Showing posts with label Beaumont Street Hamilton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beaumont Street Hamilton. Show all posts

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Michelangelo Centre

It had been his dream for a dozen years or more – an opulent function centre in the heart of Hamilton, a dazzling extravaganza of imported sculptures and marble floors, fountains, hand painted murals in the fresco style, and 60 crystal chandeliers. Recapturing the splendor of 15th century Rome and the Renaissance, the centre would also reflect the twin loves of its creator, Giuseppe Risicato, - his Sicilian home, and immortal Italian artist Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Marble floors, golden columns and an imported replica of Michelangelo’s David in the foyer of 
The Michelangelo Centre, Hamilton 1985
Photograph by Giuseppe Risicato, from the collection of Elisa Sandrone

The Centre, on the corner of Beaumont and Cleary Streets, was opened on Friday 23 August, 1985 by Australia’s Foreign Minister Bill Hayden. A mural painted by Giuseppe, based on Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, [1] was unveiled by Mr Hayden.

Guiseppe Risicato putting finishing touches to the mural The Creation of Adam, in the lead up to the opening of The Michelangelo Centre, Hamilton 1985
Photograph: Ken Robson/Fairfax Syndication

The opening was a lavish event for more than 200 guests, who feasted on whole roast pig, lamb, pheasants, turkey and fresh fruit. They drank imported Italian wines and champagne served by toga clad ‘Romans.’ The Hunter Orchestra and an Italian band entertained guests, and $10,000 was raised for the Orchestra.

An abundance of food for a function at The Michelangelo Centre, Hamilton 1985
Photograph by Giuseppe Risicato, from the collection of Elisa Sandrone

For engaged couples, it was the height of style to stage their wedding reception in the Michelangelo Centre.

Paula and Luigi Manzi celebrated their marriage in The Michelangelo Centre
on 1 March, 1986
Photograph courtesy of Paula Manzi

Bridal table at The Michelangelo Centre, Hamilton 1985
Photograph by Giuseppe Risicato, from the collection of Elisa Sandrone

At receptions, cocktails would served in the foyer, and the menu offered was unabashed Italian – antipasto, a seafood course, followed by two more courses, and dessert. The main course featured several options including chicken baked in a champagne sauce served with potato, champignons and peas; stuffed pork fillets or veal sautéed in wine and cream.

After dessert of cassata, spumoni, trifle or fruit salad, a tray of assorted cream cakes was served 
Photograph by Giuseppe Risicato, from the collection of Elisa Sandrone

Eighteen months later, by December 1986, the Centre was in deep trouble.

The owner of the building, Remo Bortolus, took possession of The Michelangelo Centre from Giuseppe Risicato on 3 December, 1986. Rent on the premises was reported to be five months in arrears, and the NSW Department of Consumer Affairs had begun investigating complaints from people who had paid deposits of up to $600 for planned functions. An application had been lodged in the NSW Supreme Court for the winding up of Giuseppe’s company, Don Beppino Pastifico Pty Ltd. [2]

How did the grand vision of Giuseppe Risicato come to this?

The story is a sad one, even tragic.

Giuseppe was born at the end of the Great War, in 1918. His home town was Vizzini, in the province of Catania, in Sicily.

Wash Day in Vizzini, Sicily
Painting by Giuseppe Risicato, from Risicato’s Sicilian Cookbook [3]
Courtesy of Professor David Frost

His passion for art became evident at an early age, and at 14 he became a student of the famous Italian artist Professor Messina. He had a particular flair for religious art. World War II disrupted his career path, and he spent time in France and Switzerland, returning to Italy after the war ended. Employed by Pellegrini and Co. he began restoring statues and refurbishing the art in Catholic churches.

In 1948 Giuseppe came to Australia where he continued his work for Pellegrini in Catholic churches, schools and convents in country towns in eastern NSW, and in Queensland. On occasion, he would paint a mural such as one for St Mary’s Church in Casino. [4]  From time to time, he held exhibitions of his paintings.

