Kathryn Favelle: Good evening. Welcome to the National Library of Australia. I'm Kathryn Favelle, Director of Reader Services, and it's my privilege to be your host for this evening's Folk Fellow lecture. I'd like to begin by acknowledging Australia's First Nations peoples as the traditional owners, and custodians of this land. And I give my respect to elders past and present, and through them to all Australian, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander peoples, here in the theatre tonight, watching us online, enjoying the National Library's collections, or exploring the National Library's Collections.
Tonight's event, "What Wendy Found," the story of the 1969 Outback Australian Folklore Expedition is presented by Martie Lowenstein, the 2023 National Library Folk Fellow. Now Martie's proposal, and I should say at this point that I have nothing to do with selecting our Folk Fellows. I just get to have a little sneak peek, at the applications as they come in. Martie's proposal was both exciting and challenging, but the potential outcome that she presented to us, which you'll see tonight, was absolutely irresistible. I hope you'll agree with me when you watch the documentary, that Martie's about to show us.
The National Folk Fellowship has been offered by the National Library of Australia, and the National Folk festival for nearly 20 years. The library holds the most significant collections of folklore and related material in Australia, and this Fellowship offers a unique opportunity, for the recipient to discover and explore original collection material at the library, for use in their own artistic work. The new work is then performed at the Folk Festival, as well as here at the library, in our Fellowship presentation.
Our 2023 Folk Fellow, Martie Lowenstein, grew up immersed in Australian bush music. She sung in a number of Melbourne choirs, and now leads several community singing groups. She's the daughter of Wendy Lowenstein, a pioneering Australian oral historian, whose collection here at the National Library, includes interviews of people from 1966 to 1997, and covers over 800 life stories. Martie also teaches regular courses which cover 200 years of everyday life in throughout Australian history, illustrated by Australian Folk songs, poems, and real-life stories.
Joining Martie tonight is her partner in realising the outcome of this Fellowship research, her brother Richard Lowenstein. Richard is a filmmaker, well known for the movie "Dogs in Space," and "He Died with a Felafel in his Hand," as well as the 2019 documentary, "Mystify: Michael Hutchence." Richard's going to join us online shortly, but first we have Martie in real life.
Martie Lowenstein: Thank you, Kathryn, for your wonderful compliment. This time last year I was watching the previous Folk Fellow and here I am. So I have to thank the National Folk Library, the National Folk Festival, and so many Folk music fiends for helping me, to produce this documentary. It was called "What Wendy Found," and it set out some of the story of Australian's very early Folk music collectors, their folklore, traditional dance, and history, mainly through the eyes of two strong and very determined women whose archives are here in the National Library. Wendy Lowenstein, my mother, and Shirley Andrews her good friend. They were fundamental to the Folk revival, and to the early recorded history of Australian culture, and struggling at that time, the 1950s, against the roles available to women in the post-war era. But Australia's own Folk music and dance, which we love, especially at the festival, Folk Festival, owes its life to a few dedicated collectors who went out searched and recorded for it, so that we can enjoy it today.
The people involved in this project, oh no, sorry, the project became much broader when my brother, Richard, decided that we really needed to cover the philosophical and political background of the idealistic to people who set out to find, and preserve everyday working Australian social culture, and why they decided to go and do that at the time they did and why it included Indigenous Australia culture, contemporary culture, which was quite radical in the 1950s and '60s. It's become a much bigger story, which we'd like to depict in a much longer documentary, and we'll tell you about that a bit later.
For Richard and myself, it all started in our primary school days, with a rhyme like this. "Cinderella dressed in Yella, went upstairs to kiss her fella, on the way her britches busted, how many people were disgusted?" So children rhymes were the first folklore that my mother Wendy collected and I dunno if anyone remembers this book, "Cinderella Dressed in Yella," 1969, infamous book of naughty children's rhymes, that spawned another whole set of infamous books, by June Factor of naughty children's rhymes. Ian Turner wrote an interpretive essay. He decided he was gonna do a definitive study, of Australian children's rhymes. He later became professor of history at Monash, but the academic circles don't actually produce naughty children's rhymes. So while he is writing his essay, mum, who he knew well, 'cause they started the Folklore Society of Victoria together, was teaching in Richmond, which was a pretty tough school, and she went out to collect rhymes. And I know that she would've had a wonderful time coercing the kids to tell her their secrets, because children's secrets are not for adult consumption.
