kind and it is more acceptable for the likes of us to juggle both worlds and continue to produce journalism as well as commercial content.

Here’s a few positive surprises we have discovered:

RESPECT FROM MEDIA

I’m ashamed to admit that most journalists have treated me with more pleasant professionalism than I gave to PR contacts while working solely in a newsroom.

They recognise the credibility of my information, my industry knowledge, calibre of clients, quality of the release and have come to expect editorial-style images as standard.

BUSINESS AS USUAL

Well, kind of. We still write and shoot genuinely newsworthy and interesting stories and try very hard to ensure the stories we tell are fair and accurate. It’s just that someone else is paying us.

However, we cannot deny the bias and interests that arises with who is paying when we generate PR.

NO RIGHT OF REPLY NEEDED

The publisher of a local industry magazine once complained that my articles’’ wereverbose, self-serving diatribes’’. Well yes, that’s what my clients pay me to do. She was bewildered when told it was actually her job to pick through my media releases for information and story angles of interest to her readers and get the other side of the story before running the piece she wanted. The publisher, who had never been a journalist, believed that media releases were ready-made stories for her to fill her magazine with.

Armed with knowledge of the current media landscape, we do often now write media releases as completed stories, leaving no unanswered questions for sparsely populated newsrooms and inexperienced tree-changers. They are regularly published without change.

Therefore, as PR, we can choose to submit a traditional media release or a completed story depending on the occasion yet are never obliged to provide balance.

BECOMING SOMEONE ELSE

In the past few years I have created new words and phrases, changed a client’s vocabulary, taken on several vastly different personas, made moral and political points and berated senior politicians under Parliamentary privilege – all under the guise of others.

Anyone who has met me knows that really I am more than a bit shy, not that verbally articulate and certainly not confrontational. So it is a privilege and a joy to step outside myself and be someone else when writing quotes for a media release or a speech.

Do you agree? Can you add to this list?

* Ellen and David Hill worked in traditional print media for 20 and 30 years respectively. In 2012 they unexpectedly found themselves “on the dark side” in PR. Today, they run a communications consultancy. When not crafting communications for high-end clients, they traipse the country in search of stories, usually in a grubby hatchback piled to the ceiling with gear, a lanky teenager and, sometimes, a pampered pet rabbit called Sophie.


From newsroom to PR: Welcome to “the dark side”

I always wanted to be a journalist. Never thought of being anything else. And for nearly 20 years I lived my dream, met my photojournalist husband in the newsroom and raised our son as a newshound. News and media was our life.

In those days, journos would climb the editorial ladder, go to the subs desk and become editors. Those who left media would work as press secretaries to politicians, head media teams in government departments and churn out media releases at charities and big companies. They were no longer journalists. They had “gone to the dark side’’.

PRs were dismissed outright while we scribes wrote stories from scratch, interviewed people face-to-face, attended court, police rounds, pollie doorstops, disasters and death knocks and rarely accepted submitted pictures.

So how on earth have we found ourselves on “the dark side’’?

We felt the winds of change in the mid-2000s and took voluntary redundancy in 2009. Among the first wave of the tide of redundancies which has swept through the traditional media, we didn’t realise it at the time but we were actually pioneers.

First, we wrote a coffee table book. Everyone loved it, no one bought it.

We tried our hand as travel writers. I even won an award. While we could definitely write stories and shoot images, we failed dismally at selling ourselves, pitching stories and reaching out to editors. We never had to while working for one media outlet.

We didn’t intend to go into PR. It just happened. A local organisation was restructuring and wanted to refocus their PR to communications driven by a journalist/photographer team. We would sniff out stories, shoot postcard-style images and organise travel itineraries for the occasional visiting journalist. Easy.

For the first six months I was, uncharacteristically, a sobbing, hyperventilating mess at least once a week, lost 10kg and worked until 1am most nights, desperately trying to learn the ropes and battle the shame of becoming a PR chic.

Over time, we did learn the formulae for valuing media outcomes, we built up a huge media contact list and made sure the organisation we contracted to gained media attention every single week for three years solid.

