f2m: The Next Chapter

f2m The Boy Within

f2m The Boy Within

In 2010, Ford Street Publishing released f2M: The Boy Within, by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy, about Skye, born female but identifying as male, and his journey to transition to the male he knows himself to be.

The book met with some controversy but also huge support – including a short-listing for the internationally prestigious White Ravens best YA fiction award in 2011. The book was also praised by youth services as one that could help young people dealing with transition issues of their own – either by finding someone with a story similar to theirs, or by giving the book to others in their lives to help them to understand.

Now, the book’s life is extending into a documentary about Ryan Kennedy, whose experiences informed some of Finn’s story. A short version of the documentary by Kailash Studios is on YouTube – a discussion with Hazel and with Ryan, talking about the impact of the book and Ryan’s life.

 

If you’re interested in the full, 25 minute documentary, contact Kailash Studios for information.

Hazel has also written about what it was like to collaborate with Ryan on a book that has been the centre of so much praise as well as controversy.

Now available as an e-book – a move that makes it more accessible to some of the people to whom it is so relevant – f2m continues to generate conversation and, we hope, greater understanding.

Buy f2m: The Boy Within:

Ask your library to order it in for you or recommend it to your book group.

You can download a study guide here or from Hazel Edwards’ website.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Melbourne Fringe Festival 2014: Three recommendations

BookPosterMelbHot on the heels of my review of the Richard III production in London (starring a brilliantly evil Martin Freeman) I thought I might offer up some recommendations to Melburnians while the Fringe Festival is upon us.

Firstly, and belatedly, I vastly enjoyed Dan Willis’s The Walking Dead. While it’s full of spoilers for the TV show (mainly, a litany of the dead) it is very funny, and Dan knows his stuff. Plus I got to confess my own plans for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse… because what else do you do with an idle hour on the tram except work out what you’re going to do when the shambling undead come chewing at your door?

Unfortunately, the last show is Thursday 26 September – but the Fringe website indicates it’ll lurch to life again one more time on 5 October. The show’s on at the Court House Hotel in North Melbourne.

The next show on a spooky theme which I loved was Who’s Afraid of the Dark? presented by the comic talents of Watson – Tegan Higginbotham, Adam McKenzie and their crew. Rock up to the old Watchhouse next to the Old Melbourne Gaol for what starts as a night of spooky stories and turns into… something else. It’s very funny and very dramatic in turns, as well as very spooky, and I will confess that at one point I squealed like a frightened little babby. This one’s on for another week, so there’s plenty of time to go along and pretend you’re not scared.

Finally, there is the utterly delightful New Zealand show The Bookbinder, by Trick of the Light Theatre, on at the Lithuanian Club in North Melbourne. Ralph McCubbin Howell is the bookbinder-storyteller who sits behind a large desk and proceeds to use lampshades, lights, paper figures, shadow puppets and a pop-up book to spin a spooky yarn about the dangers of cutting corners. Howell’s performance, taking on all the characters, is wonderful, and the story he and director Hannah Smith is a very Neil Gaiman-esque tale involving young characters, whimsy and horror. The blend of storytelling techniques, the warmth of the performance and the charm-and-creepiness of the story make this my favourite of the three, though it’s a close run thing.

So if you haven’t ventured out yet this festival, and you like a touch of the macabre as I do, one of these three (or indeed all three) is a good place to start.

Book your tickets:

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Review: Richard III at Trafalgar Studios, London

IMG_6418During my recent travels, I was lucky enough to see Martin Freeman in the title role of Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios in London.

Of course, while Freeman was a major draw for me (I’m a sucker for a Watson), I’m always up for a spot of Shakespeare, particularly with plays I’m not as familiar with. I’m sure I’ve seen this staged before, but couldn’t for the life of me tell you where or when. I’m most familiar with the splendid film starring Ian McKellen and featuring folks like Robert Downey Junior, Jim Broadbent, Annette Bening, NIgel Hawthorn and Maggie Smith.

This London production has a splendid ensemble cast of its own, including the marvellous Maggie Steed as a (literally) haunting Queen Margaret and Gina McKee as Queen Elizabeth (mother of the hapless Princes in the Tower).

