On the Couch

A brewtastic inventor.

A free-flowing artist.

A bug man.

And a plant breeding geneticist with a passion for garden design.

Somehow, amazingly, Michele A’Court will weave these famous four together into a two hour ‘On the Couch’ delight to entertain Tauranga’s garden, art and craft beer enthusiasts.

Assisted by fellow Kiwi comedian Ben Hurley, Michele will host the new live talk show at Baycourt on August 25. It’s the first of many events leading up to the November 2018 BOP Garden and Art Festival.

“I came last year, had a lovely time,” says Michele. “It was a gorgeous day and a lovely bunch of people.”

Michele recalls doing a debate with Ruud ‘The Bug Man’ Kleinpaste years ago. You don’t have a garden without bugs.

He’s not only the David Attenborough of the bug world, but he’s also into what bugs can do for the soil and how they can create a great atmosphere for plants.

The other three ‘On the Couch’ guests are all new to her.

“It’s quite exciting to interview people you haven’t met before,” says Michele, “because then you’re getting to know them along with your audience.”

There’s Tauranga’s award-winning landscape designer Michelle McDonnell who has recently explored renaissance gardens in Italy. Described as having a classical style using a contemporary palette, her talks and designs have been a popular feature in previous festivals.

Then there’s beer and cider judge and master brewer Brian Watson. Winner of 100 awards, Brian is a world class brewer.

“He has a passion for developing great tasting craft beer and cider by exploring the many different flavours that can be created with natural ingredients,” says festival director Marc Anderson. “The Garden and Art Festival is all about promoting creativity and nature. Developing good beer and cider from natural resources can be very creative and we feel it’s interesting for him with his expert knowledge to tell the audience about that.”

Colour is something Tauranga artist Rob McGregor is known for, with his vivid paintings featuring loved Kiwi sea and landscapes. The fourth guest for ‘On the Couch’ with Michele and Ben, he’s well-loved for his passion for art.

“Rob is one of those guys that just lets everything flow out of him without having any negative thoughts,” says Marc. “He’s a total creator.”

Michele admits to not being much of a gardener herself. “I don’t have much time for gardening because I travel so much.

“I grow pots. Pots and pots of herbs. Rosemary, basil and sometimes little cherry tomatoes which don’t produce much of a crop but they’re fun to have. And I just adore gazanias. There’s something about them that reminds me of my childhood. They’re just great big stupid daisies with bright colours. I always love the purple and yellow ones the most. If I put purple and yellow together in what I wore and someone would say you can’t wear purple and yellow together I’d say well ‘God put them in the flowers together, so!’”

Co-host Ben Hurley has been a friend of Michele’s since the 1990s.

They met through comedy and now will bring their banter and humour to the stage in Tauranga.

They both have strong connections here as Ben married a Katikati girl and Michele has family living in Te Puna.

Michele’s Twitter is an interesting social commentary and offers glimpses into her thoughts – “I told the roofer I’d like to replace our old red corrugated iron roof with a red colour steel roof. He said, ‘Grey is very popular.’”

Michele travelled to Papua New Guinea with Fair Trade to see how coffee is grown. In each village, she tried to explain to the local people what she did for a job.

“‘Comedian’, ‘social commentator’ and ‘writer’ didn’t make sense. I finally had this epiphany and said I’m a story teller and immediately they knew what I meant.”

Michele is currently writing a book called ‘How We Met’ featuring couples talking about how they met.

“My transcription service, which is out of America, has terrible trouble with the Kiwi accent. So there are some delightful mistakes in the transcriptions when I get them back. The one that I was working on yesterday, the woman was telling me how her husband made a beautiful degustation for her birthday and the transcript says ‘he made me a digger station’.” She tweeted that too.

“We have a really human need to find meaning in things. The best way to find meaning in the chaos is to construct stories out of it. I’ve just had an email back from one of the couples and she’s saying ‘you made our story make sense’. They can see their own stories more clearly and what their story is about because someone came along and listened to them and wove it into a story.”

Life is chaos, so creating a story or narrative to help us make sense of that, makes sense.

Gardens can be chaos too. As can four completely different people being interviewed at the same time. The best place to see Michele find meaning and construct an entertaining weaving of stories and passion about gardens and art is ‘On the Couch’. A brilliant start to the BOP Garden and Art Festival 2018.

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