Today, we run a boutique communications consultancy offering writing skills, photography and media services. We’re also branching back into freelance travel stories, character profiles and history articles, and David has begun to explore his creativity and photographic art. We do all of that under the one banner – and we’re not the only ones.

These days, ex-journos prefer to be called communications consultants (me included). Readers, listeners and viewers now provide much of the news content. Bloggers and social influencers have emerged as the new media. Reality TV is the new reality. Media reports on media and new terms like content creator’’,multimedia’’, marcomms’’ andbrand journalism’’ have cropped up. Everyone is supposed to have a blog, social media platforms and be skilled across all mediums from writing, photography and video.

So what does it all mean for the media, for business, for politics and, the group often overlooked in all of this, the reader/consumer?

Through this regular blog, I will explore some of the challenges and pitfalls, advantages and new opportunities and encourage input, new ideas and healthy and robust (yet respectful) discussion.

One thing I know for certain is that “the dark side’’ really is many shades of grey.


Fiji: postcard perfect getaway

Postcard perfect Fiji

Postcard perfect Fiji

By Ellen Hill                                     Photos: David Hill

“Bula Mrs Hill. Bula Mr Hill. Bula Master Hill.

“Bula scruffy dog.

“Bula sun.

“Naughty dog – you should be at home.

“Bula dog.’’

Fiji 21
The cheery sing-song chant continued for the entire 90 minute journey from Nandi airport to the front door of Fiji Hideaway Resort & Spa, annoying yet uplifting and amusing at the same time.

It set the tone for the whole seven-day visit to Fiji’s Coral Coast.

 

Fiji 08From the palm tree-lined beaches, the thatched huts, azure waters dotted with quaint fishing boats, sapphire-coloured skies, and strapping young men in sarongs, all the clichés were there in glorious real life. It was as if we had been engulfed by the pages of a tourist brochure.

After a tough previous few months, it was just what we needed, right down to being handed a coconut on the promenade by the grinning man who scampered up to cut it down.

Fiji 01

 

The Fiji Hideaway Resort was perfect: not too posh so we felt uncomfortable but nice enough to feel like a treat.

Our white bure (villa) was spacious, cool and clean, surrounded by tropical plants and with high ceilings, a queen size bed, an indoor shower (and a pretty spiffy outdoor one) and a front verandah.

Unheard of for us, we embraced the opportunity to “fly and flop’’ and didn’t leave the resort for three days.

With jobs that require us to be positive, polite and almost servile, it was a welcome relief to laze by the pool while resort staff scurried around at our beck and call.

 

Fiji 31We enjoyed the theatrical nightly kava ceremony, the lighting of the torches, the cultural stage performance each evening and got a buzz from the “personal’’ invitation to attend drinks with the resort general manager the afternoon we arrived.
Our tweenage son preferred our company, although the resort does have a kids club where resort crew look after the children with non-stop activities from treasure hunts to snorkelling and Fijian fishing lessons.

 

Fiji 14The resort website encourages visitors to meet the real Fiji’’ by visiting thefriendly locals’’ in nearby villages, although we suspect the many locals who work there feel obliged to welcome tourists into their personal spaces after serving their every need all day.

After three days of soaking in the cloistered embrace of the resort, we tentatively ventured beyond the protective gates and wandered down the narrow potholed road towards town.

Fiji 11

 

Just a few hundred metres down the road we were confronted by a man holding a machete.

He eyed us suspiciously.

We eyed him anxiously.

“Where are you going?’’ he asked.

“Just for a walk,’’ my husband said, aiming for a casual tone but achieving a warbled defence.

Why?’’ the man asked in amazement.Why you leave the resort?’’

Fiji 04He invited us to see his home. Well we had no choice, did we?

Sitting cross-legged on the bare earthen floor of the hut, a tiny naked child peeped around the doorframe as the man told us his hard luck story and asked for money.

The next day it was slightly disconcerting to see him elevated as an elder at the local Methodist church service, where we were amused by the spotlessly dressed children in their Sabbath whites, singing psalms like angels and squabbling like seagulls during the sermon.

 

Fiji 26While it is tempting to remain within the safe confines of the resort, it is worthwhile to stretch the boundaries and explore further afield.

