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Byron Shire
August 6, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The End of an Era

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I have loved writing the entertainment because, wow, there’s some very entertaining things that happen in this area – and I’ve always tried to make sure that the arts are well supported.

I’ve always struggled with final endings. But when I go, I go. Just ask any of my ex-husbands. I have been the Entertainment Editor at The Echo for 20 years, and this week I decided to finish up. Finding the 8–10 hours that it takes me each week has been a bit of a challenge of late. I’ve found myself on more occasions than I can count sitting in a hotel room at 4am writing about a choir performing nude at Billinudgel. Or in a roadside cafe using their internet trying to download pic of said choir ignoring the Greyhound bus full of passengers who have just rocked up for bacon and eggs.

I have loved writing the entertainment because, wow, there’s some very entertaining things that happen in this area – and I’ve always tried to make sure that the arts are well supported. It was always weird having to write about my own gigs – so I’ve often chosen to write about myself in the third person. There have been those who have missed out on copy, either through human error, or there wasn’t enough space, or I couldn’t work out what the F their gig was. Very occasionally I got a cranky response about how I had wrecked their gig. It was nice to remind them that I had forgotten my own entries numerous times. So I started sending myself abusive emails as well. I am all about equity.

As the Entertainment Editor I have interviewed some very interesting people. Like the multi-orgasmic man; a Dutch orgasm coach living in a yurt, and Tim (Pricasso) who paints with his penis. I have also interviewed musicians. Probably not quite as interesting as the aforementioned group, but whose stories and chats have formed a wonderful part of my week over the last two decades. I have had the privilege of talking to some of my heroes. That’s actually one of the hardest things to give up. It’s amazing how nervous I used to get interviewing people, and how generous some people are. People like Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and Mavis Staples who just put you at ease and share their insights in the most humble way.

There is one interview that I will always remember because it changed me, and that was with Scarlett Lewis, the mother of a 6-year-old boy who was shot in the Sandy Hook massacre in the US. I just started to cry in our conversation and I couldn’t stop. I was so affected by the story of the murder of 28 people, mainly 6-year-olds. It’s unbelievable to hear that story told by a mother. And then, Scarlett’s forgiveness for the shooter – a 21-year-old with autism whom she felt had been failed by the system. Her program, Choose Love, teaches kids emotional intelligence. I am still astounded by that woman. Forgiveness is so much more powerful than revenge. It was a conversation that changed me.

I have had a few horrendous interviews. Renee Geyer still wins the gong for the interview I enjoyed the least. I kind of love her for it. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life. I asked her ‘When you interpret a song, how do you use your story or experience to give the song a new feel?’ Renee was silent. Then she said ‘Why the fuck would you ask me such a stupid fucking question?’ Wow, now she was interviewing me. ‘Because you’re scary, and I don’t know what else to ask you, because you don’t write your songs.’

The interview where I fucked up the most was with Lloyd Swanton from The Necks. I had become rather cocky in my knowledge and my natural ability to chat to people. I prided myself on being able to do an interview without research. Wow, that’s a rookie mistake. I asked Lloyd about how he writes his lyrics. He says ‘In 19 years, and in 19 albums, there has never been one lyric’. Ouch. That’s embarrassing. ‘So you’re quite blocked then?’ He laughed, but in that way when you know the person who is interviewing you is an idiot. I apologised and told him I didn’t do any research, and I clearly didn’t know The Necks. He said ‘I can tell’. I know The Necks now. They’re one of my favourite bands. Mainly because there are no lyrics. But man, every time I play an album, a little part of me dies inside – I still feel the shame.

Then there was Daryl. I did think Mr Braithwaite was flirting with me on the phone in an interview. Then, when he rang me back a few times to ask ‘What’s the weather like there?’ I thought ‘That’s a clincher’. Although he probably really did want to know what the weather was like, because packing when you’re touring can be a bitch. He asked me to come to his show and come say ‘Hi’. Which is probably more friendly than flirty. I never did. I’d had posters of Sherbert above my bed when I was a kid and it was too weird. I also had posters of David Bowie, but he never played Twin Towns. I told my kids and they were furious. Daryl doesn’t know it, but they have decided he could have been their new step dad. They were all big ‘Horses’ fans. Sorry Daryl. Sorry kids.

So, I thank all the wonderful musicians, and artists, and poets, and comedians and writers and chanters and dancers and circus freaks and promoters and publicists and – I’m signing off. Keep doing what you do. I’m off to do more of what I do. Of course this will keep going. I’ll never give up my Soapbox. I’m not crazy.

No more 4am in dark rooms writing about gigs I’ll never get to. Fuck I’ll miss the free tickets… maybe I shouldn’t quit.

Nah, time I paid.

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  1. Thanks for the laughs Mandy! The world goes round, not because of Gravitational Forces but because of people like you. You bring the light to the dark side. This is one conspiracy theory I highly recommend to your readers!

    • Mandy is a self-promoter and one knows there is a place for such characters in our human condition, but let us not delusional be.

  2. Will Miss your Writings : Turn Green (left ) Such an inspiration since 1986 @ The Byronian Cafe ! Yes Mandy ” never say ” Goodbye ” unless an ex _ husband ” Keep Well Keep Safe …..& Observe the Absurdities!

  3. It has been wonderful to have you there, ready to entertain us all each week, with a new take on something or other. I remember vividly some of your ‘sketches’ and wish I could have read every article you put forward to the Echo. For me, you have been The Echo and I cannot imagine how it will continue without you!.
    I did one of your standup comedy courses trying to rediscover my sense of humour; it did not work that way, but it sure gave me an appreciation of you!
    Best of luck in your new (not so new?) venture Mandy. I hope you have found your raison d’être..

  4. Mandy doesn’t sling mud Vincent she tells the truth . Mandy will get many thousands of votes from the well adjusted/fully functional men , who truly appreciate brilliant & ballsy women like Mandy. You are a STAR Mandy & loads of us will miss your wit & crazy (BUT kind) madness. You are never nasty or mean spirited , so just don’t change one tiny winsy bit. Hug yourself from ALL of us……

  5. No need for that, Vincent. Mud slinging? How about learning what being
    a human-being means. Going toe to toe with Mandy isn’t easy so if you
    have been semi-stunned by her you would have asked for it. Funnily
    enough looking at the record Mandy’s support by a male head count
    is both 50% & %50% male / female on nearly all issues.


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