Who lost the historical plot in Sydney?
I'm in utter shock. We're playing tourist in our city of Sydney and we strayed away from the Quay precinct. I had a sentimental longing to return to the Rocks historical locale of my regular excursions as a Sydney resident ever since St. George Girl's High Year 3 History excursion took me up the Suez Canal, through the Argyle Cut to the Garrison Church. Then, I could hear the boot steps of both my ancestors - my First Fleet convict just off the 'Alexander' and smelling the acrid, foetid air of a new land; then twenty years later, my soldier ancestor fresh out from England to guard the convicts in the time of the Rum Rebellion.
This morning when my husband asked me to plan our day, I told him I wanted "To play Beattie Bow", a game from a wonderful historical children's novel of the same name by the author Ruth Park, set in the Rocks in the very early nineteenth century, and simultaneously in the late twentieth century. Park's novel connects the two periods with superb historical sensitivity.
I'm glad Ruth Park is dead. She would hate the a Rocks today. It has been sanitised into a misrepresented historical theme park of itself. I could barely recognise it. All the tiny lanes of yore now lead into bistros, shopping malls, garish tourist shopping areas and sterile precincts that could be located anywhere in the world. Only the signage gives you any idea that this once was the historically rich heart of Sydney.
'Signage' has somehow become history, has become culture. Someone is tryng to convince us here that if they hack away at the historical substructure and substitute a few clever literary references that we won't notice the loss of our cultural heritage! The 'word' has replaced the material so that we can pretend that whilst ever we can read, then the image will 'materialise' and that somehow we can justify stripping away the rocks because if we can utter what WAS that it will magically re-emerge.
I don't think so!
The architecture has been stripped away, hacked into, sanitised, glassed over so that all that is left is a verbal reference to what once was.
This was once a beautiful old cobbled lane. I had to walk down it to avoid the large sulo bins of ugliness. Surely architects and street scape planners can design discrete bin hideaways.
And the old Argyle Bond Stores? My God! What tacky souvenir precinct area they are now! I cringed at the desecration of that whole area. I truly did. I could have wept.
And lower George Street? International luxury stores to capture the cruise shippers! Puhleeese!!!
So, what would I have advised? Made the planning authority read and memorise Ruth Park's 'Playing Beattie Bow' until they 'got' what the Rocks was really about. Toss out anyone who didn't have the empathy to get it! Preserve all the beautiful sandstone alley ways in their original convoluted meandering structures. Build on the historical aspects. Use the history. This is what the area was about: is about.
Other cities have capitalised on their historic references, they have people dressed in the period, speaking in dialect and going about the business of the period. Where are our convicts, our soldiers, our wenches, our peoples going about the business of early Sydney??? Pick a date in the early nineteenth century. 26 th January 1808 might be a bit tricky. But you get my drift.
A Clive Palmer personage could have had a go at it before it was obliterated by the Knights in Glass Castles!
Or maybe we need another hero.