We took an organised full-day tour to Robinson Caruso Island (arranged by the resort staff), where tourists can enjoy a bountiful lunch, educational tour and entertainment. There is also a bar, children’s water activities and basic hut accommodation.

 

Fiji 09

The resort shops are stocked with a range of items, from toiletries to clothing along with traditional novelties and snacks – all carrying a generous mark-up price.

The Hideaway has a full gym but we steered clear of physical torture, preferring a massage at the day spa and a lounge by the pool.

 

 

Fiji 16

Apart from the raw sausage served at the “traditional Aussie BBQ’’, the only real downer was the lack of an ATM (we had to order a taxi and travel to the 5-star hotel down the road).

After building a sandcastle on the beach, going on numerous romantic sunset strolls along the sun-soaked shores of the majestic ocean lagoon with year-round warm tropical waters’’ andpristine coral beaches’’, collecting shells and sipping rich cocktails by the pool, we truly felt refreshed.

 

Sometimes you just need a postcard.

 

Fiji 03Getting there

Several international airlines have flights into Fij, including Qantas, Air New Zealand, Korean Air, Pacific Blue, and V Australia. Air Pacific is the national carrier and has direct flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Christchurch, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Japan. The Fiji International Airport is located in Nadi.

The Coral Coast and the Fiji Hideaway Resort & Spa are a 90 minute transfer away. The resort’s reservations staff can organise a transfer at the time of reservation via private car, taxi, or coach (fees apply).

 


Fiji 18

Getting around

Sightseeing around the Coral Coast is a must, with beautiful beaches and coral lagoons to explore. Taxis are available from the resort to visit Sigatoka for duty free shopping or the tour desk can organise a rental.

We rode the public bus into Sigatoka, which cost only a few dollars.

 

 

Fiji 13


Tor of Hartley: a magnet for artists

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick is inspired by the Tor of Hartley.

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick is inspired by the Tor of Hartley.

 

By Ellen Hill                                              Photos: David Hill

Hulking moodily over a remnant of the nation’s colonial past, a pile of rocks flung against the side of a hill just west of the Blue Mountains has been a magnet for artists for two centuries, creatively and literally.

Known as Kew-Y-Ahn, Bells Rock or just The Tor, the granite rocks are embedded in the hill rising above Hartley Historic Site, between Lithgow and the Blue Mountains.

Kew-Y-Ahn has inspired artists for more than 150 years.

Kew-Y-Ahn has inspired artists for more than 150 years.

In 1865, one of the colony’s most important landscape painters, Eugene von Guérard (1811-1901) featured them in his painting Sunset in New South Wales.

Today, across the hill a bit and down, metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick unleashes his creativity in Talisman Gallery under The Tor’s gaze, its protection, its morose acceptance.

Clang. Pause. Clang. Pause. Tap. Tap. Tap tap.

Ron beats his metal into submission, coaxing the ore into the shape he has dreamed up.

In the murky light of winter when the fog pervades every open space; under oppressive summer heat; in the milky romance of moonlight, The Tor stares out across the valley indifferently.

From the doorway of his workshop, a converted woolshed, Ron gazes back.

The Tor of Hartley is beautiful at any time.

The Tor of Hartley is beautiful at any time.

“I don’t know what it is about them – maybe it’s because they are granite and literally a bit magnetic, but I definitely draw inspiration from them,’’ Ron says.

“They represent strength and reliability like metal and they have metallic qualities. But really, they’re just really beautiful at any time of the day or year.’’

Whether it’s the configuration of how they were arranged after eons of wear from rushing water from the Cox’s River and its tributary the River Lett, how their sheer size radiates an imposing presence or how the sun’s rays tickle their faces at dawn, the wardens of the hill have long-held a magnetism for artists.

Visible from miles around, Kew-Y-Ahn appears in the von Guérard work, Sunset in New South Wales, after he assimilated on the left of the work the cabbage tree palms of American Creek in Wollongong, which he captured in an 1859 pencil sketch, with the granite rocks of Hartley on the right.

Interestingly, von Guérard did not actually entitle the work, which was assigned a title when it was shown in the 1870 Intercolonial Exhibition in Sydney, where it was on sale for 60 guineas.

