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.

Bundaberg launch – a reminder of how we connect through stories

Jude and Jess get together at the launch

We’re still buzzing from the launch of the Bundaberg Story Project stories collection at the Bundaberg Library last week. Fifty or sixty people turned up, including – we were overjoyed to see – almost everyone who had recorded with us when we spent a week in Bundy last year. (Check out all the launch pics here).

The launch was a warm, chatty celebration of people’s stories and experiences. People stood up and told the crowd about the story they had recorded, and they seemed proud and happy.

Kirsten couldn’t wait to share her story

Later on, after the formalities were over, people sought one another out saying, “I loved your story – tell me more”. The buzz in the room was audible as conversations continued and connections were made. It was music to our ears. This is what we love about The Story Project. At its core is the sharing of stories, and, through hearing one another’s stories, we connect. Amen.

Ross and Geoff found more stories to talk about

There were some lovely spinoffs from The Story Project up in Bundy. The Bundaberg Library, who had collaborated on our project, told us the momentum they gained from that helped kick start their own story recording venture, “Bundaberg Stories”, which they launched on the night. A few people sought out local ABC radio producers at the launch and told them about stories they’d like to see picked up (nice one). And we chatted with groups who were keen to bring us back to Bundy for another run of recording, which we would love.

Checking out the Library’s heritage pics for ‘Bundaberg Stories’

A warm and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all who supported The Story Project in Bundaberg. Many thanks to the Regional Arts Development Fund, a Queensland Government and Bundaberg Regional Council partnership to support local arts and culture, for funding the project. Thank you to Bundaberg Regional Council for your support and for providing the recording venue last year. And thanks to ABC Wide Bay for promoting the project and for broadcasting some of the stories.

Bundaberg Regional Councillors Lynne Forgan and Judy Peters – Thanks for your support!

More thank yous! To the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery for letting us be artists in residence for a week (we will expect this kind of treatment everywhere we go from now on.) To Bundaberg Regional Libraries for making the stories so easily accessible online (click here) and for organising the launch. To Creative Regions for promoting us. And last but not least, special thanks to Bundaberg U3A and Nina Higgins, who partnered with us to make the project happen. We are grateful to you all, and we’re glad to have shared with you the experience of capturing and sharing some of Bundaberg’s diversity and history through stories.

“I’ll tell you how to catch whales.”

Malakai talks with Georgia and Kahlia

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Malakai Koloi talks to his two granddaughters about what it was like to grow up in Tonga in the 1930s.

Recorded in Bundaberg, Queensland

“They started throwing lollies over the wire at us and calling and waving.”

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 Husband and wife and survivors of the world war two London bombings, Terry and Valerie Brown, talk about the time young Terry first saw German prisoners of war.

Recorded in Bundaberg, Queensland

“There were six little humpies and they were all made from tin carted from the tip.”

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 Lola talks to her friend, Brad, about her memories of her family and what it was like growing up in the aboriginal camp in Payne Street, Bundaberg.

Recorded in Bundaberg, Queensland

“I think we were all goodie two shoes at school.”

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Young Kirsten Buckholz talks with her mother, her grandmother and her great grandmother about school life in the Bundaberg region over four generations.

Recorded in Bundaberg, Queensland

“We had a little ceremony where we burnt her clothes.”

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Husband and wife, Geoffrey and Jane Smith, discuss the profound experience they had when visiting  Tanna Island in French Polynesia and discovering Janes mother’s people.

Recorded in Bundaberg, Queensland

“The river was on fire…. The fish were gasping for breath.”

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 Long time Bundaberg resident, Austin Whitaker, talks about the rum distillery fire in the 30s and the changes he’s seen in the Burnett River.

Recorded in Bundaberg, Queensland