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.