Tuesday, November 22, 2022



32nd “Canberra CityNews” Artist of the Year


Nigel Featherstone


Nigel Featherstone (photo credit: Holly Treadaway)

A “writers’ writer” who has become equally famous as a novelist and a tireless advocate for the arts was this evening (November 22) named “Canberra Citynews” Artist of the Year at the 32nd annual ACT Arts Awards evening, held in the Canberra Museum & Gallery.

 Nigel Featherstone was singled out for his eloquent writing and as a constant champion for his fellow Canberra writers and lovers of the written word.

 “Citynews” editor, Ian Meikle, presented him with a certificate and cheque to the value of $1,000 and a F!nk studio jug.

 Declaring himself “absolutely honoured,” Featherstone said, “I've lived in the ACT region for over three decades and it's become my creative home as well as my geographic home. The combination of our incredible arts and cultural institutions and relative peace and quiet has been essential to my work as a writer.”

 Featherstone, whose novel “ My Heart is a Little Wild Thing” was published by Ultimo Press in May this year, has been lavished with praise by critics around Australia for taking a remarkable look at Australian masculinity, for the complexity and contradiction of the work and for its lyrical evocation of the “magnificent” Monaro, in which the novel is set. The lyricism of “his novel inspired British artist and composer BPMoore to release a composition called “Monaro” in June this year.

 Quiet and erudite, Featherstone is a self-described “natural hermit.” A former officer at artsACT, he abandoned the public service in 2010 to become a full-time writer and has since published three novels, three novellas, a play, a libretto, at least 50 short stories, and around 120 non-fiction articles and essays, including stories about being an artist in regional Australia.

 In 2021 he joined Canberra-region poets Melinda Smith and CJ Bowerbird to found the spoken-word/music collective “Hell Herons,” which fuses lyrical language with songs.

 In 2022 he has worked at The Street Theatre as a dramaturg on CJ Bowerbird's “Coward Punch” and as forum host for “Twenty Minutes With The Devil”. His first full-length play, “The Story of the Oars,” was read in December 2021 as part of The Street’s “First Seen” program.

 Although he has lived in Goulburn for the past 12 years, he identifies as a Canberra artist, is an active arts advocate and commentator in the ACT and has worked at ACT Writers since 2013, supporting and mentoring emerging writers, also connecting artists and community.

 A familiar face on the wider Australian arts circuit, in August this year he was on the final panel at the Canberra Writers Festival and traversed northern NSW as part of the “Writers on the Road” regional tour, then in October he led two residencies for the Terror Australis Writers Festival in Huon Valley, Tasmania.


Helen Tsongas Award for Excellence in Acting


Karen Vickery


Karen Vickery (photo credit: Jane Duong)

A powerful actor-director who gave up her day job to get behind a new theatrical enterprise in Canberra was presented with the Helen Tsongas Award for excellence in acting by Canberra Theatre director Alex Budd at the ACT Arts Awards tonight (November 22).

 Karen Vickery was singled out by the Canberra Critics Circle for a remarkable year of acting, especially for her performances as Jaques in Lakespeare’s “As You Like It”, as the older woman in Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women” for ACT Hub and as the narrator in “Urinetown: The Musical” for Heart Strings Theatre Company.

A graduate in acting and a long-time staff member at the National Institute of Dramatic Art with a degree from the University of Melbourne behind her, Vickery has made herself well-known in the Canberra acting scene since coming to Canberra in 2011 to join the National Portrait Gallery as director of access and learning.

 She left the NPG in April this year to concentrate on her acting and on the challenges presented at the new ACT Hub in Kingston, conceived during the covid lockdown when she and the directors of three other theatre companies joined forces to secure the future of serious theatre practice in Canberra.

 A performing artist at the very height of her powers, Vickery, the judges believe, takes hold of the mature parts presented to her now and interprets them with a great deal of complexity and sophistication.

 An accomplished Russian linguist who has translated plays by Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky into hotly sought-after English language playscripts, she also spent many years is a working as a jobbing actor working for TV series, including “All Saints,” and “A Country Practice” (three times in three different roles) and in stage dramas, once playing 13 characters in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of “Nicholas Nickleby.”

 Moving to Canberra to pursue her new career, she found the Portrait Gallery responsive to the power of dance and theatre in interpreting portraiture and hosting many performances and a celebration of playwright Ray Lawler’s “The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll” in its 60th year, which she later directed at The Q.  She also founded the project "In their own words," where poems or literature pertaining to portraits are  read in the galleries.

 But Vickery never abandoned her love of treading the boards, and as a lead actor with Canberra Rep — her first foray into community theatre— then as actor-director with Everyman Theatre, Pigeonhole Theatre, and her own newly formed Chaika (Russian for ‘seagull’) Theatre, she became a driving force in the Canberra theatre scene and a model to younger actors.

