Ed#474: Out with 2014, Welcome 2015!

26 December 2014 Alan Attwood

Ed#474: Out with 2014, Welcome 2015!

When illustrator Michael Weldon and I discussed ideas for the cover of this magazine, which we always think of as the New Year Edition, we found ourselves moving backwards and forwards in time. It’s an edition in which we reflect on the year just past and look ahead to the next one. Because it’s summer, we settled on a carefree beach-cricket scene. The featured players are (from left) Taylor Swift, who released a successful album in 2014 and will tour Australia in 2015; PM Tony Abbott, in the ‘budgies’ that are seldom seen these days; tennis ace Maria Sharapova, who will be in action at the Australian Open in January; musician Lorde, who graced our cover for Ed#462; AC/DC’s Angus Young and Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke. Even though Weldon completed the artwork quite recently, several things changed before the magazine went to press. AC/DC released a new album and Young’s brother, Malcolm, was diagnosed with dementia. Then, in November, Clarke faced his greatest test when his friend and former teammate, Phillip Hughes, died after being struck by a ball while playing cricket. Sport is taken too seriously in Australia, but it’s never meant to be a matter of life and death.

Another idea discussed when we were trying to settle on a New Year theme was a tie-in with one of the holiday movies, as we did with The Hobbit two years ago. Night at the Museum 3, with a big-name cast, was considered as something that could have broad appeal. It is significant now, however, in ways its producers never imagined, as it features one of the last performances by Robin Williams – reprising his role as ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt. Williams made a Big Issue cover in 2014 (Ed#468), because his unexpected death in August focused attention on the impact of suicide. It’s not unusual to turn end-of-year editions into memorials for those who have died: any such wrap-up for 2014 would have to include actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, comedian Joan Rivers and musician Pete Seeger. Closer to home, former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was remembered by men and women of Australia after dying at the venerable age of 98; writer, comedian and disability advocate Stella Young departed too soon at 32.

An old year prompts reflection; a new year invites resolutions. This year begins, like the last one, and the one before that, with too big a gap between rich and poor. Inequality is a topic we have addressed many times, most recently in Ed#471. We will continue to do so as long as that gap gets bigger. I take heart from a sense that most people do believe in a fair go. One reason the last federal budget was received so poorly was a widespread perception that it failed “the fairness test”. That is, indeed, a big issue.

And so is this… Because it’s summer, and not everything should be serious, and because he was a man in the news in 2014 (with a modest wedding ceremony), and because I’ve just seen his ubiquitous coffee-induced smirk on a billboard, let’s conclude with George Clooney. Who didn’t make Weldon’s beach-cricket team, though he would have qualified for selection. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve had in my little collection of conversation (or Editorial) starters a report about the death of Clooney’s former pet pig, named Max. I was shocked to realise the report dates back to 2006 – when, by coincidence, I started filling this space every fortnight. (That could explain a lot.) On my carefully preserved report about the death of Max, aged 18, I have circled a Clooney quote. “It’s strange how animals become a big part of your family. They really become a big issue…” From all of us at this Big Issue, Happy New Year.

Alan Attwood, Editor