“Sometimes we’d put a few dogs in bed with us to keep us warm.”

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Aboriginal elder, Bob Faulkner, fondly recounts what it was like doing it tough in the 40s-50s.

Recorded in Uralla, NSW

“You’d see him sitting over in the paddock for two or three hours, studying them.”

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Madge Cook and her grandson, John Dawson, tell stories of Madge’s husband, Jack, and his love of bees.

Recorded in Bundarra, NSW

Sunshine Coast stories now on Qld State Library website

The State Library of Qld have now made the stories from our Sunshine Coast pilot available for live streaming. Follow these instructions to listen to the full, forty-minute versions of over 80 conversations from the Sunshine Coast and surrounds. You can hear shorter versions of a selection of stories on our website.

Find the whole collection…

… by clicking here.

Dom and AlanFind an individual story

1. Click here for the Sunshine Coast collection of stories 
2. Press CONTROL F on your keyboard (or COMMAND F on Macs) to get a search box in the top right corner
3. Type in a name or key word and the individual story or stories should come up
4. If there is more than one match, click on the arrows next to the search box.

Listen to a story

1. For an individual story, click on ‘Listen to the oral history on mp3 format
2. Click on the tiny mp3 icon top left under ‘View options’
3. Go and make yourself a cup of tea! It takes a loooong time to load up, 2-5 minutes
4. Listen and enjoy!

Get help

Contact us for help to find or listen to these stories.

Uralla stories launched – check out the web gallery

UrallaThis beautiful collection of stories was recorded for the Uralla Story Project in the rural NSW town of Uralla. Visit urallastories.org

“Spotlessly clean, all the chairs on the table and $300 in the till.”

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Steve Gapes, former manager of The Lone Rock Cafe, remembers the night the customers helped themselves.

Recorded in Uralla, NSW

The Story Project invited to ACMI

We’ve just come back from Melbourne where we were one of the projects workshopped for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image’s Co-Creative Communities forum and lab. [Read more...]

TSP goes to Uralla

Last week we drove south from Queensland and into the cool climes of the NSW New England tablelands. Here we began the first of three visits recording stories from around Uralla. Uralla is a small town in open grazing country south of Armidale. It is a popular stopping point for people en-route to Sydney and boasts a much loved literary bookshop, boutiques, cafes and galleries. It’s a good example of what a town can do if people work together to foster local arts, culture and heritage.

Elizabeth and John came from Inverell to record Elizabeth’s story

TSP recorded at the Uralla showgrounds – we also did several house calls. With heaters blasting and our signage flapping in the cold winter wind outside, we listened in honour as stories unfolded between friends, family and loved ones: one man’s ongoing connection to the gold mining days of his great grandfather; the birth of the local landcare movement; an aboriginal elder who spoke with her nephew about her life and about how she raised around 25 children; the popular Treefest of the 90s which signalled a turn in people’s perception towards replanting native trees and soil conservation. And more.

When we meet the people and hear the stories, hear their voices, and honour their stories by recording them and then making them available for others to hear, it’s as if we’re plugged into a deep, deep artery that feeds the soul. And from out of this initial trip important connections have been made and much, much more is surely yet to come.

Hamish with Andrew Parker from Uralla Arts

We are excited about this series of recordings and the way in which it promises to marshall a broad level of interest, a terrific body of locally born stories, and culminate in an exhibition that reflect the many lives, relationships and experiences of local Urallians. We felt very welcome by all and recognise how fortunate we were to have the clear support and energy of Andrew Parker, Penny Nelson and Joseph Bell from Uralla Arts – not to mention the broader Uralla Arts and heritage community. We’re looking forward to our next trip in September.

Back Alleys – memories and lives

It’s over week since the Bundaberg library launch of The Story Project. The memory of that night is still fresh in my mind. I see faces full of dignity, ownership and pride.

I’d like to share a little of what it is that inspires me about TSP and how the process reminds me of exploring back alleys in city streets. When two people come together to record with TSP, to share something important, something meaningful, something that they, and they alone, have deemed worthy of capture, then it’s as if I – the person who records their conversation, who duly archives it, perhaps selecting an extract for radio broadcast; it’s as if I am not there.  Though they know I am there, though they see me operating my recording machine and I have their permission to be within earshot, though I have their trust, I am a kind of guest, standing on the outside looking in on their lives.

No not from the front facades, the glittering glass, the entryways and  public face of what we are told to see. No, I stand in the back alley and around me is the audible chipper of their backyards and families, the over-the-fence conversations going on. There is the young child who has spied something she shouldn’t have spied. Across the way is the crazed vegetable garden of the migrant family. Somewhere a baby is crying. Towering over the path to the house is an overgrown trees once lovingly nursed by someone’s pregnant mother. Mother gone, now all that is left is the tree and this bundle of memories buried beneath time.

These back-alleys moments that I am witness to  - unruly, sometimes scary, and often wonderful – are many layered. They carry with them the lifelong association, childhood fascinations, the little-known turning points in lives; lovers in the night, the black hearse that took away our next door neighbour, the hot summer night our father left, the tittle tattle of games in a childhood hideaway, the beat up car.

The more I have the honour of recording people’s stories with The Story Project, the more I feel I am walking quietly down back alleys that carry the wonder, the wear and tear of our collective years. Looking over rickety fences, through the broken palings, past the rag-tag vine, I get such a strong sense of what it is that connects us.

Story Project Recording Van – on the horizon.