We had, if you can remember, we knew lots of naughty words that we thought adults wouldn't know that we knew, but I could not escape, as I said, my mother was very determined, and I had to say these naughty, naughty rhymes, into a tape recorder while the serious Norm O'Connor was looking at me holding his microphone about this big, and his Byer tape recorder with huge reel to reel. And this recording of me and my girlfriends, and Richard now exists in the National Library. Please don't go look for it.
Okay, so I memorised the rhymes, but Richard wasn't quite so smart. He wrote them down in his school exercise book, and you could see he wasn't that old. That's Richard, that's me, the tall one there. And he got into trouble with the headmaster. Dad got called to the school, and you know, why was his son writing disgusting words in a book? And he just laughed. He said, well that's what his mum told him to do. And Richard was in big trouble. But that's what his mum had told him to do. So he got away with it. Now what kind of mother, exceptional mother, gets you in trouble with school, for writing dirty words in books?
But that's what she was like, and that's why she started to collect folklore. And thankfully she had a very new age husband, Werner. They brought up three children. She studied for a matriculation, she completed an adult arts degree, a teaching diploma, and a librarianship diploma before Richard was four or five, I think, he's the youngest. She edited a magazine, "Australian Tradition," posted it out and sent it from our lounge room floor. We folded it, we stamped it, wrote addresses. She became a pioneering oral historian, writing "Weevils in the Flour," "Immigrants Under the Hook," and "Weevils at Work." And as Kathryn said, her archives in the National Library, are quite extensive. 4.4 metres of archive books as well as all those recordings. And they would still be in NLA storage for a long time, until technology caught up. And now they are digitised and catalogued, and we are getting to see them.
The other dynamic woman who features in our documentary, is mum's good friend Wendy, sorry, Shirley Andrews, who was the director of the very first Folk Festival in Melbourne, 1967. So this was conceived by Madame Wyndham-Reade, but you needed the women organisers, pardon me, as well as the long-haired Folk musicians, to actually get it off the ground. Whilst the other Bush Music Club members were out recording songs, Shirley had a dancing background, and she explains how she wrote down the traditional bush dancers in the early '60s, which by then were nearly unknown except in very isolated areas, of Nariel and Corryong. And we'll see the footage of that.
The first Folk Festival was held in Melbourne, was a huge success. And Shirley tells a story about having to put on her hats and gloves and go to talk to the vice chancellor, to get a bigger venue because there was too many people, and Shirley in a hat and gloves, if you knew her, that's quite a interesting idea. It was a huge success. And bands like the Bush Whackers and The Cobbers began to do upbeat louder versions, and they hold big bush dancers. And so Shirley's work, and that of a handful of dedicated folklorists, has not disappeared, but it's become widely known, and still enjoyed and performed today. And Folk Festivals proliferated all around.
We'll also hear an Indigenous contemporary song, about World War II and the bombing of Broome, that mum collected. And we have verbal permission and written permission, for all the Indigenous footage. But the post-war period was also a time of social change, which our film briefly portrays. Idealistic young people, often those who'd been in the anti-nuclear war peace movements, they were determined to find and develop Australia's unique social culture, and not simply copy English and US music. We learned history or, I learned history, it was Captain Cook who discovered Australia. It wasn't the sailors on the boat, and it wasn't the Indigenous Australians. Our music and our dance and our songs, were mainly from British and America.
But progressive and left-wing people mainly, pushing for social change, were determined to find a unique Australian culture. They're often disillusioned with the realities of Stalin, the invasion of Hungary. And rather than plotting to destroy our society, which AISO might've thought they were, all the ones we met and knew, were organising equal pay for women, feminism, better social housing, more livable cities, conservation of nature, women's refuges, community organisations, trying to build a more egalitarian, feminine conscious Australia. They started many social reforms, that we now take for granted, and we like to honour those people very much.
At the same time, they began to search, as I said, for a very different social history, centred on everyday Australians. And we wanna highlight and thank the folklorists, who had the skills and foresight to collect these bush culture and extend this documentary, to a full length. We'll later point to you where you can assist, because it's actually very difficult to get a documentary funded at the moment.
So our current stories from the viewpoint, of two formidable women, but there are more, and many other people, they were very much a part of our lives. And so, we felt this is the way to go. It's also the story of a distinctly different and adventurous Lowenstein family, which in itself is an interesting story, which of course I didn't appreciate till I was a lot older. We went to protest marches, Folk Festivals, Folk Club, Pete Seeger concerts. And in 1969, we went on probably the first, one year camping trip Pan Australia Folklore Expedition, to collect material. We experienced the origins of all the Bush music clubs, from when we were three, four, or five, we were sitting in the sing abouts, and the National Folk Festival as a celebration that everyone could participate in.
