2017 Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice event to feature recording of Les Murray poem

The stark imagery of dead trees jutting from a dam will set the stage for a hauntingly beautiful presentation at the June 21 Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice event.

Poet Les Murray.

Poet Les Murray.

A special film recording of poet Les Murray reciting Dead Trees In The Dam will beam across Albury’s QEII Square as the darkness closes on the longest night of the year.

More than 1000 people are expected to gather to mark the silence and stigma of suicide and mental illness at the fifth Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice for Survivors of Suicide and Friends free community event.

The evening’s host, David Astle, said the poem by one of Australia’s acclaimed living treasures was chosen for its strong, hopeful theme.

“Les was paralysed by the black dog of depression for many years,” Astle said.

“To turn around and write such beautiful poetry …

“Rather than look at the darkness of dead trees in a dam, he creates an image of great beauty and gentleness.”

Astle joined friend and solstice stalwart Stuart Baker on a road trip to visit Murray at his hometown of Bunyah in June to film the reading.

Mr Baker and his wife Annette reached out to Murray after their daughter Mary took her life in March, 2011.

She was only 15 years-old.

Before she died Mary compiled an anthology of poetry, called Out of the Shadows, which explored the topic of mental illness and included an analysis of one of Murray’s poems.

The Bakers shared her work with Murray and he responded with a poignant letter.

“What a filthy, unjust thing mental illness can be, taking away a life that clearly had every reason to be happy and proud of itself!” he wrote.

Bolstered by the support of leading mental health and suicide prevention advocates, the Bakers established an event offering solace to those who had lost friends or loved ones to suicide or mental illness.

Set against the comforting backdrop of open fires, nourishing food and soothing music, the annual Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice event features a line-up of speakers to shine a light in the darkness of despair. 

The presenters for the event on Wednesday, June 21, include indigenous sportsman Joe Williams, journalist and social commentator Tracey Spicer and Professor Jane Burns, founder of the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre.

The event starts at 5pm.