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The living history movement finds new supporters

Living History at Belgenny

The CHN blogger attended an informative and interesting talk at Belgenny Farm in  the Home Farm meeting hall. The presentation was delivered by Peter Watson from the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA.

Mr Watson, an advocate of the living history movement, was the guest of the chairman of the Belgenny Farm Trust Dr Cameron Archer. Mr Watson was on a speaking tour and had attended a living history conference while in Australia.

 Peter Watson and Howell Farm

Peter Watson presented an interesting and far ranging talk about Howell Living History Farm in New Jersey and its programs.

Camden Belgenny Farm 2018May2 Peter Watson Talk
A very informative talk by Mr Peter Watson from the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA. Mr Watson was the guest of Belgenny Farm Trust Chairman Dr Cameron Archer. The talk was held on 2 May 2018 at the Belgenny Farm community hall with an attentive crowd of local folk. (I Willis)

 

Mr Watson said, ‘The 130 acre farm was gifted to the community in 1974 by a state politician with the aim of showing how farming used to be done in New Jersey.

Howell Living History Farm is located within a one hour of around 15 million and the far has 65,000 visitors per year and 10,000 school children.

Mr Watson said,

‘We took about 10 years to get going and deal with the planning process, which was tenuous for the government authorities who own the farm.

Mr Watson said,

‘The main aim at the farm is the visitor experience. The farm represents New Jersey farming between 1890 and 1910 – a moment in time.’

Mr Watson says,

‘We do not want to allow history to get in the way of an education experience for the visitor. The farm visitors are attracted by nostalgia which is an important value for them.

Most historic farms are museums, according to Mr Watson and he said, ‘At Howell Living History Farm visitors become involved in activities.’

The farm uses original equipment using traditional methods and interpretation with living history.

 

The Living History Movement

Historian Patrick McCarthy considers that living history is concerned with (1) ‘first person’ interpretation or role play (2) adopting authentic appearance (3) re-creating the original historic site of the event.

Living historian Scott Magelssen maintains that living history museums ‘engage strategies in their performance of the past’, claiming to be ‘real history by virtue of their attention to detail’. Living history museums ‘do not merely represent the past; they make historical ‘truth’ for the visitor’.  (pp. xii-xv)

According to Magelssen living history museums ‘produce history’ like textbooks, films or a lecture. Under the influence of post-modernism history ‘is on longer to be seen as the reconstruction of the past through scientific analysis’. Living history is a research tool. (pp. xii-xv)  There are various interpretations on the way this is constructed, configured and delivered amongst the theorists.

 

Origins of living history museum movement

One of the early influencers of the living history movement in North America was Henry Ford who established his indoor and outdoor living museum experience in the Detroit suburb of Dearbourn in Michigan USA. It is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the USA and attracts 1.6 million visitors. Ford opened the Greenfield Village to the public in 1933 as the first outdoor living museum in the USA and has over 100 buildings moved to the site dating from the 1700s. Henry Ford said of his museum

I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used…. When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition…

 

Living history @ Belgenny

Belgenny Farm is an authentic collection of colonial farm buildings that were once part of the Macarthur family’s Camden Park Estate.

Camden Belgenny Farm 2018 sign
The signage at the entrance to the Belgenny Farm complex at Camden NSW. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The Belgenny Farm website states that its education program adopts the principles of the living history movement. It states:

Schools enjoy a diverse range of hands-on curriculum based programs including the new Creamery Interpretative Centre. The Creamery showcases the dairy industry over the last 200 years and is supported by a virtual tour and online resources.

And more to the point:

Belgenny Farm was established by John and Elizabeth Macarthur in 1805 and contains the earliest collection of colonial farm buildings in Australia. The property is a major educational centre with direct links to Australia’s agricultural history.

 

Sydney Living Museums

Sydney Living Museums is part of the living history museum movement and manages 12 historic properties across NSW. The stated role of SLM is to:

enrich and revitalise people’s lives with Sydney’s living history, and to hand the precious places in our care and their collections on to future generations to enjoy.

