The mud bricks of Blackall’s Bushman’s Hotel have heard plenty of tall fishing tales and a few shearing yarns in their time, but now they are alive again as the home of a state-of-the-art digital exhibition capturing memories of a western Queensland community.
The historic building, constructed in 1891, has stood vacant for a number of years but has now been repurposed into the Bushman’s Gallery, hosting an excited buzz of conversation for the opening of the Enchanting Moments presentation last Friday.
It was the result of months of hard work and generations of stories, underpinned by a partnership between outback arts development group, Red Ridge and the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council, with funding from both parties as well as state and federal governments, the Stockwell-Webber Foundation and the Queensland Arts Council.
They were acting on a desire by the building’s owners, the Barcoo Retirement Village, to “make the area sing with Blackall’s heritage” in advance of the community’s sesquicentenary celebrations scheduled for late August.
Creative Blackall duo, Kirstie Davison, MaRiKi Media, and photographer Lisa Alexander, were commissioned by Red Ridge to interview residents to document their memories on a variety of topics for the digital story-telling project.
Blackall-Tambo mayor and Red Ridge chairman, Andrew Martin, said both groups recognised the importance of capturing the stories of the community.
"The changes over the years from when Blackall was first settled to what it is today, is something to be celebrated and remembered,” he said. “With an ageing population it is imperative to act now to capture stories and memories of being young and growing up in past eras."
The project is one of five cultural tourism products that the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council commissioned Red Ridge to undertake in the lead-up to the B150 celebrations in August.
Another will be an installation at Smiths Garage, and the combination of each will result in memories shared about droving, mechanics, pub life and more, over a century of living.
Red Ridge manager, Louise Campbell said it was an exciting time for the community.
“This project embraces new and unique tourism products,” she said. “The results will share who were are, presented in interactive digital platforms easily accessible for all."
Iain Anderson from Training Brisbane produced the animation and the app that delivers the interactive element to the exhibition, while RAPAD Employment Services Queensland undertook the restoration of the empty pub under the guidance of professional builder Gerard Bell.
RESQ project manager, Alina Rasmussen said it had been a unique platform that gave participants an opportunity to learn new skills and see the results of their efforts on display.
“It’s really rewarding for the guys to walk down the street and be able to see the work they did...not a lot of community development programs give the opportunity to so openly display their work,” she said.
Ms Campbell said a combination of skills in the areas of digital media, music, performance, digital art, photography, animation and a digital app had brought the project to life.
"It is essential to build capacity from within our own community, so that we can grow creative skills and create regional employment," she said.
Judging from the animated chatter among the crowd that spilled out onto the footpath last Friday, the project has hit the mark on all fronts.
The weekend launch program was supported by the state government’s Drought Relief Assistance Scheme.