The first National Folk Festival in Melbourne in 1967, had volunteers, Peter, Martie, and Richard Lowenstein. There was volunteers, it was a unique philosophy of fun, and music and togetherness. And there was dancers, singers, amateur musicians, participatory singing, jamming together, dance sessions. And you'll see lots of pictures of this, which are luckily in mum's archives. There was activities for children, ethnic and Indigenous culture, contemporary composers protest songs, 'cause of course that was the time of the Vietnam War, as well as many serious talks on Folk music. The committee were determined and enthusiastic. They wanted a people-centered experience. And volunteers, of course, made it viable, and they still are a huge part of the Folk Festival.
And when I returned again to the Folk Festival, as a senior citizen, I was so proud, that the spirit of cooperation, and enthusiasm was still there. It could have become a big, profitable moneymaking business, but it's not. It's remained true to its original ethic, and it strongly reminds me of the '60s and '70s, a lot of people with beards, loose flowing dresses and having a lot of fun.
So Shirley and Wendy followed their mission, to preserve Bush culture. They were unstoppable. They worked on social equality issues and peace events. And I'll let the film tell the story, of people who'd grown up through the '30s depression, World War II and thought it was time to make a better world for people in Australia. My many thanks to many, many people. The Folky network is absolutely amazing, and incredibly generous. People found me material hidden in their homes, and in their archives. There was tremendous help from the National Library, and we're extremely grateful for the Sydney Bush Music Club, whose archives are impeccable, who filled the gap in some of the Victorian archives. So thank you to the National Library for an amazing year, the National Folk Festival for doing such a great job and the National Film and Sound Archive, for helping us with a lot of this footage. And we are ready to screen the documentary. Thank you, Adam.
Man: "Weevils in the Flour," concerning the thirties depression years in particular. And most recently "Under the hook," history of the Melbourne Waterside Workers Federation, I would then like to introduce Wendy Lowenstein.
Wendy Lowenstein: My father was a city bushman. He went every day to work, same place for 55 years. But his heart was in the bush, and he knew that was where the real Australia happened. And I remember he gave me about my 15th birthday-
Romantic Bush published that.
My sister was the first communist in our family, and she used to take me to New Theatre working plays. I was about 14, I suppose. The very first day I went and I was standing there, and not knowing what to do and a young woman came up to me, and said, "excuse me, comrade, would you mind helping me with the costume?" I dunno, she calls me comrade. I was converted. Then at the end she said to me, "look, could you come next week, too?" And like, oh wow, you know, try and stop me, 'cause it was such a wonderful thing for a kid to be treated by these very grown up people who were putting on plays, and were fighting for the peace movement, and doing all these things. And it was such a whole new world that I opened up that day and it never stopped.
My brother said, "look, you should come to Mayday, you'd like it. You should be in the Eureka League," he said. And so he just sort of took me there, and said, "here, stand there, and march."
New Theatre had been an absolute joy to me, but this was better because it was younger people, and they were doing really remarkable things.
You know, I was a child of the middle class, and I was a great reader, and so many of the young people there, it was absolutely a new life to them. It was a new life to me too because I was a lonely child.
And we had terrific social things. We had campfires down there on the river, and the singing. The singing will never be lost. The left wing always had the best songs. They just had the worst guns.
Recording singers: [singing] We are the youth. Brings us long, long dreams.
Wendy Lowenstein: People who were famous artists, famous singers, academics. It was this whole thing that just swept you up. It was wonderful.
Frank Hardy used to come down at night, and sit around a campfire, and Frank for the first time sang The Overlander, "Pass the Billy Round My Boys." ♪
Recording singers: [singing] Pass the billy round, my boys. Don't let the pintpot stand there. For tonight we drink the health.
Wendy Lowenstein: And I learnt that off Frank, and I taught it to the Eureka League.
Bruce Armstrong: We had a vigilante committee.
Pauline Armstrong: Used to come with their torches, look in the tents.
Bruce Armstrong: I was on one of these one night. You were dragged into it, but you would see young couples at the camp. Obviously they had the hots for each other, but there powerful forces at work there, that not even the vigilante committees could have stopped.
Werner Lowenstein: The first thing she said, "I'm a journalist," or she was proofreader on the Guardian wasn't it? Then we kept on going together.
Singers: [singing] Oh this is sweeter than wine.
Wendy Lowenstein: When my husband proposed to me, I said, "I really couldn't marry anyone who wasn't a communist." He said, "I don't mind joining, you never asked me!"
