At the moment, Melbourne is abuzz with excitement and activity. We wrestled with big crowds, today, as we drove into the CBD for lunch and then to see one of Melbourne’s outstanding art attractions..
At the moment, in Melbourne, we have the Australian Open tennis match at the Tennis Centre with big crowds, closed streets and tennis royalty. It’s also the beginning of the Chinese New Year and the area around Chinatown is overflowing with people and traffic. In addition, there are a number of festivals being staged in the parks and gardens around the city. I think that people have realised that it is now safe to go out after Covid and they want be somewhere else other than at home.
Our main purpose in visiting the city, other than to have a nice lunch at the RACV Club, was to visit Melbourne’s Lume attraction. We missed the first generation of this unique art show but we really wanted to see this s one that features Monet and the other French Impressionists who painted in the late 1800’s. In our travels, we have visited many of the locations that they painted and visited Monet’s house and gardens.
The Lume Melbourne is one of three of this type of art installation around the world and a unique way of seeing art. Images appear on walls, pillars and surfaces all around you. It truly lives up to its name of ‘Lume’, based on the Italian word for light.
The walls in the exhibition come alive as light ripples across every surface and masterpieces come to life with delicate animation. A well fitted sound track accompanies the images and adds an extra sensory dimension. Visitors can wander, sit, or lie on the floor as every surface becomes an animated canvas: floors, walls and guests alike.
We visited Claude Monet’s house in Giverny, when in France, to see the water lilies and pond that he made famous in his paintings. I’m convinced that he had early onset dementia. The guide told us that he had lost three wives. I’m sure a man with his memory intact would have remembered just where he left them!
It was also an exciting time in Melbourne in 1901. That was the year in which the individual colonies federated to form the country of Australia. The Duke of York, who later became King George 6, visited Melbourne and opened the first session of the Australian parliament that sat at the Royal Exhibition Buildings. (Parliament didn’t move to Canberra until 1927).
I was reminded of this event with all the crowds today and also when my good friend Peter brought me some old negatives and photos that had belonged to his Grandfather this week. They were mostly in the form of 4 x 6 inch glass plates. He asked me to help him digitise them. His grandfather was a renowned stone mason and had worked on many buildings and First World War Memorials around the city. I was most interested in some of the photos of splendid old arches that had ben constructed in the city to celebrate this visit and the federation of the country.
Seeing the negatives stimulated me to research what was happening at the time. It only took a few minutes to find that the visit to Australia by the Duke of York in 1901 was the first by a British heir-apparent. It was the occasion of a frenzy of social activity, in which the Duke and Duchess were feted in parades, reviews, balls, dinners, concerts and a range of ceremonies. The royal visit became, in the minds of many, a much larger event than that which was the purpose of the visit; namely, the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament.
Members of the royal party travelled to Australia on the royal yacht Ophir, which departed from Portsmouth on 16 March. They formally arrived in Melbourne on St Kilda pier at 2.00pm on 6 May, and immediately afterwards took part in a grand procession which travelled along St Kilda Road to the centre of Melbourne, past the front of Parliament House, and to Government House. (No jet lag in this days!) Mounted troops from all Australian states and New Zealand participated in the procession, which was almost two kilometres long and took two hours to pass some points of the seven kilometre route.
The streets of Melbourne were apparently lined with half a million spectators, many of whom had come from regional areas and who had bought tickets to sit in wooden stands erected two or three stories high. People spilled from every window, step and vantage-point, waving flags and cheering. Thirty-five thousand school children waved union jacks and sang ‘God save the King’ and ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’ from the slopes of the Domain. (Melbourne’s population at the time was just 480,000 people) and the total state’s population was around 1.2 million people.
A reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald who watched the procession from the roof of Parliament House wrote of:
Dense masses of people along every thoroughfare, packed so closely that the streets, as far as the eye could reach, were rolling billows of humanity, unceasing in motion and capped by a flying spray of flags and handkerchiefs. The streets were decorated with giant festive arches and miles of bunting and thousands of flags on masts, placed on each side of the tramways.
The crowd turned out again on 9 May to cheer the Duke and the Governor-General as they passed on their way to the opening of Parliament, escorted by 116 Australian mounted troops.