Tag Archives: lost

From child stars to lost theatres: capturing our ephemeral history of live performance

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Ivy Emms with the man she married, Jack Bent, on a music catalogue for the song Just a Ray of Sunlight. After performing patriotic songs as a child in popular pantomimes, Emms later worked as a choreographer at Melbourne’s Tivoli Theatre.

Gillian Arrighi, University of Newcastle

In 1825, Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld watched an Aboriginal Dance of Welcome at Newcastle’s East End Settlement. From the AusStage database – the research gateway to crucial information about live performance in Australia – we can learn it was held “in consequence of our coming among them”.

The papers and reminiscences (1824-1859) of Threlkeld, who trained with the evangelical London Missionary Society, were published in 1979 and can be accessed for further research. The singing and dancing he described may have looked like the Corroboree around a campfire painted by the convict artist Joseph Lycett in the Newcastle region circa 1817.

Corroboree around a campfire by Joseph Lycett.

A simple search of the database using the term “corroboree” reveals hundreds of records of corroborees across the continent between 1816 and 1927, the earliest being 300 men and women singing and dancing at Main Beach opposite George Rocks in Tasmania. The early settler who witnessed this event also recorded the name of one of the male performers: Tolobunganah.

A map of corroborees reported around Australia from Ausstage. The corroborees that are mapped are Aboriginal initiated performances drawing from their own traditions of entertainment.

The first theatre production to be staged by white settlers in Australia appears in the database as well — the Irish playwright George Farquhar’s 1706 play, The Recruiting Officer.

Portrait of Arthur Phillip by Francis Wheatley 1786: Phillip watched Australia’s first play staged by white settlers.
Wikimedia Commons

A scan of this entry reveals convicts performed it in Sydney in 1789 “in a mud-wall hut in honour of the birthday of King George III”, and gives the complete cast list. Captains Arthur Phillip and Watkin Tench were noted as in the audience.

From its beginnings 18 years ago, AusStage is now recognised globally as the “gold standard” for open access records of live performance. Based at Flinders University, AusStage is the result of a pioneering collective research effort between 18 universities and industry partners. In May this year, the 100,000th record of live performance in Australia was added to it.

The database, which dates from 1789 to the present day, acknowledges the significance of professional and amateur performance for Australia’s performing arts ecology. Live performances in regional towns and rural locations are of equal importance to those in major cities; even animal and android performers are recorded.

Down the rabbit hole

Delving deeper into our theatre history is made possible through AusStage’s links to records on books and articles held in other collections and domains. Entering the database is like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. It has the capacity to inform complex journeys of discovery on Australian theatre history, the production and consumption of commercial and non-commercial performance, and audience analysis. It also enables researchers to track artists’ national and international careers.

Music catalogue featuring a young Ivy Emms.

For example, my current research on child actors between 1880-1920 is significantly helped by AusStage. Ivy Emms (1905-1949) was a hard working juvenile singer and dancer in regional Victoria during World War I. A search of the database reveals that 30 years after she performed patriotic songs in popular pantomimes, she was working as a choreographer at Melbourne’s Tivoli Theatre. (An obituary from The Argus states that she died after a brief illness.) AusStage makes visualisation of her creative relationships possible.

As of July 11, AusStage held records on 102,643 performance events, 142,285 contributors, 15,536 organisations, 17,170 works, 9,991 venues and 64,088 resources. During the period from 1st January 2018 to 11th July access to it has been from 138 different countries with 78% of the users in Australia.

Visualising theatres

AusStage’s goal is to preserve and retrieve Australia’s performing arts heritage, and make it freely available through digital means. Currently, research teams from 12 Australian Universities are developing visualisations of some of Australia’s historically significant theatre venues.

This floor plan of Newcastle’s Victoria Theatre is just one element contributing to a digital recreation and 3D experience of the theatre and its colourful neo-Grecian interiors during its first year of productions, 1891-92. The Victoria is the oldest standing theatre in New South Wales.

Remodelled in the 1920s when it was primarily a Variety theatre, the installation of cinema projection technology in the 1920s saw the Victoria host live performance and cinema for many decades more. Finally closed in 1999 and currently derelict, the theatre’s new owners, Century Venues, reportedly have plans to re-open it.

Newcastle’s Victoria Theatre photographed in 2007.
Wikimedia Commons

AusStage is also facilitating research on historical theatres, using virtual technology. Several projects are building VR versions of Australian theatre venues that no longer exist. From these models, we can understand how performance in them operated.

Ian Maxwell of the University of Sydney is looking at two lost theatres of Sydney. The Royal Victoria Theatre on Pitt St, which opened in 1838 with a production of Othello, was a grand, state of the art building accommodating 1900 spectators.

The Paris Theatre, with a façade designed by Walter Burley Griffin, was located on Whitlam Square. In 1979 the Paris was home to the Paris Theatre Company, the short-lived experimental precursor to the Sydney Theatre Company under the direction of Jim Sharman and Rex Cramphorn. The Royal Victoria burnt down in 1880, while the Paris was demolished in 1981 to make way for a residential high-rise.

These are just several of the dozens of projects that have been, or are, facilitated by the database. “Capturing lightning in a bottle” is the phrase sometimes used to describe what AusStage does. It sums up the fragility and excitement of the task.

The ConversationThe performing arts are ephemeral events, physically passing from the world once they cease to be presented to audiences. AusStage ensures they do not pass from our historical memory.