The Sydney Morning Herald of the day commented “The sunset scene… is a beautiful painting but rather highly coloured’’.

The son of court painter to Emperor Franz Joseph 1 of Austria, Bernard Von Guérard, Eugene von Guérard immigrated to Australia in 1852.

Colonial landscape artist Eugene von Guerard

Colonial landscape artist Eugene von Guerard

A respected romantic landscape painter, his work celebrates the untamed, wild beauty of the Australian landscape and awe-inspiring presence, qualities most definitely displayed by the granite tor at Hartley.

He was on a quest for landscapes of a particular quality to sketch and develop into large oil paintings.

The Blue Mountains landscape, with its vast vistas, plunging gorges and towering sandstone escarpments and rock formations, was ideal.

Von Guérard discovered the rock outcrop during two visits to the Blue Mountains and Hartley in 1859, capturing the scene in sketches that June and December.

By then he was an established oil painter with works exhibited in Australia and internationally, including at the London International Exhibition, and lithographs of his sketches produced to illustrate Journals and Newspapers.

Those sketches are held by the Mitchell Library.

Although the landscape of the Vale of Hartley had been sketched since its discovery, von Guérard’s work marks the transition from drawings recording the scene like a camera does today, to works of art.

“Like me today, von Guérard lived in a very cosmopolitan era when it was acceptable and even encouraged to experiment with art and culture,’’ Talisman Gallery metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick says.

“That gave people like him freedom to create art in their own style, just like me and my art today.’’

Detail of one of Ron Fitzpatrick's metal works at Talisman Gallery.

Detail of one of Ron Fitzpatrick’s metal works at Talisman Gallery.

Ron’s own artistic journey began in the early 1980s, creating handmade knives and Tai Chi dancing swords in a small shop in Melbourne.

Since moving to Sydney in the late 1980s, Ron’s art and business has evolved from a need to provide for his family by making his own furniture from scrap metal to trendy inner west wrought iron work to finally settling in the Blue Mountains and Hartley.

These days his gallery collection includes large high-end pieces along with his signature metal art mirrors, small affordable sculptures and candleholders and an extensive collection of imported jewellery and new crystal pieces.

One of the showrooms at Talisman Gallery.

One of the showrooms at Talisman Gallery.

Taking inspiration from ancient symbols and ideas he sees in meditation, Ron believes that “being creative is a state of mind and I just don’t think people have learnt to let themselves access that part of themselves’’.

“Designs and ideas are all around us, like these rocks here. You just have to become aware of them.’’

The rocks featured in von Guérard’s work can be explored today along the Kew-Y-Ahn Bell Rock Heritage Trail walking track at Hartley Historic Site.

Visitors to the site can also wander around the historic buildings, have refreshments at the café, watch Ron at work and buy a unique piece at Talisman Gallery and even brave neck-bristling terror on an evening ghost tour.

Talisman Gallery at Hartley Historic Site, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west) is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Details: Ron 0407 723 722 or info@talismangallery.com.au.

* Talisman Gallery is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at work at Talisman Gallery.

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at work at Talisman Gallery.

 


Ballooning in the Aussie Outback

Outback Ballooning

 

By Ellen Hill                          Photos: David Hill

(This travel story won the 2008 RovingEye Expose Your World Competition, Travel Story category. All prices and contact details have been updated.)

 

BEING caught between the cusp of a new day and the last flickers of night is like witnessing two of nature’s most intimate acts – birth and death. Secret and mysterious, only a select few are privy to its glory.

Today, we are that select few, a group of strangers pressed together in a wicker basket like sardines in a can, suspended 1000ft above the ground smack bang in the centre of Australia just outside the town of Alice Springs.

Moonset in the desert near Alice Springs with Outback Ballooning.

Moonset in the desert near Alice Springs with Outback Ballooning.

In the pre-dawn silence when the nocturnal animals have bedded down before the birds awake, the sun sends tentative golden strands across the red dirt until it glows like an ember. Its radiant tentacles stretch out slowly as they have done for millennia, highlighting desert features of oaks and mulga scrub, rock wallabies and craggy outcrops.