At some point Giuseppe must have decided to stay in Australia, setting up his own business.

With his wife Zilla, Giuseppe established himself in Hamilton, opening Giuseppe’s Photographic Studio at 52 Beaumont Street. Many Hamilton families have beautiful family and wedding portraits taken by Giuseppe, often against a backdrop of the white staircase in his studio.

His interest broadened to fashion photography, and in 1960 he founded the Giuseppe Risicato International School of Modelling in Newcastle. He was a member of the Miss Australia Advisory Committee for 18 years, and became the official Miss Australia photographer. Generous at heart, Giuseppe undertook fund raising for children with cerebral palsy.

When Giuseppe met former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at a function in Cessnock in the early 1970s, he was impressed by Mr Whitlam’s knowledge and understanding of Italy. After the Government’s dismissal in 1975, which affected Giuseppe deeply, he painted Mr Whitlam.

Gough Whitlam standing in front of a portrait ‘Il Padrino’ (The Godfather) by Giuseppe Risicato
The painting  once hung on the wall of the Don Peppino Italian Restaurant in Merewether
Photograph: Allan Jolly/Fairfax Syndication

The restaurant’s success led Giuseppe to The Michelangelo Centre, and a tiny pastificio, tucked around the corner in Cleary Street, selling Newcastle’s first fresh pasta.

When Giuseppe painted the murals on the walls of the Centre, he was 67. In a Monday Profile feature in the Newcastle Herald a month before the opening, he told journalist Eric Aubert that even though he was working from 7 am to 11 pm to get the ambitious murals completed, he loved every minute of it. To quote Giuseppe:

‘Art has been my life.

‘Without it my life would be empty. It is something that I love to do, so the time I spend on it is not really work.’ [5]

It was when Giuseppe was explaining to his interviewer how helpful and welcoming he’d found Australians in his early years, that things began to go badly wrong.

Giuseppe said he couldn’t understand ‘foreigners who say they are not accepted by Australians.’ He continued:

‘I soon realized that I didn’t want to return to live in Italy…the majority of my friends are Australians. Australians have always been friendly, honest people but in Italy, about 95% of the people are crooked.’

It was the last seven words of this quote that created a furore in the Italian/Australian community in Newcastle.

The Consular Agent of Italy, Emilio Penzo, wrote to the Newcastle Herald that his office had received ‘literally thousands of phone calls’ protesting the statement and the hurt and insult it conveyed. The Newcastle Herald printed letters from other irate Italians, who wondered if Mr Risicato included Newcastle’s Italian community in his ‘sweeping statement’. Italian-Australians still had relatives in Italy, and some felt his comments reflected badly on them all. One letter writer to the Newcastle Herald was annoyed that ‘taxpayer’s money’ had been used to bring Mr Hayden to Newcastle to open the Centre.

Giuseppe must have been utterly devastated by this response. He would not have been the first interviewee to confide a little carelessly to a journalist; nor would he be the first to claim he had been ‘taken out of context.’

Some of Giuseppe’s anguish is expressed in a letter he wrote to friend Peter Sandrone, seeking to explain himself more clearly.

‘This disaster …has been blown out of all proportion …I in all my sincerity have been victimised (for) a mistake made by someone else…

‘There is no point to degrade the land where you were born because you automatically degrade yourself….

‘Dear Peter, I would not have created (the Michelangelo Centre) if I was not proud of my country or my people.’ [6]

Ricotta Street Light and Shadow (Vizzini)
Painting by Giuseppe Risicato, from Risicato’s Sicilian Cookbook
Courtesy of Professor David Frost

When a letter writer to the Newcastle Herald called for an apology, Giuseppe wrote to the newspaper, explaining:

‘I too am Italian, I have a family in Italy, and I faced the same hurt and shock that (other) Italians did when I read how this comment was reported in the newspaper.

‘My comment was a comment on the economic situation in Italy, where a large percentage, perhaps 95%, of the unemployed youth are forced to turn to crime in order to survive because they do not receive unemployment benefits like Australian youth.

