Arts and society;  society and the arts

The Sydney Morning Herald last weekend (9-10 April 2016) contained the program for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, which takes place in May this year.  The message from the Artistic Director, Jemma Birrell, started with discussing the ‘ancient concept of bibliotherapy’ with reference to an article by Ceridwen Dover in ‘The New Yorker’, ‘Can Reading Make you Happier?’  This article, and I quote from Jemma Birrell’s message,  ‘spoke about literature’s meditative and restorative effects in terms of mental health, improved relationships and the ability to empathise with others.’ (see

I believe that the arts have a role in reflecting what is going on in our society, and a role in helping us strive to be the best people we can be.  I believe that the arts have a role in community development, where music, poetry, story-telling, reading and visual art can have a role in connecting with others, with sharing our feelings, thoughts, concerns, with each other, with helping us look at things differently. I believe that the arts have a role in healing - I am a trained music therapist after all - and have seen the results of music applied appropriately to help people from all walks of life and with all kinds of issues, and in particular with physical disability and mental health challenges. There is strength in the ability of the arts – again, if used appropriately – to honour who we are, and how we contribute to our community, how we connect with each other, touch our hearts and minds.  Do you sing in a choir?  Do you read to your children?  Have you joined an art class?  Do you go to the theatre?  Do you look at paintings?  Do you create paintings? Do you go on a bush walk and reflect on the exquisite artistry of our plants, our trees, our rocks, our caves, our water-falls, the light, the sunrise and sunset, the space between the light and dark? Do you reflect on what you see, listen to, read, hear, express?  Do you have animated discussions with friends over a play you have seen recently?  A book you have read?  Music that you have recently listened to?

I had the opportunity recently to attend a morning tea for the Prime Minister of Australia at Glenbrook, in the lower Blue Mountains.  There were people outside the venue, protesting on a range of matters.  I felt proud that I live in a country where people are able to express their views to a sitting Prime Minister without fear of retribution.  I feel proud that I live in a country where the arts – mostly – can reflect what is going on in our world, and question the rightness or wrongness of it without censorship.  I am glad that I live in a world where the arts can have a place in helping us be in our community, in our society, the best way we can possibly me.  I am glad that, in my small way, I can contribute, through my music, to creating a space where music can touch people’s hearts and spirits.

This week’s featured work, from my most recent album, ‘Places with high levels of natural beauty’, is the title track from that CD.  If you feel so inclined, let me know what you think, or feel, about this track.

And in keeping with how we might reflect on aspects of life as we go on a bush-walk, this week's photo is from Blue Mountains artist and designer Karen Curran, from a recent bush-walk in Birdwood Gully, Springwood, one of the many lovely walks in this precious place, the Blue Mountains of Australia.  The ancient energy of this land fills me with awe.

Until next time,


Photograph courtesy of Karen Curran


2016-04-12 01:19:39 - Peta Williams
Dear Mary, I was so touched to read your comment; thank you so much. Love, Peta xx
2016-04-11 05:36:44 - Mary Wainwright
Dear Peta, that was just beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. Restorative is the perfect word. Thank you for sharing your amazing gift. Love, Mary xx
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