20 June 2007

City Limits

If you go down to the woods today…..

Well actually if you go up, to Rumbalara Reserve, you will see that the recent wind almost gave Charles Sturt a big surprise. A large Eucalypt, under which the statue of Charles Sturt sits, crashed down narrowly missing him.

Why he was there in the first place is a bit of a mystery to me, having not noticed in history lessons a connection between the explorer and Gosford.

In fact he was commissioned by SaraLee Kitchens and the State Bicentennial Commission along with Charles Kingsford Smith, Edward Eyre and Matthew Flinders, and sculpted by Joan Relk and Carl Merten.

But he does look a bit lost sitting there with his bronze map and a view of the bushes across the track.
Gosford has not treated him well. Not only does he appear to have had his pocket picked, but his hands have been cut off as well.

Perhaps an overdetermined reading of this vandalism would interpret the practice of mapping and surveying an act of theft; a rendering of wilderness, the “other”, the unalienated world, to property and private ownership. Property is theft, as Marx said, and in some places the punishment for theft is to have the hands cut off.

Mapping and surveying were critical to the appropriation of the land in Australia and to controlling a rapidly expanding society. In 1826 Governor Hunter proclaimed the “limits of location”, the surveyed line defining an area comprising the 19 counties beyond which settlement was not permitted. One story has it that the line passed through the Black Stump Run at that time near Coolah, and hence we have the term “beyond the black stump”. Needless to say no one took much notice and they took to the bush.

The “limit of location” in Gosford is sharply defined where the town and Rumbalara meet. But now Charles Sturt has his own Black Stump to sit beside as he regards the property speculations below in the location of limits.

13 June 2007

What we need is

Last Monday it was so crowded at Erina Fair, and difficult to park, that I went to Gosford.
Parking was no problem, there was little going on at all in the shadows of Gosford Castle for the holiday weekend.

Gosford Castle, Gosford.

Has it always been thus?

“Gosford has again demonstrated its lack of energy and enterprise by failing to provide sports of any kind for the holidays. Yet business people wonder why Gosford is deserted on such occasions.”
(Gosford Times, 24th December, 1897)

Mann Street, Monday,11th June 2007.

Perhaps we should ask, if not sport, what can a town like Gosford offer that cannot be found at Shopping Malls? If we are to resuscitate the town it could be useful to look at what it is that successful cities have that gives them life and a distinct identity.

In every example I can think of it is cultural activities and educational institutions. I.e. reference libraries, museums, contemporary art, music and film centres; an enlivened public domain. Gosford has none of these.

At one time Gosford was at the cutting edge of technology – at least in terms of access to cinema, now there are no cinemas in the town. Movies were shown in Gosford in July 1897.

“On Monday evening last Captain Pierce and Harrison’s Company gave a variety performance in the local School of Arts to a fair audience. A first-class programme was gone through comprising magical and ventriloquial feats by Professors Harrison, Barker and Benson; also a series of living colored pictures reproduced by the wonderful invention styled the cinematographe. The company also performed at Ourimbah and Wyong to fair houses.”
(Gosford Times 7th July, 1897)

No bad considering that the cinematographe was patented by the Lumière brothers in 1895, although other moving picture devices were in existence earlier. In 1892 the young engineer Léon Bouly designed a successful 'Cinématographe'. In 1893 he was granted a patent on an improved version, the 'Cinématographe Bouly'. Bouly couldn't come up with the yearly patent fees, and Antoine Lumière, picked up the expired patent and obtained one on the Cinématographe Lumière in the name of his sons Auguste and Louis.
The first time that projected motion pictures were shown to a paying audience in Australia was on Saturday 22nd August 1896 at the Melbourne Opera House, where Carl Hertz demonstrated his amazing 'Cinematographe' machine (R.W. Paul's Theatrograph) In 1896-97 James MacMahon opened the Salon Cinématographe in Pitt Street, Sydney. A Cinématographe Lumière was used to film the Melbourne Cup in 1896.

Still from Lumière Bros. 1895 movie.

I do not know which films were shown in Gosford, as many had been made by that time, but we were there at the leading edge of art and technology 110 years ago. (Of course the telephone line from Sydney only arrived in Gosford the same year.)

I cannot see how Gosford can revive itself other than by investing in the means to nurture contemporary art, knowledge and technology. "Creative Industries" might be a "buzz word" concept, but it is one in tune with the post-industrial economy of high-speed communications that we inhabit.

03 June 2007

Switching on the light bulb.

When will the light bulb go on?

Gosford Council has been judged the nation’s poorest recycler of effluent. This follows 5 consecutive years of it being recognised as the worst council in NSW, as measured by public complaints.

While local papers are full of pictures of Councilors as champions of the people, and council spin about its achievements, it is assumed that, unlike the rest of nature, Central Coast residents do not need to fully recycle. Such hubris comes at a price.

We are exhorted to change our light bulbs while the World Bank spends millions promoting oil exploration and the carbon market is booming.

But perhaps an example from the past can show how to integrate energy savings while alleviating social need.

From the Gosford Times, 19th November, 1897.
“An experiment of providing boiling water heated by the ordinary street lamps is to be tried in London. A halfpenny dropped in the slot will secure a gallon. Side by side with the same will be placed automatic machines for the delivery of halfpenny and penny packets of tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar and meat extract, enabling people any hour of the night to obtain a stimulating beverage, a chained cup for the purpose being provided.”

Why this measure was not adopted in Gosford might be surmised by a piece in the Times three weeks later.

10th December, 1897.
“No cabs, no lights; what a funny little place Gosford is,” exclaimed a lady visitor who trudged through the mud and darkness from the railway station the other night. This is surely a significant reflection on the town lamp. Which alderman’s turn is it to find the oil?