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Take a trip back in time


South Australia’s History Festival is a chance to discover the stories, characters, culture and buildings of our past. Laura Kroetsch offers an introduction to some of the 500 events and experiences on offer throughout this month.

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If there is one thing I know to be true about South Australians, it is that they truly care about their stories.

This is a place where the past lives on through the preservation of architecture, the Parklands, a host of cultural organisations and, perhaps most importantly, through its people, be they citizen collectors, community groups, history buffs and the simply curious.

South Australia’s History Festival is a celebration of those stories. At a time when we are all reconnecting to community, this festival is a way to learn more about the state, spend time with friends, and make new ones.

Over the month of May you are invited to discover tales of rogues, rascals, visionaries, and makers, the faithful, and a host of sporting legends.

You are invited, often at no cost, to roam the streets, buildings, gardens and cemeteries, where history dwells. You are invited to tea, a wedding, a celebration of the sea shanty, fashion shows, food festivals and a fair amount of dancing.

With every object or story or song, a piece of South Australia will be revealed.

With more than 500 events to choose from I’ve put together this list to get you started:

Family historians should check out Safeguard Your Snaps at the Adelaide Public Library, a hands-on workshop that will see you safely store your family treasures. This free event (on May 5, 12, 19 and 26) will give you the skills to create your own family archive to keep and to share.

The North v Glenelg SANFL Round 6: 1922 Centenary Rematch is one for footy fans. On May 8  you will see these teams go back to the very same pitch at Prospect Oval, wearing a replica of the jumper worn 100 years ago. This is one for the whole family.

Mavericks, Madness and Murder Most Foul! offers lovers of ghosts and ghouls an opportunity to tour of one of Australia’s oldest cemeteries: West Terrace Cemetery, which has been a South Australian landmark since Colonel William Light laid out the city of Adelaide in 1837. Be surprised, shocked, entertained and informed as long-dead characters – heroes and lovers, political greats and cold-blooded killers – appear out of the gloom. 

Those with a taste for cemetery history can also see the film Gawler: A Grave Situation on May 16 at the Gawler Civic Centre. The documentary follows the restoration of a 136-year-old gravesite in the Willaston Cemetery. The screening will include a talk by Paul Westermann, the man behind the restoration.

Missing your inner rock & roller? Then go along to see Rock ’n’ Roll City Exhibition and Her Majesty’s Theatre Talk and Tour. Take a trip back to Adelaide’s pub-rock scene through the gritty photographs of Eric Algra and have a peak at the newly renovated Maj.

If architecture is your thing, join one of the Adelaide Town Hall’s Public Tours. They will take you through the history of the building and its former inhabitants – including Colonel Light ­– and include a very fancy organ and more than a few pictures of the Queen.

For those who fancy the whimsical, the must-see display is A Wedding Yarn at the Tea Tree Gully Heritage Museum. Join in the preparations for Charlotte’s big day with a 12-room extravagant display in which every object has been knitted, including a six-tier wedding cake, floral arrangements and a nursery full of toys.

If motoring is more your style, join the Chrysler Heritage Bus Tour (Torrens Parade Ground, May 15). It will take you on a tour of the Chrysler brand – from bespoke coach builder TJ Richards through the decades-long evolution of the brand up until, and including, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited.

Wine lovers and history buffs are invited to Penfolds History Hunt, a series of one-hour sessions at Penfolds Magill Estate with Penfolds ambassador Jane Gibbs which will explore the 178-year-history of the winery. The aim of the sessions is to expand the historical archive, so please bring along any images or artefacts you are willing to share.

For those with an interest in traditional craft, Traditional Weaving With Southern Elders Weaving Group is a hands-on workshop with the Southern Elders Weaving Group. Tailored to suit different ages and abilities, the experience (on May 27 at Yankalilla Showground) will teach traditional uses for woven objects and how they continue to be made today.

Food and wine lovers will enjoy exploring From Wadni to Whisky: Food and Beverage Production in West Torrens with a visit to Kandahar Historic House and grounds for exhibitions of food and wine covering Indigenous wild foods, market gardens and wineries. Have a cuppa and enjoy a chat with one of the guides.

For more information pick up a hard copy of the program guide or visit the History Festival website. The festival runs throughout May.

Laura Kroetsch, former director of Adelaide Writers’ Week, was recently appointed events manager at the History Trust of South Australia.


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