The MM Project
The Monster Meeting Project is an exciting and innovative arts-history project, and it’s happening now, in 2012.
Using song, story, research, film and this website we aim to tell the story of The 1851 Monster Meeting of Diggers.
We are producing:
The double CD contains the best songs from the Monster Meeting Song Award, and the story of the 1851 Monster Meeting, told through song, interviews, readings and narration.
Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky has put together The Monster Meeting Band (see below) and recording was finished in November. The CDs are packaged in a CD size book, with 36 pages of information, lyrics, bios and graphics.
2 The Monster Meeting Source Book
A collection of historical documents about the 1851 Monster Meeting – newspaper cuttings from the day, extracts from Governor La Trobe’s correspondence, graphics from the time, private accounts and a record of modern Monster Meeting celebrations.
3 Filmed Interviews with Historians
So far project director Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky had interviewed historians Weston Bate, Marjorie Theobald and Robyn Annear, graphic historian Geoff Hocking, archeologist David Bannear and Monster Meeting activist Doug Ralph. Filmed by Davide Michielin, these are to be edited for this website and later, if possible, made into a documentary.
4 The Launch
Dinner and show, was on Friday December 14, 2012, at the Theatre Royal, Castlemaine. The band and all the singers performed a live version of the CD. It was a wonderful night.
Why not join us in this project?
If you want to be part of the project – by volunteering any of your skills and time, please contact John Ellis on 5472 2892. Or become part of the project by donating money to support the project (Contact John).
Pozible is a ‘crowd funding’ website. It’s where funding for a creative project comes from individuals, as different from say a Government grant. It works by supporters of a project pledging small amounts of of money towards the project; but you only pay when the project reaches it’s target within the allocated time – for us, that was November 15, 2012.
To supplement the grants and sponsorships received for the Monster Meeting Project Pozible crowd funding was used. People were invited to pledge funding through www.pozible.com/monstermeeting and thus join in the project. $5,750 was the target and the timeframe was a short 42 days.
Support was magnificent and the target was reached. Not only was it reached, it was actually over-subscribed! It closed on November 19th with the final total of $7,325! Thanks to all of those 65 generous supporters for committing to this exciting project. You can read the list of the Friends of the Monster Meeting Below.
We hope to meet you all at the Theatre Royal on the 14th of December.
If we get more that will go to the next stage of the project: developing the filmed interviews into a documentary for television.
The Monster Meeting Source Book, will be available in local libraries for the use of researchers, and at a later stage will be developed into a commercial book and/or a student resource.
We are manufacturing 500 CD packages to start with, and will sell the package locally, nationally and internationally through retail outlets, iTunes and the Monster Meeting website.
The People Involved
Project Director – Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky
Jan is a storyteller/musician, writer and producer. His career began in 1971 as a founder of the famous Bushwackers Band, playing tea chest bass, 5-string banjo, harmonica, spoons, bones and bodhran. Jan’s decade in that band was his apprenticeship, from where he went on to a solo career, producing theatre shows such as Buckley and Lest We Forget – which he performed before the Dawn Service at Gallipoli – a dozen history features for ABC RN, best-selling books such as Me & Phar Lap, and also many shows in schools across Australia. His involvement with goldfields history began in 2007 when he produced six audio tours of the Castlemaine area where he now lives.
Nicolas Lyon plays double and electric bass, violin, viola, cello, harp, piano and guitar. Born in Lancashire in 1948, Nicolas came to Australia in 1961 to make a lifetime of music: in theatre with John Paul Bell, on radio with Peter Sculthorpe, and on stage with many folk artists such as Margaret Roadknight and Robyn Archer. He was Master of Music at Sydney’s Yellow House, working there with Brett Whitely and Martin Sharp. Nicolas also has many credits in film, composition and residencies, ranging from folk, jazz, middle Eastern, baroque, classical and electronic music – in fact far too much to mention here, but go to www.nicolaslyon.com for a great read and listen. Nowadays Nicolas lives in Malmsbury, not far from the site of the Monster Meeting.
James Rigby is a well-respected community musician, singer, choir leader, and multi-instrumentalist, who carries with him a passionate belief in the power of music to communicate and reflect contemporary issues. Based in Castlemaine, his career began playing bush dances. Now performs in a number of bands, including Blackwood, the Ugly Uncles, The Rainmakers and more recently the Tequila Mockingbirds. These bands are a regular hit at festivals and concerts all around Australia, where James also gives workshops on guitar, mandolin, ukulele, violin, harmonica and singing. James is also is a leading music maker in community music projects throughout Victoria, working with choirs, instrumental groups and orchestras. In these settings his infectious passion and enthusiasm brings the experience of making music to people of all ages.
Ashley Davies is regarded as one of Australia’s most innovative and finest drummer/songwriters. As a drummer who can adapt to many styles of music, Ashley has recorded, toured, and played live with many great Australian acts, including Matt Walker, Jeff Lang, Lisa Miller, The Waifs, The Blackeyed Susans, Chris Wilson and The Crown of Thorns and The Backsliders. As a composer, his music has featured in Australian films such as Somersault, and Australian Rules and the television series The Silence. In theatre, Ashley’s CD/show of Ned Kelly, which he produced with noted historian Ian Jones, won the 2001 Best Australian Debut CD in Rhythms Magazine Reader’s Poll. His new project is a musical journey following the path of Burke and Wills.
