Planet Creature and After Maeve

Frank Coughlan and Robyn Brady are parents of Maeve who was killed in a road accident, at age 10, in November 2003. Jan Cattoni is a friend and documentary film Director of After Maeve: a film about the family and Maeve's friends following her death. The film is generating much interest internationally. This blog is for Frank, Robyn and Jan to offer thoughts as the film and the Planet Creature website are viewed by audiences in different countries.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hello from us!! November 22 2015

Hello all,

A quick update.
Frank and Tara and I live in Ballina, in ramshackle old house that was converted into flats in 1970, and we have turned the back half into our home after gutting the lot and restoring the teak floors and VJ boards. We now have a new small studio out the back for dance, music, and imagery, which has a loft that looks out at the sky. Also a pond with waterlily and frog, and a fire circle which is wonderful whatever the weather.
I still work in Brisbane, now at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital three days a week, I stay at the Mater through a private arrangement, in the same monastic quarters where I slept as an obstetrics student in 1983, making up and stripping my own bed daily! It is peaceful, and I am only really there to sleep as I generally spend my free Brisbane time at Farmers Market, GOMA, Palace Cinema, and keeping up with my parents, sibs, and nieces and nephews ... In Ballina my time is generally taken up with Sprung!! projects or enjoying nature.
Frank is thriving on his job as a youth counsellor in Lismore. He has developed many more skills for his armoury, including expressive therapies, sandplay, and heaps of understanding of neuropsychology and how this influences youth work. Sometimes he takes lads fishing or surfing or just sits on the floor with them. He also still does the imagery work- some people have been coming to the sessions for 20 years now!
Tara still lives at home but will move into one of the front flats next year. She teaches Zumba two days a week, volunteers at the Xavier College canteen and the video shop, is a principal dancer in Sprung!! Integrated Dance Theatre, and hangs with her boyfriend and other friends in Ballina. You can keep up with Sprung!! on FB or at The most surprising things about Tara are that she really enjoys being on her own- in fact craves the opportunity to be in the house cooking, cleaning, and watching movies on her own, and that she seems to become more intelligent every year. She really listens carefully to people, and offers really pertinent comments and questions.
This year I was able to enjoy the Odd Socks assembly at Petrie Terrace State School where the Bumbletown Hall was named in Maeve's honour. I guess if you are going to have a dignitary to live up to, her examples of compassion and creativity, and her Creed, are pretty good for young people. At the school the atmosphere is still exceptional, student-led, green power everywhere, a sea of precious faces singing and rocking back and forth together.
Frank and I went down to Woody Head and camped last night so that we could spend today immersed in the natural world where memories of Maeve's joy overlapped with fresh experiences of nature like a thicket of tiny wrens and the ever-renewing, ever-different wave surges crashing and runnelling through pools on the rocky shelf. We had great fun playing, see photo above.
Thanks to all for sharing our journey.  xxxx RFT

Friday, November 15, 2013


Some of you know from Tara's blog that since we moved to the Northern Rivers region, I have been co-directing an integrated dance theatre group for young adults with and without disability, called Sprung!! (see or like us on Facebook at )
Earlier this year I wrote a prose poem for the group to workshop. It is called "Calling" and its about the spaces we negotiate between our private selves and the melee of Encounters in public life... the value of times alone, but the necessity to have the courage to "go out into the world", and the jewels that we are given, amongst the scratches and the wounds, when we do so. "We have touched something we have never touched before... and we are not the same".
This poem has been the framework for our theatre exercises at our monthly workshops all year, in part because the primary focus of my theatre work with Sprung is to look at "being ourselves and being aware of others at the same time". This process really emerges in the exercise called Encounters in which our character (which can be ourselves, or an aspect of ourselves, or borrowed aspects that we would like to explore) crosses paths with another character... first without noticing them, and then, increasingly, noticing them (but with integrity i.e. with an internal constancy) and finally, responding to them in some way that may actually begin a little story.
The poem has been simplified and revised with input from members of the Group over the year.
On Sunday December 1 we will be performing the 5 scene interactive dance theatre work (now called, 'Encounters')  at the Alstonville Uniting Church at 730 pm. We have a guest artist, Michael Hennessy, ex Sydney Dance Company, who has stumbled into the group both literally and in the story, and is greatly augmenting its impact.
The poem has been profound for me, and I would like to share it. I have posted a recording on youtube which is 6 minutes long but is worth experiencing if you have space for this. In our actual production, I will just be reading the beginning and ends of the poem (while the characters are sleeping, waking, rising, and going forth and then when they retire again) and their actions and stories flesh out the rest of the poem.
WIth love,
PS I will post a recording of the performance on youtube and through the Sprung website afterwards.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

