The Courier-Mail

Mr Warana delivered the raz

- IAN SKIPPEN

NORMAN WILSON LLEWELYN, AM

Broadcaste­r, administra­tor

Born: May 2, 1930, Brisbane

Died: July 26, 2015, Sunshine Coast

A YOUNG starry-eyed boy stood on the stage of Newmarket RSL Hall with his hero and Radio 4BH Rumpus Room host, broadcaste­r Norman Llewelyn. The show was being broadcast to Brisbane. To win a prize of a Danny Dux Exercise Book, Norman asked the young “smartie”, “How many threepence­s in a pound?” The boy went to water, having no idea. A young Ian Skippen, this writer, copped plenty from his school mates afterwards because they all knew the answer was “80”. He never forgot the answer or the man who asked the question.

Norman was the only child of Tom and Mary Llewelyn. He grew up at Hamilton and attended the local state school. Being an only child he could ask for whatever he wanted. He asked to learn the piano as he had a passion for music, but didn’t enjoy the morning and afternoon practices though.

He attended Brisbane State High and embraced every opportunit­y his teachers threw at him. His career aspiration­s he thought would lead to teaching or the ministry. He was to later teach plenty in Brisbane and preach from the pulpit of various Brisbane radio stations.

He started as a 15-year-old office boy at 4BH and went on to become one of the great broadcaste­rs of his time hosting Rumpus Room. He had a passion for radio that led him to be the station’s youngest program director and, later, general manager.

Station employee Graham Kemp remembered one time when Norman tried to ban Coca-Cola from the studios, as he suspected the announcers were adding rum to enhance their performanc­e.

As program director in the early 1950s, Norman undertook comprehens­ive radio and television studies in the UK, Canada, US and Japan.

It was while at 4BH that he met Jane Depper, one of the station secretarie­s. They married in 1957 in a union that would last 58 years and produce three children.

Norman used his talents as a singer to do many gigs around Brisbane at pubs and Cloudland to make extra money to build the family house at Stafford.

While working at 4BH he and fellow broadcaste­r Alan Brandt were at the opening of the new Bribie Island Bridge. Alan recalls driving back to Brisbane and Norman wondering why the station wasn’t playing any songs of his favourite singer, Peggy Lee. Norman jumped on the two-way radio to give the announcer his personal request. Peggy Lee was duly played, more than once.

Norman, as general manager, and Alan, would later work together at 4IP to bring the station into the Brisbane market.

With Norman’s impressive people and business skills he soon became general manager of 4BK where, among many initiative­s, he pioneered a football broadcast to break the strangleho­ld in the Brisbane market held by 4BH, his former station.

Norman also had a passion for boating. While he really knew nothing about yachting his business acumen was invaluable in turning around the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron.

Changes were implemente­d that included regattas being held at club, state, national and internatio­nal level and he also contribute­d to the plans for what is now the club at the Manly Boat Harbour.

For all that Norman achiev- ed as a broadcaste­r and administra­tor he really made his mark as Mr Warana.

Our city’s festival was struggling when Norman took over the reins in 1977. Warana “Blue Skies” began in 1961. It was our celebratio­n of spring and the city’s cultural activities.

At the time, the two events most looked forward to on our calendar were the Ekka and Warana. Over the 13 years he was at the helm, Norman and his team guided Warana to be Australia’s largest communityb­ased festival, along the way increasing annual turnover from $100,000 to $3 million.

Thousands of people would flock to see the Grand Parade through Brisbane streets, cheering on the bands, the marching girls and the floats from all sections of our community – sporting, religious, ethnic and corporate groups all supported Warana.

Norman had the connection­s through business and the community in general and the charm and nature that you couldn’t say no to.

He was seconded to the X11 Commonweal­th Games Foundation to stage the Warana and Commonweal­th Festival in 1982.

Such was the strength of the Warana brand, Norman and his team were invited to program the amphitheat­re entertainm­ent as part of Expo ’88.

Mary-Clare Power, the fledgling producer of those shows, remembers fondly a true gentleman and great mentor.

“Norman could see what others couldn’t,” she recalled.

“As a young producer, struggling to cope, I’d turn to Norman. Those problems, with Norman’s help, were often sorted over a bottle of scotch.”

Warana has morphed into what has become the Brisbane Festival today.

In 1986, Norman was honoured with a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the performing arts. He had previously received a Commonweal­th Games medal for Festival ’82 and an Advance Australia Award in 1983.

Responding to a request, the family convinced the humble Norman to nominate for Queensland­er of the Year, in recognitio­n of his outstandin­g achievemen­ts for his state.

He was honoured with this award in 1987 and was also inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1993.

He may have been Mr Warana to many people but to his family he was simply Raz, short for Razzle.

As son Scott said in his eulogy: “Even though work played a major role in his life there was another side only a few were exposed to. A great entertaine­r, singer and piano player and excellent host.”

There were movie nights, parties with workmates and friends and of course with his children and their school friends all lapping up the famous “Razzle steak rolls” he cooked on the barbie while wearing his Razzle Dazzle pyjamas.

He adored his family and shared his love of the water, catching waves out the back at Mooloolaba. He also loved to travel and encouraged them to do the same.

His heavy workload didn’t keep him from supporting his children and grandchild­ren through all of their school and sporting activities, and he always did it with a sparkle in his eyes, a kind word and smile.

He was a true gentleman, loved in both business and entertainm­ent circles who managed to razzle dazzle all.

Norman and Jane retired to the Sunshine Coast. In recent times he didn’t enjoy the best of health.

Norman is survived by his wife Jane, children Karna and Scott and seven grandchild­ren. His son Drew predecease­d him last year.

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