Sydney Hyde Park Barracks WHS Wikimedia lowres
Sydney Living Museums’ Hyde Park Barracks in Macquarie Street Sydney. (Wikimedia)

 

Sydney Living Museums has a philosophy which aims to be part of the living history movement by being:

authentic; bold; collaborative; passionate; and a sociable host.

Originally known as the Historic Houses Trust (HHT) the first chairman  stated that the organisation wanted to present

our properties ‘in a lively and creative way’.

When the HHT changed its name in 2013 to Sydney Living Museums:

to refresh and unify our diverse range of properties and highlight our role and relevance for current and future generations.

 

Living history is storytelling

Living history is walking the ground of an historical event or place or building. Walking the ground shows the layers of meaning in history in a place or building.

Walking the ground is an authentic real  experience.

Participants absorb the past that is located in the present of a place or a site. The past is the present and the past determines the present. It shapes, meaning and interpretation. It is the lived experience of a place.

Living history allows participants to be able to read: the layers of history of an area; the layers of meaning in a landscape; or the layers of history in a building.

It is like peeling off layers of paint from a wall when viewers peel back the layers of history of a site, building or place. Each layer has a special meaning – a special presence.

Lived experience leads to storytelling which is real  and authentic.

Storytelling creates the meaning of the past and creates the characters of the past in the present. It allows the past to speak to the present.

Experience some of these stories at the Camden Museum.

Camden Museum Macarthur Anglican School Visit6 2018Apr
Story telling by a volunteer at the Camden Museum for a school visit by Macarthur Anglican School (MAS, 2018)
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Live and Local music festival hits the right notes

Camden’s main street was transformed into a ‘Live and Local Beat Street’, or so said the publicity for the festival. And it was.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Signage programmes

 

The publicity flyer promised Live and Local was a ‘unique experience’ and explored ‘new places and spaces’. And it delivered in spades.

An experience

The 2018 Live and Local Camden music festival is in its second year. The crowds were up and so were the number of gigs.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Maddi Lyn Elm Tree Cafe
Maddi Lyn an up and coming young artist from the Macarthur area. Here performing in the courtyard outside the Elm Tree Cafe. A budding country singer she is aiming for Nashville. You can catch Maddi Lyn at venues in and around the Macarthur area.  (I Willis, 2018_

 

There were over 50 musos across 15 venues. This was up from 2017 with 27 artists across 14 venues.

The amount of raw talent was frightening and a little overwhelming. There must be something in the local water around the Camden area.

Camden Live & Local 2018 White Melodies Squeeze&Grind Cafe
Two talented musicians make up White Melodies duo based in the Macarthur area. They are singer song-writers Kellie Marie and Chloe. They have been finalists in country music competitions at Tamworth and the ACT. They play an easy listening repertoire of upbeat classics. (I Willis, 2018)

The crowds enjoyed the music on offer from professional and emerging artists. It is great to see local support for live gigs.

Eclectic Venues

This year the festival grew to include Friday night across a range of venues. This was a good introduction to the festival.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Murray Bishop Quartet Michelles Cafe
This jazz ensemble led by talented local musician, band leader and impresario Murray Bishop on horns. The Murray Bishop Quartet play a range of jazz styles and are found across the Sydney area and are based in the Macarthur region. (I Willis, 2018)

 

There were also the Saturday afternoon gigs similar to 2017 between 2 and 6 with a full program of artists.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Saxing About Saritas Emporium
Saxing About talented muso Will Habbal is playing outside Saritas Emporium in Argyle Street. This cool dude has a keen fan following on his Facebook page. This hip reed player pumps out ‘smooth jazz’ on tenor sax with a 5/5 rating. Check him out ladies. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The music festival used a range of eclectic local venues from cafes, fashion outlets, galleries, local hotels, restaurants, a shoe shop, professional premises and a local arcade.

A new venue in an old space

The festival succeeded in uncovering a music local venue in an unlikely venue. It is a space with the wow factor at the Alan Baker Art Gallery.

