International Symposium, Brisbane, Australia, August 2006

August 2006, some of us visited Brisbane, Australia (with our bells!) for that year’s International Handbell Symposium.

by Debbie Nichols

After leaving a very wet England on the Thursday, & a 2hr delay at Osaka Airport due to thunder & lightning, we finally arrived in Brisbane on Saturday morning some 24 hrs later, tired but excited about the coming holiday.

We had a couple of days off to do our own thing before all the hard work started on the Wednesday. After a couple of hours sight-seeing, we finally managed to find St John’s Cathedral for the opening ceremony on Tuesday evening. As usual, the ceremony was different, but extremely packed due to the cathedral not being big enough for all who wanted to attend.

Wednesday am, and now the hard work starts for the 600 or so ringers! We only had 5 team members from St Lawrence Chobham in Australia, so we were joined by a few extras. Lorraine (who used to play with us) came back, Rosemary Jex, Alan & David Rice (wife Deborah who conducted a piece), Jenny Tyack & Paul.

A total of 8 pieces practised today – Night & Waltzing Matilda should sound pretty good by the end of the week, once the choir & the didgeridoo were bought in. Silk Road sounded beautiful, but had trouble keeping up with the tempo. I’m sure it’s fairly easy for the Japanese / Korean teams who play these pieces with ease (so it seems). Oh well, 4 days to learn!! Later that day, there was the usual group photo outside on the steps of the convention centre, which after a bit of sorting, was finally taken.( I think everyone was in the photo ?!)

Some interesting workshops this time, including one that was run by an aboriginal couple . We had the chance to try emu – very nice, and to learn about the culture in general. (he later played with us in the final concert on his didgeridoo, wearing native costume). Also tried Maori stick games and music, that was great fun ! Learnt a traditional Maori song which was quite challenging but also fun.

There was also a chance to learn traditional English Country dancing with Rosemary Jex, which sounded great fun, as there was much laughing & the floor was shaking, we could feel it in the room next door! There was also Latin American dances, dream catcher, bell tree ringing, origami & lots lots more.

The food was as usual very good, if sometimes uninteresting . For instance, mini meat pies for morning break with tea of coffee, very nice, but seemed strange. Thank goodness for the more ‘normal’ scones, and biscuits etc we had on other days. No emu on the evening menus from what we could see.

The end of the week already (how time flies when you’re having fun) & the last run through all the pieces. They all sound great, but my favourite was Come Thou Fount Of Ev’ry Blessing. All in all a very good week & lots of hard work but great sounding pieces by the final concert on Saturday. The concert as usual, was of very high standard and seems to get better every Symposium we attend, thankfully we didn’t have to ring in the concert (it was nice to watch everyone else and not feel nervous). A great concert to end a great weeks ringing.

Now we can relax and explore the rest of Australia. Went to Cairns in the north which is a very pretty touristy area. Went diving & snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef (tried to as it was very very choppy waters that day) but great never the less. Then off to the Blue Mountains another day, which included an early start and late finish, but worth it. Our guide was very enthusiastic, and we were stunned to see that while walking through the rain forest he was bare foot (rather him than me).

Next, off to what I couldn’t wait for – Sydney. We were all booked in to do the bridge climb – I had second thoughts but as soon as we started up the bridge I loved it! Our mad Irish tour guide made the 3½ hr walk really, really fun & also it went in a flash. The views were something else.  I would recommend this if you do nothing else when in Australia. The other thing we just had to do was hold a Kola Bear at the late Steve Irwin’s Zoo.

These guys are very cute! We had the chance to stroke them, but also to hold them, fabulous. They do smell a bit though due to all the Eucalyptus leaves they eat. Also got to hand feed the kangaroos that seemed to be every where, they had very soft fur which we didn’t expect.

Three weeks isn’t nearly enough time to see what this great country has to offer, so I’m definitely coming back at some point!!!