Tim Heath has been playing music around Castlemaine for most of his 30 years. In high school he played in local bands – notably Smokers Run Faster - then moved to Melbourne where he joined The Basics. With them he travelled most of Australia several times, playing at major festivals (Homebake, East Coast Blues and Roots, Laneway, Woodford, etc.), capital cities and tiny outback pubs. They toured twice to Europe and Japan. Tim has performed with Jan Wositzsky for over ten years, in music and theatre, where Tim played Ginger Mick in the Turkish-Australian theatre piece Lest We Forget. More recently Tim has formed Blood Red Bird, a Mediterranean-influenced instrumental rock band, who have played with Tex Perkins’ Dark Horses and Dirty Three. They often collaborate with Angie Hart (Frente, Splendid) with whom they are working on a studio release.
Richard Lewis: We Are Starting Something Here
Jamie Roberts: The Cards That Fell
Martin McKenna: Thirty Shillings A Month
Peter Kenyon: Fool’s Gold
Patrick Killeen: The Ballad of Forest Creek
Mickey Levis & Annie Morabito: More In Our Hearts than Gold
Frank Jones & Christie Wositzky-Jones: Father Dear
Doug Owen: Three Quid for the Privilege
Dave Maxwell: Gather ‘round the Flag
Merryn Lamb: We Stand for Our Rights
Stephen Foster/ Charles Mackay/Trad./ Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky: Good Time A Coming
Tony Ryan: The Quartz And The Clay
Frank Jones: The Monster Meeting
Friends of the Monster Meeting:
The Ballarat Reform League with the assistance of the Vera Moore Foundation provided generous, unsolicited financial assistance to initiate this project.
Many other friends have since assisted and supported the Project. These include the Aus- tralian Government’s Your Community Heritage program, the Shire of Mount Alexander, Castle- maine Goldfields Ltd., Mooroolbark Excavations, Parks Victoria, the Theatre Royal, Castlemaine Lions and ABC Centralvic.
Along the Project’s journey many people became Friends of the Monster Meeting: They are
Ewen and Linda Macdonald
Castlemaine Lions Club
John Ellis and Marie Jones
John and Caroline Manwaring
Pryce Hammersley family
Chris and Isobel Rohde
Paul Smuck and Kerri Darby
Allan and Barbara Dry
Elaine and Len Appleton
Merle and Les Jenkins
Jill and Bruce Watson
Many other individuals and organisations have helped with project’s development and promotion.
We thank them all and hope to list them in the January Chewton Chat and on www.monstermeeting.net
The Monster Meeting Project…so far
Since 1985 we’ve commemorated/celebrated the Monster Meeting, lately by gathering at the Monster Meeting site on December 15th each year.
In 2010 we ran a song competition and received 38 songs about the Monster Meeting. That year, to our delight, the world famous Tony Robinson – Time Team, Blackadder – came an filmed the celebrations, which featured in his book and documentary Tony Robinson’s History of Australia.
Now we’re up to stage two of the Monster Meeting Project.
The 1851 Monster Meeting of Diggers
At Eureka, Ballarat, in 1854, a battle took place between gold diggers and the military. Forty diggers and soldiers lost their lives. The central issue was the Victorian Government’s Gold License.
But the untold story is that Eureka began three years earlier on the Forest Creek diggings, just outside the present town of Castlemaine, with the 1851 Monster Meeting of Diggers. This was the first mass protest in Australia, and the diggers won!
Forest Creek was the world’s biggest gold rush, ever. By December 1851 there were 25,000 diggers on the creek. But to keep the workers and ‘lower classes’ in their allotted place in society – that is, in their poorly paid jobs – the Victorian Governor, Charles La Trobe, had earlier instituted a Gold License. Each gold digger had to pay thirty shillings a month to look for gold, payable up front, whether you found any gold or not. Diggers also had to have permission from their employer to leave the job for the gold fields.
But with 25,000 diggers at Forest Creek, the tax had failed. So La Trobe doubled the License, to three pounds a month. The diggers were outraged, and held a ‘Monster Meeting’.
Monster Meetings were a British tradition of protest, held throughout England by Chartists demanding democracy and in Ireland by patriots demanding autonomy from England.
The Forest Creek Monster Meeting, on December 15, 1851, was attended by 15,000 diggers.
(Caption) The Great Meeting of Diggers, 15th of December, 1851. Hand coloured engraving by Thomas Ham, 1852 (State Lib. of Tasmania)
From a dray, under the digger’s flag, the speakers – all educated men – boomed out stirring speeches demanding their rights. With the diggers cheering them on, the speakers called for all to defy the tax, and to proclaim themselves free men and not slaves. Some speakers threatened Australian independence from Britain. Others proclaimed that Australia should be a place of refuge for all the oppressed peoples of the earth. All present pledged non-violence unless attacked.
(Caption) Pen and ink drawing by unknown artist (National Library of Australia)
This meeting, we believe, should be regarded as the first popular move towards democracy in Australia. As for the Gold License, the diggers won. Two days after the Monster Meeting the diggers received news that the Government had backed down. The License was to stay at thirty shillings.
But the issue never went away, and what followed – the 1853 Red Ribbon Agitation in Bendigo, and the 1854 Eureka Stockade – were inspired by the Monster Meeting at Forest Creek in 1851.
This is the relatively unknown story we want to tell – of the meeting, the people involved, and it’s importance in local and national history.
For a more detailed account please go to the Monster Meeting Mud Map.