This production is set in the turbulent 1970s – the program notes refer to specific political turmoil in the UK that meant little to me, but the sense of revolution and political machinations doesn’t need a specific set of events to give the setting flavour. The set is both a blessing and a curse – the desks block out the stage into a series of barriers, which effectively convey the idea that everyone is at odds with and estranged from everyone else. Certainly, Richard’s plots and schemes wouldn’t have been half so effective if his targets had been at all unified, but their rivalries and old enmities make it easy for him to divide and conquer (and, of course, murder horribly on a regular basis).

While excellent at physically expressing this division, the choice to break up the scenery in this way can be a bit restrictive in how the space is used, with characters having to constantly allow for the obstacles. Still, even compartmentalised, the area is used well.

When I told people I was going to see Martin Freeman in Richard III, many expressed doubt. That nice Tim from The Office? The Hobbit? That lovely John Watson in Sherlock? A vicious, cold-blooded laughing, limping murderer? Really?

Oh yes, people. Really. Freeman has always had a great command of his physicality, and here he portrays Richard (slight hunch, slight limp, and a right arm he never uses for the duration) with all the wicked, gleeful viciousness that the role gives scope for. From that first speech, where Richard confesses his aims to commit the most terrible villainy to spite the world that has no place for him, Freeman’s portrayal of a calculating and intelligent Richard has an acidic, sharp edge to it, filled with energy and edginess There’s plenty of wicked humour too: it’s a miracle of writing, that such an utter bastard can speak to the audience through humour so that we laugh even as we deplore his cruelty.

And when Richard gains his crown and can afford to pull back on his destructive venom, what does he do? He plans the murders of his nephew and his wife and anyone else he thinks could threaten him. His brutality begins to look less like ambition and a lot more like pure spite, pure hatred and, let’s face it, a whole truckload of self-destructive self loathing as well.

For me, there have always been two key scenes in Richard III to make it work. There has to be some humanity in Richard. Not human kindness, no – but a sense that someone so vile is still very much a human being. That he is not some alien embodiment of hate, but a very human embodiment of that emotion. So, for me, there are two key scenes in which this is demonstrated.

The first is his confrontation with his mother, after he has despatched of his brothers yet still somehow hopes for some word of motherly love from her. From the script, I’ve always suspected that her dislike of him predates his sly and vicious plans as an adult – and that she has recoiled from him since he was a child; and that therefore, in terms of modern understanding of development, Richard is asa much as product of his treatment from birth as to his inate nature. Mackellen’s portrayal in the film captured this well, and Freeman manages that same unexpected sense of vulnerability here. Certainly, if she had offered Richard any kindness in this scene, I suspect it would have been spat on and thrown back in her face, but the glimpse of how he came to be this cruel king is, to me, an important insight to his motivations.

The second key scene in understanding Richard’s humanity is late in the second half, when he wakes from nightmares before the final battle and confesses to his own self that he does not love himself – “in fact I rather hate myself, for the evil that I have done” (to paraphrase). Again, Freeman conveys a human frailty and vulnerability here without letting us forget that Richard chose to be what he is. There is understanding here, without offering excuses.

In the scene where Richard has to be ‘persuaded’ to accept the crown, Freeman at last exaggerates the limp and the hunch, as though Richard is daring them all to make him their king, with all the physical deformities for which he has been mocked all his life. Once he accepts the kingship, he straightens his back and gets right into the business of demonstrating that he can be so much worse than anything he was ever accused of before in his life.

Interestingly, Richard’s death is the only one in the play that’s quick – perhaps because Richard has spent the entire play slowly dying, committing a horrible kind of suicide through spite. There’s a relief in it, when he drops like a stone, that all the suffering is finally done, his own as well as that he has inflicted on his lacerated and bloodied kingdom.

I’ve focused on Freeman’s performance here, but it is, as I said, a superb ensemble cast. Maggie Steed haunts the stage as the deposed Queen Margaret, laying curses and watching with genteel glee (at one stage sipping on a teacup full of, apparently, blood) as every curse comes to pass. In her way she’s as cruel as Richard, motivated by revenge.  Gerald Kyd’s Catesby and Jo Stone-Fewings’ Buckingham are excellent foils for Richard’s acid wit, and Paul Leonard brings dignity to the role of Stanley, caught in the middle of his duty and his better sense. Lauren O’Neill’s tragic Lady Ann and McKee’s defiant Elizabeth are strong enough presences to hold the stage against such an intense (and intensely vicious) Richard.