 The Helen Tsongas Award for excellence in acting was established by the Tsongas family in the name of the late Helen Tsongas, who died in a motorcycle accident with her husband, Peter Brajkovic, ten years ago.

 Tsongas was a dramatic actor, memorable for tragic roles in “Medea” and “The House of Bernarda Alba” but equally admired for her comic roles in plays like “Noises Off” and The Female Odd Couple”

 She worked at Arts ACT for many years (former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope was, at the time, the Arts Minister) and then moved to the then Commonwealth Office for the Arts when Simon Crean was Minister for the Arts.

She would have been 43 in November this year.

The Helen Tsongas award takes the form of a cheque to the value of $1000 and a certificate going to the best Canberra actor of the year, with no restrictions on age or gender, as judged by the theatre panel of the Canberra Critics Circle and will continue over the coming years.


 The 2022 Canberra Critics Circle is as follows:


Frank McKone, Helen Musa, Rob Kennedy, Meredith Hinchliffe,

Tony Magee, Alanna Maclean, Joe Woodward, Kerry-Anne Cousins,

Cris Kennedy, Michelle Potter, Simone Penkethman, Bill Stephens,

Brian Rope, Len Power, Graham McDonald, Peter Wilkins,

Dante Costa, Barrina South, Ian McLean, Con Boekel,

Jane Freebury, Samara Purnell, Arne Sjostedt


 Canberra Critics Circle Awards

 The centrepiece of the 32nd ACT Arts Awards was the presentation of Canberra Critics Circle certificates by choreographer, teacher and performer, Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, to the artists below:


Visual Arts


Rory Gillen


For “Uncalibrated Space, post-digital and networked photographic art”. Deep learning carves facets into images. Mesmerising, dreamlike. The underlying machinations of algorithms are investigated. Seeking what is real and exploring how we know that.  Tuggeranong Arts Centre in November/December 2021.


Visual Arts


Michael Armstrong


For “Voices and Veterans”.  Each Veteran living with PTSD has a story, visually told, expressed, felt and heard through a challenging creative process using molasses as a metaphor to reveal both darkness and light.  The National Press Club in May/June 2022.


Visual Arts


Judith Nangala Crispin


For “Nox”.  Paying respect to our non-human brothers and sisters by creating a lyric poem of mourning using her own alternative process to make extraordinarily beautiful artistic images of roadkill. A record of things passing by night. Grainger Gallery in January/February 2022.


Visual Arts


Annette Blair


For “Quietly Spoken”, in which the artist displayed a notable development and assurance in her conceptual ideas as well as skill and innovation in glass making techniques that resulted in an impressive and emotive exhibition based on the artist’s perception of memory and loss.  Canberra Glassworks in August.


Visual Arts


Maryke Henderson


For “Unpredictable: an exploration of Soda Vapour Glazing 2004-2022”, where the artist displayed the results of a single minded dedication to the study of form and practice.  The resulting works are beautiful and honest pots that have developed from a long tradition but whose forms and surfaces reflect the innovation and skill of a true, dedicated artist. Canberra Potters, Watson Arts Centre in August.


Visual Arts


Valerie Kirk and Harriet Schwarzrock


For the exhibition Artist-in-Residence at CraftACT.  This body of work was the result of a 2021 artists’ residency at Namadgi National Park in August and  demonstrated the passionate and thoughtful response both artists had to their environment not only allowing us to see the preliminary studies they made but also the completed works that reflected their individual experience.


Visual Arts


Anita McIntyre


For her survey exhibition “1970-2022” at the Woolshed at Strathnairn, which traced her work from student days to her most recent work.  Her work reflects the vistas and landscapes she lives in, travels in and travels through.  Family is just as important to this artist, who settled the area some generations ago.





Ausdance ACT


For its initiative in bringing together dance filmmakers from the ACT and South Australia in October 2021 and September 2022 in “Dance.Focus”, where nine short films were commissioned and shown, thus widening knowledge and understanding of Canberra’s dance culture beyond the ACT.




Jake Silvestro


For an exceptional full-length solo performance, “December”, choreographed using a variety of physical genres combined with a strong visual arts component and an underlying focus on issues concerning the disastrous bushfires that ravaged parts of Australia in December 2019.




Australian Dance Party


For its adventurous site-specific work “Less”, that explored a Canberra sculpture and its surrounding watery setting through innovative dance, and exceptional lighting and sound design, to give the audience a highly immersive experience.




