Andrew Watt, Founding Publisher of 'InPress' Magazine, pays tribute to Rowena Sladdin (Webber). Together they established the masthead that evolved into 'The Music'.
On 13 July 1988 the first edition of InPress hit the streets of Melbourne. The editor of that publication, and one of two directors of the start-up publishing company behind it, was Rowena Sladdin, then known as Rowena Webber.
On 25 May 2019 Rowena passed away, another devastating example of the cruelty of cancer. She was only 55.
In close to a decade as the Editor In Chief of InPress, Rowena’s generous personality and her skilled and inspired work touched so many Melbourne lives. She was responsible for providing hundreds of musicians, DJs, authors, artists, actors, comedians, theatre producers, filmmakers and other members of the arts and creative communities with their first (and sometimes only) recognition and publicity. Under her guidance, hundreds of would-be writers were published for the first time, many of who went on to long and illustrious careers in the media. Other InPress staff members evolved from their positions at InPress and the opportunities provided by Rowena to meaningful careers in business, particularly in music and the arts.
And it is no exaggeration to say that millions of Melbourne punters had their lives and appreciation of the arts enriched by the words ushered into print by Rowena and her team of enthusiastic staff and contributors.
Her impact was profound and lasting.
Rowena lived and breathed her work – she was a fine interviewer and talented writer herself and steered InPress is a direction that saw it become respected and yet never staid or complacent. She pushed the envelope with content that was sometimes controversial but always vital and yet ran an open church – no art was undeserving of attention, and no artist was disrespected.
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Rowena was also a pioneer. In 1987 there were not too many women at the head of companies in the media and music industries and even now in 2019 when women in those industries are still fighting for fair recognition and equality, Rowena stands as a torchbearer for that cause. She emerged as a student editor, and an ambitious young woman from country Victoria, to become both a champion and a champion for others.
In 1997 when the founders of InPress sold the title (where it came to find a sympathetic home at Street Press Australia) Rowena focused on her family – husband Paul and children Zoe, Darby and Oliver, and the community around Mansfield where they made their home. Both Rowena and Paul became pillars of that community, active in community affairs and politics and incredibly caring and supportive parents. She leaves her family and a wide community much the richer for her presence.
Rowena never sought plaudits or acclaim but in 2018 on the 30th anniversary of the first edition of InPress, the State Library Of Victoria ran a panel discussion entitled The Origins Of InPress, as part of Melbourne Music Week. Rowena was already undergoing treatment for cancer at that time but she bravely made the trip from Bonnie Doon, with her children to take her place at the forefront of that discussion. It was a proud event for her and one that she deeply appreciated having shared with her friends, family and her InPress colleagues.
The Melbourne music, entertainment and arts media scene has many unsung advocates and legends and Rowena Webber belongs in that hall of fame. She will be sadly missed by many but the richness of her lasting impact in that world and in her subsequent years stands as testament to a life well lived.
Rowena's family have advised that those who wish to pay their respects may attend her funeral at St Patricks in Bonnie Doon at 11am on Tuesday 4 June 2019.