My foster daughters, at home and from far away

Ive talked before about "Fostering intergenerational relationships". For me its partly to do with relationships I've had with older mentors, and having soul-mates of various ages that I am not related to by genetics. Its also to do with an idea that we should act as custodians for our children and young people, not owners. (This is easier to say than do, but a close friend who is a genuine long term foster mother is setting a good example, seeking with every choice to act directly in her daughter's interest).
This picture shows some of the Bumbletown girls and me when our young friend Kim visited from Belgium, just after our second screening there. Kim, who had lost her sister in a sudden traumatic accident like Maeve's, had contacted us when she was just sixteen after our first screening. She just "got" what we were trying to say with the film, and it had been very helpful in her own integration of loss. When it came time to do the Down Under trip, she made sure she looked us up, and we all went out for sushi.
Look at all the lovely women I got to hang out with. How I love them! Always a treat.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I got Ocean in my Gumboots!

by Robyn

Today is Maeve's Birthday. It is 19 years since she and her twin cousin, Zoe, were born.

To celebrate, I rode along the river to where it meets the ocean. (Actually I do that most mornings.) There have been fierce storms and heavy rain here for a week, and the sea was 'seething' with coffee coloured foam and big waves far out, whose tops were being ripped off backwards by the wind.

I went in my new Doc Marten gumboots that Mom gave me for Christmas from her op-shop.

I decided to walk along Lighthouse Beach, to see if there was any interesting flotsam.

The coffee foam was foot deep in ribbons along the shore. I walked through it, thinking how it looked a bit like dirty snow but wasn't crunchy. I walked through it, feeling like a giant walking over the earth with the clouds at my feet. Like clouds but bigger bubbles. Some bubbles as big as your palm.

I wanted to walk into the shallows and have the little waves wash around my gumboots. I started walking out towards the waves. The water was running back back back into the ocean, the new waves just piling up and folding under themselves. I seemed to walk a long way out. I kept thinking, soon, a big wave will spill over the top of that pile. But it just kept running out. It was like the ocean was taking a great big breath in. It was like the story of the Genie who sucked the ocean in so the boy could collect treasure from the shore, but only so much and no more.

Then suddenly a wave spilled over the pile and came towards me. Then another and another, and first up to my shins and then up above my knees to my skirt.

The water wasn't really cold, but i did look funny standing there up to my thighs in the waves in my raincoat and skirt and gumboots.

I got ocean in my gumboots, and I brought little bit of it home.

xx R


Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Flying Cats Are Back!

There have been a number of horrific news stories lately. The dear bones of Daniel Morcombe, who disappeared in 2003 just after Maeve died, have been found, confirming his murder. Yesterday a teenage pupil of my sister was found dead in her home, having been killed with an axe, possibly by her own mother who subsequently jumped off a bridge to her death. Both of these events juxtapose a vision of innocent emerging youth with unthinkably violent assault. It is the sort of news that sends you crazy, as if to accept the reality of the information is to actively participate in a society in which such a thing is thinkable. I remember lying on my bed at 18 severely traumatised by watching Leon Uris' Mila 18. I didn't want to accept the events as possible.
I've noticed that one of our responses to these stories as adults is to find some way in which the participants are different to ones-self. They are Asian, or indigenous, or filthy rich, or on the dole, or single parents, or ... We cut ourselves off from their pain or from that reality by identifying them as not us.
In the wake of the recent events, I have found the Flying Cat Ambulance Brigade returning in my mind after a long absence (their portal to Earth from Planet Creature was destroyed in the penultimate chapter of my novel, but thats another story). Who did I see but dear old dumpy Charlotte, a few pounds heavier but just as earnest, and her side kick Jex-with-the too-long-tail, tenderly lifting those dear, recovered bones of young Daniel and bringing them up to Planet Creature, where I have always perceived Daniel and Maeve, as Eva says, "doing good deeds [together] and getting up to mischief" ...
Today I saw the cats rush down, a flurry of feathers, and smother the young schoolgirl with their soft fur and whiskery, hypnotic kisses as the axe fell, so that she might pass on without remembered pain or awareness of betrayal.
And I also (I know some cannot, but I did) saw them sling a blanket under her mother, to soften her fall. I suspect with Charlotte and Jex this was not because they understood that all terrible acts have their origin in pain, but because they are simple animals, and cannot help responding to suffering.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