Singers: [singing] When I was a young man, I'd never been kissed. I got to thinking over what I had missed. I got me a girl, I kissed her and then. Oh Lord, I kissed her again.
Wendy Lowenstein: Audrey Blake was the National Secretary of the Eureka League and I worked for her at that time. Remember Audrey Blake went to a peace youth conference, after the war.
Reporter: Russians out of Berlin, 25,000 marchers from 16 Nations opened the Communist sponsored World Festival of Youth with a ceremony-
Wendy Lowenstein: And then came the, said, "oh God, it's embarrassing. Every other country in the world's got thousands of songs. I ask you to sing a Australian song. All we can sing is "Waltzing Matilda" "The Wild Colonial Boy," and "Botany Bay.""
Shirley Andrews: And then some of the people who've been to this year's festival decide to hold a local one.
Reporter: On March the 15th, in brilliant Australian sunshine, people began streaming into the Hollywood picnic ground, for the opening of the Youth Carnival, for Peace and Friendship.
Shirley Andrews: And that was held in Sydney in 1952.
Another group that was important was the Austral Singers. They were singing there, and they had been researching these Australian's Folk songs and they were singing them at this period.
Wendy Lowenstein: My husband Werner was in the Austral Singers, and they sang Australian songs with choral arrangements, very quiet like. He and Doug Horsborough and other members, of the Austral Singers were in the first "Reedy River."
Shirley Andrews: And the New Theatre decided that they needed to do something using some of this material. They got together. And out of that arose a script for "Reedy River," which was written by Dick Diamond. It was Sydney that first introduced the Bush Band, using the members, of the original Bush Whackers band. There was John Meredith, Alan Scott, Gay Scott, Chris Kemstone.
Wendy Lowenstein: And it was the most popular thing, that New Theatre ever put on. It was an enormous cultural revival.
Shirley Andrews: All these things was coming together, with the general feeling that a lot of people had, that they wanted to know a bit more about things that were Australian rather than things that were imported.
Wendy Lowenstein: The success of "Reedy River" absolutely astounded New Theatre. People who've never ever been to a play, were going to New Theatre.
Singers: [singing] From Claremont to Barcaldine. The shearers' camps were full. Ten thousand blades were ready to strip the greasy wool. When through the west like thunder. Rang out the Union's call. The sheds'll be shore Union. Or they won't be shorn at all.
Wendy Lowenstein: The Folk Music Club did grow more strongly, out of "Reedy River." A great number of people went abroad to youth festivals. So met people like Pete Seeger, and came home with songs like, "There Once Was a Union Maid," and "Talking Union."
Interviewer: What is Folk music?
Pete Seeger: I'm no scholar, I'm no authority. All I can say is that some people think Folk music has to be 300 years old, good and mouldy like a cheese. Other people will say it's anything that folks sing. I usually think it's a quality that some songs have got more of and other songs have less of.
Wendy Lowenstein: We started the Folklore Society of Victoria, Ian Turner and I started that.
Shirley Andrews: That was founded more with the idea of studying and collecting material. The more academic side of folklore. The Billabong Band leading members, were Frank Nickels and Joy Durst. They started having regular, what were called singabout dates, and they felt there was a different need, for people who wanted to participate in singing and dancing. In July '59, they actually launched the Victorian Bush Music Club, now called the Victorian Folk Music Club. They were both joined together to publish a magazine, which was called Gum Suckers' Gazette.
Wendy Lowenstein: It started off, as the Folk Music Club's newsletter. We called it the Gums Suckers' Gazette, Gum Sucker being an early name for Victorians. It was mostly an inner club thing with an occasional song, or little story about some aspect of Australiana. And we started publishing the tunes and poems, and songs, which members of the Victorian Folk Music Club, and the Folk Society of Victoria were collecting. And then when we got a bit more circulation, we put out a more professional looking journal, which comes out three or four times a year, depending on the amount of stuff which is available. Pete Seeger would write euphoric letters, every year, there was a lot of stuff!
Shirley Andrews: When I first saw the people in Nariel, an area in Northeast Victoria, that Corryong Valley is an isolated place, and the radio reception there is very poor. It wasn't as influenced by radio, as a lot of other places were. And they had all these families, who were very good musicians and dancers. The Folklore Society organised this collecting trip, and they asked me to go along with them, and that's where we met them all, and they played all their music for us. I went to their New Year's Eve dance.
Con Klippel: The old time movement has been revived, and it goes back for 150 years. It's been handed down to my grandfather, who came from Germany in 1839, and he was one of the most talented people.
