Esem Projects’ Dr Sarah Barns, a historian and artist, said: “The concept looks at the working maritime history of the area from the late 1800s onwards, and the role of Barangaroo as a place where arrivals and departures have taken place across a range of different domains of social life.
“We hope Arrivals and Departures will appeal to everyone who is curious about the history of the site and how it has shaped Sydney. There are stories of goods exports and imports, the waterfront workers and the role of labour history, trade history, the Hungry Mile, along with stories of migrant and immigrant arrivals,” she said.
The work features Esem Projects’ own original footage recreating some of the moments of departure, along with images and footage from the National Film and Sound Archive and State Library to tell touching stories such as the elderly couple who ran a business selling the streamers the crowds would throw in welcome as boatloads of people arrived into Sydney.
Another story sheds light on the woman who would stand dockside as soldiers set sail during the second world war, farewelling them in song with Now is the Hour, a tune popularised by Gracie Fields.
In addition to oral histories and interviews, Esem Projects has incorporated excerpts from a mockumentary by Rupert Kathner, one of Australia’s earliest known filmmakers who regularly filmed in the area during the 1930s, that looks at Customs officers’ fight against drugs and contains some particularly endearing pictures of children playing in the area.
The ‘Sea’ Celebration will continue during open weekends in October. To see the full event program and transport information, please visit here.