Jamie Lloyd’s direction is crisp, keeping the pace snappy – except for those brilliantly excruciating murders (some of which usually happen off stage) which are drawn out with perfect timing. Murder is messy, and people on the whole die slowly and horribly – and it’s brutal and uncomfortable and unflinching. (Well, maybe the audience is flinching. I know I flinched, anyway.)

I could write for a long time about my thoughts on the story and the script, and how those ideas are teased out here, but that’s perhaps a whole other essay. What I conclude is this: Lloyd’s production of Richard III is excellent; fast, funny, brutal and very, very human.

If you can’t make it to London for the productions last days (it closes on 27 september) here are some clips of the cast talking about it, including Martin Freeman in his Richard III beard. He doesn’t look nearly so terrifying here as he does in the play.

Visit the Trafalgar Studios Richard III site. (If you go, be warned, these are some of the most uncomfortable theatre seats I’ve ever had to sit in. And I’ve sat in a lot of bloody uncomfortable theatre seats.)

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

These Vagabond Shoes (Are Longing to Stray)

UnisphereWell, here I am in the Big Apple. New York (New Yoooork, it’s a wonderful tooooown!). The location of so many TV shows I’ve loved: Castle. Beauty and the Beast. Fame. Flight of the Conchords. Elementary.

Top Cat.

You’d think the celluloid connections would suggest plenty of things to do and see in New York, but that’s not the case. I’m not that interested in chasing down film locations for the sake of it (and in any case, many locations from NY-set shows aren’t necessarily in New York, or even real).

Ticking Off the List of Big Things is also not something I’m very keen on. Of course I took the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, though I didn’t disembark at Liberty Island. She looks grand enough from the water.

I liked the immigration museum on Ellis Island too, because the social history of New York is fascinating. Tim and I saw some great pieces at the Museum of Modern Art, and tomorrow we’re taking in an off-Broadway show – but I’m happy enough to look at the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings from across the East River or from the street below, without having to climb them.

Into the boroughs

Instead, I find great pleasure in exploring neighbourhoods. I enjoyed poking around odd little parts of London at the start of this trip, and this week I’ve had the best fun away from the crowds, noise and bustle of Manhattan’s Midtown and Downtown. Instead, I’ve seen what places like Queens, Bushwick and Flushing have to offer. As a writer, a city’s commercial heart may be interesting, but it can lack the texture of the areas where locals live, work and play.

It was in the boroughs and quieter ‘hoods of Manhattan that I noticed things like the graffiti and the way the trapdoors to basements might be left open – perhaps for the unwary to fall into. It’s there I saw kids playing, and noticed the housing that was clad in weatherboard as well as brick; where we stopped at local cafes and had brief but entertaining conversations with staff and customers.

Long Island City, Queens

IMG_8055A lot of the boroughs are kind of quirky. The Z Hotel in Long Island City, Queens, gave us a terrific view across the East River to the Manhattan skyline, while being located amidst taxicab depots and a lot of light industry.

New Yorkers would have nothing to do with the odd passive-aggressive ‘Polite Notices’ (that weren’t especially polite) that I kept seeing in London, and instead tell it like it is with signs frankly warning you not to park in private parking areas.

IMG_8028This area also had a lot of these very old fashioned fire alarm systems – any passer-by could pull the lever to alert emergency services of a fire. We weren’t convinced that they were still active, though this one seemed to be attached to the telegraph wires. Tim had to exercise superhuman control to not pull the lever just to see what would happen.

In any case, Long Island City was a nice low-key district (and it was by chance I discovered that Silvertop Studios, which makes Elementary, is housed nearby). I had a pleasant time meeting the locals when I visited the local laundromat on our first night to clean up my travel wardrobe.

Lower West Side, Manhattan

Highline 1But it’s not all sassy signage and soap bubbles. Sometimes it’s reclaimed parkland. The High Line is a former above-ground freight rail line that was abandoned and then, in recent years, reclaimed as a linear park. Threading among derelict factories, new housing complexes and rejuvenated neighbourhoods in the Lower West Side, it starts in Chelsea and ends in the Meatpacking District.

The paths are pleasant, the greenery encouraged to grow without too much manicuring. It’s a welcome respite from the madness of the rest of Manhattan. It’s full of locals as well as visitors, and the path cleaves through a building at one point where you can get food and even a really excellent espresso coffee. (That’s right – New York has discovered espresso and the Melburnian coffee-holic can survive quite handily here.)

