Monday Conversations

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at Belvoir St Theatre

Alcohol and Us: Sydney

In our backyards, balconies and beer gardens – Australians get along famously with booze. Drinking is an entrenched part of our national identity: it’s a recurrent theme in our pop culture, a scene-setter for friendship, a supposedly inherent part of work and play.

Lately, though, as the personal, social and public health costs of drinking become clear, many Australians are reconsidering our indulgent traditions. Some have even suggested that alcohol will go the way of the cigarette once its connection to chronic or life-threatening illnesses is fully acknowledged.

Writer Jenny Valentish’s book, Woman of Substances, tells her own story (as well as those found in rehab facilities, halfway houses and AA groups) as she explored the paths people take into and out of addiction. In the process, she discovered that women’s experiences of substance abuse and treatment differ greatly from those of men.

Valentish joins researcher Michael Bowen, broadcaster and author Wendy Harmer and host Kate Jinx for a fresh discussion about Australia’s changing relationship with alcohol, and how we can anticipate and deal with the side effects. Actor Nikki Shiels (The Rover) will perform a short piece to open the conversation.

Presented in partnership with Sydney Writers’ Festival and Belvoir.


Portrait of Jenny Valentish

Jenny Valentish

Jenny Valentish is a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Saturday Paper, and former editor of Time Out Melbourne and Triple J’s Jmag.

She grew up in Slough, a satellite town of London, and moved to Australia in 2006. She quit drinking in 2009, which sparked a desire to explore the drives behind addiction. She has a graduate certificate in Alcohol and Other Drugs from Turning Point/Monash University.

Portrait of Wendy Harmer

Wendy Harmer

Wendy Harmer is one of Australia’s most versatile entertainers – broadcaster, author, journalist and stage performer – and is the editor-in-chief of The Hoopla, a daily online news and magazine website. She was a contestant in Celebrity Masterchef in 2009.

Portrait of Michael Bowen

Michael Bowen

Michael Bowen is a National Health and Medical Research Council Doherty Biomedical Fellow and Senior Lecturer based at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre.

Dr Bowen’s expertise is in applying cutting edge cellular and preclinical research techniques to central nervous system drug discovery and development. Some of his recent career highlights include winning the 2016 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher, the inaugural NSW Premier’s Prize for Early Career Researcher of the Year in 2015, the 2016 International Behavioral Neuroscience Society Early Career Award, and being inducted into the World Economic Forum’s Young Scientists Community of 50 of the top scientists under the age of 40 from around the world. He is one of the lead inventors of novel therapeutic drugs being developed for the treatment of substance use disorders.

Portrait of Kate Jinx

Kate Jinx

Kate Jinx is a writer, broadcaster and film curator (mostly). She is the director of programming at Golden Age Cinema in Sydney, and appears regularly on ABC TV’s arts and culture programs The Mix and The Critics. Jinx is currently a PhD candidate at UNSW in cinema and cultural history, and has presented performance lectures about important topics like evil cats and teen witches at contemporary art institutions that are really far too reputable for that kind of thing.

Portrait of Nikki Shiels

Nikki Shiels

Nikki Shiels made her Belvoir debut last year in Twelfth Night or What You Will. For Malthouse Theatre, she has appeared in Night on Bald Mountain, The Dragon, Elizabeth – Almost by Chance a Woman and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which subsequently toured to Edinburgh in early 2017 opening at the Royal Lyceum Theatre.

Later this year, Nikki will appear in Kip Williams’ production of Three Sisters for Sydney Theatre Company. Nikki’s film and television credits include Neighbours, Perfect Pair, Childhood’s End, The Greatest Love of All, Little Acorns, Rush IV and Fred Schepisi’s feature The Eye of the Storm.

Monday Conversations

Each month, join us at Sydney's Belvoir St Theatre for a focused exploration of one idea – beginning with a performance or reading inspired by the topic.

Presented by the Wheeler Centre, Sydney Writers’ Festival and Belvoir.


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