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New exhibition celebrates the entertainers who lift spirits on the frontline

Opening 26 November, get a behind-the-scenes look at performances on the frontlines of conflict and peacekeeping from beloved Australian entertainers over the past 50 years in 'Tours de Force: Entertainers on the frontline'.

Thursday, 20 October 2022 at 3:09 am

In this special exhibition, stories, memorabilia and rare photos and videos tell the stories of entertainers on the frontline spanning Lorrae Desmond, Normie Rowe and Lucky Starr to Kylie Minogue, John Farnham and Lehmo. It also explores the mission, operations and experiences of the people who have facilitated
these successful tours.

Entertainers share their stories from time spent on the frontlines often enduring gruelling tour schedules and the possibility of danger. Adapting to military discipline and situations far removed from the civilian green room and stage, many recall the uplifting effect the performances have on the mood and morale of
the troops on the ground.

This window into life on the frontline fosters an appreciation for the sacrifice and commitment of the personnel serving and reminds us of the profound impact of entertainment, laughter and music on the mental health and wellbeing of our armed forces and all Australians.

'Tours de Force' will share the history of the Forces Advisory Committee on Entertainment (FACE), established in 1966 to provide live entertainment for those serving in South Vietnam. Musicians, comedians and actors including Lorrae Desmond, Patti McGrath Newton, Ian Turpie, and The Deltones were among
the first to travel overseas to perform for Australian troops. This special military unit (now known as Forces Entertainment) fosters relationships between the Australian Defence Force and the entertainment industry. It recruits, promotes, and prepares entertainers for a taste of military life and ensures their safety in foreign warzones.

Many will remember the success of the 1999 Christmas Concert for East Timor, headlined by John Farnham and Kylie Minogue and organised by impresario Glen Weatley, demonstrating how live shows ‘in country’ could energise and comfort personnel longing for a piece of home at Christmas time.

In more recent years, Forces Entertainment has coordinated performances by Angry Anderson, Doc Neeson, Jenny Morris, Hamish & Andy, Anthony Lehmann, Mick Molloy, Gretel Kileen and scores of others in East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Solomon Islands, Sinai and on HMAS vessels at sea.

As the home of commemoration in Victoria, the Shrine is a monument of state, national and cultural significance and represents the many ways we honour service and sacrifice through its ceremonies and public programming. Tours de Force: Entertainers on the frontline is the first of three upcoming exhibitions
focusing on service through the lens of popular culture.

Neil Sharkey, curator of Tours de Force: Entertainers on the frontline, says:

Whilst many of the celebrities featured in this exhibition are household names, less known is the military organisation that recruits and protects them, providing vital support for the mental health and wellbeing of our troops abroad.

The exhibition will be supported by a special live event at the Shrine hosted by Merrick Watts on Tuesday 29 November featuring comedy, memories and conversation with Anthony Lehmann (Lehmo), Patricia Amphlett (Little Pattie), Normie Rowe, Tom Gleeson, Ami Williamson, Nick Cody and Charlie

Merrick Watts, comedian and frontline performer, says:

Having seen first-hand the challenging environments of our service men and women on deployment, it's great to celebrate the service and commitment which they are often too humble to voice themselves. Fortunately, I have never really suffered from humility and along with other slightly more humble performers, we can beat the drum and thank them on behalf of our grateful nation through sharing stories of our time amongst them.

Lehmo, 11 October 2019, Al Minhad Air Base, United Arab Emirates, photographer LSIS Craig Walton, reproduced courtesy of the Australian Defence Force


'Tours de Force: Entertainers on the frontline' opens at the Shrine of Remembrance on 26 November and runs until October 2023.

A special live event hosted by Merrick Watts will be held Tuesday 29 November with Anthony Lehmann (Lehmo), Little Pattie, Normie Rowe, Tom Gleeson, Ami Williamson, Nick Cody and Charlie Pickering.

Book here.
More information about the exhibition here.


For more information or to request an interview with exhibition curator Neil Sharkey or the entertainers involved in the exhibition, please contact Terri King at Pitch on or 0488 036 740.