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12 Mar 2018

Lysicrates Prize winner announced

Over the weekend, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney hosted the annual Lysicrates Prize ceremony, a  competition that provides encouragement to Australia's playwriting talent and provokes interest for the historic Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. Travis Cotton was declared the winner at the Lysicrates Monument located near Farm Cove.

The story behind the monument

The Lysicrates Monument that now takes pride of place near the harbour foreshore is a replica of an ancient Greek monument. James Martin, three times the premier of NSW in the 1860s and 70s, and hellenophile commissioned sculptor Walter McGill to create the replica.

This new monument was made in 1868 out of Sydney's iconic Yellowblock sandstone for Martin's Potts Point estate. Martin was inspired to replicate the monument upon reading that his favourite poet, Lord Byron, had written poetry at the original monument in Athens.

Photo taken of  original monument in Athens by Australian Photographer Jorge Láscar

The original monument

The ancient Greek monument was carved from marble and erected in Athens in 334 BC to commemorate Choregos Lysicrates’ win in the annual Theatre of Dionysus competition. It tells the story of the Greek God Dionysus fighting off pirates who turn into dolphins when thrown into water.

The choragic monument of Lysicrates, from The Antiquities of Athens, 1762..jpg
 The choragic monument of Lysicrates, from The Antiquities of Athens, 1762 

The Sydney monument was saved – twice

The Sydney monument took a prominent position in Martin’s garden for decades until WWII when his land was taken over by the military and it seemed destined for demolition. 

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Fritz Burnell started a campaign to save the monument, resulting in then Premier William McKell relocating it to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney in 1943.

The Choragic Monument in its original position at Sir James Martin’s house at Potts Point.

After 148 years of wind and rain overlooking Sydney Harbour, the monument had fallen into a state of decay. Luckily, local philanthropists John and Patricia Azarias undertook a mission to save it for a second time in 2014.

They set up the Lysicrates Foundation to help fund its restoration from private donors, and the NSW Government Stonework program matched funds dollar for dollar.

The Choragic monument of Lysicrates in the lower Gardens in 1984. Photo by David Bedford

The surface of one of the stones telling the story of Dionysus had lost all its detail so had to be re-carved, while restoration of the remaining two stones focused on slowing the rate of deterioration while protecting and retaining as much of the original sandstone as possible. In October 2016 the monument’s $600,000 facelift was unveiled.

The Lysicrates Prize

The Lysicrates Prize is an annual playwriting competition held by the Lysicrates Foundation that was established in 2015. Inspired by the Great Dionysia for which the original monument was created, three playwrights are invited by the Lysicrates Foundation to perform the first scene of their play at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, with each member of the audience voting to select the winner. The winner is announced at the Monument and is granted $12,500 to assist in the completion of their work. 

Learn more about Travis Cotton and his play here. Or for more information about the Lysicrates Monument, Foundation and Prize, visit the Lysicrates Foundation website here.  

Category: News
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