Bourke-born artist Andrew Hull drew a crowd of about 300 residents and visitors to Bourke wharf at dusk on Sat 6 July to witness the floating of 250 very special lanterns. The project, Remembering the River, invited Bourke residents to share their memories and unique perspectives of the river, through stories and images, in workshops that were held locally and regionally over the last several months. These memories were then transferred onto the lenses of each lantern.
Audio recordings have also been made of people’s individual stories and these have been produced for radio, in partnership with 2WEB in Bourke, ABC Western Plains in Dubbo and 2CUZ-FM. These stories will be broadcast through July and August. The individual interviews are being archived at the Back O Bourke Centre for posterity.
Remembering the River is one of ten community-based activities of the One River project, a national program of the Centenary of Canberra devised by Creative Director, Robyn Archer AO, as a way of teasing out some of the familiar threads of the lived experience of living in the Basin. “Despite the continuing divisiveness over water usage and allocation throughout the system, I had always believed that widespread communities throughout the system could find a common ground in shared stories of river life. It’s heartening that we can use the occasion of the capital’s centenary year to record and disseminate these stories,” Ms Archer said.
Andrew has a strong and ongoing connection to the region and is passionate about the role the arts can play in connecting people to each other and to the places they live. He has worked with communities along the smaller rivers which form the upper catchment of the Darling River. These include Wanaaring (Paroo River), Fords Bridge (Warrego River) and Bourke (Darling River).“Growing up in a river town has meant that the muddy stream has always woven its way through my life, and that can be said for everyone to a greater or lesser extent,” Andrew said.
“What was really great to see on the night was people expressing their love of the Darling and being happy to quietly watch all of those messages sit out there on the river,” he said. “For the first time, I felt that we are all river people. We aren’t ‘coasties’, or mountain people; we are not from the desert, valleys, islands or rainforests. The river is what sustains us all, through every aspect of our lives.”
People began gathering at the wharf precinct at about 2pm where they were able to write or draw their memory onto a lantern. Bourke Shire Mayor, Cr Andrew Lewis, commended the artist and all who had worked on the project for drawing such a strong and positive response from residents. The event concluded at about 6:30pm and already there are calls to make this an annual event. Owner and manager of restaurant Diggers on the Darling, Phil Parnaby, said, “It’s great to see Bourke put on such an impressive event that has clearly struck a chord with locals as well as being able to attract such a strong turn-out of people visiting the area”. Andrew plans to work with Bourke Arts Council to develop plans for building on this event and turning it into an annual occasion.