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Russell Crowe helps Queanbeyan's Omar Musa celebrate his 30th birthday at Crowe's property near Coffs Harbour.

Russell Crowe helps Queanbeyan's Omar Musa celebrate his 30th birthday at Crowe's property near Coffs Harbour. Photo: supplied

Queanbeyan slam poet and rapper Omar Musa is living the high life – this week thrown a 30th birthday party by Hollywood heavyweight Russell Crowe at the star’s northern NSW property.

Musa told us he was staying at Crowe’s house at Nana Glen near Coffs Harbour for a week as he performs in the actor’s pet project, The Indoor Garden Party.

Artists from around the world including Musa have been handpicked by Crowe to perform over four sold-out shows at the Jetty Memorial Theatre in Coffs Harbour, the season kicking off on Friday night.

George Gregan's GG Espresso chain is planning a new venture in Civic.

George Gregan's GG Espresso chain is planning a new venture in Civic. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Musa said Crowe first got in touch with him about 18 months ago, he believes after seeing one of his performances on YouTube.

"He really loves the poetry and knows all my poems and he gave me a call when I was in New York at a friend’s wedding," he said. "I got the call from a private number and I said, ‘Hello?’ and there was that voice on the other end, 'Yes. It’s Russell'."

Musa said the party thrown for him on Thursday night was a surprise.

The 'Times square' building on the corner of Mort and Cooyong St in Braddon where George Gregan is planning a new coffee and wine bar.

The 'Times square' building on the corner of Mort and Cooyong St in Braddon where George Gregan is planning a new coffee and wine bar. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"It was amazing. I was shocked," he said. "I sort of walked into the dining room and there were streamers and balloons everywhere and a cake in the shape of a stack of books and an ink well. He sort of asked everyone to give me a present but they weren’t allowed to buy it or steal it, it had to be something they made. So I got a lot of hilarious things. Quite a few people wrote poems for me. Got a couple of songs."

Musa said Crowe was a generous host.

"He’s been really supportive of my work and of me and it was really, really kind and hospitable," he said.

Jeff Thomson bowling in the Sheffield Shield Final WA v QLD, in Perth, 1984.

Jeff Thomson bowling in the Sheffield Shield Final WA v QLD, in Perth, 1984. Photo: Supplied

Crowe also performs in the show, with Canadian songwriter Alan Doyle and other stars including British actress Samantha Barks, who appeared in Les Miserables with Crowe, and American actor and singer Scott Grimes (who voices Steve Smith in the animated sitcom American Dad).

"I'll just be performing a different poem every night so it’s pretty easy and straight-forward for me," he said.

Musa, who won the Australian Poetry Slam in 2008, has gone from strength to strength. He releases his first novel, Here Come the Dogs, published by Penguin, in June.

Jessica Mauboy is performing in Canberra on January 18.

Jessica Mauboy is performing in Canberra on January 18.

"It’s about a man who starts bushfires on purpose loosely based on Queanbeyan and Canberra," he said.

"Parts of it are in poetry format and other parts of it in prose and I’m sort of exploring masculinity in Australia and migration and hip-hop culture as well. So it’s a bit of a platypus of a book really."

Musa is not getting carried away with his rising success.

Angelina Jolie.

Angelina Jolie. Photo: Brendan Esposito

"I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize. I can’t let all these things distract me from making good art and working hard," he said. "The thing that is going to last is the art I put out in the world."

 

Gregan empire’s homecoming

Retired rugby legend George Gregan and his wife Erica are expanding their coffee and wine bar empire – including with one, and perhaps two, new venues planned for his hometown, Canberra.

This week, the couple opened a new GG Espresso coffee outlet in Brisbane, and have revealed plans for some exciting outlets in Canberra.

Erica Gregan told us they planned to have an outlet opened by April in the Times Square building in Mort Street (the site once occupied by The Canberra Times, now occupied by Telstra). It will be either under the name GG Espresso or, its other brand, The Lobby Bar, with wine and food also on the menu.

"We would envisage on a Thursday or Friday night people staying back to have a drink and we’re licensed until midnight," Erica said.

They are also looking for the right venue for a "very cool" European brasserie kind of outfit in Canberra, with Erica confident they will have one within 12 to 18 months. The couple did look at the former home of Fletcher Jones in the historic Sydney Building which was sold mid last year. But they are still on the hunt.

"The site has to feel right and we will find it, we just have a lot on the agenda," she said, with their company focused on expansion this year, bringing the number of their outlets to more than 20.

"Canberra, George, has always thought of as home and the Brumbies are his special team so it makes total sense that we would end up in Canberra," Erica said.

There is already a GG Espresso outlet in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport.

 

Bowler Thomson’s good turn for fundraiser

Legendary fast bowler Jeff Thomson will be in Canberra for the Prime Minister’s XI on Tuesday, speaking at the National Press Club at a breakfast function to raise funds for YouthCare Canberra.

The organisation offers services for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Mauboy pops in

ARIA-award winner Jessica Mauboy will be singing at a free "pop-up performance" in Canberra next Saturday, January 18.

She will be appearing at Westfield Belconnen at 2.30pm on the Saturday ahead of her tour performance at the AIS arena that night.

Telstra has organised the free day-time acoustic gig as part of its Telstra Thanks promotion.

It has also organised a competition in which some fans can win a VIP experience which includes a meet and greet with Mauboy, a photo with her and a signed album.

Entrants need to go in to a Telstra store or go online and say in 25 words or less – or upload a picture to show – what makes them proud of their home town. Go to www.telstra.com/music to find out more about the competition.

Jolie mystery deepens

Curioser and curioser. We told you last month how a film company had applied to do a shoot near Bermagui and there were thoughts it might be for the Angelina Jolie-directed project Unbroken. Screen NSW reckoned it wasn’t. Now we hear the applicant was Universal Pictures – the studio bankrolling Unbroken. Watch this space.

Lights shine on charity

Those incredible world-record-breaking Christmas lights in Forrest have smashed another record – the amount raised for SIDS and Kids ACT.

The month-long spectacle raised $136,945 – way above the $77,000 raised in 2011 when the lights made their debut.

An amazing 74,850 people visited the Forrest home of David and Janean Richards to take in the 502,165 lights. Richards says it will take about eight days to take down the lights.

SIDS and Kids said it planned to use the money raised for bereavement services.

What's On

  • The Old Bus Depot Markets return for 2014 on Sunday with one of its most popular theme days, Portobello Road. Visitors can fossick through an eclectic mix of treasures from antique jewellery to retro homewares. Due to work to replace the building’s roof, the markets will continue on the lower level as usual, as well as in the Fitter’s Workshop and in the new "Lakeside Gallery". The markets are in Wentworth Avenue in Kingston from 10am to 4pm on Sunday.

  • The children’s animated film The Pirates! Band of Misfits will be screened in the theatre at the National Library of Australia on Thursday at 1pm. Entry is free but bookings should be made at www.nla.gov.au/event/6060.

  • The farmers’ markets are back in full swing this weekend. The Capital Region Farmers Market is back at Exhibition Park in Canberra from 7.30am to 11.30am on Saturday. The Northside Farmers Market is at the University of Canberrafrom 2.30pm to 5.30pm on Saturday. And the Southside Farmers Market is at CIT in Phillip from 8am to 11.30am on Sunday.