Announcing The Orality Centre

I am absolutely delighted to announce the formation of the Orality Centre which will be based in Etty Street, Castlemaine, on the site which was previously the senior campus for Castlemaine Secondary College (CSC) before the whole school was combined in their new buildings.

The location of the Orality Centre in Etty St, Castlemaine

Judith McLean will be Deputy Principal of CSC in 2017. More commonly known as Rex, she has 10 years experience teaching in remote Aboriginal communities and will take a leading role in the Orality Centre. Rex comes from a secondary mathematics and  science teaching background but has a wealth of experience learned from the Elders she worked with.

Paul Allen is an artist and art teacher who has secured an Arts Victoria Grant for me to work as and artist-in-residence implementing the ideas from The Memory Code at Malmesbury Primary School, only 25 kilometres away. He will also have a leading role at the Orality Centre.

I could not ask for two more impressive teachers to establish this project. There has been and overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to my research from educators from early childhood right through university and continuing education for adults.

The concepts we have talked about in the rather excited meetings to date have centred on ideas like how we can use art, music, vivid characters, storytelling, songlines and an array of mnemonic devices to enhance the regular curriculum: Mathematics, Science, Humanities, Languages and bringing Art and Music right into the middle. We have no intention of adding new subject, just making learning in the existing classes even better.

There has been a great deal of interest from people working with with indigenous students and students with dyslexia, ADHD and higher academic ability among many themes. There’s also been interest from those who feel that these traditional memory technologies may have significant implications in improving memory retention in the elderly.

I have had so many requests for workshops about all these topics, that I am absolutely thrilled that now we have the staff and home to establish the Orality Centre. I am really looking forward to working with the educators, artists and musicians who have already spoken to me about getting involved.

Thank you to Rex and Paul for making this happen!


Arts Victoria grant for Ancient Memory Spaces

Some days are just so significant they become milestones in your life. I have no doubt last  Wednesday will be one.

An email arrived headed Arts Victoria funding outcome, and I could see the opening words “I am pleased to advise that you have been successful …” Obviously this is a fantastic email to get because of the money awarded. But it is much more than that. It is my first literary grant. It is recognition of my status as a writer. Can you imagine how good that was for my self-esteem?

Ancient Memory Spaces is for the general reader and will focus on the memory methods used by indigenous cultures to memorise vast amounts of rational information. It then shows how a simpler version of these methods were used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans and then slowly became more specialised in the Middle Ages and Renaissance until they disappeared in Western cultures other than for world memory champions showing off in memory competitions. Ancient Memory Spaces then shows how these ideas explain the purpose of ancient monuments around the world, including the great houses of Chaco Canyon, Easter Island, the mound builders along the Mississippi, the Nasca lines in Peru and many more. And of course, Stonehenge and other Neolithic sites including Avebury, the Ness of Brodgar, Newgrange and the amazing 3000 standing stones of Carnac.

So much fun and I am now funded to write it!

Meanwhile, back at the Cambridge book, Knowledge and power in prehistoric societies, we are just up to the production phase. There’s much more on my blog specifically about my research, Memory Spaces The designers have chosen one of my photos for the cover. Not surprisingly, it is of Stonehenge – one of the all important Welsh bluestones overshadowed (both physically and metaphorically) by the huge sarsen trilithon. Here’s the image. I can’t wait to see what they do with it.