On the opposite horizon a sleepy full moon melts down like an egg yolk behind the rugged outline of the MacDonnell Ranges, leaving the sky silvery blue in its wake.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the 30m tall balloon with its cargo is carried along with it.

Hot air balloons are the most basic of aircraft. But all fears and concerns for the world below and the flimsiness of our craft have whooshed above our heads as the pilot on our Outback Ballooning experience pumps the burners to send jets of orange, blue and white hot propane fuel into the balloon.

We float aimlessly through the first heaven, unaware of our progress. There is no airspeed, no aerodynamic lift, no vibration and no wind noise. We cannot pitch or roll.

The G-free experience is like gently levitating rather than flying.

My seven-year-old son, almost too terrified to join the flight, pops his head up from the base of the basket to get a better look at the unfolding palette before us.

G-free aerial adventure.

G-free aerial adventure.

He remains there mesmerised until the basket scrapes the top of a tree on its final descent back to terra firma.

Out here, the ranges are no fuzzy-topped mountains emanating a soothing blue haze but a jumbled stretch of rocky outcrops and hills that appear much larger and further away than they really are because the pathetic scrub is no more than a few patches of scrub and that accursed spiky buffel grass.

This is one of the most isolated and arid places on earth, a place where you can wander far into the horizon and not see another soul. A place where all there is for company is the melancholy “Ark, Ark, Aaaah’’ of a lone crow, the crunch of your feet in the never-ending dirt and the gentle wail of the breeze. Where the sun beats down so hard it feels like it’s pushing you into the rock hard earth.

Here in the second largest desert in the world, clouds become a myth and the clumps of spinifex grass haul themselves out of what must be imaginary moisture. This desert of 1.3 million sq miles receives just a Biblical rich man’s drop of water on its tongue – 5 inches a year. Some parts of central Australia only get relief once or twice a decade, just enough to torment. This collection of small deserts is called the Outback, and takes up 44 per cent of the continent.

The Australian Outback ...one of the most arid places on Earth.

The Australian Outback …one of the most arid places on Earth.

Mile after mile of river and creek beds wind their way through this parched land, baked to that red dust and rock in the merciless Outback sun. The “Floodway’’ signs that appear at regular intervals along the highways seem ludicrous as the waterways snake through the landscape as a mocking reminder of the thundering rains that will surely come.

Then myriad dry lakes fill with water and the lowest point on the continent, the half million square mile Lake Eyre Basin, floods as the rivers drain into its bowl.

But sometimes nature taunts the thirsty tongue and parched earth. The rains don’t always come and then the Todd River remains a shortcut walkway into the town of Alice Springs from outlying settlements.

Reality hits as the basket bumps and scrapes along the ground, sending puffs of deep orange-coloured dirt into the air. We hadn’t even noticed our descent.

Back on terra firma.

Back on terra firma.

Still trapped in the romance of the experience, we tumble awkwardly from the basket and stomp our boots on the dirt. Reality hits when we’re all summoned to help the crew pack up the nylon balloon into its bag.

Nothing less than breakfast of honey glazed chicken drumsticks, quiches, fresh fruit, cheese and chocolate cake washed down with fruit juice or champagne would be good enough to end such a civilised experience.

On the cusp of night and dawn.

On the cusp of night and dawn.

Cost:
30 minute flight: $AUD290

Children 6-16: $AUD237

60 minute flight: $AUD385

Children 6-16: $AUD313

Adult balloon chase: $AUD40

Child balloon chase: $AUD32

Separate mandatory insurance fee: $AUD25 per passenger payable on the morning of the flight.

 

Experience the beauty of the desert with Outback Ballooning.

Experience the beauty of the desert with Outback Ballooning.

What to wear:
It can be dusty in the bush and balloon riders are welcome to help rig and pack away the balloon so enclosed shoes and warm casual clothing (don’t wear light colours) is suitable.

How to get there:
Passengers are collected from their accommodation and dropped back after the flight. Qantas has regular flights to Alice Springs from most Australian cities.

Bookings:
Toll free: 1800 809 790 (within Australia), +61 8 8952 8723
or sales@outbackballooning.com.au.