‘It was not a comment made about 95% of the whole Italian population. Once again, I would like to apologise for any hurt and embarrassment that the report may have caused.’ [7]

At the end of Giuseppe’s letter, was a note from the Editor:

It is acknowledged that there was a breakdown in communication between Mr Risicato and the Herald’s reporter.’ – Editor.

It would prove to be too late. Although the opening of the Centre went ahead, with even more guests than were planned for, and bookings flowed, the damage had been done. While younger generations were happy to enjoy the stunning facility for their functions, not so some of their parents. They had been insulted, and would not easily forgive Giuseppe.

The dream was over within 18 months. Quite apart from the financial losses, the personal pain and humiliation of the failure of The Michelangelo Centre for this creative, sensitive man would have been unimaginable.

Yet at some point, Guiseppe must have picked himself up and begun again. His love of art, photography and food is skillfully blended in a cookbook co-authored with his sister Palmina Risicato, with Professor David Frost and Christine Mangala.

As well as family Sicilian recipes, and beautifully photographed dishes, the book contains Sicilian paintings by Giuseppe completed on a return visit home to Vizzini.

Risicato’s Sicilian Cookery
Giuseppe and Palmina Risicato, with Christine Mangala and David Frost 1998, Aquila Books, Enmore, Australia [8]

Why did The Michelangelo Centre fail?

Perhaps the business model of a function centre with a singular appeal was at fault. Very likely the interior was over capitalized, and recovery of money invested in costly marble, sculptures and fittings impossible to recover. It would not have helped that the main base of potential customers was antagonised at the outset. This would have wreaked damage that was difficult to reverse.

Was it one of those factors, or did each of them contribute in part to the shattering of Giuseppe’s dream?

It would be a grave error to view Giuseppe’s life in terms of this one, unsuccessful venture. The fact that he embarked upon it at the age of 67 tells us so much about this man – his vision, his passion, his capacity to make his dream a reality, his skills as interior designer, artist and photographer.

A pharmacy now occupies the site that was once the Michelangelo Centre. No doubt a shop fit out of plywood and paint has covered up the murals on the walls and the marble floor – if they are still there. I wonder if, one day in the distant future, tradesmen might uncover a remnant of this little corner of Renaissance Italy, and wonder what on earth they’ve stumbled upon?

Perhaps Giuseppe’s son Silvio Risicato, who has long made his home in Italy, knows what happened to those treasures.

Giuseppe had kept eight large colour photographs of The Michelangelo Centre. These he passed to friend and Hamilton resident Elisa Sandrone with the words:

‘You are the one to take care of these.’

Giuseppe passed away in 2011, aged 91. His Hamilton home was sold.

It is with the help of Elisa and her daughter Luana Sandrone that this story has been reconstructed.

The Michelangelo Centre is part of Hamilton’s history. So too is its creator. This story honours the life and work of a richly talented Italian/Australian. Giuseppe Risiciato dared to put his heart on the line, to stand out from the crowd, and take a risk.

Street view of The Michelangelo Centre, 60 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, 1985
Photograph by Giuseppe Risicato, from the collection of Elisa Sandrone


Thank you to Elisa Sandrone and Luana Sandrone for sharing this story.

Elisa and Luana Sandrone, 2015

[1]  The mural was Giuseppe Risicato’s replication of a Michelangelo painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. In newspaper articles at the time of the opening of the Centre, this mural is referred to as The Creation of Man, The Birth of Man, or God Creating Adam. My research suggests it aligns most closely with Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, and titles used locally somehow became confused.
[2] Newcastle Herald, Tuesday December 16, 1986
[3] Giuseppe and Palmina Risicato, with Christine Mangala and David Frost 1998, Risicato’s Sicilian Cookery, Aquila Books, Enmore, Australia
[4] ‘Young artist finds Casino art conscious’. Northern Star, Lismore, Wednesday 15 December, 1954
[5]Love of Art and Australia,’ Eric Aubert, Newcastle Herald Monday July 22, 1985
[6]  Letter from Giuseppe Risicato to Peter Sandrone, 25 July 1985. From the personal collection of Elisa Sandrone.
[7]  Letters, Newcastle Herald, July 27, 1985.
[8] The date of printing of Risicato’s Sicilian Cookery is stated as 1988. However, it appears this was a typographical error and the date of publication was 1998. Permission to reproduce two of Giuseppe Risicato's paintings that appear in the cookery book has been granted by Professor David Frost, Cambridge. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Bernie's Bar