Wendy Lowenstein: Norm brought this Byer tape recorder. He was tape recording brief, and Harry took them up to introduced him to Simon McDonald. I think we were looking for another manky, snowy river, or wild- And Simon played his repertoire to him. ♪
Simon McDonald: [singing] If ever you like the coffee black. We used to go out to bed, you know. A little bit after dark. The room we used to sleep in was just like Noah's ark. There were dogs and rats and mice and cats. And pigs. And I'll never forget the time we had. While down in Bungaree. In the old bar cot. In the old bar cot. I'm gonna live on rations in the old bar cot.
Shirley Andrews: It was the success of the Folk Festivals in America. The Newport Folk Festival combined both of theatrical Folk singers like Pete Seeger, with the traditional players there as well. And it seemed to us like a good idea, to have something similar here. Some of the prominent singers were interested. Martyn Wyndham-Reade. Glen Tomasetti was another one.
Glen Tomasetti: [singing] Too polite, girls, don't be too polite. Show a little fight, girls, show a little fight. Don't be fearful of offending. In case you get the sack. Just recognise your value. And we won't look back.
Phyl Lobl: [singing] Mother, may I go to swim. Yes, my dark-eyed daughter. Mother, I would go out to swim. But at the pool, I can't get in. Because of the colour of my skin. Because I'm your dark-eyed daughter.
Wendy Lowenstein: It was held in February in 1967.
Host: Well here's Danny Spooner.
Danny Spooner: [singing] She's a funny lass and she likes her beer. And her name is. And I wish she were here.
Shirley Andrews: We got such a bigger crowd than we expected, and we had so many people that wouldn't all fit in.
Host: One of the best known Australian songwriters, Don Henderson.
Don Henderson: I woke up this morning early. I said, morning sunshine. Morning girly morning world. We'll be with you in a minute. Good morning, bottle with a little bit in it. Where were you last night when I needed you.
Host: Now the next singer is Margret RoadKnight.
Margaret RoadKnight: [singing] The lady comes to the cage. Dressed in lavender and leather. Looking off to the sea. She finds the weather fine. She hears the steeple bells. Ringing through the orchard. All the way from town. She watched as he goes by. Silver on the ocean.
Wendy Lowenstein: I've got just one rather sad duty to perform on behalf of the Port Phillip District Music Festival committee, to regretfully close this festival, and wish you all good singing, and good playing until we see you again.
Host: And now a singer, who needs very little introduction. It is Declan Affley.
Declan Affley: [singing] I am a rake and a rambling man. Fortune I fall to where I can. Could I be, would I be other than. A rake, that's a rambling man. I travelled far, I travelled wide.
Wendy Lowenstein: '69, we went around Australia for a year. I applied for a Commonwealth Literature Fund Grant, they gave me 500 pound. I got a tape recorder given to me by some firm, we had our four wheel drive emblazoned with their name, Australian Folklore Expedition, it's on the front cover of a "Tradition," here actually.
Declan Affley: [singing] No welcome home, no where to stay. I never linger too long for I'm a rake. That's a rambling man.
Woman: "Dear Shirley. I'm sitting in a tiny caravan trailer, which looks rather like a toilet on wheels, pounding on a typewriter in a camping ground, in Geraldton, WA. Werner is working in Krasnostein's junk yard, sorting scrap metal. Peter is humping bags of urea. His knuckles won't heal for weeks. And Martie is the youngest girl working at Col's. Richard's in the tent making a wire sculpture."
Werner Lowenstein [singing]: As black as any crows could be. Cry, cry, cry. Said one black crow and to the other. Where should be dine today, dear brother. Cry, cry, cry.
Jack Guard: Now this this is originally composed myself. [Singing] On Yonder Hill, an old grain mill. I think my friend, we shall dine there. Now that is why you're lost, and see. Oh, a white crow among the trees.
Werner Lownstein: That's how the old guy sang it to us. Wendy, my wife's got it, recorded. We caught a number of Australian Folk songs.
Wendy Lowenstein: If I go to a bloke and say to him, do you sing songs? Do you play tunes? Do you make up poems and recite them, or will you tell me about how you used to drive a bull team, which is folklore proper. And he wants to tell me as well as all what, about how his grandfather settled the place, or his own part in the history of the area. I take the lot because I think it's a sin, and a shame to leave that valuable material, 'cause no one else may collect it. So I spread my field from folklore, to include oral history, local history. And I was particularly interested, in the off the record stuff, the things that tend not to be put in books because people are very conscious, when they're writing books, they're writing for the record and they often don't realise, just how much the byways of history are the fascinating ones.
