Be Transported

May 23rd, 2019
Be Transported
Tales from the past have been given new life in Nairne, where Ink Pot Arts have transported the town back in time for South Australia’s History Festival.

Artistic Director at Ink Pot Arts, Jo-Anne Sarre is the producer and project manager of the ambitious production, which focuses on the first 100 years of Nairne’s history from 1839 to 1939.

“We have over 70 performers being coordinated by 20 of our staff from Ink Pot Arts, not to mention the tech crews and volunteers who have helped make this possible,” Jo-Anne said.

“Over 90 children from Nairne Primary School are performing in the singing group, while many more helped by making short stop-motion videos depicting the town’s history.”

Included in the display are three full-building projections by Illuminart, known for their Fringe displays on the historical buildings of North Terrace in Adelaide.

“Arts Exentrix dancers perform as the Whispering Women, depicting women in a very visible way through a modern interpretation.

“It was important to represent those whose voices weren't so obvious in history and to bring the town to life as it really was – particularly for women – by telling real personal stories.”

The project began in January with a creative development process which involved delving into both recorded history and local knowledge.

“The Nairne Museum provided a rich trove of photos and articles that can,t be found anywhere else,” Jo-Anne said.

“Our conversations with long-term residents whose local knowledge has proven invaluable were extremely helpful.”

Jess Foster, an independent presenter of non-traditional theatre and hybrid performances based in Mount Barker, was brought in as creative director of the project.

“It’s the biggest community based project I’ve been involved with – the energy that the community and Ink Pot have put into the project has made it really exciting,” Jess said.

Using local resources as well as the National Library of Australia’s online Trove to find many articles from the early 1900s, Jess was able to bring the authentic historical recounts to life.

“Research was conducted in relation to each space; from the school house, the hotel, museum and many other historic buildings,” she said.

“Each location is a production in itself, with a team of performers who were given provocations based on our research to act out a scene from that time.”

One such performer is Ink Pot board member and puppeteer Tony Hannan of Mylor, presenting the story of David Chapman, who worked as an undertaker, carpenter, builder and blacksmith in Nairne in the mid-late nineteenth century.

“He was a man of many talents who built the original primary schools in Hahndorf and Nairne,” Tony said.

Tony, in full undertakers garb, tells the story of David’s life through a shadow puppet display featuring a horse drawn hearse in the cellar of the building where he lived, lit with candles with a soundtrack of workspace lending to the spooky nature of his work.

“I love history and finding out how people did things, the technology they used, and telling those things through performance,” Tony said.

“The stories we’re telling are fascinating because they are of a different time and yet they are about our own community.”

One key story brought to life is that of the town’s founder, Matthew Smillie, who named the town after the maiden name of his wife Elizabeth.

He purchased the land around what would become Nairne, 4,000 pounds for 4,000 acres as was the going rate, establishing the Nairne Institute, parklands, cemetery and tenant farms.

Working one of these farms was Jo-Anne’s ancestor Joseph Thomas Wheatley, reinforcing a sense of personal historical connection.

“The town had so many firsts for the area,” Jo-Anne said.

“The first mill, first agriculture show, the first regional proposal of the now world famous Torrens Title system, its nice to bring that pioneer spirit to life.

“It’s been an incredible privilege to work with so many people and the whole town of Nairne to bring history alive in an interactive experience for all ages.”

The Whispering Walls theatre experience in Nairne runs from 5.30-7.30pm on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26.

Bookings can be made at and additional information can be requested by emailing

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