It was a yawning gap in my story about gay Hamilton of the 1970s and 1980s and the wine bar at the corner of Beaumont and Donald Street.

I wrote in that post  about the O’Beirne Grocery, established around 1915 at 34-36  Beaumont Street. Already selling bottled wine, it became a ‘wine saloon’ in 1926. Remodelled in 1970 by new licensee Bernard Sarroff, the ownership of what had been Bernie’s Bar changed again around 1974.

Then - a gap. We next discover the wine bar as the Centurion in the late 1970s, set to became a gay friendly space. Drag queens thrilled the punters with their performances, and wild times were the norm. Over almost a decade, this wine bar drew the crowds, becoming Pete’s Wine Bar, and later Tess’s.

Now I know what happened in the gap. Jackie Ansell contacted me, and shared her experiences as co-owner of what was known as Bernie’s Bar, and her own wild ride during just two years in 1974 -1975. Jackie and her then husband, Keith Thorn, took over the wine bar in partnership with Ken Lease Constructions.

Jackie and Keith Thorn relax in Bernie’s Bar, 1974
Photograph: The Newcastle Sun

Jackie’s daughter was just 16 months old, but she plunged into transforming the dingy premises. The young family lived above the bar, just as the O’Beirne family had done through the Great Depression and World War II.

The Thorns wanted to retain a mid-Depression style in the redecoration, with old style pin up photographs above the bar. Cream coloured walls were highlighted with green, silver and black stripes; the ceiling and carpet were olive green. Echoing these colours, peacock feathers draped from wall vases, ferns stood in every corner, tables were white pine church pew style, and – there were fashionable bar stools!

‘We even had one of the first microwaves in Newcastle’, remembers Jackie.

A three page feature in The Newcastle Sun (February 14, 1974) carried a glowing story, photos and advertisements from businesses involved in the transformation. [1] The 'new' Bernie’s Bar was promoted as something completely different from local clubs, hotels or restaurants of the day, with wine, food, music and a friendly, casual atmosphere.

‘We strive for a happy mixture of wining, dining and relaxation...cider is always on tap and customers can also enjoy a glass of red or white wine or champagne,’ Keith told the newspaper.

Wine’s the thing
Photograph: The Newcastle Sun

Then there was ‘Bernie’s Bomber,’ a cocktail invented by Jackie.

‘It was a lethal mixture,’ she says. ‘Green Ginger Wine, Bianco and Cottees Lime Cordial. It was so popular that some nights, patrons got through six flagons of it.’

Where is she now?
Sue Henderson, one of five ‘wine wenches’ employed at Bernie’s Wine Bar, 1974
Photograph: The Newcastle Sun

Food served included ‘succulent barbequed steaks and salads, fish with wine sauce, garlic bread, spare ribs cooked in honey, herbs and soya sauce, and chicken chow mien...who couldn’t enjoy themselves?’[2]

Local bands like the Electric Jug Band, Maryville Jazz Band and the Maitland Bush Band played regularly. A folksinger would entertain lunchtime customers. Taped music and all the latest local, overseas and underground singles were always available.

Jackie remembers the place often being crowded, especially on cabaret nights, with people ‘hanging out the doors’.

‘We were one of the few places with a license to stay open till midnight’, Jackie explains. ‘The Star closed at 10 pm, so their customers came on to us after that.’

