“Everyone has their story to tell” – so goes the underlying premise of ‘Glebe Bytes’, a new project aimed at recording the unique and compelling history of the inner-city suburb. From memories of the matinee movie at the Astor, the old timber mills and the tram, to the Valhalla Theatre and the social upheaval against proposals for an expressway in the 1970s, there’s something to sate the curiosity of people from all walks of life.
Glebe Bytes is a community group which has recorded and edited the oral histories of around fifty local residents, as part of the suburb’s sesquicentennial celebrations. They range from the experiences of current primary school children to nonagenarians, and reflect the story of an area which has undergone constant evolution, change and recreation, particularly in recent years.
Most of the project’s participants and interviewees are residents of Housing NSW, with one of the main aims to help break down community stereotypes about those living in public housing. For the project co-ordinators, identifying the area’s untold local stories has been a significant driving force. “Oral histories can build bridges in the community and literally preserve the spoken recollections of Glebe for future generations,” said project participant Marla Priest.
A recurring theme throughout the contributions is a love of the suburb, its vibrant arts and cultural scene, and an unwillingness to swap it for anywhere else. “‘You’ll have to carry me out of Glebe in a box’ is a popular sentiment,” said project co-ordinator and local resident, Dugald Jellie.
The exhibition packs a host of varying and fascinating tales, to the extent that any attempt to choose a standout seems churlish. But City of Sydney councillor and long-time Glebe resident Meredith Burgmann can always be counted on to deliver a cracking tale, and her contribution to this project is no exception. “[She] has a hilarious tale of when she lived in a share-house in Darghan Street and they lost a pig they intended to grease and release on the SCG during anti-apartheid rugby protests,” Jellie said.
For its co-ordinators, the sense of history surrounding the project is extremely important. “It’s very much a social history, of conversations over back fences – but it’s also a shared one,” Jellie said. “Much of it is working class history, of people who were marginalised from mainstream society for whatever reason.” To this end, the tales presented in Glebe Bytes are reflective of the broader social and political issues which shaped an old Sydney, one which has now largely disappeared.
The project’s accumulated histories will soon be made freely available via the City of Sydney’s impending Wireless House website. But despite the organisers’ best efforts, some stories have been lost to the mists of time.
The fate of the greased pig remains unrecorded.
Glebe Bytes will be launched by Sydney Deputy Lord Mayor Marcelle Hoff at 12.30pm on Wednesday, August 5, at the Glebe Youth Service (84 Glebe Point Road). All are welcome to attend; for more information, contact Dugald Jellie at email@example.com.