Paddy Poe: Nurlu, they call 'em, for "Jabirr."
Wendy Lowenstein: For "Jabirr," what's "Jabirr?"
Paddy Roe: "Jabirr" song, special song.
Wendy Lowenstein: "Jabirr," Aboriginal contemporary song. The whole corroboree isn't about the Japanese bombing? Just the one song?
Paddy Roe: Only one song, yeah. You wouldn't mind, I sing this to you, yeah?
Wendy Lowenstein: I'd love it.
Paddy Roe: It's very good you people be coming, helping us like this, everything...
Wendy Lowenstein: About time, isn't it?
Paddy Roe: Yeah, about time.
Woman: "Dear Shirley, our aboriginal friend Paddy Roe gets $40 a week for gardening at the store, while Peter, who is 18, gets $66, for the same job in the meat works manager's garden."
Wendy Lowenstein: Did you used to sing to the cattle?
Nulla Thompson: Oh, yes, yes.
Wendy Lowenstein: What's that for?
Nulla Thompson: As long as you're making a noise, or whistlin' or...
Wendy Lowenstein: That's because if you go up to 'em, they could get a fright.
Nulla Thompson: Yeah, yeah, some of the boys and they sang out, "hey Nulla, your wife's here, you know, don't sing that one!"
Wendy Lowenstein: Which one?
Nulla Thompson: "Little Old Drawers that Mary Wore."
Wendy Lowenstein: Ah, I know "Little Old Drawers that Mary Wore." [singing]
Nulla Thompson: [singing] They were tattered, they were torn. They were pilled with. Those little old red drawers that Maggie wore.
Woman: "Dear Shirley, too much travelling, too many awfully bad roads. Broken pack racks, tow bars and trailer axles. In Whitham, Martie was riding a quiet horse, when the saddle slipped. She ended up in hospital, with a huge tropical abscess on her leg. Whitham is the most scenic place we've come across. The district has half a dozen magnificent gorges all running into each other and spectacular each in its own way. There are numerous pools of permanent water in the gorge. Really beautiful. But the camping ground is rough as guns.
Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, the show is on! Ringmaster introduces a death defying trapeze act by Dimey Saint Leah.
Wendy Lowenstein: You had to start small I suppose, when you started.
Jean Aroney: Yes, well I had four elephants. This is the sort of the backbone of it. And they were all good performers themselves, and reasonably young so it wasn't very difficult, you know, and those days things were much cheaper, and you could do more with a pound, than you could with 10 these days.
Wendy Lowenstein: What's your name mate?
Michael Perry: Perry, Michael Perry.
Wendy Lowenstein: And you come of a circus family, do you?
Michael Perry: Yes, ah yeah, two brothers, my father and his brother, they had a circus together. It was handed down from him down to my father, and his family. And now it's down to about the fifth generation now.
Wendy Lowenstein: And this is common in circuses, is it?
Michael Perry: Oh yes, yes, yeah. They all run down from generation, to generation like Bullens and Ashtons. They're all run down from their parents down, and down and down for the younger generation. And the daughter's very keen on it. But I don't think her son's too keen on the circus business. The daughter likes the circus life. Lovely little performer, the daughter.
Wendy Lowenstein: What at?
Michael Perry: Well just trapeze work, and contortion work and all that sort of thing. Bending and all that sort of thing, contortion work.
Wendy Lowenstein: How do they learn it?
Woman: "Dear Shirley, we thought we'd go to Burketown, the place where Burke and Wills arrived at the gulf. The car broke down and it took a week to get the spare parts in up. We had to camp right in the main street near the only shop, not a tree or any shade for the tent or trailer. The water supply from the only bore tasted so revolting, Werner and I drank at the pub. The kids would only drink water with lemon cordial.
Declan Affley: [singing]:I travel far, I travel wide. From where winds spring to where winds blow. For every hill has an unseen side. Cross roads that quarrel the four ways to go. Perhaps it'll be that I'll never know fame. Maybe again I will. Bright lights might never write out my name. But it will not matter if I am still. A rake, that's a rambling man. I am a rake and a rambling man. Fortune I fall to where I can. Could I be, would I be, other than. A rake, that's a rambling man.
Martie Lowenstein: Oh, there's our logo, our QR code to scan, to make the documentary Richard wants to make. He's the great filmmaker in the family. I do the research. And we will need some help, to get this film going very much. I'm hoping to introduce my brother, who'll be in on Zoom very soon. There he is. And he can talk mostly about the filmmaking, and I can talk about lots of other things. So, hello Richard.
