Quickly think of the 5 most famous people to come from Central Queensland. Would most be sporting greats? Rod Laver, Anna Meares, Duncan Armstrong, Ian Healey, and Jamie Dwyer possibly amongst them. Or entrepreneurs like Steven Baxter, Bevan Slattery or Graeme Wood. How many of you thought of Bille Brown? Not a sporting great or wealthy entrepreneur but an actor born in Biloela. Possibly you might have seen him in movies (Fierce Creatures, The Dish), TV series (Rake, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) or even on stage (West End, Broadway). Maybe you’ve seen the giant director’s chair built in his honour in Biloela. Or attended the theatre named after him on Montague Road, South Brisbane unaware of the CQ connection. Yet despite the many achievements on film and stage he’s arguably not recognised as a CQ great. Why?
It’s not just Bille that is not immediately thought of as a CQ great, but many others, particularly if they are not a product of some obvious competitive, combative field like sport and politics.
The showbiz field, whilst as ultra-competitive and some would argue as combative as sport and politics, is not perceived by the public as such and thus attracts a smaller tribal fan base. An Australian singer selling a few hundred thousand records locally hardly compares to a Tim McGraw with album sales of 50M plus. Yet on a per capita basis the Australian artist is arguably as popular locally, but the Australian media spotlight will be shining on the Tim McGraw’s of this world, with scant mention of the Australian performers, making it difficult to build their fan base.
Is the Australian media dismissive (perhaps ignorant) of Australian performers or just satisfying the public’s demands? What does sold out performances of the recent Country to Country (C2C) Australia headlined by Tim McGraw (then followed by 2 more USA artists) imply?
Do we just accept that idolisation of international performers is naturally going to happen, to the detriment of our home-based Australian artist’s, as the internet makes the world smaller and Australia’s small population less globally significant? And the only way to possibly ‘make it’ is for budding artists to go overseas and become (and sound) one of them. Thus, further weakening (or is it Americanising) our once unique Australian culture.
Could an Australian bridge rigger now achieve the nationwide adulation that Paul Hogan achieved before he even went to the United States?
We should remember our local greats more, retell their stories; not just because they are good stories, inspiration for others to follow in their steps, but a reminder to metro Australia that the regions do deliver the goods in so many fields of endeavour. You don’t have to be capital city raised to ‘make it’ big. Living in the regions may actually give you an edge and is closer to Australia’s cultural roots.
One way you could do this is to produce a play, musical or movie based on Bille’s life. The son of an ageing stockman growing up in Biloela during the 1950’s who wanted to perform in West End and Broadway. Imagine the challenges he would have had to overcome to achieve this and later directing John Cleese’s solo stage shows. Then there is his own colourful personal life.
Where would the money come to pay for it, who would take the risk on such an Australian production, it’s not as if he achieved what Michelle Payne did, or did he, but in a different field?
It would be a great CQ community project. A project that could pull CQ into a tribal fan base, that only a CQ NRL team might, to see if it could not only be produced and premiered in Biloela, but then performed in the Bille Brown Theatre, Brisbane and then West End itself with John Cleese introducing the show. What a dream, but then the plaque on that giant directors chair in Biloela encourages everyone to follow their dreams.
Bille Brown 1952-2013.
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