Victoria Laurie is a senior reporter and feature writer in the Perth bureau of The Australian newspaper. Her award-winning career has included TV and radio journalism, two books on WA’s natural environment plus freelance contributions to The Bulletin, The Monthly and other publications. Victoria is an advocate for women in the media and is a huge fan of the arts. She writes with forthrightness, humanity and the wisdom that comes from decades of experience.
What music gets your heart racing?
Anything Amy Winehouse, Sarah Blasko singing Never Let me Go, Sumi Jo trilling Offenbach, Aaron Copeland’s heart-swelling Fanfare for the Common Man.
What calms you down?
Walking among the chooks and collecting the eggs, making things with clay.
What do you sing along to?
The Kings Singers singing Billy Joel’s And so It Goes – if I have the words in front of me
You have a soft spot for the arts. What is it about writing about the arts that appeals to you so much?
I like people who are driven by a need to paint, to be funny in public, to direct plays. And I admire those who persist because it is such a hard road to go down when you are trying to pay a mortgage and raise kids.
What do you hope readers will experience through your arts writing?
That they want to go to the show or exhibition, or just that they think ‘gee that sounds interesting.’ In particular, I want the rest of Australia to know what remarkable people live on this side of the Rabbit Proof Fence.
Arts journalism is under threat around the world as the media prioritises click bait journalism and readers choose free content over paid journalism. Why do you think arts journalism is so important?
It’s vital. There’s the practical advantage for an artist of being able to attach a glowing review or in-depth article to a funding application or peer-reviewed grant process. But good writing about ideas, emotions, flights of fantasy is a wonderful antidote to the misery of so much bad news. I’ve also found that architects and designers often have far more inspired and practical takes on addressing climate change or city density than any politician or policy wonk.
You also have a soft spot for ecology. Your books on the Kimberley and the South West are like love letters to these astonishingly biodiverse and fragile regions. How did these books come about?
The University of Western Australia Publishing house kindly asked me! And I thought it was useful to write something about our landscapes that wasn’t a dire tome about ecological loss, or a jargon-filled scientific treatise about ‘biodiverse ecosystems’. Just as in my arts writing, I wanted to attempt to say ‘this is lovely and interesting and worth cherishing.’
Where did you learn the skills to be an arts critic?
By going to lots of events, talking to people, reading around a subject and deciding what I would like to say about it. I always like to balance pointy criticism with upbeat observation. I have never met any creative person who deliberately set out to create something bad, saying ‘Ok, now I’m going to make an absolute stinker of a show/picture/album.’
Why is it important to review concerts and productions? Is it to register the event on the public record or is it more than that?
As mentioned above. Every production is a reflection of the state of the particular art form in this place, the obsessions we have, the level and quality of our artistic output – and sometimes the paucity of resources thrown at certain art forms.
What does a day in the life of Victoria look like?
Most recently? Go to work, file court story on murder or boat people or chase dingo trapper picture to go with future rural yarn, squeeze an arts feature in between it all. Our office is small.
What is your most electric moment in the concert hall/theatre?
The latest thrill was sitting in the Lindy Hume-directed Carmen by WA Opera, which powerfully captured the underlying homicidal extremes in the struggle between the sexes. You see it in domestic violence cases in the courts. And Emma Pearson as Micaela sang sublimely.
What’s the thing you love most about your work?
Day-to-day variety and having an excuse to bother people and ask why they do what they do.
What is your favourite place in Perth?
Every park and square where trees remain – and Optus Stadium was a wonderful surprise, skirted by wetlands and good public art. Now complemented by the gorgeous Matagarup Bridge.
Do you have a soft spot for anything else in life or is it all about journalism?
The usual – kids, friends, gardening. Used to do a lot of choral singing in an earlier life, and before that, very daggy modern dance.
Thank you Victoria Laurie for participating in the Celebrity Soft Spot. You can read Victoria’s work at The Australian newspaper and her books The Kimberley: Australia’s Last Great Wilderness and The Southwest: Australia’s Biodiversity Hotspot are available through UWA Press.