Highline 2

Central Park, Manhattan

The High Line isn’t the only lovely green space in New York. There’s the famous Central Park, too. No sign of Vincent the cat-faced, poetry-reading, tortured-yet-cuddly hero of 1980s Beauty and the Beast, but there was a lawn. On which we stretched out for little while, loving the rich smell of grass and loam, soaking up the hot New York summer sun until I began to wonder if I could get sunburned through my jeans, and also wondering if I would be nested on by squirrels if I sat still long enough. I took a flat-on-my-belly-in-the-grass-eye-view picture to convey some of the loveliness of my Lazy New York Adventure.

Central Parkflushing statue

Flushing, Queens

Another wonderful green space is in Flushing, the home of the World Fairs of 1939 and 1964. Very little remains of the old fairs beyond the layout and a few key structures (like the Unisphere, at the top of this post) but it’s a wonderfully quiet area in the borough of Queens.

When the sirens, the crowds, the smell of the subway and the sight of steam billowing out of grates (it really does do that) has your senses demanding downtime, a train to this huge park is just the ticket.

And when you have had enough of bloody parks as well, you can find some interesting urban neighbourhoods to explore.

Bushwick, Brooklyn

Bushwick 1But wait! I think I lied about the sassy signage! Not all of it is official, and I loved this little doublet of graffiti stuck on the side of a posting box in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

I also got a little unexpected NYPD Street Theatre in Bushwick, when I popped into a post office to buy postcard stamps and two burly officers seemed to appear out of thin air to deal with a customer who was getting stroppy with the staff about some problem with a… thing.

God knows. But they dealt with it with the kind of calm sternness one associates with the gruffer kind of primary school teacher, and nobody got shot. (I suspect I watch waaaaaay too many crime shows…)

Bushwick 2Bushwick also has some fabulous street art and we came across some great examples on a street that also boasted a coffee shop with a Twin Peaks theme.

Manhattan transfer

But if you love the bustling heart of a great big city, it’s there. The New York subway is every bit as grungy, sweaty, zippy and intriguing as I’ve always thought it would be; the New York delis as thriving and fascinating as expected, and with excellent food.

New Yorkers are forthright but mostly friendly, and they never seem to mind that Sinatra’s New York, New York is an earworm that I can’t help singing as I walk along.

Apart from anything else, Midtown gifted me with this gem – a Cupcake ATM. That’s right. An ATM. THAT DISPENSES CUPCAKES!!

No matter what you want from it – TV locations, green spaces, mad bustle, cupcakes from an ATM – New York, ladies and gentleman, does not disappoint.

Thank you to the Z Hotel and NYC and Co for discounted accommodation and other assistance.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

The Lady Novelist Fangirls Out in Cardiff

fangirlWhen Tim and I were walking down to Cardiff Bay, on our way to the Doctor Who Experience, I said to him: “I’m getting my fangirl geek on for this.”

Tim laughed and laughed at that one. As if my fangirl geek wasn’t already on; wasn’t constantly on. It was a fair cop. I therefore declared that I was flicking dust from my fangirl geek cuffs, setting it hat at a raking angle and walking jauntily towards my date with Adventure! Or at least with the Doctor Who Experience!

I’ve wanted to go to the exhibition and interactive adventure ever since Tim saw it in London a while back and spoke so highly of it. Since then, it had moved to its permanent and purpose-built home in Cardiff, so of course we made time for it on our current Tour of Blighty. (We got in just in time – the Experience closes very shortly for an overhaul, and will reopen in October with a brand new Doctor and a whole new Experience!)

The exhibits are great, but it really is the interactive experience that makes this whole thing worth a visit (and the price of entry). Lighting effects, physical effects, atmospheric sets and effective soundscapes make for a fun and immersive activity – but as always with theatre (which it undoubtedly is) the key element is the participants’ own willing suspension of disbelief. As an adult it would be too easy to decide it’s all just smoke and mirrors (or lighting effects and sensaround) and not be impressed, but you won’t have any fun that way.

DWE 1Instead, I let a lifetime of being spooked by threatening creatures; feeling excited by the appearance of the TARDIS; and yearning to be a companion for just one adventure carry the moment.

I managed to in fact spook myself and duck once or twice and have a rip-roaring good time. If you missed the Matt Smith version, I’m sure the upcoming Peter Capaldi adventure will be just as good. And if you saw this version – now you have an excuse to come back!