Macaria AlanBaker Gallery Alan Baker 2018
Macaria is a substantial town residence from the mid-Victorian period that was influenced by the Picturesque movement and Gothic styling. It has an awesome interior with beautiful timber floors, high ceilings and great acoustics. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The acoustics are to be experienced to be believed with a wooden floor, high ceiling and little echo.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Harpist Fishers Ghost Youth Orch Macaria
This young student harpist from the Fishers Ghost Youth Orchestra showed this room at its best. The beautiful aesthetic of the space was complemented by the sweet tones of the harp from this young musician. The audience listened intently to the performance and then gathered around for an impromptu tutorial from the student’s mother on the specifications of the harp at the end of the performance. (I Willis, 2018)

 

What a venue with lots of atmosphere.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Signage Macaria Entry
The signage at the front of Macaria and the Alan Baker Art Gallery in John Street Camden. This was the best discovery of the 2018 Live and Local music festival in Camden. A great acoustic music space in a colonial gem of a building in Camden’s historic heritage precinct. (I Willis, 2018)

 

This is a natural music venue for a small intimate acoustic gig.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Isabel Estephan Macaria
Set amongst the roses and flowers Isabel Estephan shone in her live performance. A singer songwriter 18 years of age who has been writing her own compositions for the last 5 years. She has music in the blood according to her website and her songs are inspired by things she feels deeply about that define the world we live in. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Help for lots of tastes

All the venues had lots of Local and Live helpers to smooth over any hiccups and  guide and help out lost fans. They made sure that all gigs went smoothly.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Organiser Cheryl CC
One of the chief organisers of the Camden Live and Local. This photographer grabbed a shot of Cheryl on the run between gigs as she made her way through Michelles’ Cafe. She was all go-go-go to ensure the venues ran smoothly and there were no hiccups. (I Willis, 2018)

 

There was music for all tastes from classical to blues, country, jazz as well as a rockabilly. Some good old rock and roll with a funky twist was popular with young fans.

Camden Live & Local 2018 The Shang Upstairs at Fred's
Upstairs at Freds on the new outside area completed the atmospherics for the music festival. The Shang kept a horde of young folk entertained as the sun set over the 2018 Camden Live and Local music festival. We await the 2019 event with anticipation. (I Willis, 2018)

 

A gig guide can be found here.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Signage Gig guide Elm Tree Cafe
Gig guide in the window of the Elm Tree Cafe. (I Willis, 2018)

 

A developing arts precinct

It is great to see how Live and Local contributes to the creation of an arts precinct in Camden for a day and a half. All this live music is good for the local economy, job creation and  helps build local tourism.

Importance of live music

Live music is central to the Live and Local music festival and acknowledges how live performance is an important part of our culture. Performances are authentic and artists provide a screen-time in 3-D without much assistance from tech-gadgets.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Honey Sippers Camden Arcade
The sweet tones of Trish and the picking on guitar of Mark as the Honey Sippers. This local duo appear regularly throughout the Macarthur region and have an enthusiastic rusted-on fan base who follow them around the area. The Honey Sippers perform blues, rock, folk and country and they ‘love to play music that engages and tells a story’. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Performers at Live and Local provided a form of engagement of the imagination  which is sadly lacking with recordings or tech-devices. Live performances at Live and Local are fresh. It is not canned music.

There was an awesome array of talent on display for all to see – warts and all. Performers were in the moment and provided a physical and emotional experience with their audiences.

Live performance is a shared experience between performer and audience. There is an  immediacy that provides an  element of surprise and risk, perhaps even the unexpected.

Place making and storytelling

All Live and Local artists are part of the creative industries. They create stories which are expressed in song and music.   Musicians, poets, raconteurs, performers and writers are all storytellers. All cultures have story tellers.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Rhia Camden Hotel
Rhia performing at the Camden Hotel on Friday night for 2018 Camden Live and Local. She performed her own composition ‘Camden’ and the audience enthusiastically demanded an encore at the end of her bracket. To which there were woops and cheers. Rhia’s composition tells a story about her home town and how she feels about it. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Storytelling as song allows the musicians to connect with their audience. Their stories are captivating, and full of emotion and meaning. These stories are one element in the process of place making and construction of community identity.

