Williamstown Town Hall, Victoria, June 2015
It is five years since Joan Kirner AC, former Premier of Victoria, died of cancer. June 1, 2015. 76 years old.
More than a thousand people turned out to honour Kirner at the state funeral at Williamstown Town Hall.
Amongst her many interests, Kirner was founding patron of the Williamstown Literary Festival.
“The Willy Lit Fest team mourned the loss of Joan Kirner AC, ” remembered Loraine Callow, the festival’s program director from 2014 to 2018. “Joan was not only the founding patron, but also a great friend and supporter of the festival, as well as the inspiration behind the creation of the Ada Cambridge Writing Prize.
“I remember the feeling of deep sadness and loss that rippled through the community and our festival committee on learning of Joan’s passing. In between the tears there was much sharing of funny and happy stories about Joan, her fabulously uplifting and inspiring speeches and her unfailingly gracious and generous ways. I like to think that Joan’s legacy and love of literature lives on in all the writers and readers she encouraged.”
A week after the state funeral Stereo Stories performed in the town hall ballroom, as part of the literary festival. It was our first show in that grand space (having played our very first gig upstairs in the council chambers at the 2014 festival).
We decided to pay a very short tribute to Kirner by performing a rendition of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ I Love Rock’n’Roll, which Kirner had famously performed on The Late Show in 1993. She wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself.
But which version of the song should we do? There was the dynamism of Joan Jett, and there was, well, the comedy of the Joan Kirner version. Neither could be topped, really.
We opted to keep things short and simple. The less-is-more principal.
Band member Stephen Andrew recalled: “To play it straight like the Joan Jett record was not going to be possible, especially given the limited rehearsal time. My idea to simply read out the lyrics was borrowed from Nick Cave, who stunned his audience when he read out the words to Kylie Minogue’s Better The Devil You Know at a concert. He believes it’s a great song and he played it without irony. “
So, just before intermission Stereo Stories remembered and thanked Joan Kirner.
Stephen narrated the lyrics and then the band, and the audience of 120, sang the chorus.
Stereo Story #510