The 1989 earthquake shook Newcastle and its perceptions of self.
So says Newcastle Museum director Julie Baird, who points to the disaster’s impact on the city both during and after it hit on 28 December.
“The way that Newcastle looks – I can walk around and pick everything they put up in a hurry after the earthquake, that style of Newcastle architecture,” she tells Newcastle Weekly.
“For years, it rocked Newcastle on how they felt about things and you still find people who are traumatised and shocked.”
The post-earthquake generation is set to reflect on how the city changed and imagine what the future can be like in the year that marks the 30th anniversary of the disaster.
Tantrum Youth Arts and Sydney-based performance company Branch Nebula will deliver The Shake Up across the last two weekends of June at Newcastle Museum.
The event will bring together teenagers, artists and community members through theatre, art, live music and more in a bid to unite Novocastrians of all ages to take pride in a shared resilience.
Ms Baird says it wants to build the conversation about the earthquake with the younger generation.
“It’s funny that people think it doesn’t affect them – in the past, they’ve forgotten,” she says.
“We’ve always had earthquakes; we had a big one in the 1920s but everyone forgot, so when 1989 came and there was major damage, Newcastle was rated as 0 for earthquakes.
“I think that’s what I like about these post-earthquake kids doing this theatre – it is making them remember because when it happens next time, people will be ready and not forget this time.
“You don’t have to live in constant fear, you don’t have to be in a state of constant alert, but it’s just that recognition that this happened and it’s a part of who we are.”
The Shake Up will also invite audiences to jam on sound sculptures made from scrap metal by local musician and composer Huw Jones, bid on damaged goods at a high-art auction hosted by teenagers, or test their earthquake knowledge on a live TV game show.
Co-creative producer and Tantrum chief executive, Chris Dunstan, believes young people have been “really receptive” to learning lessons from the past.
“To me, it’s providing context for younger generations and joining the dots,” he says.
“A lot of them have memories of the Pasha Bulker storm [in 2007], they’ve seen Newcastle change a lot physically just in their lifetime, and they are active about big issues – whether it’s climate change or otherwise.
“For Tantrum, we’re just exposing these young people to the museum, stories of the earthquake, and it’s really about their responses – what they find most pertinent.”
Mr Dunstan adds one of the emerging artists, Phoebe Turnbull, was taken by the idea that the community came together like glue afterwards.
She will invite audiences to embark on an audio tour of the museum to explore the notion of community care in tough times.
“Her question is: Why can’t we always care for each other like this, not just in disaster?” Mr Dunstan says.
“[This event] is marking the 30th anniversary of the earthquake, but also responding to the themes and just how do humans approach change?”
The Shake Up will be presented on 22-23 and 29-30 June from 5.30pm to 8pm.
It is a free event, but online registration is strongly recommended. Visit tantrum.org.au for more information.