Gillian Arrighi, Senior Lecturer in Creative and Performing Arts, University of Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How you can join the hunt for Holy Island’s lost monastery

David Petts, Durham University

The distinctive outline of Lindisfarne Castle perched on top of a rugged crag of basalt is one of the best-recognised images of north-east England and is a potent reminder of the important part the island played in the early history of Northumbria. This tidal island – only accessible at certain times of the day – lies close to the modern border between England and Scotland. Standing on its south-east corner was once one of the most important centres of Christianity in early medieval Britain.

As part of an exciting new project, Durham University and DigVentures, an innovative archaeological social enterprise, are planning a new investigation of this important site to find out more about this mysterious early monastery.

We know little about the prehistory of the island, although the flint tools of Mesolithic hunters and gatherers have been found close to its rocky northern shoreline. It’s only in the seventh century AD that it suddenly emerges into historic view.

Medieval kingdoms

The early years of the seventh century had been tumultuous for the rapidly expanding kingdom of Northumbria. Under King Aethelfrith, the kingdom had been forged from two competing dynasties, and under King Edwin, the Northumbrian rulers began to adopt Christianity, having been converted from the worship of their pagan gods by missionaries from Kent. In the inevitable inter-dynastic scuffles typical of early medieval kingdoms, Edwin’s rival and successor Oswald had been exiled to Scotland, where he too converted.

Lindisfarne Priory (12th century).
Gail Johnson/Shutterstock

Crucially though, Oswald adopted a different strand of Christianity from the monks of the Scottish isle of Iona, where it is thought he first encountered the church. When he arrived back in the heartlands of Northumbria he wanted to make a religious statement that set him apart from Edwin and his legacy. Working with monks from Iona, he established a new monastery on Holy Island.

This was not some remote island fastness, where ascetic monks could escape to confront god in the wilderness. Instead, it straddled major sea and land routes and was just across the water from the great Northumbrian palace at Bamburgh. The monastery rapidly achieved prominence, helped by its royal patrons.

Miraculously, the monastery survived the fall-out of the Synod of Whitby in 664, when the Scottish-influenced Christianity brought to the north by Oswald gave way to the pushy Roman and Kentish traditions initially promoted by Edwin.

In the following years, Lindisfarne achieved a new prominence under its abbot, Cuthbert, a monk torn between his desire for the life of a hermit and the demands of high religious office. Soon after his death he was created a saint and his cult was promoted by the monks on the island. The creation of the great illuminated manuscript known as the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the great monuments of Western art, was probably part of the campaign to promote Cuthbert carried out by the religious community.

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Ousted by Vikings

The monastery became increasingly wealthy, but in the late eighth century suffered one of the first Viking raids on Britain. The tempo of these attacks increased and according to the monastic historians, the monks left the island in 875. After a century-long exile, they set up a new home in Durham.

Yet, despite the high profile of the monastery in Northumbrian history, remarkably little is known about the monastery itself, beyond passing observations in the works of Bede and other early writers. A fine collection of Anglo-Saxon sculpture has survived, but little is known about precisely where it was found. The ruins of a later Norman priory now dominate the village, and may stand over part of the earlier monastery. Early medieval monastic centres were large, dispersed and sprawling settlements, and it is likely that Cuthbert’s monastery may have extended beyond much of the area covered by the modern village.

Anglo-Saxon carved stone from Holy Island showing possible Viking raiders.
David Petts

In recent years archaeologists are starting to get a better understanding of the archaeology of the island. Looking at the finds discovered – but never analysed – by Victorian gentleman archaeologists who crudely cleared out the later priory, a number of Anglo-Saxon objects have been recognised. These have been supplemented by the occasional appearance of similar items in small-scale archaeological investigations that have taken place in advance of construction.

A major new geophysical survey around the village has also been carried out. This has identified a number of areas where possible traces of the monastery have been identified, although of course, until we excavate, we won’t know for sure.

Play a part

This project is one of the first archaeological projects to use crowdfunding. The project has been launched on the DigVentures website, allowing anyone interested in discovering the past to pledge support. In return for backing the project, supporters become part of the dig team.

Another DigVentures project.

By using DigVenture’s crowdfunding and crowdsourcing model, we are hoping to get people who subscribe into the field, where they will be using an entirely paperless recording system. By using a bespoke app, every object and discovery will be logged live from the trenches via iPads, tablets and smartphones, making it instantly accessible from anywhere in the world. As the site is recorded, all the data will be uploaded online, allowing subscribers to follow the progress of the excavation as it happens. It will also give the excavation team a chance to solicit information and advice from the international research community. These new approaches set to provide archaeologists with a model for carrying out fieldwork.

The centrality of the first Lindisfarne monastery in the history of the Anglo-Saxon Britain and its – until now – elusive nature gives this dig the potential to be one of the most important archaeological sites in the UK to be worked in recent years. This collaborative and open process of research and scientific excavation is the future of discovering the past.

The Conversation

David Petts, Lecturer in Archaeology, Durham University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The 9 Most Spectacular Lost Cities in the World

Article: Lost Cities of the Maya

The link below is to an article reporting on the lost cities of the Mayans.

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Article: Archaeology – Nottinghamshire’s ‘Lost Village’

The link below is to an article reporting on a buried village discovered in Nottinghamshire.

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Article: Lost Picts Kingdom

The link below is to an article reporting on a plan by archaeologists to try and locate a lost kingdom of the Picts in Scotland.

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Article: Lost Oscars

The link below is to an article that looks at the history of lost oscars (Academy Awards).

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Article: Lost Attractions

The link below is to an interesting article on some of the world’s best lost attractions. It’s a very interesting read.

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Article: Seven Lost Cities of India

The following link is to an article on the lost cities of India – very interesting.

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Article: British Shipping Lost in World War II

The following link is to a very interesting article about the shipping lost by Great Britain during World War II.

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