Bryce Courtenay. A tribute.

Piyush&Bryce_BroomeCaxtons.jpgBy Ray Black

I attended Bryce's funeral last week and since then it has caused me to reflect on Bryce's enormous contribution the the Advertising industry; a contribution more than the father of the indestructible Louie The Fly flyspray character.

Bryce was a tough but generous Creative Director, fostering many talented creatives who benefited from his mentoring. In presentations of all kinds he was the master showman.

I think Bryce's lasting legacy was he was the dynamo behind the Caxton Awards weekends.

I recall in the early 1970s, the first skimpy, Caxton embryo consisted of just one speaker and it was held at the Sydney Opera House. The speaker was a famous creative Brit with the most apt name of all for the business: Jeremy Bullmore.

I think encouraged by the success of this one-off event, Bryce, with the sponsor, the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, headed up by Reg Moat, had an ambition.

I have the feeling Bryce wanted to make Caxton a national event. In the early 1970s each capital city had their own creative culture like groups of tribes with their own styles. These differences were jealously guarded, vividly demonstrated by the different styles and cultures between Sydney and Melbourne.

With a decision worthy of the United Nations, in 1973 the first Caxton as we know it was not held in Sydney, it was held at Australia's Panmunjong, Albury-Wadonga, straddling the mighty Murray River.

Would the Melbourne and Sydney creative tribes metaphorically gather on the river's edge and continue to throw rocks at each other from their side of the river?

Thumbnail image for Screen shot 2012-11-23 at 10.29.46 AM.jpgNo they didn't, this first awards show and speakers were very encouraging as a model. It was a creative master stroke. Caxton was born as our first real national creative idea exchange presenting the best creative talent sharing their knowledge with their peers.

Caxton is still the best forum to hear the best from the best, often enriched by some healthy out crossing with top overseas speakers.

I think most today would think Caxton just happened.

Caxton was the child of Bryce, a great industry visionary. The NAB and now Newspaper Works also share that long term vision.

The following year, 1974, not assuming too much about national solidarity, Caxton was held in Canberra.

In the years that followed, Caxton has been held in every state, from the outback frontier of Alice Springs to Broome, Cradle Mountain, Adelaide and Cairns.

Caxton also has another unique property, often expressed by overseas speakers, "We wish we could have something like this at home. It has a wonderful atmosphere where you can say what you feel".

Thanks Bryce. Mate, you have left us a beautiful legacy.

Top photo: Bryce is pictured with Ogilvy & Mather India's chairman and chief creative officer, Piyush Pandey at the Caxtons held in Broome, Western Australia.
Ray Black followed Courtenay as Caxton Awards Chairman, a role he fulfilled for 16 years, one more than Courtenay. He has been a highly respected leader in the advertising industry for many years and his contribution over that time was justly rewarded when he was awarded an Order of Australia medal in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours. The award reads: 'For services to the advertising industry, particularly through the development of talent in the fields of writing and art direction'. It relates to Black establishing AWARD School - 30 years ago next March, his ongoing involvement with the school and for the last eight years convening AWARD Copy School.

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