Glenorchy Stories

Glenorchy Stories  on the other side of the flannelette curtain V
What do civil protests in Springfield, rock n’ roll at the Windjammer and the migrant experience in the northern suburbs have in common?

They all feature in Glenorchy Stories, an exhibition celebrating 150 years of the Glenorchy municipality currently showing at the Moonah Arts Centre (MAC).

This Girl sat down with Arts Officer and manager of the Moonah Arts Centre, Sean Kelly to find out more about Glenorchy Stories and learn a little about a country boy intoxicated with Moonah Street life in the sixties.
Glenorchy municipality is Tasmania’s most culturally diverse community with a rich oral history recorded in parts by the MAC over the years, under various exhibitions.

In Glenorchy Stories, four of these exhibitions come together.

From Barns to Bank Homes is a story about the Chigwell area modestly represented by a series of ageing photos on the construction of the suburb.

The Colinsvale Oral History is a heavy wood installation that shares the history and experiences of the people who settled the town. Anti-war sentiment caused the original name to change from Bismark to Colinsvale. Slaughtering pigs, competitive vegie growers and recipes are some of the stories found in this oral history.

Remembering the Spook Club is Sean’s favourite and his own childhood connection to the northern suburbs. In its heyday, Moonah was a far cry from the pigs and sheep of his Oatland’s home.
When I was really young, my older cousins
who were a few years older than me lived in Lutana. They used to drive into
Moonah on a Saturday night in their convertible. I’d get to sit in the car and
we’d go past the Blue Moon and there would be all these teddy boys and girls, with
fantastic coloured skirts that stuck out a mile and people had just started wearing
winkle pickers and for me, a little farm boy from Oatlands, it was so exotic
and I just loved every minute of it.  

You probably know the Spook Club as the Windjammer except in Sean’s youth it was the evocatively named the Blue Moon. As a teenager he remembers it was where music happened in Hobart.

A lot of the guys who played there
actually came from Moonah. Most of the Silhouettes and Kravats lived in Moonah and at the time, it was a bit of a hot bed of youth music
culture, rock n roll culture.
They used to tune into the BBC World
Service or Top of the Pops. A new record would be released literally that
night, and one guy would write down the notes and the other guy would write
down the words and the next Friday night, the week after it was first heard on
radio in England, they’d be playing it in the Spook Club and playing it well.

Mountains, Mud and Migrants contains images of ordinary suburbanites carrying protest placards and that’s what stuck out for This Girl. There was a time when there were big plans for Springfield. It was going to be the garden city, based on the model of the ideal town like Cadbury’s Bournville in England, Springfield in Illinois and of course, Colonel Light’s Adelaide.

A company arrived and decided to
subdivide and sell the land but they didn’t sell much of the land before
something weird happened and they disappeared.

The Council ended up selling the blocks cheaply and migrant communities started buying the land with little infrastructure provided by the Council.
In the winter the roads were a sea of mud
up to your ankles. People used to have to walk to the bus stop at the bottom of
the hill in their gum boots. At the bus stop they’d take their gum boots off
and put their work shoes on and get on the bus and go to town. The gum boots
would sit at the bus stop all day. They’d come home from work, put their work
shoes in their bag and put their gum boots back on and trudge up the hill in
the mud to their homes. In the summer time it was the absolute reverse. A
friend told me that they used to call it Dusty Springfield because in summer it
was just clouds of dust blowing off the road.

The story goes that the community approached the Council and asked for some roads and sewerage. The exhibition contains a quote from someone who claims that he heard that the Council was not going to give the people of Springfield roads and sewerage because they didn’t deserve it, unless of course they paid for it themselves.
The suburb was settled by migrants who had left post-war Europe to make a better life for themselves.
Remember a lot of those migrant residents
would have been very loath to come up against authority. The less they had to
do with authority the better particularly those who had gone through the war. Their
protests were s probably an indication that they were at the end of their
tether.
Finally the State Government had to pass
an Act, called the Springfield Act, to enable them to give money to Glenorchy
Council to fix the roads up. Remember in those days civil action wasn’t high on
the agenda so it was a real outcome.

Glenorchy Stories is more than things past, it’s also history in the making with Rediscovering Springfield.
Artist, Anita Bacic is acutely aware of her mother’s experience of Moonah as a young migrant woman. Through conversation she became increasingly interested in the places of Moonah, where
migrant communities shopped or met or had a coffee. She’s developing an application in collaboration with UTAS based on these places.
It’s a digital project exploring physical
space, the built environment as well as exploring history at the same time.
It’s almost like a digital walking tour of Moonah and parts of Springfield.
People will come into the MAC and either
using their own device or borrowing one from us for the tour, they’ll download
the app or by using a handheld map, they’ll be able to locate local sites and activate
a story about that place and other useful information. She’s also adding to
that with a project called Re-photos where she’s encouraging anyone to pin a
current photo to an old photo that will be contained in the app. It will sort
of superimpose over it and the two photos will also appear side by side on a
website that’s associated with the project.
It will be up and running next year, the first year of the new Arts Centre.

The MAC is a very special place for many Moonah-ites and the broader community. But it’s outgrown itself and there’s construction afoot in Albert Road for a purpose built facility that will
have the space they already need to hold the 14 exhibitions a year, 14 concerts a year, school holiday programs for kids, meetings, special events and workshops for adults which are currently held in in one room, and it will allow them to grow.

Sean’s not so sure what the final word will be from the Council on the current building but given Glenorchy’s diversity and community mindfulness, there’s a good argument for a cultural
space for the communities that make this municipality rich.
Here’s how we close the circle. If you think about how badly Council responded to the original migrant experience
after the WWII period this would be a lovely way to make up for that deficit.
You can find out more here.
Here’s a little on the Kravats, Moonah’s answer to the Beatles.
Listen to the Kravats here.

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