A crowd outside Bernie’s Bar, 1974
Photograph: The Newcastle Sun, courtesy Jackie Ansell

When I showed Hunter Press publisher Christine Bruderlin this photograph, she pointed to a young woman  wearing seventies flares.

‘That could have been me’, she exclaims. ‘We loved going there. And under age, too!’

‘We had our hippy phase, and our gay phase,’ Jackie says. ‘Then there were the painters and dockers, who were pretty aggressive. But the Hamilton locals sorted them out!’

For Keith and Jackie, their life phase as bar owners and operators came to an end too, as they went on to do other things. But they set the scene for what was to follow, leaving others to write the chapter of the unique part played by this wine bar in the life of gay Hamilton.

Jackie Thorn, now Ansell, 1974
Photograph: The Newcastle Sun


Thank you to Jackie Ansell for sharing this story and newspaper clippings.

[1] The Newcastle Sun, February 14, 1974.
[2] The Newcastle Sun, February 14, 1974.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Blatchford's Bakery

It had begun in the kitchen and lounge room of Eric Blatchford’s parents’ home. Eric was just 20, and unable to afford his own place, had brought his young wife Doris to live there. In this tiny space, a mouth watering variety of cakes, shortbread, sponges, and tarts were produced.

The next step was in 1931-32, when the  Blatchford bakery opened  behind their shop at 145 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, opposite the Wesley Church.

Advertisement for Blatchford’s Pastrycook and Delicatessen (1956)
Newcastle Sun, Monday 6 February, 1956 
clipping courtesy of Doug Saxon

The family business gradually expanded, catering to the population of Hamilton throughout the Great Depression and World War II.

During the Depression, Blatchford’s began a new line - meat pies. Costing one shilling and three pence, Doris and Eric were anxious about whether their customers would find them too expensive. They needn’t have worried – pies took off, customers loved them and pies have been a staple bakery item ever since.

Hungry BHP workers, patrons of the races and many Newcastle clubs, enjoyed Blatchford’s pies, sausage rolls and cakes. Grandson Chris Blatchford tells how each year before Easter, Eric invited the Catholic priests and other church ministers in to bless the dough for the Easter buns – a sure way to increase their saleability!

Eric ordered Newcastle’s first automatic doughnut machine from the USA - a source of fascination for passers-by in Beaumont Street.

The wholesale side of the business grew from horse and cart to bakers’ vans, with deliveries to the many small towns throughout the Hunter.

Doris and Eric had three sons - Don, Ross and Bruce. Don and Ross became apprentice bakers and fine pastrycooks. Bruce preferred office work, and the family bakery provided this opportunity for him.

Blatchford’s Bakehouse expanded to the building that had been Cherry’s Terrace, 102 Denison Street, Hamilton (n.d.)
Photograph courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Sometime after Eric died, and the business was restructured, Doris was interviewed for an oral history project. The interview was conducted in 1989. [1]

I listened to the tape in the University of Newcastle’s Archives. What will the future hold for Blatchfords, Doris was asked.

‘It will always include pies and sausage rolls’, she responds with confidence.

Doris believed that Bruce’s son Chris would be the one most likely to keep the Blatchford baking passion alive. At the time of her interview, Chris had just become apprenticed in the family business, at age 17.

‘He wants to be the best pastry cook in Newcastle’, she says. I hear pride and affection trembling in her voice.

At school Chris had been introduced to new tastes and textures. He had plenty to trade – pies and custard tarts for exotic sweets brought for play lunch by the sons of Greek migrants. For the first time in his life, he experienced delicate flaky pastry drenched in sweet syrup, crunchy nuts and crumbly fillings, the exotic flavours of orange and lemon zest....

Chris was not far into his apprenticeship when the 1989 earthquake struck.

‘We thought BHP had blown up’, he recalls.

The main bakehouse in Denison Street was badly damaged. Despite warnings not to enter the building, Chris ran upstairs to retrieve the takings. Money was counted in the front room and kept upstairs in Eric’s apartment. The Army was on the spot, quickly, wanting to demolish the building, but it survived. The business didn’t.

