Congratulations to Gareth Watkins (Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero Accessions Archivist and 2014 Film Archive Curator-at-Large), who is a finalist in the 2014 NZ Radio Awards. His feature, Carmen: I Am Here, I Am Me, is a finalist in the category “Best New Zealand Produced Musical Programme.”
Carmen: I Am Here, I Am Me aired on Radio New Zealand Concert in 2013. Listen to it online here.
The ground-breaking music feature documents the birth of a significant New Zealand artwork, while charting a course through society’s changing attitudes towards prostitution, gender variance and homosexuality.
Jack Body, one of New Zealand’s top composers, has long been fascinated by Carmen. In the early 1990s he started on a compositional journey that was to entwine the life of Bizet’s opera character, with Carmen – one of New Zealand’s most original icons.
Carmen – formerly Trevor Rupe – was an exotic dancer and business woman who ran a number of entertainment establishments in Wellington in the 1970s. At that time, New Zealand society was far more morally conservative than it is nowadays; with prostitution, homosexuality and abortion all being illegal.
Despite this, Carmen challenged the overt discrimination and prejudice against members of the gay and transgender communities. She offered a haven for many marginalised people as well as job opportunities in her various entertainment establishments – particularly at the Balcony strip club and Carmen’s International Coffee Lounge.
One of her employees was Dana de Milo. De Milo is heard throughout this feature candidly giving a first-hand account of the times – the atmosphere, the clients and the brutality dished out by some members of the police force.
De Milo’s stories are interwoven with archival recordings of Carmen and a contemporary interview with Jack Body who talks about his work, introduces us into the world of Carmen, and examines his own life.
This is one of the first times that Body talks openly about his homosexuality:
“We all have naughty secrets which we don’t talk about; and we also have fears about how we behave; about not speaking the truth for whatever reason … and this is something Carmen teaches us that we should overcome. This is somebody who had no secrets about who they were or what they thought. It’s just to face up to who you are.”
After more than 20 years in development, Jack Body’s work Songs and Dances of Desire was finally premiered in March 2013 at the Auckland Arts Festival
This feature not only explores a unique compositional journey, but reveals the fortitude of Carmen and de Milo, and Body’s fearlessness in showing the audience his vulnerabilities and ultimately his humanity.
Gareth, the producer, is a documentary maker and photographer in addition to his work as an archivist and curator. He has spent over twenty years in the radio industry, producing numerous award-winning documentaries – including portraits of composer Douglas Lilburn and poets Alistair and Meg Campbell. His portrait photography has featured in a number of publications and appears in the collections of the National Library of New Zealand and the Wallace Arts Trust.
Read about the other NZ Radio Awards finalists here.