Issue Details: First known date: 2013 2013
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'On the 'calm moonlight night' of 17 March 1897, Italian-born 'barrowman' and diarist James Balzano joined some 300 fellow 'diggers' in a circle around a bonfire near Dick Egan's tent at Red Hill Camp, now Kambalda East, on Western Australia's Coolgardie Goldfield for a St Patrick's Day concert given by residents of the camp. Balzano records that he found the cobbled-together programme of songs, recitations, solo instrumentais, and a 'Step Dance on a meat box' to be 'very good indeed'.

'This scratch entertainment at Red Hill is of interest as an experience of collective remembering and cultural colonisation among a temporary grouping of people on the move, most of them men. Such events were part of the process of inhabiting remote new goldfields locations in Western Australia that offered little or no built environment, civic infrastructure or cultural heritage to support settler performance, let alone the more basic requirements of life. The privations and physicality of life at the Red Hill camp, the movement of its prospectors from one 'rush' to another, together with the experiences and memories of those who had migrated from other countries or Australian colonies, were integral to the spirit of this St Patrick's Day entertainment. The conditions in which the medley of items was performed emphasised the performers' bodily energy and dexterity, while their voluntarism fostered a sense of community with the audience. The programme's dozen or so popular songs and recitations in English, opening with a hymn to 'The Golden West' and closing with 'God Save the Queen', summoned a moment of imagined community in a colonial hinterland that was alien to European bodies and indifferent to imperial culture. To borrow from James V. Wertsch," the performance embodied the kind of distributed social remembering that 'extends beyond the skin' and (significantly) can result in 'homogenous, complementary, or contested collective memory'. But if the occasion was one of remembering and community, it also registered a degree of cultural displacement and loss. The Red Hill entertainment can be understood in these ways as a double act of collective remembering and forgetting by culturally uprooted people looking for reassurance to a past now absent from their present, while anticipating the possibilities that had lured them to Red Hill in the first place.' (Author's introduction)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Last amended 11 Nov 2013 15:11:12
  • Red Hill, Swan Valley area, Eastern Perth, Perth, Western Australia,
  • Coolgardie, Goldfields area, Southeast Western Australia, Western Australia,
  • 1894-1898
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