13 December 2023

Sold-out tribute concert for Wagga theatre legend Peter Cox to be livestreamed

| Oliver Jacques
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Peter Cox (right) being interviewed by Region ambassador Adam Drummond, who also starred in Backyard Ashes. Photo: Facebook.

A tribute concert for legendary Wagga playwright and director Peter Cox that was sold out in two days will be livestreamed online free.

Director Mark Grentell is producing Encore Concert for Coxy for his long-time mentor, an event that aims to raise funds for emerging artists through his newly formed fundraising program The Ministry of Silly Grants.

The concert will be held at 7 pm this Saturday, 16 December.

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“We celebrate Hall of Fame footballers who might play 300 games, but here’s a guy who spent 30 years and 300,000 hours of time to create a platform for so many artists,” Grentell said.

Cox was an accomplished theatre director and Kooringal High drama teacher who passed away in September 2023. He is best known for teaming up with Grentell to write the script for Backyard Ashes, the first feature film made in Wagga (in 2013).

“We sold 700 tickets for this tribute concert, but could have easily sold a lot more,” Grentell said.

”We’ll be putting on a variety show. The Groove Factorie is the local eight-piece band and we’ve got a cast of 25 people, many of whom worked with Coxy,” Grentell said.

“It grew its own energy. I keep telling people, ‘Don’t blame me, blame Coxy’. His ideas manifest on stage.

“He did everything from Jesus Christ Superstar to operas to Gilbert and Sullivan parodies – try finding a common theme in all of that.”

Grentell said he had to make sure the concert would be broadcast online.

“So many people who loved Coxy are in different areas around the regions, where he worked over the years. Once it sold out, I knew we had to livestream, and The Streaming Guys are doing that for us. You can donate while watching the show.”

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The unusual name for the new grants program is inspired by a famous skit from British comedy troupe Monty Python, The Ministry of Silly Walks.

“I came up with The Ministry of Silly Grants because Coxy wouldn’t want anything named after him, he would prefer it to be a bit silly,” Grentell said. ”We’ve got T-shirts you can buy too.

“When I was 18, I got a random $1500 grant from Wagga Council to go to New York. Without that, I’m not sure my career would be where it is today.

“If we can raise $10,000, it might give five kids a chance to go somewhere in the world to chase their dream.”

theatre poster

The Ministry of Silly Grants will fund emerging artists. Photo: Supplied.

The tribute production will feature an ode to Backyard Ashes, which paved the way for many more films to be made in the Riverina.

“That movie was Coxy’s idea when he was mentoring me,” Grentell said. ”He always kept telling me about this cricket film idea. I said, ‘Let’s stop talking about it and do it’.

Backyard Ashes launched a bunch of careers, people who went on to become professional editors, actors, producers. It showed Screen Australia that filming The Merger in Wagga was possible.

“If you build a space for creativity, there’s always willing people who are looking for a way to express themselves. Coxy became a conduit for all of that. That’s why we’ve seen so much love for him.”

You can watch the tribute concert online via the Encore 4 Coxy website.

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