Archive for the ‘History’ Category

A Sydney reader – 10 classics to read before you visit

August 28, 2011

Thinking of Sydney? I’m off there soon and it got me wondering how my my view of that city has been shaped by its literature.  So here are 10 books selected from my own reading that will get you in the mood for a visit!

The fatal shore

The timeless land

No barrierStorm of time


The secret river

Seven little Australians

Playing Beatie Bow

  • Playing Beatie Bow / Ruth Park – children’s time travel adventure about love and family and growing up.  Read this before you visit The Rocks as most of the places in the book are still there…

Ride on stranger

  • Ride on stranger / Kylie Tennant – an early 20th century journey through a Sydney of con men and communists, radio and religion and the road to independence.  Sharp and funny.

The harp in the south

Women in black

I came to 5 of these from film or TV tie-ins – Seven little Australians, The timeless land trilogy and Playing Beattie Bow – with a very young Peter Phelps as Judah.  All my editions of these ones are tie-in editions with stills on the covers – adaptations do lead you back to the source material!

Bye Bye Perth Entertainment Centre

August 22, 2011
The proscenium arch of the Perth Entertainment Centre exposed during its demolition

Demolition of the Perth Entertainment Centre

There seems to be a lot of demolition going on in Perth at the moment, and a lot of my childhood seems to be going with it. The Francis Street Museum building is going, the big shed on North Quay in Fremantle (we did a primary school visit to that one!)  But the demolition that evokes the most nostalgia is that of the Perth Entertainment Centre.

When it opened in 1974 it was the biggest  proscenium arch theater in the world, with a seating capacity of 8003.  It was also bright orange (good 1970s style).  An aside: who remembers the bright blue (Perth, now cream coloured Rydges Hotel) and bright red (Sydney) Flotta Lauro buildings of the same era?

It was a great building for spectacles, not so great for anything more intimate, even in its theatre configuration (where they closed off the upper tiers of seating).  That said, I’ve got lots of happy memories of many many shows there, starting with very first show, Disney on Parade, and ending with Phantom of the Opera in 1998 (four years before the Centre was mothballed in 2002).

What did I see there?  These are what I remember (with the help of a look through my programme collection), and yes, given the venue my list is skewed to big spectacles, most of them presented by impressario Michael Edgley.

  • Disney on Parade (1974/5, I think I remember some Disney on Ice as well but don’t have a programme to confirm the dates)
  • London Festival Ballet with Rudolf Nureyev (1975 and 1977)
  • The Mikado (1977, with June Bronhill, more on that later)
  • Siberian Cossaks (1976)
  • The Great Moscow Circus on Ice (1978)
  • Evita (1980, matinee, front row seats, confronting and fabulous)
  • 1980 or 1981 chaperoned a friend’s daughter to The Police, hated how loud it was (I’ve always been funny that way)
  • David Bowie,  Serious Moonlight (1983, nearly missed it as I was out sailboard racing and had to be brought in late by the rescue boat)
  • International Ice Spectacular with Torville and Dean (1984?)
  • Richard Harris in Camelot (1984)
  • Torville and Dean the World Tour (1986)
  • Rocky Horror Show (1988, with a VERY young Russell Crowe playing Eddie/Dr Scott “1988 looks to be a productive year for Russell” says the programme!)
  • The Great Moscow Circus (early 90’s, don’t have a programme but I remember going!)
  • Phantom of the Opera (1998)
  • Numerous church and school things…
The most memorable concert for me was The Mikado in 1977.  Just as the second act opened lumps of metal and scaffolding poles rained down upon the stage, knocking out one of the chorus.  The production was stopped, I’m not sure but I think the classic call: “Is there a Doctor in the house?” was made, and it was announced that the show would be postponed while they made the stage safe (we later heard that the frame of a projection screen up above the stage had disintegrated).  June Bronhill came out in front of the curtain, still dressed and made up as Yum Yum, and sang to us during the delay (for 20 minutes or half an hour, I don’t remember exactly how long, it was a considerable length of time).  She would say “this is a little art song by so and so”, lean over the pit and ask the orchestra to “give me an A” (or whatever note was appropriate) and sing.  Then, when everything was made safe, she went back into character and performed the second act of Mikado.  A real trouper, we were all her slaves for life!

