1917: The Great Strike

A new ex­hi­bi­tion at Car­riage­works seeks to bring back into pop­u­lar con­scious­ness a ‘for­got­ten his­tory’ of World War I-era Syd­ney. By Dee Jef­fer­son

Time Out (Sydney) - - Arts & Culture -

MARK­ING THE CEN­TE­NARY of Aus­tralia’s largest in­dus­trial ac­tion, and tak­ing place on the site where it broke out, 1917: The Great Strike brings to­gether archival ma­te­rial, oral his­tory and spe­cially com­mis­sioned art­works to rein­ter­pret the ‘of­fi­cial his­tory’. “No­body re­ally re­mem­bers the Great Strike, but I think it re­ally adds in­ter­est and com­plex­ity to Syd­ney’s World War I story,” says City of Syd­ney his­to­rian Laila El­moos, who co-cu­rated the ex­hi­bi­tion with Car­riage­works’ Nina Miall. The Great Strike was trig­gered by the in­tro­duc­tion of a ‘time card’ sys­tem for rail­way and tramway work­ers, in or­der to more pre­cisely mea­sure and track their labour – ef­fec­tively ‘de­hu­man­is­ing’ it. It came at a time when work­ers were al­ready suf­fer­ing from war-re­lated wage freezes, in­creased cost of liv­ing and longer hours. Poverty was rife, and the mood was com­bustible. The walk-offs be­gan at the Rand­wick Tram Work­shops on Au­gust 2 and spread to the Eveleigh Rail­way Work­shops that morn­ing. Within a few weeks, the strike had spread to other in­dus­tries in NSW and be­yond and saw around 100,000 work­ers down tools. It lasted six weeks and at its height, work­ers and al­lies marched ev­ery week­end, from Car­riage­works through the CBD and down to the Do­main, where up­wards of 100,000 con­vened to rally. At the heart of 1917: The Great

is a short film doc­u­ment­ing the strike as it was un­fold­ing, show­ing the marches and a largely for­got­ten in­ci­dent in which sev­eral hun­dred women stormed Par­lia­ment House in Mac­quarie Street. Around this are doc­u­men­tary and news pho­to­graphs, union ban­ners car­ried at the ral­lies, and au­dio record­ings of oral his­tory. Fi­nally, art­works by Sarah Con­tos, Will French, Franck Go­hier, Raquel Ormella and Tom Ni­chol­son with An­drew Byrne ex­plore dif­fer­ent as­pects of the strike. Head to Car­riage­works on Au­gust 5 for a day of talk and ac­tion that in­cludes a panel with Laila El­moos, a brass band per­for­mance de­vised by artist Tom Ni­chol­son and com­poser An­drew Byrne in re­sponse to work­ers’ songs of the era, work­shops with the artists, and be­hind-the-scenes tours of the build­ing. àCar­riage­works, 245 Wil­son St, Eveleigh 2016. 02 8571 9099. car­riage­works.com.au. Daily 10am-6pm. Free. Un­til Aug 27.

Will French, ‘Sign of the Times’, 2017

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.