12 stories from Sydney’s past, presented by Warren Fahey

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

Sydney abounds with curious history. Some stories are known but many others have disappeared over time. Cultural historian and storyteller, Warren Fahey, has created a dozen video stories of Sydney’s past – from its convict history through to its colloquial ‘slanguage’. The video series has been released on the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) website and YouTube channel.

Fahey, well-known for his books, recordings and as a performer, is ‘Sydney born and bred’. Born at the end of WW2 he has been witness to many changes in Sydney and especially in how Sydneysiders see themselves as part of the national identity. “My Sydney is a city of vivid memories”. Born in Paddington, where he also established his music businesses, Folkways Music and Larrikin Records, he remembers much about yesterday’s Sydney including its old streets, smells, buildings, eccentrics and festivities. He has lived near the thumping heart of Kings Cross for the past 20 years and continues to celebrate the city’s vibrancy and history. “In creating the video series I wanted to share my personal history without boundaries. I selected twelve unusual aspects and let the stories unfold using archive photographs, drawings, recordings and film. Partnering with the NFSA allowed me to access some very rare films of Sydney, which are truly bringing these 12 stories back to life.”.

NFSA Head of Collection Jacqui Uhlmann said: “There are countless stories preserved in the NFSA collection, and we’re delighted to see twelve of these come to life in Sydney Stories. Collaborations with creatives such as Warren are a wonderful way to share the collection with audiences and remind us all of the power of these living memories.’

The video stories, each running around 15 minutes, offer a unique slice of Sydney’s hidden history.

Ratbags & Rabble-rousers. A history of The Domain as a showcase for eccentrics, radical speakers, tightrope walkers, sporting matches, demonstrations, and Australia’s first aerial ascension.

Showies, Showbags & Sideshow Alley. A look at the Sydney Show – where the country came to town – and especially the curios of sideshow alley with its flea circus, fat lady, Indian rope climber and voodoo mystics.

The Flash Mob. An overview of Sydney’s ‘high life’ down through the decades from the Lord Mayor’s 1844 Fancy Dress Ball to dancing at the Trocadero and ‘fancy’ nightclubs of the fifties.

A Convict’s Tour of Hell. Through the story of ‘Frank the Poet’, an early convict rebel, we explore Sydney’s dark convict past.

Beats, Bongos & Bards. Stories from the Sydney Push and early folk revival where ‘critical drinking’ joined critical thinking and music.

A Celestial Harvest. A snapshot of Sydney’s Chinese community and how it coped with persecution and harassment to emerge as a successful story of multiculturalism.

Kings-Bloody-Cross. A social history of Kings Cross entertainment from the high life to the low life (and sometimes the very low life), and why it remains such a special part of the Sydney story.

Billycarts, Hopscotch & Razzle-dazzles. How Sydney children have amused themselves over the years.

Till Death Do Us Part. A history of how Sydney has buried its dead – a fascinating procession.

Take Me Up The Harbour. An unusual snapshot of Sydney’s maritime history of transport, amusement and as a working harbour.

Larrikins, Louts & Layabouts. Stories about wild gangs of Sydney: the cabbage tree mob, larrikin pushes and later youth tribes.

Twenty Ways to Love Your City. Colloquial expressions, folklore and other nonsense relating to Sydneysiders and the Emerald City.

The series was devised, scripted and storyboarded by Warren Fahey and also saw a return collaboration with video artist, Mic Gruchy, who created the final edit. Warren and Mic worked together on the 2010 Sydney Biennale multi-screen project ‘Damned Souls & Turning Wheels’ which told the story of Cockatoo Island and was one of the Biennale’s ‘most-visited’ works.

Sydney Stories with Warren Fahey features footage from the collection of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA). It was created with assistance from the City of Sydney Creative Fellowships Fund and support of The Vine Foundation. The grants were under the auspice of the Folk Federation of New South Wales.

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length.