Ellen and David Hill received a complimentary Outback Ballooning ride thanks to Tourism Northern Territory.

© Deep Hill Media

Tranquil way to experience the Australian Outback.

Tranquil way to experience the Australian Outback.


Bringing the Blue Mountains to Sydney CBD

Experience the Scenic Skyway and the Blue Mountains in the Sydney CBD

Experience the Scenic Skyway and the Blue Mountains in the Sydney CBD

Words by Ellen Hill for Scenic World

Perch on a clifftop at Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Blue Mountains escarpment and feel small again – in the heart of the city. Capture the moment in a photo and share it with the world next Friday (March 20) and Saturday (March 21) – all from Circular Quay.

Urban residents can experience a small slice of Australia’s most visited privately-owned tourist attraction and the nation’s most accessible wilderness when multi award-winning 3D chalk artist Anton Pulvirenti transforms Customs House forecourt into a World Heritage-listed landscape.

The 10m x 15m canvass 3D drawing will offer a glimpse of the Scenic Skyway as it glides 270m above ancient rainforest between clifftops, against the backdrop of the iconic Three Sisters and spectacular Katoomba Falls.

Scenic World brother and sister Joint Managing Directors Anthea and David Hammon said: “We have grown up with the Three Sisters as our view, breathed the fresh Blue Mountains air and enjoyed the rides at Scenic World as our playground our whole lives yet we never take the size of this vast one million square hectare landscape for granted.’’

Anton Pulvirenti will create the 3D chalk drawing using forced perspective to create an illusion of scale, meaning the scene will be so realistic that passers-by could be forgiven for believing they have truly been transported to the Blue Mountains.

So “stand’’ on the Scenic World clifftop and ask a friend to take a photo and share it with the world on Instagram with #feelsmallagain and receive an instant keepsake photo from the Scenic World team.

The top 10 most creative photos will receive a family pass to Scenic World so they can experience the thrilling attraction for themselves – for real.

The Scenic World Feel Small Again 3D chalk art will be staged in front of Customs House, Alfred St, Circular Quay, from 8am to 6pm Friday (March 20) and 10am to 5pm Saturday (March 21).

The family-owned Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Three Sisters landmark at Katoomba is home to the world’s steepest passenger train, the highest and largest cablecars in Australia and the longest boardwalk in Australia.


Hydro Majestic Hotel Blue Mountains: elegant festival venue

The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel will be a magnificent host to the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on February 7, 2015. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel will be a magnificent host to the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on February 7, 2015.

Words by Ellen Hill                                                    Photos by David Hill

The refurbished Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath will be the ultimate period party palace at which to launch the annual Roaring 20s Festival and all that Jazz on Saturday, February 7.

Hydro Majestic co-owner Huong Nguyen said: “The Hydro in its heyday was the place to be for people who wanted to have fun.

Cats Alley at the Hydro Majestic will come alive with colourful characters. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Cats Alley at the Hydro Majestic will come alive with colourful characters.

“The Escarpment Group has refurbished the buildings back to their original elegance but what really makes a building come alive is people.

“So we invite everyone to dress up in their most sophisticated 1920s-style costumes to celebrate the return of colourful characters into the venues and hallways of the Hydro Majestic Hotel.’’

The day will begin with the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on the lawns at 11am. Practice onsite from 10.30am and register on the day or pre-register at www.roaring20s.com.au.

Participants are encouraged to arrive by train and alight at Medlow Bath railway station conveniently located opposite the hotel.

The challenge aims to break its own Guinness World Record for the greatest number of costumed people to dance the Charleston. It set the record with 276 in 2013, 319 in 2014 – let’s make it 350 in 2015.

After the dancers have high-kicked their way into history once more, indulge in decadent local fare at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Majestic Ballroom.

Immerse yourself in the era during a long afternoon of informal grazing, promenading on the lawns and dancing to the 1920s-style band.

The Majestic Long Lunch will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Majestic Long Lunch will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Hydro Majestic head chef Maté Herceg and other Blue Mountains food heroes will prepare a feast from regional food.

