Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Pulp

I just watched an old Roar Film documentary I had never seen, Pulp. It was the story of the Burnie Paper Mill, and the contemporary opera based on its' history which was put on there in 1996, by IHOS Opera of Hobart.

The Pulp was like a big smelly backdrop to my growing up years. They were also the No Dams years and Lake Pedder years, and young would-be greenies like me were pretty resentful of big industries generally. The low point was a front-page story in The Australian labelling Burnie "Australia's dirtiest town". Even Midnight Oil wrote a song about the grey sand and the effluent pipeline.

We would wind up the windows when we drove past to try (in vain) to keep out the smell. It was kind of meaty. The Pulp always looked very shabby, until 1988 when Burnie somehow scraped together 23,000 people to justify city status. The Queen popped over to officiate, and the whole massive site got a lick of paint, and all the broken windows were covered up by half a mile of aluminium siding.

Those are my memories of the Pulp. I really enjoyed the film as it gave a lot of old-timers who worked there for years a chance to tell their side of it. It was beautiful to see old footage of Burnie in the heyday of the Pulp. My brother-in-law Howard worked there, but we were not a Pulp family like many in Burnie. Kids left school and straight away went to join their dad in the machine room or their mum in the paper counting room. Younger kids went to the Pulp Christmas Party each year, and even got birthday presents from the Pulp.

I admire IHOS's work. I have been to a few of their operas, though I didn't see Pulp. The first time I attended one I was overwhelmed. Pulp was the first time they had done any community arts work, but they seemed to get the hang of it. There is a definite IHOS style to what they do - they could be accused of looking for themes on which to hang their greek-chorus-plus-sparks 'n' explosions style. But there were full houses every night, so the community support was certainly there. I saw a few faces I recognised.

Anyone who would like to see the doco, (featuring a slim Con Koukias) let me know, I'll send you out a VHS.


Bennie said...

What is this "VHS" of which you speak?

Any chance of a good old-fashioned DVD?

chris rees said...

DVD? Have a look at your local Bangkok Blockbuster, Benjamin. Probably in the Low Budget Community Art Modern Opera section.

But - you'll be excited to hear that Dust on my Shoes is being reversioned as a stage musical.

And I'm not joking.