During the week there was an email exchange with Matt on my long standing desire to create a proper New England guide book, one that covers all of Northern New South Wales.
As I wrote in Round the New England blogging traps 21 - a few photos, Cold Chisel's song writer Don Walker came from New England.
Because of its industrial tradition, Newcastle has a gritty tradition. The band Silverchair came from Newcastle, while Cold Chisel had a very strong following there. If Walker's Flame Trees is about Grafton, "Star Hotel", an attack on the late-70s government of Malcolm Fraser, was inspired by the Star Hotel riot in Newcastle. It somehow seems appropriate that Cold Chisel should plan to begin its new national tour in Newcastle!
It is very hard for a single writer to capture all the elements of the ever changing textures of New England life. They are simply ignored by the dominant metro media. They just don't see the links, or the geographic or historical context.
That is one reason why I want a proper guide book. When I look at the influence of, say, the Lonely Planet guide books, they create a structure for others to enjoy the history and life of a particular area.
Further, once created, they (the guide books) acquire a life of their own because of the constant feedback to the guide book creators.
Who in Australia knows about the Newcastle musical tradition? Since they don't, local bands and venues have no chance to build on the tradition through visitor attraction. Just a small example, but it's one replicated across every aspect of New England life.
Greg made an interesting comment on this post that I think worth repeating in full.
Hi Jim, I was at the Star Hotel on that night in 1979. Cold Chisel were indeed very popular in Newcastle and to this day some will even claim that Cold Chisel played. For the record it was actually local band Heroes.
The hotel was due to be closed permanently and Heroes were the last act to appear before it's demise. The Star was a popular live venue and it was standing room only as the pub was packed with emotion charged youth such as myself eager to send it out on high.
Unfortunately, the police were also there and on the nose of closing time shut the power and tried to empty the pub. It was a spark to a powder keg and the patrons reacted angrily - spilling over onto King Street, confronting the police, hurling missiles, upturning and setting fire to cars in what become an infamous confrontation played out on national news bulletins.
In addition to a thriving music and art scene, Newcastle is also a hotbed for dance. International artists such as Marilyn Jones, Dein Perry and Damian Smith all came from Newcastle and there are many Newcastle trained dancers on the international stage. Also Newcastle boy Rhys Kozakowski was one of the four boys who performed the lead role in the Australian musical stage production of "Billy Elliot".
Many high profile dance companies and schools around the world have Newcastle trained dancers in their ranks and Newcastle is recognised internationally as a breeding ground for excellence in dance.
At the concert hall of the Opera House this weekend is the final of the MacDonald Performing Arts Challenge (Sydney Eisteddfod). The tradition continues with two of the eight finalists in the solo section from Newcastle. Newcastle is also represented as one of the six finalists in the group section.
The arts tradition in Newcastle is alive and thriving and the city punches well above it's weight. It is ironic that Newcastle is perhaps better know internationally in this regard than right here in our own country.
Well done Newcastle, but it also demonstrates again the point I made in this post about out of sight, out of mind.