Checking out plans for the van

Checking out plans for the van

A clear blue day at the end of July. This morning TSP volunteer, David Killeen, and I met with the fellas at SVM in Narangba north of Brisbane to further some plans for a Story Project van. We’d visited then once before to see to check them out and it’s looking promising.

Why a mobile recording van? Having a mobile recording van allows TSP enormous flexibility – especially when it comes to going to regional communities to celebrate stories that often aren’t heard and where professional recording places are rare as hen’s teeth. A custom made van allows us control over the entire experience; from driving long distance with all our equipment, to setting up our gear, to recording the stories and processing the many recordings. Our job is to create a non threatening space where two people can sit down and really listen to one other and genuinely share something that is important to them. But it’s also got to be done professionally.

Then there’s the visibility element that a van allows. This is how we envisage it: we park outside the council chambers – or the like of somewhere public. We time our arrival with an important community event (the anniversary of the local RSL club, NAIDOC week, the local agricultural fair, etc.) and we have an opening of the recording project so people can come and have a looksie to see for themselves what goes on inside this van of ours; the local journalists, the newspaper folk, the local ABC, a community leader who might want to kick things off at a public forum and encourage locals to come and record with us. This all happens within earshot of the TSP van – it’s our signature on wheels.

To date, even though a number of communities have invited us in, we’ve often struggled to find appropriate venues and much time can be spent checking them out. To find somewhere that is publicly accessible on foot, easy to get to by car, moderately quiet, has two clear spaces – one being mostly sound proof, the other with a kitchenette, a toilet, etc – that has wheel chair access, beds for two facilitators (when all else fails), and creates a space that is both robust and professional, while being friendly and comfortable – this starts to look like an impossible wish list.

Unless we make it from the ground up.

Building custom made vans

After talking to the fellas at SMV, David and I quickly realised we were looking at three options; a modified truck with a big box on the back, a caravan that is custom fitted, or a five wheeler – where the front of the van hangs over the back carriage of a towing truck and pins onto it as if it were a prime mover. After some initial discussion we decided the five wheeler seemed the better option. It not only sits lower to the ground than the truck (better for wheel chair access), but it can be towed more easily than a caravan – weight to size ratio. It also affords a valuable space at the front which can be used for either storage of sleeping. Unlike a truck, the five wheeler can disconnect from the towing vehicle allowing TSP facilitators a level of independence while recording on location. SMV build these rigs from start to finish and entails two large workshops of industrial space. Inside the sheds are numerous custom built pods/vans and semi trailers – fire trucks, mobile libraries, breast screening van etc. It’s a cornucopia of chassis, hydraulic arms, generators, electrical wiring and frames in varying states of completion.

In our discussion this morning, we felt it was important to step them through the process of what’s involved with The Story Project and the specific purposes of two spaces; the meet and greet / administration area, and the recording booth. From initial plans, we see that two sleeping compartments have been designated in the front hub. David and I aren’t so sure two TSP facilitators, out on the road for weeks on end, want to share this space for any length of time and we explore the option of this front compartment sleeping one person, and having a fold down bed in either the administration space or recording room. Into the available space in the front can go such things as the generator, air conditioners and the like. SMV suggest building a sound proof door straight through to the recording booth – at the rear of the vehicle – to ensure wheel chair access.

Can we extend one wall out a meter?     Sure.
How about windows?     We can give you windows on the floor if you want.
What about a wheelchair lift?     Sure, but that’ll set you back. 

An hour later, and all our questions answered, David and I leave SVM and head back to the Sunshine Coast. We know there’s much to do. Bathed in the mid-winter sun, I feel excited about our meeting and where we’re heading.

We asked for feedback and ideas … and this is what we got

Rachel, Jacinta and Suzanne in ideas mode

Last week, we invited some people to come together and talk to The Story Project about how they found the process of recording with us, what they valued about the project, and any suggestions they had for The Story Project’s future. It’s been a year since we ran the first pilot project here on the Sunshine Coast, and a year for us to really think through how this process works, what doesn’t work, what we love (and don’t love) about it. Hearing from people how the process had been for them and what it had meant to them was a clear reminder of the ways in which The Story Project helps build relationships, connections and community. There are so many different ways people will approach the opportunity to record a story with a friend. For some it was a family keepsake, for others it was a document of community action, while for a number it was a way to celebrate relationships. All of them wanted to lend their support to The Story Project, and some fantastic suggestions were made about possible projects down the track. (We LOVE the idea of doing Story Project recordings at the Moree artesian baths! We’ve just got to sort out the waterproof microphone… ).

Pam and Ian talking it through

Pam and Ian talking it through

So a year after our first project, there still exists much goodwill towards us and a willingness of people to get behind us. It’s very humbling to be on the receiving end of such warm support and a real honour to play a role in bringing people together to share stories and listen to one another.

Thanks so much to those who participated. We value your feedback, appreciate your support, and will really take on board your suggestions.

PS Here are some of their great ideas:

  • Recording at the Moree artesian baths (love it!)
  • School reunions
  • A van at Woodford Folk festival
  • A weekly Story Project radio program
  • Mary River Stories
  • Indigenous Elders’ stories
  • Children telling stories about their lives and their favourite things
  • Being a gift on birthdays
  • Story Project live at the Upfront Club
  • Recording groups with shared interests (wildlife, quilting, dance…)
  • A Story Project van visiting schools
    …. and so many more….