Stories as songwriting can connect people with memories of the past in the present. Music can tell the stories of place and the history of a community. Music can create a connection with the landscape and create an attachment to place.

Songs are one form of storytelling that can take a successful part of marketing and branding for a locality and community. In this way they help the local economy and local businesses.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Hickson Circuit Michelles Cafe
This young trio of musicians are called Hickson Circuit and performed at Michelle’s Cafe in Argyle Street. They had a loyal fan club that include friends and family who encouraged them on their performance. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Support for music festival

The Live and Local project is a partnership between the Live Music Office and Camden Council. Funding was provided by Create NSW as part of the Western Sydney Live and Local Strategic initiative.

Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak stated

I encourage you to take the time and visit each venue to hear the diversity of the music and let our talented local artists entertain you for hours.

The director of the NSW government Live Music Office John Wardle stated that it

has been truly inspirational and we once again very much look forward to a day that will be a highlight of the broader cultural program in Western Sydney.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Neilly Rich Camden Hotel
The Camden Hotel hosted NeillyRich on Saturday afternoon. The country duo of Kiwi Matthew McNeilly and Kempsey local Amelia Richards met in Tamworth. The dedicated songwriters are inspired by the likes of Lyall Lovett and Keith Urban. They are focused on ‘storytelling through music in the vein of some of the pioneers of the Australian industry’. They are currently on the road and had arrived from Bega to perform at Live and Local in 2018. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Musicians succeed in gig economy

Camden’s Live and Local festival demonstrated how musicians are part of the gig economy. All trying to make a living. These issues were explored in a recent article in The Conversation. 

Musicians identified that they did meaningful work according article author Alana Blackburn, a lecturer in Music at the University of New England. She maintained that

Their intrinsic success lies not in what others expect of them, but in achieving personal freedom and being true to their beliefs. It’s about meeting personal and professional needs.

More than this a study by the Australia Council for the Arts found that

musicians undertake a wide range of arts-related and non-arts activities.

According to Blackburn 

Musicians can survive under these circumstances by developing important overarching and transferable skills.

This type of career is called a ‘portfolio career’ where musicians have lots of jobs. A mix of paid and unpaid, and mostly short term work and projects. Musicians state that the prefer to be in-charge of their own career, despite the financial challenges. They feel that they can control their creative efforts and their music related activities.

Musicians, like other creative arts types, are mostly self-directed and driven by a passion for their artistic work. Musicians often work across industries and are not locked into the music industry. They consider that they are continually learning and are not afraid of failure.

Blackburn maintains that the success of musicians in the gig economy is down to a number of characteristics that they develop: life-long  learning, adaptability,  flexibility, social networking, entrepreneurial skills, planning, organisation, collaboration, confidence, self-directed, multi-tasking, independence, risk-taking, promotion and others.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Signage

 

Many of the artists at Camden 2018 Live and Local fitted into this category. Some are in the early career stage while others are more successful. The gig economy is here to stay and provides many challenges. It is not for the fainthearted. Live and Local provided a sound platform for the exposure of these artists in a tough industry.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Staff Macaria
A slightly perplexed Live and Local helper at Macaria making sure everything was flowing smoothly. She very patiently posed for this photograph before rushing off to other duties. All the Live and Local staff did a great job. Well done to all in 2018. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Learn more on

Facebook and

Camden Narellan Advertiser and

Wollondilly Advertiser. 

Live and Local Music Festival in Camden town centre’ Camden History Notes (Blogger), 17 June 2017.

Alana Blackburn, ‘The gig economy is nothing new for musicians – here’s what their ‘portfolio careers’ can teach us’. The Conversation, 21 June 2018.

Camden Live & Local 2018 Signage Venue Here