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It’s time to say goodbye

Shortly you might notice that chainsaw artist Leigh Conkie will be removing the sculptures in Greensborough War Memorial Park. This will make way for the new sculptures planned to go in early next year.

In the meantime, please join us to say goodbye to the old sculptures on Saturday 9 September at the park from 6pm until 10pm, when we will have a ceremonial fire and you can talk to Leigh and the other artists who are making the new sculptures.

Back to the Park: Design Concept Launch 25 June

Want to find out what the new sculptures for Greensborough War Memorial Park will look like?

You are invited to come and meet the artists, share a cuppa and view the design concept for the new sculptures at Greensborough War Memorial Park on Sunday 25 June from 10am to 12pm.
Chainsaw artist Leigh Conkie and blacksmith Roland Dannenhauer will be demonstrating their craft and you’ll be able to talk to the designer, Amanda about the new sculptures. Plus we will have scones!

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Veterans Share their Stories: words from the designer and writer

On 20 May, six of our local war veterans shared their stories with designer Amanda Gibson, who is working on the new sculptures for Greensborough War Memorial Park, and writer Neil Grant. The stories shared form part of the research, and inspiration for the new sculptures. Amanda and Neil share their perspectives on meeting and speaking with the veterans:

Designer, Amanda Gibson

When creating art for public space, the most important thing is to get the story and the intention right. In the case of creating sculptures for Greensborough War Memorial Park, it would be easy to refer to the expected and familiar war motifs; various military personnel including the soldier, icons of sacrifice, such as crosses and lists of names. But to do that would not only risk disappointment in the community, but would miss a great opportunity.

While the current collection of sculptures does employ some of these war motifs, what makes them special is a touch of the personal; the Mascot is inspired by a veteran’s story of a dog, the Writer is an actual person. This consideration for the personal story by artist Leigh Conkie has given this collection a feeling of warmth and personality that has made these sculptures much beloved by the local community.

Now that the time has come to replace the sculptures with something new, this the moment to be seeking the perspective of local veterans; to learn something about war and coming home from war from the people who were there. In seeking personal stories from local veterans, we have the rare chance to be inspired by real experiences and viewpoints and to create something absolutely unique for Greensborough.

Gathering the experiences of our local veterans has so far taken the form of talking, asking questions and a running a writing workshop with local author Neil Grant. Neil has experience in coaching new writers to find their voice and to bring it to the page in a captivating narrative, having facilitated the writing of young people caught in the war in Afghanistan, and of young people who survived the Black Saturday fires in 2009, as well as having his own work published.

The veterans who attended the workshop made me realise an important point; no-one asks them about their experiences, or, in the words of one veteran, “…they have already decided what they want me to say before they ask.” For the men at the workshop, this may have been the first time anyone outside their world of family and other servicemen has shown genuine unbiased interest in their stories and viewpoints. Their response to the workshop was to express delight at being part of the design process and interest in the planning of the new sculptures. As the designer of the new sculptures, I was not only full of inspiration, but honoured by the humour and candour of these wonderful men.

“Saturday was for me a very moving, rewarding and great learning experience,” – Michael, Vietnam War Veteran on the writing workshop with Neil Grant

I have no doubt that the writing workshop is the beginning of a new dialogue between local veterans and the public through stories, design and art.

Ultimately, connecting with the local veterans will enable the artists and I to create work for the Park that has real meaning, that tells real stories that people, veterans and non-veterans will love and relate to for years to come.

Writer, Neil Grant

It’s uncomfortable to wear someone else’s shoes. Especially if those shoes are size 10 army boots, flaked with Nui Dat dust or soled with the mud of a New Guinea POW camp. Sometimes those boots have been to places we would never choose to go.

As a writer, I understand the importance of story. And I have often published books set in places I have never been. In Afghanistan, I inhaled the Giant Buddha of Bamiyan – turned to dust by the Taliban. In Indonesia, I swam in a volcano crater and swallowed fear in a traditional whale hunting boat off the island of Lembata. The veterans who came to  the Homefront Sculpture Project’s writing workshop, had no such problems imagining the worlds they were creating – they had been conscripted to Vietnam, they had served in the Second World War.

On this Saturday afternoon, five floors up in the Banyule Council Chambers, overlooking the treed hills of Greensborough, six men listen to what I have to say. They patiently sit through the exercises I set, then write from their hearts about a time where they served their country.

