Faces of Tamworth: Anna Rose has the write stuff

At the age of 29, Anna Rose was drafted into the service of The Northern Daily Leader as a casual journalist, despite having no writing experience. Almost 30 years later she walked out the door having told hundreds of people’s stories, her great turn of phrase and warm personality serving her well. But she’s best-known for her unfailing support for the country music industry, particularly in Tamworth, through her stories, columns and blogs over the years. Our story from earlier this year covers a recent award and what she’s been doing since her retirement (hint: still telling stories).

FULL DANCE CARD: The Leader pinned Anna down during her favourite time of the Tamworth calendar to talk about being the 2018 recipient of the Tamworth Award. 250118CMA01

FULL DANCE CARD: The Leader pinned Anna down during her favourite time of the Tamworth calendar to talk about being the 2018 recipient of the Tamworth Award. 250118CMA01

ANYONE who knows Anna Rose would know that words are her thing – clever ones, Scrabble-winning ones, distinctly Australian ones, colourful ones and, above all, correctly spelled and punctuated ones.

But the former Leader journalist admits she was at a loss for words when she was presented with the Tamworth Award in recent days.

The award recognises someone who works year-round for the good of the country music industry, and – although many would wonder why – she said it was a huge surprise to be named the 2018 recipient.

Award founders Noel and Dawn Smith had invited Ms Rose to a concert in the Tamworth town hall on Saturday, and when announcer Brian Howard started making his award preamble, at first “it didn’t really twig”.

“When he called out my name, I just sat there and bawled like an idiot,” she said.

“I was just overwhelmed; I had no idea.

“I got up on the stage and said [to the Smiths]: ‘No wonder you two wanted me here today’.”

Mrs Smith said they’d established the Tamworth Award more than 25 years ago to recognise the hardworking people behind the scenes of the industry.

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“We run it across a few other people – who we think it should be given to – and I think it was a good choice this year,” Mrs Smith said.

“She’s been involved in it for long time, writing for The Northern Daily Leader, especially.”

Mr Smith himself, also the craftsman of the Golden Guitars, made the award from Australian red cedar.

The plaque reads: Presented to Anna Rose in appreciation for her dedication to country music, from country music fans – Tamworth January 2018.

In fine company

Ms Rose said receiving the award “was just a real spin-out and an absolute delight”.

“For me to be in the fine company of people like John Minson and Kevin Knapp and Bob Kirchner – all those people who have done so much for country music – I feel really humbled and totally honoured that they would do it.”

She said the genre was part of her family history.

“I’ve always loved country music; it was the music of my childhood.”

The story of how she came to be a key figure in country music journalism started with the loss of her husband: musician, singer and writer Jazzer Smith.

“He was my mentor ... I loved country music and I loved the English language, and that’s two things we had in common,” she said.

After his death, Ms Rose took some of his material and contact books to Ann Newling, then editor of The Northern Daily Leader, where he had worked as an entertainment writer.

“She virtually pulled me in off the street to be Beryl [Flood, then the editorial assistant] for six weeks and then kept me there,” Ms Rose said.

Thirty years later I walked out the door, and the last person I said goodbye to was Ann Newling.”

Not-so-grey nomad

Ms Rose is now travelling Australia and writing books, mostly people’s biographies, “and having the time of my life doing it”.

She’s also started a non-fiction book about the Boer War; featuring letters from a soldier to his mother.

“I think that’s going to be the most important thing I’ve ever written in my life, because I’ve totally fallen in love with this man who’s been dead for 50 years.

“I’ma bit tragic, really.”