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Art for communities sake?

In a sort of response to the post; “Ahead of Our Times: Is Political Progressivism Part of the Australia’s Creative DNA?“, I offer this post up. While I do not dispute the best intentions of Denis Bright’s piece, I would contest the best approach to bring art to the people … I would rather that “art” as we call it, be more a growth FROM the root UP rather than dropped as fruit from the branch DOWN …

Unfortunately, as with many good intentions, my meaningful attempt to gain support from the folk mentioned below in this piece was sabotaged by those ever present warring “issues” between the parties and I fear that while the notion of an idea was appreciated and will be adopted, it has been taken out of my hands completely with a govvy’ grant applied for and already would appear to be morphing into another notion completely, with only the skeletal remains of the original idea kept in place … if at all!
Anyway, here is the original sent to the Progress Assn’ …

“Just a notion of an idea.

A couple of weeks back I put up a story on my blog; “The Seven Weeping Men of Sedan.” I wrote that piece along with another local-centred story … that I also put up there, it stretches out to nearly 7000 words … It is a romance that I wanted to locate locally using local names and identifying landmarks that I feel demonstrate the Australian quirkiness of names … places like The Bulldog Run … The Sleeper Track … The Seven Sisters Junction, etc … I wanted to use these places as a background for the developing love story of the young couple … I wanted the story to show how a story grows from a point of location to a moment of … or perhaps a lifetime of … commitment to each other … sure … in this cynical age of everyone for themselves, romantic love can be seen as a fantasy … a youthful delusion best grown out of … and I can see from my own experience of grown children, the idea of romance of any kind today is looked upon with the curled lip of scepticism … But I don’t know … I think there is still a little bit of room for the desire of close affection and loyalty … and (can I say it?) … Love … right into old age.

Here is a link to the story if you want to read it.

For that story, I claim bragging rights to being the first author to place the action of a romantic tragedy in the town of Sedan!

I had a notion of an idea for such stories to be the basis … along with pieces of local history, to lay a foundation for the construction of a new direction for the town of Sedan … here in the Murray Mallee.

Sedan is just another of those slowly disappearing towns hanging on by the skin of its teeth in what was once a thriving farming area of the Germanic pioneers, but is now a fringe marginal farming district. Weather change and market needs has made the averages of cropping/stock yields turn from good to medium to now marginal … and in doing so has brought about a shift in perception for those who inherit the old farms from a career in agriculture to a more reliable income in the Barossa wine industry or other pursuits. So many old cottages have been let go for too long and much infrastructure neglected … from a once thriving centre with numerous businesses catering to a large labour force to now only three functioning operations. It is fading away.

I wanted to shift the perception from a sighted remnant of a town to one jam-packed with history, mythology and mystery … Ideally located between two major tourist drawcards of the Barossa Valley and the Murray River, Sedan has the history and the silent, brooding nature of those Germanic Pioneers to provide the mystery and the mythology for an interesting stop-over to any travellers through the town.

Sedan is different than most country towns that have the one main-street drive-through in that it is located at a crossroad north, south, east and west … traffic to and from the river district of that section of the Murray River has to pass through Sedan … and where you have crossroads, some traffic has to stop … and once stopped, people have a tendency to look about their position … and there you have them! … you just have to have the attraction to hold them.

And that is where the Sedan Hotel comes in.

Of the three remaining businesses operating in Sedan, only the hotel has the capacity to attract and hold the public … the other two being service places for passing travellers. I took that story of the “weeping men of Sedan” to the mine-hosts of that hotel and explained my ambition and the methodology for ascertaining the possible success of such a plan that I thought would be of benefit to all in the town … It was to leave several copies – anonymous – in A4 loose leaf – tied at the corners with soft cord – on the bar-top just to see if there was interest at all in the notion of a different story-line for the town … ie; would there be enough interest locally AND with the hotel managers to create an aura of mystery and mythology of the district to push the envelope further up the chain of command to the progress association and thence to the local council for further promotion.

As it turned out, there was enough interest in those pieces to encourage me to approach the Progress Association with this prospect.

As I said … the stories are there, the mystery is there as is the history … all it needs is mixing and marketing … and those stories were perhaps the blue-touch paper that could light up the imagination seeking for more!

I would propose to the progress association that we investigate the celebrating of a ceremony … perhaps a kind of “gathering” at the hotel to introduce amateur story-tellers and yarn spinners from – SPECIFICALLY – the Murray Mallee to each other in an atmosphere of convivial homeliness … tongues encouraged to be loosened with a modicum of amber fluid or vino. I would hold to the “Amateur” status for the early days so as to encourage the more reclusive or shy story tellers to yield their knowledge of tales and events of the area.

I could imagine a bit of music accompaniment at such an event would add to the atmosphere, but I would bulk at letting TOO MUCH guitar rather than say … ukulele … or banjo … or hand accordion squeeze-box … to give it that quirky feel to the stories … rather than have it fall back onto a folk-festival event.