No matter what we feel about conflict, these stories cannot be diminished. A man who loses his brother to ‘friendly fire’ – a sinking of a prison ship, the ghost of that forever. That same brother’s girlfriend who pines for him her whole life. A fridge mechanic turned medic who saves one writer’s life by performing an emergency tracheotomy on the battlefield. The choppers that changed the way battles were fought – that brought in supplies and drew out torn men. How flights returning home from Vietnam flew in at dusk or dawn. This to spare the nation’s shame and anger at men merely unlucky enough to draw the wrong number. A lottery no one hoped to win. And one man, who didn’t serve; his father weeping at the sight of a teenage him in an army greatcoat – the image of it too close to his own father.

These were not stories about glory; of clever one-liners served over slick soundtracks. They were stories of compassion, of love and fear and longing. Stories brought to life in an effort to explain war to us. To let us know their discomfort and allow us to edge a little closer to the complicated truth. And maybe, in some small way, to explain it to themselves.

Writing Workshop for Local Residents

On a rainy Saturday afternoon, high in the Banyule City Council offices – the sound of pens working paper. Longhand looping on lined paper. What do these sculptures mean to me? What is the narrative trapped between their knots and whorls?

These were questions participants in the Homefront Writing Workshops were asked by local author Neil Grant. In the two-hour workshop for local residents, their feelings towards the current sculptures were unpacked, prodded, ordered and captured. They were set down on paper in the hope of adding meaning to the new sculptures that will come from steel and wood.

After limbering-up with an automatic writing exercise, the writers began creating linked haiku (an ancient three-lined form of Japanese poetry containing seventeen syllables).  Remember Basho, he said/ No they did not know/ No matter, said he. From there, they unfolded longer stories of war dogs and nurses, of pain and beauty, with simple dialogue and sensory description. They wrote and they laughed and they mused, they sipped hot tea and watched the rain stalk over the hills. They left lighter and heavier. This is only the beginning. Next, the veterans will tell their stories.

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FREE Writing Workshops with author Neil Grant

For Veterans, their families and Greensborough Residents; Saturday 6 May

The artists working on the Homefront sculptures are keen to understand the local veterans and residents better, in order to design sculptures that are unique to our local area. The more stories we can collect, the more it will help in the design stage of the new sculptures.

Some of the stories we collect may be posted on this website (with the writer’s permission,) as part of a local online archive. The artists and Banyule City Council have sourced an outstanding professional writer to help people get their stories into words.

Who we’re looking for?

War veterans with a connection to Greensborough; whether you used to live in Greensborough or a surrounding suburb/area, you’ve just moved to Banyule Shire recently, or you’re a long term resident.

Families of veterans (the veterans may be local or the family member may be local to Greensborough and surrounds.)

Residents of Greensborough who use the Greensborough War Memorial Park.

Why should you come?

Firstly, the artists need you! In order for the new sculptures to be the best they can be, the artists need to know a little about the experiences of local veterans and their families, and also how the local people use the park, their favourite sculpture etc.

Writing is about communicating ideas and communicating well requires technique and practise. This workshop will provide both. If you’d like to write well, this workshop will take your writing to the next level and give you insights from award-winning author Neil Grant, who has been writing professionally for over seventeen years.

Who is the instructor?

Neil Grant is a local author of young adult fiction. He has run many writing workshops and presented at two Melbourne Writers’ Festivals. His work is published by Allen & Unwin.

Neil’s first novel, Rhino Chasers, is being developed as a feature film.

In 2009, Neil visited Afghanistan to gather material for his award-winning novel The Ink Bridge; in his words; “I grew a beard and wore a shalwar kameez — this fooled no one.”

The Ink Bridge is Neil’s third published novel and was a CBCA Honour Book in 2013, won the Queensland Literary Award in 2012 and with editor, Jodie Webster, won the FAW Barbara Ramsden Award in 2012 for their collaboration.

Neil was also the editor of the anthology From Kinglake to Kabul, involving students from the International School of Kabul and Diamond Valley College, sharing and publishing their work about their experiences of war and of the Black Saturday bushfires.

Neil currently has two novels awaiting publication.

Time and Place

For veterans of war: 10am–12pm

For families of veterans and local residents: 1pm–3pm
at Banyule City Council Offices, 1 Flintoff Street, Greensborough, (above WaterMarc)
Please contact Colin James to sign up to the workshops (it’s FREE!): Ph. 03 9457 9931
OR email Amanda Gibson via our Contact page.