It’s the sweet life as Al escapes the wonky rates

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Yasmin Coe… “I had dreams of doing something with chocolate or pastry.” Photo: Belinda Strahorn

Former Lib leader Alistair Coe is over it and out of it, the curtain comes down on Canberra’s queen of culture and a bouquet for the town’s best music critics. It’s “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE. 

WE’D wondered what life after politics would be like for Alistair Coe and now we know. Think Willy Wonka.

Ian Meikle.

After 12 years of banging his head against Labor, the former opposition leader is escaping the territory’s rapacious rates regime for a sweet life in the country.

Al stuck his head (and his hand) up at a recent auction and snagged retiring Robyn Rowe’s chocolate shop over the border, near Murrumbateman, for a reported $1.7 million.

None of this, of course, will truly come as a surprise to sharp “CityNews” readers who may have had a foreboding in March when reporter Belinda Strahorn interviewed Al’s wife Yasmin about family life after politics. 

To wit: “For now, this ‘exciting’ new chapter of their lives means Yasmin can turn her attention to other things.

“A professional woman in her own right, Yasmin also sits on top of a delicious empire, a chocolate-bar business called Sweet Pea & Poppy, started while on maternity leave and co-founded with her mum.” 

She told Belle: “After school I had dreams of doing something with chocolate or pastry but I didn’t know what that would look like. I always did something chocolatey on the side; I made all the corporate chocolate gifts for my dad’s business but it wasn’t until I went on maternity leave… that I turned my hobby into a business.”

Belle reported that from Yasmin’s Nicholls home, fitted with a commercial kitchen, production space and packing studio, she handcrafts chocolate bars.

“There’s a bunch of stores in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia that sell it and we started exporting to Japan this year,” Yasmin said. 

“I’ve enjoyed what the business has become and where it’s going… I feel it has always taken a bit of a backseat to lots of other things in my life.”

The Murrumbateman property, about 30-minutes from Canberra, includes a business, shopfront and a separate four-bedroom cottage on more than nine hectares of land. 

MORE surprising is the news of the sudden decision by long-time – and only – CEO of the Cultural Facilities Corporation, Harriet Elvin to pull the curtain down on her corporate career. 

Harriet has been the organisation’s Grand Poobah since its creation in 1997 and has been responsible for the Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra Museum and Gallery, the Nolan Collection, Lanyon Homestead, Calthorpes’ House and Mugga-Mugga Cottage.

Since starting in 1997, she’s seen nine different arts ministers, six board chairs (I was the first, actually) and attended every one of the 183 board meetings.

She praised the roughly 900 people employed as staff members over that time, the advisory committees and volunteers and the more than eight million visitors and patrons attracted.

But then it’s curtain up on a new production as Harriet announced she would support and mentor the next generation of arts leaders through the establishment of a personal fund to offer professional development opportunities in cultural leadership.

Although she will stay on at the corporation while her successor is recruited – likely to take up to six months – she’s planning some academic research into cultural leadership and to pursue creative pursuits – she’s also a high-profile, emerging playwright.

I’M going to publicly congratulate the “CityNews” music critics for their collective professionalism in, again, skilfully reviewing pretty well every concert of the just finished Canberra International Music Festival. No other media outlet got close to matching them. 

They are leading critics in Canberra and include Ian McLean, Clinton White, Graham McDonald, Len Power, Rob Kennedy and arts editor Helen Musa and their reviews – good and bad – are there for all to see at  

But after the contribution of 22 reviews, retiring festival chair Bev Clarke couldn’t muster a mention for them (or us) amid all the self-congratulation. Clinton White, moonlighting for esoteric “Limelight” magazine, was noted for a review and snapper Peter Hislop, who took photos at every concert for us, was lumped in with other photographers who occasionally dropped by. 

I WAS grateful this week for words written 100 years ago by CP Scott, editor of UK newspaper “The Guardian” for 57 years. This year the paper is celebrating its 200th anniversary. 

In an essay for its centenary, editor Scott, a towering figure in local, national, and international journalism, so beautifully wrote: “A newspaper has two sides to it. It is a business, like any other, and has to pay in the material sense in order to live. But it is much more than a business; it is an institution; it reflects and it influences the life of a whole community; it may affect even wider destinies… It may educate, stimulate, assist, or it may do the opposite. It has, therefore, a moral as well as a material existence, and its character and influence are in the main determined by the balance of these two forces.”  

UK comedian Barry Cryer’s favourite joke about comedy: “Analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog. Nobody laughs and the frog dies.”

Ian Meikle is the editor of “CityNews” and can be heard on the “CityNews Sunday Roast” news and interview program, 2CC, 9am-noon.


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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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