This spring, the ‘OZ studios had a visit from a longtime listener and supporter in Melbourne, Australia. Sue Beeton came to check out the new French Market digs and meet the staff. She’d held a fundraiser for the station at her home, and mailed a check to the station. But it was a much better treat to meet her in person. Here, a brief interview with an Aussie 'OZster (sorry, Sue, we’ll get you a better nickname soon!):
Where you live in Australia, and what do you do there?
I live in Melbourne, where I’m a professor at La Trobe University, lecturing in tourism management. I am very interested in how tourism can (and can’t) assist community development. One area I have done a lot of research on is the relationship between film and tourism, such as people visiting the sites of movie and TV shoots and how that can affect the community. I travel a lot with my work, but what drives my own travel — and first brought me to New Orleans — is my love of roots-based music. That includes jazz, blues, Cajun, Zydeco, bluegrass, folk, etc. I probably heard about WWOZ from one of the Melbourne-based community stations, prior to my first visit to New Orleans in 1999.
When and where do you listen?
I listen to WWOZ both at work and home, listening more often in the months prior to my visits. I’ve been to New Orleans 4 or 5 times, usually for about 10 days at a time. I find it hard to explain, but I love New Orleans in a very personal way. It is not just about the music, but that is the basis for everything. It is in the fabric of the place and people. I was very distressed about what happened with Hurricane Katrina, especially as I was there a few weeks earlier.
And so you turned your own birthday party into an ‘OZ fundraiser?
Last year I turned 50 and decided to celebrate in style. I had a New Orleans weekend. Lunch on Saturday was mint juleps, shrimp remoulade and gumbo. Sunday I had a "recovery party" for myself and New Orleans. I purchased music from the Louisiana Music Factory, focusing on albums that raised money for hurricane relief, and artwork from Jamie Hayes, an artist raising money to return. WWOZ also sent me some CDs and stickers and I had other Mardi Gras bits and pieces. My brother and I then auctioned the items, wearing “New Orleans Matters” T-Shirts. We raised $1,500 and sent it to the station. It was a great weekend!
Do you have a favorite program, or type of music on the station?
I don’t have a favourite program, but love the local jazz shows, as we do not have many radio programs in Australia that focus on New Orleans jazz (even though we have a very strong jazz scene).
What were your impressions of the station and the city on your most recent visit?
I was impressed with the station’s new studios. I think being at the French Market in the French Quarter is a great connection with the city.
I loved being back in New Orleans, but am so depressed about the problems of re-building the homes and community (which is why I support WWOZ!). I also found that tourism is slow to return to the city. It’s a great pity, but I also found it quite moving. Everywhere I went, locals thanked me for coming, right there in the street! There was in some ways a stronger sense of "community," with what seemed to me to be more locals in the French Quarter. I plan to write about my trip for an Australian newspaper. I’ll keep you posted!