Danny Riley


For his charismatic, athletic performance in his self-choreographed work “Similar, Same but Different”, based on a piece choreographed by Ruth Osborne for Riley’s brother, performed against a film of this work performed by his brother, with a calm assurance that was as captivating as it was moving.





Pip Thompson


For stirring up a storm as the onstage fiddler in “Girl from the North Country”, for consistent excellence over a wide range of styles from Romanian street music to classical performance as part of Canberra Strings, the Phoenix Collective and the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.




Fred Smith


For his concert to welcome Afghanistan evacuees to Canberra; an often sad, often funny, always poignant evening of fine entertainment which traced Australia’s 10 year deployment culminating in the chilling scenes of the 2021 airport evacuation.




Luminescence Chamber Singers


For “Ave Regina//God, be with the Mother”, a well-conceived and performed concert where the singers were joined by jazz guitarist, Jess Green, to explore the long tradition of devotional music for Mary and the many meanings of motherhood.




Ronan Apcar


For his invigorating world premiere performance of Dulcie Holland’s “Piano Concertino” with Canberra Sinfonia.




Rachel McNally and Michael Dooley


For their concert “In2deep” which featured jazz playing and singing of the highest calibre.




Canberra Symphony Orchestra


For their initiative, research and choice of composers and performers in devising and presenting a captivating and collaborative program of contemporary Australian music through the “Australian Series”.



Musical Theatre


Andrew Finnegan


For his realistic, humorous and scene stealing portrayal of Alexander Downer in the Queanbeyan Players production of “Keating”.


Musical Theatre


Echo Theatre Company


For a high quality production of “Ruthless” where superb acting, singing, directing, musicianship, staging and costuming produced a hilarious, over the top and most entertaining spoof.


Musical Theatre


Stephanie Bailey


For a beautifully sung and emotionally sensitive portrayal of Eliza Doolittle as she transcended from flower girl to belle of the ball in the Free Rain Theatre production of “My Fair Lady”.


Musical Theatre


Ylaria Rogers


For her highly inventive production of “Urinetown” which she directed for Heartstrings Theatre Company.


Musical Theatre


Rachel Reid (Jazida)


For her extraordinary performance in “Exotica Hypnotica” in which she showcased her remarkable range of professional level skills.




Nigel Featherstone


For “My Heart is a Little Wild Thing”, (Ultimo Press, May 2022) a beautifully told story, set in the magically-realised Monaro region, of love, duty and personal restoration.




Marion Halligan


For “Words for Lucy”, (Thames & Hudson March, 2022) a profoundly moving memoir celebrating the life of the writer’s late daughter, in which she weaves together everyday details and treasured events.




Tabitha Carvan


For “This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch” (HarperCollins AU, March 2022), a book about what happens to women's passions after they leave adolescence, where the author depicts herself unexpectedly falling for the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch while stuck at home with two young children.




Sarah St Vincent Welch


For “chalk borders” (Flying Islands Pocketbooks, December 2021) where she transformed her ephemeral chalk-poems, enjoyed by hundreds on the footpaths at art festivals Contour 556 and Noted, into beautiful permanent meditations on art and life.




Kimberly K. Williams


For “Still Lives”, (Gazebo Books, September 2022) poems written about departing a place and then living in a very new one, Canberra, and forging a relationship with it. For stepping in to manage Poetry at Manning Clark House; she is a driving force behind Canberra’s poetry scene.





Shannon Wilson-McClinton – Producer


For constructing a narratively-strong, youth-oriented film, “6 Festivals”, supported by impressive performances, created and shot in our region under the challenging conditions of COVID lockdowns.





Meaghan Stewart


For her cleverly nuanced performance as Eliza Doolittle in Tempo Theatre’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”.




Jarrad West


For his accomplished direction of Everyman Theatre’s production of a confronting but very funny play, “Hand To God”.




Chrissie Shaw


For using her unique skills to give a sensitive and incisive performance of a woman suffering dementia in “Demented” by Ruth Pieloor.




Max Gambale


For a superb trio of vignettes in Lakespeare’s “As You Like It”, in which he brought comedy, pathos and wild eccentricity to his roles.




Christopher Samuel Carroll


For his performance as Meursault, the emotionally detached antihero in “The Stranger” for Bare Witness Company, which he adapted from the novel by Albert Camus.  This was a powerful and hypnotic theatrical experience.




Andrea Close


For her ferociously real performance as Martha in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Free Rain Theatre at the ACT Hub.




Dylan Van Den Berg


For his script “Whitefella Yella Tree” which explored the effects of colonisation on two young indigenous boys in a love story.





Amy Kowalczuk


For her direction of Gordon Graham’s “The Boys” for Alchemy Artistic, a strong, unnerving and impactful ensemble performance.