Cranky Curlew is George Hirst and Penelope Sheridan.
George is a Canberra School of Art graduate whose first proper job was as an Information Officer for the National Gallery of Australia. In the 1980s he had a number of solo exhibitions, travelled, taught drawing and painting then moved to Townsville then Magnetic Island after meeting actor and wife Penelope.
At Townsville's, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery he managed the collection, curated and installed local and nationally travelling exhibitions over seven years. When word processors arrived to end the paper scrunching days of typewriters, George found he could write with ease and went on to start, with Penelope and a pal, Magnetic Times newspaper, then its website.
Over 16 years he told the stories and took the photos for this fascinating island community through its paper then its news website. But as technology improved and the price of an OK videocamera and editing software dropped, he and Pen began to produce short, no-budget dramas, satires and stop-frame animations.
Penelope is originally from Sydney, then Tassie, then Melbourne and Warnambool. Penelope joined the, touring, Backpack Theatre in Education company and was probably seen performing by every child, west of Geelong in the mid 1980s.
Meeting George in 1988 the couple instigated their own climate change by moving to steamy Townsville where Penelope studied theatre under Jean Pierre Voos. In 1990 she went pro with New Moon Theatre Co where she starred in a plays as diverse as Dario Fo's Can't Pay? Won't pay! and Ray Lawler's Summer of the seventeenth doll. When New Moon closed in 1991 she jumped in with the sharks as a PA with underwater film legends Coral Sea Imagery.
With George she began Magnetic Times to be layout manager and Boss of the Books. In 2010 the couple began making short films. As if Magnetic Island wasn’t big enough she and George headed to New York in 2011 where Penelope undertook a six week intensive film-editing course at the Edit Centre where she picked up a credit working on the brilliant new flick by Leah Meyerhoff, I believe in Unicorns. She’s been fading in, out and dissolving ever since.
As Cranky Curlew George and Penelope's have mostly focused on environmental issues with global warming front and centre. In 2014 Cranky Curlew created an art event to coincide with a world-wide day of action on climate change. They produced the, now viral, Heads in Sand event which inspired activists in Bondi to create an even bigger Heads in Sand to co-incide with the G20 meetings. Following suit, 12 cities and towns in New Zealand produced their own Heads in Sand events.
In 2014 Cranky Curlew was commissioned by the North Queensland Conservation Council to make a short film to show how bank mortgagees could switch banks away from the big four Australian banks which, at the time, were likely to fund the massive Adani mines in central Queensland. They enlisted the world's foremost expert on coral, Dr J.E.N. (Charlie) Veron and the talents of a small kitten named Fluffy. The result was Kittens for the Reef. While Cranky Curlew isn't claiming bragging rights, no Australian bank has offered to fund the mines with several withdrawing from that option.
In late 2015 Cranky Curlew returned to the Heads in Sand theme and produced Heads in Sand 2 which accompanied a rally in Townsville coinciding with the Paris COP21 meeting on Climate Change. They produced a short, stop frame film and other material so that for the first time our mass HiS participants came to life, moving across the beach.
As Cranky Curlew George and Pen have also produced a number of installations and film-art events, performances and happily work between media. George also produces graphics mainly for T-shirts.