The static exhibition will no doubt have more costumes and props to display as well.

But Cardiff has more for the fangirl and boy than the Doctor Who Experience. There’s also a semi-official memorial to a fictional character, and a castle that plays supporting roles in show.

The Ianto Jones Shrine sprang up after that character met his sad fate in the third season of Torchwood. I wasn’t a fan of the first two seasons of the show, but I thought the third was excellent SF (and it had Capaldi in it, huzzah!) but Ianto’s death was sad very effecting. It certainly seems to have made an impact on his fans, who started an impromptu shrine on the boardwalk by Cardiff Bay. It became such a big thing that the local authorities finally erected a permanent plaque about the shrine to a fictional character.

IMG_6039One theme that popped up in several of the letters and notes attached to the grating of the wall was the notion that he did not pass a ‘blip in time’. One item hung on the grate was in memory of a woman who wasn’t able to get to Cardiff in person due to ill health and passed away – her friends leaving a note to her that ‘you aren’t just a blip in time to us, either’.

I’m sure there are essays out there exploring more of why this character and his death affected so many, but I think that speech of his touched a nerve. Perhaps most of us will pass without having made any major impact on history or broader life, but perhaps we want to know that we mattered more than passingly to those we loved.

Memory does endure, though, especially if any of the exhbitions and articles about Great War I’ve been exploring are any indication. Loss leaves a hole, and though it may stop bleeding and may heal over with a scar, there will often be that mark, that absence of a person who should have been there, a hole in the fabric of broader lives… and I’m getting too philosophical maybe, after an afternoon spent at the Imperial War Museum, but anyway. A human response to the loss of a single fictional character is a sort of dress rehearsal for other losses, and none of those lost are blips. They always leave spaces in personal histories and individual hearts.

After reflecting on death and loss and people both real and invented, I spent part of the next day at Cardiff Castle. With BBC Wales based in Cardiff, it’s no wonder that the Castle is used as a location in many shows shot here – including two of my favourites, Dr Who and Sherlock.The Castle even offers a film location tour on this aspect of the site.

IMG_6319Having said that, though, I wasn’t all squeeful about spotting TV locations around the castle, because I am separately a fan of castles in their own right. Castles are neat! Castles are filled with layers of history, and layers of imagination. Castles weren’t always used for fortification, or at least not only for fortification. They have pasts full of luxury and leisure as well as warlike stances and defensive bristling.

Cardiff Castle, for example, has roots down to the Roman era; it has a Norman keep. The main living quarters are all faux-medieval having been done up in the 19th Century as Gothic Revival; and in the 20th Century it was opened to locals as a bomb shelter during WWII.

attack beaversElements of the Gothic Revival decorations entertained me the most, though. Oh, our Victorian era brethren, how you loved to make stuff up and then pass it off as tradition! You sure made a mess for the lovers of historical accuracy, but as a storyteller, I can’t help but to think you delightful for your crazy. (Speaking of which, I love the Attack Beavers depicted on the rooftop water fountain. They look like their fish are loaded and they are not afraid to use ‘em.)

Discussing this with Tim, we wondered whether that Victoria habit of making up ‘traditional’ legends and traditions was a reaction to industrialisation; and whether our modern habit of being all retro hip with 19th Century hipster beards and 1950s Betty Page hair-dos and cupcakes is a similar treasure-the-past reaction to contemporary anxiety about constant connectivity, climate change and fear of surveillance through the smart devices to which we are so addicted.

IMG_6309Or, you know, maybe we just think the hair is cool.

Finally, I leave you with a giant and rather cranky owl who squawked a lot and glared with his giant golden eyes because he wanted his dinner RIGHT NOW. He was like a giant feathered cat.

The castle falconer had a number of birds out for us to see. The white barn owl made me think of Hedwig (and that always makes me weepy) and there was a tiny wee owl called Pocket who of course made me think of the Weasley’s owl, Errol, only Pocket was more sprightly and even cuter.

So. Cardiff. A fangirl’s delight. I recommend it. 

Thank you to Visit Britain and Visit Wales for hosting us.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Writers’ Insecurity? Stake that vampire in its cold, dead heart!

No doubt the topic of writerly insecurity has been covered before. And it will be again. And we will probably all quote Neil Gaiman’s story about calling his agent to say how awful his latest book was.

