Happy Sunday! Since moving back to Melbourne in 2018 from the Northern Territory I’ve been struck by a change in mood I’ve witnessed here, about how we value stories. This project has a community arts aspect and key to this are stories, not just Bridget the Publican’s and John the Brewer’s.
In Alice Springs, when I have worked in community service and particularly as an anthropologist: every person’s story counts. And when you work with people’s stories you hold them dear and true, you respect confidence (of course), but every story, big and small, is important. Sometimes I feel that in Melbourne (and maybe big cities more broadly), people can think their stories of the every day are not glamourous enough. I’ve even had people recommend books of prominent people rather than tell their own story (despite wanting to tell their own story).
Every story. Your story. Not only because a story that has been published or been on TV or in a film, not only because of a public profile, not only because of a following. Because you are you. Valuable. Your story is valuable.
Family stories are important. And this blog doesn’t tell stories I can’t tell of course. I want to give Bridget and John’s story a lot of historical context. But there is also another part of this project – an intent to collect other families stories with permission.
Stories of resilience and humour from Irish-Australian families, but not just with the nice bits only. Not just bushrangers and the focus on violence that seems to dominate the view of our families. Some stories are dark and may have aspects, but it isn’t all gunfire and robbery. A large portion of Victoria has Irish family roots and many stories are forgotten under the bravado of the fascination with outlaws.
One of the things about the intergenerational baggage many of us want to lighten, is that it’s made heavier by silence.
Don’t just do a family tree. Don’t just do a family history. Don’t rely on that one dedicated family member to do all the work. Do a family oral and social history – together Bring stories and perspectives together. And watch the burden lift. Maybe this project can start some projects for your family?
We often talk about family intergenerational trauma as though it's negative. But as much as there is trauma there must be also resilience, hope and survival. There is two sides to every coin and we can celebrate them both by holding them lightly in the telling of stories.
Silence maintains stigma. Stories celebrate survival. Every story counts. Every story deserves to be told, even anonymously if need be.
The end game of this project is a series of community theatre projects, where actors will tell pieces of these stories (without identifying you if you wish), in light and shade. These productions will show the past and present in alternate presentations, using gentle lighting and a technique known as black box theatre.
If you are a member of an Irish-Australian family with a an intergenerational story of resilience to tell – send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org