Still standing - Blatchford’s Bakehouse after the 1989 Newcastle earthquake
Photograph by Medical Communications Unit, courtesy of Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle, Australia

Bruce and Ross dissolved their partnership, with Bruce going his own way to re-establish himself at Warners Bay. Chris continued his training at Edgeworth.

Chris Blatchford’s journey was to take a few twists and turns before he found his real passion, food. Today, he is Executive Chef at boutique coffee roaster Belaroma Coffee, in Manly Vale, Sydney. He runs the kitchen for a 90 seat cafe, with a sous chef and apprentices, creating elegant dishes such one I found on the March menu - a light grilled nectarine salad with buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomato, basil and grilled sourdough. Not quite pies and sausage rolls... yet Chris is vehement in honouring the family tradition that nurtured him.

All I have comes from Dad, and Grandpa. Dad was a great teacher. He was a hard taskmaster, and he taught me to work hard’.

 The last visit Chris made to see his grandmother Doris in a nursing home is seared in his memory. She’d been unable to speak for some time. Rushing there straight from work, he’d not been able to change his clothes as usual. He stood before her, his work boots covered in flour. Doris looked down at them.

The Bakehouse,’ she said, clearly. Her last words.


Thank you to Chris Blatchford for updating his family story, and to the University of Newcastle Archives for access to the oral history recording with Doris Blatchford. If you have additional photos or information to share about this story, please email

Since this story was posted, the University of Newcastle has digitised the interview with Doris Blatchford which is referenced here. The interview was part of a wider project of some 200 oral history interviews conducted by Open Foundation students under the guidance of lecturer the late Margaret Henry. It can be heard on

[1] History of E.H. Blatchford, Wholesale Pastrycook and Caterer, University of Newcastle Community Programmes Department. Interviewee Doris Blatchford.  Interviewer Mladen Lazic. 10 September 1989. Lecturer Margaret Henry. Held in University of Newcastle Archives and quoted from with the permission of Chris Blatchford.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Macedonian Story

‘When my son was in London’, Bill Bozinoski tells me, ‘he went to where the Aussies were. Here in Newcastle, I go where the Macedonians are’.

For Bill, whose Macedonian name is Blagoja, that place is Beaumont Street, Hamilton. He explains :

‘I feel comfortable here, secure. When I walk along the street, I’m sure to bump into someone I know for a chat.’

Bill no longer lives in Hamilton, but he is ‘at home’ in Beaumont Street. Yet he is as far as one could imagine from the stereotype of the migrant who has struggled with a new language, and clings to the past. Educated and articulate, Bill has thought deeply about the forces that led his forefathers to emigrate, the burden they brought with them as they left a divided country, and their endeavours to restore a Macedonian identity based on language, traditions and culture. He’s even written a book about this with long time friend and Hamilton artist, Vlado Krstevski.

‘The Fourth Generation’ by Blagoja Bozinoski and Vlado Krstevski
Cover design by Vlado Krstevski

Bill and Vlado came to Australia as young men in their twenties. In 1967, they’d attended the same high school in the cultural, educational and commercial city of Bitola, in the Republic of Macedonia. Until they bumped into each other at a function in the hall at the Macedonian Orthodox Church of St Mary’s, Broadmeadow, each had no idea the other was here. Thus began a friendship that continues to this day.

The two men were part of the third and largest wave of Macedonian emigration from what was the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Fleeing economic stagnation and a Communist regime, more than 4000 Macedonians settled in Newcastle between the 1950s and the 1970s. Mayfield, Tighes Hill and Hamilton were popular choices to live as they were close to jobs in heavy industry.

It was not until the end of WWII that the Macedonian population in Newcastle was large enough to support a more organised community life. A committee was formed in the 1960s to help newcomers and to raise funds to build a church. Meetings were held in the Transport Workers Recreation Centre, in Hamilton.