An antipasto platter from award-winning Princess Pantry will feature meats and locally grown vegetables.  Maté will showcase his culinary skills with a memorable main course, followed by delicious cheeses from the Carrington Cellars & Deli. The finale of the feast will be a wicked, indulgent dessert from Josophan’s Fine Chocolates.

Guests will meet Australian food and wine identity and Majestic Long Lunch ambassador Lyndey Milan OAM, who has visited the region often and features the Blue Mountains in her Taste of Australia TV series and accompanying book.

“The glorious Blue Mountains continue to raise the bar with fun events, showcasing the increasing number and standard of local producers,’’ she said.

“The Long Lunch was great fun in its inaugural year in Leura and promises to ramp it up in the newly restored Hydro Majestic.’’

The Majestic Long Lunch and the Charleston Challenge will begin Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism’s Roaring 20s Festival held throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region from February 7-22. (Details: www.roaring20s.com.au)

Take the opportunity to explore the magnificent hotel on a guided tour and stock up on local produce in the newly opened providores pavilion during your visit.

End the day with another Australian icon, music legend Richard Clapton when he performs some of his hits including Girls On the Avenue, I Am an Island, Capricorn Dancer and Best Years Of Our lives. Cost: $57.50 + booking fee (show only). Doors open at 6pm, support act Chris Rose will perform at 8pm with Richard Clapton onstage at 9pm.

Dinner, show and accommodation packages available. Details and bookings: www.hydromajestic.com.au.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel has long been associated with fun.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel has long been associated with fun.

 


Channel your charge through speechwriting

Speechwriting

For two years, I have blipped between my alter-ego (a gregarious, witty, charming born leader who loves a verbal stoush) and, well, me – verbally awkward, socially uncomfortable, to be honest, a bit of a wallflower.

More recently, I have enjoyed reconnecting with a long-time political acquaintance, coaxing to the surface his warmth, generous community spirit and subtle humour others don’t often see. I can’t deny it’s also been just a little fun helping him stick the proverbial boot into his foes under Parliamentary privilege too.

Most recently, I have begun to explore two new characters, similar in personality. My challenge is to convert their tinder dry sense of humour, almost imperceptible asides and one-liners into the written word. I don’t know either of them deeply and our paths do not cross frequently. The exciting thing is, we are embarking on this journey together.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1: It’s not about you

If you want the kudos and glory, become the boss yourself.

If not, leave your ego at home and accept that no one will know your name unless they want to complain, you will have to lug the pull-up banners to the conference and you will not be given a goodie bag.

2: Believe in the cause

To write convincingly for and as someone else you must believe in their cause, share their ideals and work towards a shared goal.

3: Get to know them

Whether you both enjoy Sudoko when travelling on the train or smashing a tiny ball against a wall with a racquet on Saturday morning to relieve stress, have kids the same age or collect stamps, guaranteed you will find something in common that will kick start your relationship.

A good relationship with your boss will give depth to your speechwriting.

4: Get to understand them

Learning what makes someone tick, why they think the way they do and their opinion on a wide range of topics will help you hear their “voice’’.

5: Get to like them

You must learn to like them. You must, after all, convince others of their message.

6: Hang off their every word

Rather than fiddling with your phone, gossiping with his PA at the back of the room or gazing at the spider inching closer to Madam Mayor’s stiletto, listen to your boss give his speech. Take note of how he speaks, what words he uses and how he uses them, where he pauses for effect and whether he thumps the lectern or points at the audience.

That will help make your speeches for him more theatrical, more alive and more believable.

7: Sweat the small stuff

It’s the details which can make a good speech a memorable one which resonates with an audience touched by the sincerity of the “voice’’.

A speaker who halts and stumbles over unfamiliar words will not come across as genuine.

So notice that your speaker uses “first’’ and “second’’ rather than “firstly’’ and “secondly’’, “each’’ rather than “every’’, “everyone’’ rather than “everybody’’; that she is a fan of alliteration; that he likes to pause and eyeball a few people in the front row after a particularly passionate line.

Notice that your charge always carefully chooses cufflinks or a tie appropriate to each function or engagement. Mentioning it in a speech might just win over that deciding voter or that crucial sponsorship deal one day.