San Shan

Hello. I have just had my three year post cancer review and all was good. Somehow I found this immensely helpful and spent some time planning an imaginary survivor's tattoo for my upper arm. I felt really "STRONG!!!", as my 3yo nephew Orion says after a fall when he gets up and brushes himself and makes big muscles. . .
In my mind my tattoo image showed the three mountains of the three really difficult challenges life has brought me- sketched as three peaks in a row. It also echoed the zigzag on the right side of Maeve's crest- which she said was 'the boundary between the two worlds'. Right.
This weekend was the annual Imagery Festival in Numinbah Valley which Frank coordinates. It was drenched in sunshine and particularly lovely (see for more pics). I ran a children's tissue paper collage workshop and the lovely Min agreed to do some calligraphy for the mural we co-created. Imagine my surprise when my very image appeared under her brush- she had chosen the ancient (~1200-500 BC) da zhuan form of the 'mountain' pictograph to depict the mountains which frame Numinbah!
It was wonderful to have quite a few children at the Festival, and I found myself hanging out with them even when i didn't 'have' to. I also did some deep personal work and re-connected with a memory of myself when I was 7 or so and with my family on the granite bank of a creek. One of my little brothers made as if to head for the edge, and I spontaneously and gently rescued him. I more deeply understood this essential part of my being.
One of the girls reminded me of Maeve. I so loved being with her, and I felt a wave of the old grief when we got back home.
By the way, over this last year we have moved from Brisbane to the northern NSW coast, at Ballina, where we are doing up an old house and thoroughly enjoying the river and more simple way of life. Maeve had been here- had swum at the pool and played on Shelly's Beach, and she would have loved to have lived in a place where so many outdoor adventures are possible. So I have no sense of leaving her behind- more one of finding her. Our family life in Ballina is recorded by Tara and me every Monday on the blog. Bye for now, Robyn

Friday, July 16, 2010

Planet Creature and After Maeve

Planet Creature and After Maeve

Back on Track

I haven't written for some time. I need to report that I am extremely well, and that my 2- year cancer check was clear. Actually i have lots of things to say and I've been storing them up, but the first thing of importance was to share this picture of me taken in Xidi, one of the Unesco listed ancient villages in Anhui province in China, taken by my friend Fiona Reilly (
Adventuring and exploring- places, cultures, languages, textiles, people- have been major pleasures for who-I-am, and I guess this was the first pleasure-only trip I have undertaken on my own since Maeve died. The photo for me contains the beauty of the Moon Pool, the steam rising off the noodle soup, the extraordinary feng shui of the thousand year old courtyard, the trance of calligraphic exercises, the vibrancy of peach blossom and running streams, and the pleasure of sharing with Fiona and Matt and their fine daughters.
A colleague also lost a child this year, and it was reported to me that he was nearly "back on track". But what on earth does this mean? Back on what track- the career path? the mortgage schedule? Keeping up appointments and commitments, the yearly round? One of the greatest psychological hurdles for me in recovery from cancer was the dread of slotting seamlessly back into the daily grind and losing sight of "all I had learned", the deep quiet sacred places I had touched in these last years. And anyhow, after such major life events, who had I become? Could it be possible for me to move fully in this world, honouring everything that is within me? I hope so. :)