Richard Lowenstein: Hello.
Martie Lowenstein: Hopefully we have sound.
Richard Lowenstein: Seems a little jerky, but I think it's working. Is the voice working okay? Just need someone saying it's working. Hello?
Martie Lowenstein: Yep, you're here, can you hear us?
Richard Lowenstein: Oh good, yes. Well, so you can hear me, 'cause I'm having great trouble hearing anything there. I think maybe the internet is very slow.
Martie Lowenstein: Would you like to talk about it?
Richard Lowenstein: Yes, I think you said would I like to talk about it? Yes, well, at the moment, yes, we were keen to turn that film into a portrait of both Shirley Andrews, and, who's mentioned in that film, and also Wendy as two strikingly different historians, but also to women that sort of forged quite radical paths in the post-war era and also, and led to the rise of the Folk movement, and the oral history movement, which was at a simultaneous time.
So it's basically where we're following both Shirley's career, Shirley Andrews was quite prominent in the Aboriginal rights movement of the post-war era, which led to the '67 referendum, which was incredibly relevant to today's age. And then mum's career, which is like, bringing up three children, and a husband, at the same time as teaching and being an oral historian, and not really prepared to be the conventional stereotypical mother bringing up a nuclear family.
So we have a plethora of archive from mum, we've recently just accessed the ASIO surveillance footage that ASIO was used to film everyone, who was a member of the Communist Party. And luckily they were filming things like the bush bands, at the Mayday marches and things like that, who are all aligned with the left. So we have an extraordinary amount of extra footage, we are accessing of the Eureka Youth League, and where they started singing Folk songs, in the '50s as mum mentions. And it should be quite an extraordinary, sort of compilation of never before seen archive, including what the ABC has of the early Folk Festivals, and the Folk movement and everything like that.
So, the current climate for funding such films, is pretty grim with the cuts to the ABC, that they refuse to commission such things anymore. Their longest format's only half an hour. So it's pretty grim. And even after the labour government got in, I would say it got even grimmer. So we're trying to raise some crowdfunding, which will be matched by the Screen Australia, and Vix Screen. So, and then eventually, show at the Melbourne Film Festival, probably in a year's time, the rate this will go. So I don't know, the best thing to probably, say or do is to hand it over to any questions, that maybe Martie can adjudicate. And I'm here to answer anything, that anybody wants to put to us.
Kathryn Favelle: Richard, I dunno if you can hear me, it's Kathryn here. Oh, we've got a bit of fallback, but I'm wondering if we do have any questions. We've got some microphones. Ben's got some microphones, Roxy, so if you've got a question, pop your hand up. I hope you can see why I was so excited, about the proposal when we received it. The idea that Martie and Richard were going to transform their mother's oral history collection into a very visual document for a wider audience was really exciting for me. And it's great to hear the plans that you both have to extend that documentary and take it even further. Any questions from those here in the theatre? Yes, we've got one, just takes one brave person. We'll grab a microphone. Oh, we might have even two. Here comes Ben.
Audience Member 1: Hi, the film was great, thank you. It's really, really amazing to see Australia in such a different way. Like if nothing else, it's great, it's really great history. I don't mean that badly, it's amazing for people to see it, especially young people now, to look back at Australia, and it's only 50 years ago, like it's not really very long. We had a friend here in Canberra, who was out collecting songs in the '70s. And I dunno if his stuff is bush songs, but I'm curious about what Wendy collected, in terms of other social history, and if that's what you're gonna include in the film. I suppose so the stories that went into "Weevils in the Flour," that sort of thing. If that's what you are expecting, what you're thinking you'll include, or just what the sort of content might be. Thank you.
Martie Lowenstein: Do you wanna answer that? Can you hear that Richard?
Richard Lowenstein: I got that, it's incredibly difficult. It's all chopped up, but yes, we are intending to keep going forward in the story to where she started collecting the "Weevils in the Flour" material, and also the "Under the Hook" material about the waterside workers and to illuminate that footage.
We not only have archive, but we also have the two films, I made in my tender years based on Wendy, mum's work, which was a half hour dramatised documentary, called "Evictions," which was the story of Noel Conahan and Tom Hills' struggles during the Great Depression, with the unemployed workers movement, unemployed workers union actually. And also "Strike Bound," which was based on the Wonthaggi miner's strike, of the similar era. So in "Strike Bound," there's people such as Declan Affley, singing Folk songs and we have all the footage of that, filmed in glorious 35 mil and everything.