I can see that if timed to coincide with the Barossa wine and food festival, it could lure many “over the hill” to taste a little of what we have to offer that is quirky, mysterious and different on the Murray Flats. An annual “gathering” of story-tellers and yarn spinners could re-brand the town with a completely new appreciation.

What do you think?”

(Sent on the 24/4/2019).

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  1. Frances

    Danny and Moira : I do like the style of writing. Thanks.

  2. Joseph Carli

    My pleasure, Frances…please come again!..

  3. Joseph Carli

    P.S….Frances…always wanted to do a piece using that song “Danny Boy” in that song…and my uncle : Danny DID run the post office there in Sedan back in the fifties …but he was only twelve years old than…so I bumped up the years and made the young man in his late teens…

  4. Denis Bright

    Thanks for introducing Sedan in SA. It is well covered by pictures of the townscape and surrounding countryside on the computer. I also enjoyed a visit to Morgan from the Barossa Valley where I tried an Air BNB near Angaston.

    Communities should protect the integrity of their history and I was somewhat disappointed with the imposed suburban landscapes and commercial development at the historic town of Wallaroo on Spencer Gulf.

    My previous trip to SA in 2011 took an unexpected turn when I was diagnosed with supected meningococcal at Strathyalbyn Hospital and air-lifted to Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) to survive weeks of intensive care. I would not be around today without the initiative of the local registrar and the great care offered at RAH.

    That said, I share your commitment to folk art rather than art for arts sake.

    The late D’Arcy Doyle (1932-2001) offered a creative trubute to the landscape of Ipswich in Queensland where the CBD has been in rapid decline due to the growth of the Riverlink Shopping Centre across the river at North Ipswich.

    Thanks for your interpretations, Joseph. I have no disagreements with what you wrote.

  5. Joseph Carli

    Ah, yes, Denis…Wallaroo…I have to confess absolute amazement at the developement in that area from when I knew of it around fifty years ago!…
    A year ago, a relative purchased an old cottage in the older part of the town and we accepted the invitation to visit…Now, I haven’t been to that side of the peninsula for around fifty years or so, so it was with shock that I first passed through the almost metropolis of Kadina onto the seaside suburb of Wallaroo!…marinas, beachside apartments and a holiday-house seasonal population into tens of thousands…I couldn’t believe it!…the original concept of a port for the mines of the area is almost lost to the eye…and while the history is celebrated, it is done with more of a glitz and glamour than reverence or respect…and isn’t that the usual end when speculators and investors gain the greater influence over local council planning..

    I thank you Denis for your agreeable words…and is more now a necessity for local colour and history of these fading localities to be gently resurrected and held as a foundation stone rather than a tourist icon for the sustainability of a district….and this is about where art comes into the picture . . .

  6. Michael Taylor

    Wallaroo. I’d forgotten that place even existed.

  7. Denis Bright

    The late colonial and early nationhood years to 1914 were vibrant times but still marred by nasty periods of recession and natural disasters.

    Commitment to social liberalism and social democracy was on the rise from both sides of politics. I might apply your concepts to an article on Ipswich during this period. The shock of the 1901 election was the election of an Independent Labour Member in Oxley which spilled over into politically unfirendly rural areas. West of Cairns, there are also some vibrant old communities which were Labour heartland areas.

    Now they are coping with difficult times which attract support for One Nation and KAP. Their preferences are usually fed to the LNP and keep Labor out of the picture in now safe LNP electorates.

    SA was a beacon in urban and regional planning but something negative happened in Wallaroo despite the lovely photographic web site: Yorke Peninsula: Past and Present:

    There is also the musical and video presnetation at Wallaroo Town Hall on 24 November 2019 to reclaim tarnished local images from thoughless development:

    Thanks for speaking up for your communities Joseph: I would not have visited Sedan on the computer without your comments.

    Words can be powerful messages as that Year 8 ballad of the Clipper Ships from Wallaroo was a powerful and lasting advertisement which drew me to Wallaroo with great expectations of a historic town in transition.

  8. Joseph Carli

    Denis..I am sure you are aware of the Cornish cartoons of Oswald Pryor centred around those Cornish mining settlements of the “Copper Triangle”…very humerous and wry depictions of the ironic commentary of those peoples…

    THAT is an example of art for community’s sake that I it accidental art, where the capture of a moment preserves for eternity the colour and language of a culture in transition from and old country to this new land.

    My maternal grandfather was from Moonta…a blacksmith by trade…who took his new wife and child (my mother) to the riverland in the depression years to live in bag tents..I have depicted a moment in their lives when she met my Italian father who was interned with many other Italians in the Murray Mallee cutting wood for charcoal my reading opera I put up on this site recently in 3 acts..: .

    Unfortunately, like those local historic sites in small towns, the artistic representations of such incidents are also overlooked by many more in favour of the trite and immediate satisfaction of complaint and whinge…and until western art in general is indigenous art…as legitimate representation of social reality, rather than a marketable commodity, its right to be taken seriously will be honoured only by those whose cheque-book weighs heavier on their intellect than their emotional commitment to the society they live among.

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