HISTORICAL research and art have been combined as part of an exhibition to celebrate the anniversary of Mission to Seafarers at its Flinders Street residence in Melbourne.
Opening night of ‘Sounding Histories’ was Monday September 11 an event which featured artists, researchers, mariners together with volunteers and staff of MtS.
The exhibition has been described as “a site responsive mixture of performance, video, archival, installation, sound, participation and text”.
It is a joint research initiative with Deakin University and curated by Anne Wilson and Cameron Bishop together with participating artists.
“The project aims to draw attention to its possibilities as a cultural centre and its significance as one of the few historic building/facilities in the Docklands area,” Ms Wilson said.
Mission to Seafarers Victoria chairman, Neil Edwards, addressed the event and reflected upon what the opening of the building would have been like 100 years ago.
“Before you, on the sparkling new stage, not a chap in casual clothes, but the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir David Valentine Hennessy, in frockcoat and high collar,” Mr Edwards said.
“Among the throng are the great and good of Melbourne society, predominantly Protestant and especially Anglican – with names like Fraser (a major donor and driver of its development), or Peacock, or Brooks perhaps.
“Many would have been on hand, and made sure they were seen, when the Governor, Sir Arthur Stanley, had officially opened the building earlier this day.”
At the time the building was opened, the First World War was raging and Mr Edwards noted the seafarers present had risked attack from German U-boats and would do so again.
He noted also the furore over conscription in Australia at the time, with Archbishop Daniel Mannix arguing forcefully in the negative.
Mr Edwards talked of the changes over the years.
“Could they (those in 1917) have imagined that spiritual support would be met by not only an Anglican Chaplain, but for some, access to the Koran?
“The Mission to Seafarers Victoria – its staff, its chaplain, it volunteers, still have a job to do, but it is a different one,” he said.
“And as we do it, we have our eyes firmly on the next 100 years, and that’s not a neat piece of rhetoric. We are at a very critical point again.”
Mr Edwards noted the need to refurbish the Flinders Street building and cooperation with entities such as the International Transport Workers Federation.