But the thing is, this writerly insecurity is a persistent infection. It’s a nasty little bastard that makes life hard. So we need to innoculate ourselves frequently. It’s not a waste of time to repeat the story. It’s a damned survival skill.

I read that story of Gaiman’s years ago, and it was a kind of lifeline to me. The news that Neil Gaiman experienced the same doubts that I did was a revelation. The fact that his writerly insecurities happened so often that he talked about hating every single word as simply a regular phase of writing made me feel so much better as a writer.

I mean, if Mr-Hugo-Nebula-Carnegie Winner feels that way too, then it’s obvious that I’m not alone, and that all writers must get attacked by the same collywobbles in much the same way.

Furthermore, that means that the voice in your head telling you that what you’re doing is rubbish is not necessarily telling you the truth, and that the little bastard is certainly not your friend.

Obviously, it never hurts to assess what you’re working on, and to work on it till your fingers bleed and your eyeballs dry out from staring, to ensure you are doing the best work you know how. But if you are working like a Trojan already, then chances are that the snide little voice in your head is what one playwright called a ‘Vampire of Doubt’.

In the musical [Title of Show] there is a whole song and dance sequence about the self-doubt that creeps in. With wit and nifty harmonies, the song Die, Vampire, Die identifies that voice of doubt and disparagement that whispers in your ear to “give up, you’re no good, blah blah blah” and gives some quite good advice about it.

(Here it is – with a language warning!)

 By the way, one of my favourite bits of the lyric, which is a spoken section, is:

“Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform and said these things, I’d think he was a mentally ill asshole, but if the vampire inside my head says it, It’s the voice of reason.”

We are always all too ready to accept our vampire of doubt as the Voice of Truth. And it’s not.

Of course, writers need to develop a rational and balanced sense of our work, to know when it’s not coming together as planned, when to do better. But we need to learn to separate the rational practice of improving as writers from the simple fear that we’re not good enough.

If you want to improve as a writer, then write more. Write differently, experiment, play around with ideas, push yourself, ask for external feedback, collaborate.

Start, continue, finish – then start again.

But don’t let the vampire of doubt make you stop.

Stake that bloodsucking bastard right in the heart and keep on writing.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Launceston, architecture and ghosts

BillTim and I have been in Launceston for a few days, guests of Launceston City Council, and have been sampling copious amounts of cider and excellent food. For science!

Well, no, probably not for science, but we’ve been dedicated, I promise you that. This evening, we went on the Launceston City Ghost Tour, guided by Bill – he of the cape and atmospheric voice.

The night was bitterly cold but Bill set a brisk pace as he walked us around the centre of Launceston, visiting wonderful old buildings, sometimes leading us into darkened cellars and ill-lit garages, and keeping up an entertaining stream of storytelling and terrible jokes.

Launceston is Australia’s third oldest city, founded in 1806. It was from here that Batman and Fawkner set off to found Melbourne and then spend the rest of their lives arguing over who did it first.

Some lovely architecture remains intact from the city’s foundation through to the late 19th century, so naturally it’s a town ripe with folklore and spooky stories.

It’s also one of those places that was lucky enough to fall into economic decline at just the right time to avoid having these wonderful buildings knocked down – so instead of hideous mid-20th century blocks of concrete and pebblestone facades, we still have elegant churches, warehouses, former grand homes and current hotels, many beautifully restored.

0108dd50b4323aa87ce2a3312201f1411d2d71fc7fFor many, seeing the city’s architecture by night will be reason enough to go on the walk, but of course, it’s a ghost tour – so while I enjoyed the visual drama, I was really there for the tales of macabre deaths and gruesome deeds.

There are plenty of  both of course, along with mysterious occurrences whose origins are unknown. But Bill grins wickedly and tells the tale anyway.

There are the traditional theatre ghosts, the star-crossed lovers, the cruel murders and the terrible accidents. There are tales of hotel and pub staff disturbed by odd noises and ghostly fingers on skin, and visions of spirits running down halls.

Perhaps it’s true that my most terrifying moment in Launceston was the landing of our Jetstar flight in strong winds that made it feel like the plane was being shaken about like a maraca – but to be fair, the ghost walk was certainly a whole lot more fun than that, too. Vastly entertaining, in fact.

And if you don’t believe in ghosts – you still have the pretty buildings to look at.

When you’re in Launceston, book your ghost tour with Bill or one of the other guides at Launceston City Ghost Tours

Disclosure: Tim and I were hosted by Launceston City Council.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

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