Speakers Profile - Richard Fidler

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RICHARD FIDLER is a writer and broadcaster. For more than a decade now he's presented his national radio showConversations with Richard Fidler, an in-depth, hour-long interview program on ABC Radio. The Conversations podcast is the most popular in Australia, with close to four million program downloads a month.

In another life Richard was a member of the confrontational music/comedy trio The Doug Anthony Allstars (DAAS), which played to audiences all over the world: from the West End of London, to the streets of Paris and New York, to isolated mining towns in outback Australia.

Richard, Paul McDermott and Tim Ferguson were students in Canberra when they formed DAAS as a busking group. They brought their act into small venues across Australia, where they frequently performed encores in the venues' toilets, cramming the audience into a tiny and oddly intimate space.

Frustrated with the lack of attention in Australia, DAAS caught a plane to Scotland, to the 1987 Edinburgh Fringe, where they took audiences outside the venue to a giant bonfire, where they successfully goaded them to burn their worldly possessions. The intensity of their performances generated strong word-of-mouth and their season sold out. Soon they found themselves on Friday Night Live for Channel 4, and on a New Year's Eve special DAAS Love for BBC TV.

Returning to Australia, the group featured on the ABC TV series The Big Gig and their own sci-fi comedy series DAAS Kapital. This is where Richard met Khym Lam, a performer in the show, and they were married in 1993. They now have two children.

Although Richard majored in history and politics at university, it was only while touring the world in the back of a tour van, that he began to read history closely; starting out with the 20th century and working his way backwards. In 1989-90 he was present in Berlin and Prague for the fall of communism, and was swept up in the revolutionary energy of the times.

The final years of DAAS passed in a blur of images: there were shows at the Barcelona Olympics, where they unrolled a huge, obscene image of the Olympic mascot to a screaming crowd in the Parc de la Ciutadella; there was a hail of rum bottles while they performed in an un-policed Australian mining town in the Great Sandy Desert. At the Belfast Festival they presented a parody of Satan worship, earning the outrage of both the Catholic and Protestant churches who failed to see the humour in the thing. There was a final TV series for Channel 4 in the UK, Viva Cabaret, hosted by Tom Jones.

After DAAS broke up in 1994, Richard went on to present several television programs for ABC TV, including Race Around the World and Aftershock, a series on radical emerging technologies.

Richard began on Conversations in 2005, collaborating with senior producer Pam O'Brien. Conversations was soon taken up by ABC Radio stations across Australia and across two networks, and has since become a national institution, generating 1.9 million program downloads every month.

In 2011, a Churchill Fellowship brought Richard to the US and the UK to meet up with the people behind some outstanding public radio shows, including This American Life with Ira Glass, and Jay Allison, creator of The Moth Radio Hour.

Richard and Kari Gislason in a staring competition with the photographer.

In 2015, Richard joined his friend Kari Gislason, author of The Promise of Iceland, on a road trip across Iceland. For a month they travelled into fields, streams and fjords to record stories from the sagas, the classic medieval tales of the first Viking families to settle on that remote and ruggedly beautiful island. The second part of their mission was to resolve a family mystery relating to Kari's Icelandic family, that might possibly connect him to the greatest of the saga authors. This was broadcast as the acclaimed ABC Radio National series Saga Land.

Richard's first non-fiction book Ghost Empire was released in July 2016. Ghost Empire blends travel memoir with history, following his journey into Istanbul with his fourteen-year-old son Joe, to uncover the history of Constantinople, the lost capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Ghost Empirebecame a best-seller and has been published in the U.S., China and Europe.

In December 2016, Richard and Kari returned to Iceland for the arctic winter to write, research and embark on further adventures. The result is a handsome book, Saga Land, published by HarperCollins in October 2017.