So the journey will continue and there just seems to be a wealth of footage and all the oral histories from the NLA. I think it's worth noting that this is, you know, rather than oral histories and things just staying in libraries, it's what what we hope to show, is how they can be accessed, and used in not only radio programmes, podcasts, films, TV programmes. It's rather than being a static collection, that's just there for future generations, it should be stories, and stories and material that somehow is packaged, 'cause that's fundamentally what we're doing. We are packaging it for a new generation to view, and look at rather than, you know, trawling through archives and listening to old recordings. So I think it's not only a great story in itself, but it's a great example of what can be done, with oral histories and especially with today's technology, of cleaning up the sound and all that sort of stuff. So I hope that answers the question.
Kathryn Favelle: That's a great answer. Now that we've had one question, does anyone have another one? And while you're thinking of it, I can give a plug to the oral history collection. We have over 55,000 hours, of oral histories in the collection, and many of them are available online. So while people like Martie and Richard are packaging it up for us, you can start trawling, and pick a topic and see what you discover in the oral history collection and have a listen at home.
Martie Lowenstein: It's absolutely true. I had two weeks here and found lots of wonderful things. If I could afford to stay in Canberra, it'd be great.
Kathryn Favelle: And with so much of it online, now I'm sounding like an ad for the National Library. You don't have to leave home. But we hope you'll be back, and we hope, I hope that we'll be seeing formidable women here at the library before too long. It did strike me though Martie, that you are carrying on the tradition, of being a formidable woman, walking in your mother's shoes. And I'm very much looking forward to seeing what Wendy and Martie and Richard do next.
As we bring the evening to a close, can I call last drinks on questions? Thank you all for coming this evening. I hope you'll join us for our next Fellowship talk. It's been a really bumpy year of Fellowship talks. I would love to thank the National Folk Fellow. Oh look, we may have a last question up back there- Oh no, just a stretch. We've had a wonderful year of Fellowship talks. We can only make our fellowships programme happen, through the support of donors, and the National Folk Festival has truly been a wonderful donor partner for many, many years. Thank you all for coming tonight. Would you please join me in thanking Martie, and Richard for a wonderful evening, and a wonderful insight into the life of their family and their mother.
Martie Lowenstein: Thank you. Just one more thing. The film has been through a few... Now called it "Don't Be Too Polite, Girls," in honour of Glen Tomasetti, and I guess the female figures in the Folk movement. And there was quite a lot of them. Not to say that the men weren't there, they absolutely were, but it sort of was an open time for women, and they got a lot of respect I think, for their work. And that's the website, we're up to 4,195. Not quite gonna make a film yet, but we're working on it. Thank you.
Hear from Martie Lowenstein as she presents a lecture on her 2023 National Folk Fellowship research about Wendy Lowenstein's significant contribution to the development of the folk movement in Australia and her year-long oral history collecting trip in 1969.
This lecture included a screening of the 22 minute documentary from Richard Lowenstein that is based off Martie's Fellowship research. Richard also joined the presentation via Zoom after the screening.
About Martie Lowenstein's Fellowship research
Martie Lowenstein's project utilises a mixture of film and staged presentation to tell a story. It begins with a film documentary compiled from Library's archives covering Wendy Lowenstein’s founding contribution to the folk movement and covers the family’s year-long oral history collecting trip in 1969 – ‘The Australian Folklore Expedition’. This production records and celebrates the early folk revival in Australia including a collection of Australian folk songs from performers from the 1950-60's and archival material in the Library depicting the First National Folk Festival in 1967.
About Martie Lowenstein
Martie Lowenstein grew up immersed in Australian bush music, has sung in a number of Melbourne choirs and now leads several community singing groups. She is the daughter of Wendy Lowenstein, a pioneering Australian Oral Historian whose collection of interviews of everyday people from 1966 -1997 covers over 800 life stories. Martie also teaches regular courses which cover 200 years of everyday life throughout Australian history, illustrated by Australian folk songs, poems and real-life stories.
About Richard Lowenstein
Richard Lowenstein is a writer, director and producer know for the movies Dogs in Space (1986) and He Died with a Felafel in his Hand (2001), the documentary Mystify: Michael Hutchence (2019) and the director of many 1980s music videos for groups such as INXS and Crowded House.
About the National Folk Fellowship
The annual National Folk Fellowship is offered jointly by the National Library of Australia and the National Folk Festival. Since 2004 the National Folk Fellowship has supported established and emerging folk practitioners to further their work using the Library’s collections, including musicians, singers, dancers, poets, performance artists and performers.