If you want to see some pictures of the Entertainment Centre over the years, there are some treats in the State Library of WA’s pictorial collection!  I have more demolition pictures in this set on flickr.  If you want to read some other Perthites waxing nostalgic over the Ent Cent, have a look at this blog entry and comments from The worst of Perth.

Seeing justice done – 150 years of the Supreme Court of Western Australia

June 19, 2011

About a week ago my brother-in-law spotted a little notice in the local paper advertising the Supreme Court of Western Australia’s open day.  So today the whole family packed into one car and headed up to Perth to take a look round.

The open day was to mark 150 years of the Supreme Court in WA and was surprisingly popular!  Our first stop, the Old Court House (1837), now the Old Court House Museum was packed with visitors.  We shuffled through with the throng.  The building had been used for many purposes over the years, a school, a concert venue, a public meeting venue as well as a court (it was used as the Arbitration court as late as 1963).   The architect was Henry W. Reveley, a civil engineer who was one of the earliest architects in the colony.  I was amused to see that in the days when the building shared the functions of school and court:

When the court was in session the pupils, under the stern gaze of their teacher,  retired to the gallery where they followed the proceedings in absolute silence.

The old court house 1837 : a brief history / Neville Green

Bishop Dom Salvado of New Norcia held the most memorable  [ibid] concert in the building, having walked 100km from that monastic town  to give a piano recital to raise funds for the Benedictine Mission.

Supreme Court of Western AustraliaWe moved into the main court building (designed by  John Grainger, who I was surprised to learn was the father of Percy Grainger).  There were many visitors and many court staff acting as guides.  We followed the arrows and went into Court 3 where we were disconcerted to find that one of the guides was Supreme Court Judge Justice Ralph Simmonds, who gave an informative and amusing talk about the operation of the court!  The court was packed, and he did note that it was unusual to have five defendants at one time, especially with children amongst them – a family had sat in the dock to listen to the talk! The number of judges has increased over the 150 years from 1 to 22, however if they had kept pace with population growth there would now be 150! [The Supreme Court of Western Australia 1861 -2011 : administering justice for the community for 150 years / The Honourable Wayne Martin, Chief Justice of Western Australia, p31].  We were also referred to May it please your honour / Geoffrey Bolton  if we wished to know more (and as a good librarian I noted it all down!).

I made a short detour to see the Law Library, in a wing added in 1987 and usually only open to eligible users,  before rejoining my family on the tour.  The old library in the old building had been converted into Judges’ rooms and a conference room.  A bank of what appeard to be cupboards in one room evidently conceal a wardrobe, kitchenette and bathroom – however we were informed that they did let the Judge go home at night! In the conference room we were facinated by a display telling of trial of Audrey Jacob for the shooting of Cyril Gidley at a ball in the neighbouring Government House Ballroom in 1925.  Audrey was acquitted, which seemed odd given the evidence presented, but then I remembered the hangman’s noose we’d seen in the Law Museum and thought perhaps the jury had not wished to see an obviously disturbed, and beautiful young woman hang…

In Court 1 we heard the end of a talk by Justice McKechnie, ABC TV’s documentary On trial had been filmed in that court, the programme goes to air next Thursday.  We were impressed that such senior members of the profession had welcomed the public into their workplace, emphasizing that the courts are our courts, and encouraging us to come and watch a trial.

We left that court down the steep stairs leading directly from the dock to the concrete, steel and security glass of the holding cells (renovated following a breakout in 2004) eventually exiting through the sally-port (what a lovely medieval name for the prisoners entrance!)

If you want to know more this edition of The law report is a good place to start!

We went on for a quick look at Government House ballroom (scene of the tragedy mentioned above but also of more happy memories) and two of the reception rooms in Government House, more rooms are usually opened but today only the Executive Council Room and the dining room, as they are preparing for the new Governor and have a rather important visitor coming later in the year


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