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Erskineville stories for the big screen

Erskineville Stories is a film made by local artist, Annie Kennedy. It tells the stories of 10 residents who have lived in Erskineville since the 1920s reports the South Sydney Herald of February 2008.

The project began in 2006 when Annie noticed an absence in her life, after the death of two elderly neighbours whom she used to see on an almost daily basis. After they died, she heard snippets of details about their histories and regretted not having spoken to them more fully about their lives and their recollections of growing up and living in the area. The sense that Erskineville was losing its memories and these valuable sources of oral history, inspired Annie to capture some of the remaining long-term residents on film.

The stories in the film glimpse a rich history of tough times and show changes in the social fabric of a suburb transformed from gutter brawls to gentrification. They tell of how the Rabbitohs got their name, how a local boxer made it into the Guinness Book of Records, the sadness of living in an orphanage in the Depression, dancing with a fisherman and falling in love with his secret letters. Annie says that Erskineville Stories shows local residents as charming characters and highlights their amazing resilience over time.

Such a huge project was far too big for one individual to produce alone. Annie formed the Erskineville Historical Association with some local friends and applied for funding. The project is now supported with a Cultural Grant from the City of Sydney Council. Ray White Real Estate, Newtown, has also been extremely generous as a major sponsor in the screening of the film. In fact, the first resident interviewed for the film came directly through one of the agents from Ray White. She was selling an estate. Annie and Prue had a lengthy discussion about how many older residents had recently died and their homes, now sold, were being renovated. There was such a strong sense of permanent change taking place. It was the urgency of that house going on the market and yet another long-term resident leaving the area that prompted Annie to start filming. It was one of those ludicrous situations. Annie bought a camera and took a leap of faith in the project. It was one of those ideas that took a deep hold on her imagination and just “had to be done”.

The local Erskineville community has also rallied behind the project with residents making donations to help with the costs of producing the film. Residents were asked to pay $5 to become associate members of the Historical Society. This created a data-base of supporters. At one point when funds were needed to pay for professional editing these supporters donated items for sale and a big garage sale was held at a local park which raised enough money to ensure the project could continue. Some residents have been extraordinarily generous. One such resident donated $500 saying how important he thought it was to respect our elderly residents and how important their stories are to the community as a whole.

The generosity of the local community has been very heartening. In the film, many residents speak about the kindness of others during the depression and how people were good to each other. Annie’s experience is that Erskineville is still a place where kindness and generosity is shown and where the sense of local pride remains alive and well. Thanks to the major sponsors, the Erskineville community can continue to enjoy a sense of generosity with the screening being free for everyone to attend.

The film will be screened as a free Moonlight Cinema Event On Saturday March 8 from 6.30pm at Harry Noble Reserve on Swanson Street, Erskineville. Enquiries:

Photo: Annie Kennedy focuses on Erskineville Photo: Ali Blogg

Source: South Sydney Herald February 2008 -