The consecration and opening of St Mary’s Church in August, 1970 was a critical milestone, providing a point of focus for the community. Special celebrations at Christmas, Easter, and other religious feast days, as well as weddings and christenings brought the community together. A sports club was formed, and bus trips and picnics were organised.

In 1984 Bill and Vlado published the first non English publication in Newcastle, a Macedonian magazine called Kopnez.[1] Generously supported by local businesses, it was sent to 570 addresses, most of these in Hamilton.

Around this time, Bill was appointed as an Ethnic Health Worker in the NSW Department of Health. This was his opportunity to develop the capacity of the Macedonian community through establishing groups that would bring Macedonians together around shared interests and cultural traditions.

One of Bill’s first tasks was to find a venue for BHP retirees who gathered afternoons in Gregson Park, Hamilton. ‘Sometimes it’s too hot, or too cold’, they told him. ‘Sometimes it rains.’ They were following the age old European custom of men gathering in the village or town square.

‘In any village back home’, Bill tells me, ‘there will be three or four spots where people will gather. You can always find someone to talk to. And there will always be a good story teller in the group.’

First Bill found a room for the men in the Migrant Resource Centre; when the group expanded he found a larger venue in the Madecodian church community centre.

Over time, an array of groups have flourished around the Macedonian community centre at the Church – there is a Pensioners Group, a Day Care Centre for ageing Macedonians, and a Women’s Group. There is the Magic Football Club, the Suns Football Club and a cricket group. Special interest activities include dancing, music, and chess.

Vlado began work in the coke ovens department at the BHP steelworks, but was quickly singled out for his artistic ability and put to work illustrating safety messages with cartoons.

Vlado Krstevski working on a characterisation (1980)
Clipping from BHP News, August 1980, from the personal collection of Vlado Krstevski

His caricatures, often of work mates, helped engage the men in safety issues. Dozens of his cartoons have been published in newspapers.

Cartoon reproductions from the personal collection of
Vlado Krstevski

Vlado studied art as a mature age student, and has been a practising artist ever since.

 Hunter Wetlands Centre: hand-carved totem poles designed by Vlado Krstevski are an attraction for walker
(Photograph from the personal collection of Vlado Krstevski

To commemorate the 1997 Newcastle Bicentenary of the discovery of the Hunter River, Vlado was commissioned to create sculptures to be placed throughout the suburb of Tighes Hill. ‘They have never been vandalised’, says Vlado. ‘It is the effect art can have on people.’

The friendship between Bill and Vlado is bound by shared experience as emigrants; their common interest in politics, society, art, writing, music; and a desire to help their community. Having grown up under a Communist regime, they found in Australia a remarkable equality, and an enviable democratic decision making process. They didn’t want to see narrow attitudes nurtured here.

Bill Bozinoski is grounded in culture and politics. He has held practically every office in the Macedonian community organisation, including treasurer, secretary and president. He’s built houses and units, leaving a tangible legacy to the built landscape of Hamilton and surrounds. His sense of identity and belonging is inextricably bound to this community, its activities and culture, including traditional Macedonian music and songs.

When Vlado first came to Newcastle, he went looking for things to paint that reflected his idealised memory of Europe. Unsatisfied, he began looking closely at his immediate surrounds, and started to ‘see’ differently. Now, he paints the city of Newcastle, and Hamilton, where he lives. ‘It’s amazing what is here’, he says, ‘when you really look’. It is this process of discovery that has gifted Vlado his sense of belonging.

Beaumont Street, Hamilton

Oil on canvas by Vlado Krstevski

In their different ways, both Bill Bozinoski and Vlado Krstevski are making unique contributions - to a mature Macedonian community that is affirming its identity in a new homeland, and to a richer multicultural Hamilton.

Bill Bozinoski and Vlado Krstevski (2014)

Beaumont Street, Hamilton
Oil on canvas by Vlado Krstevski

Unattributed photographs by Ruth Cotton.

My thanks to Bill Bozinoski and Vlado Krstevski for lively conversations, and to Lynn Mangovski for introductions.

[1] Kopnez can be translated into English as ‘yearning’.