Graffiti Allows Memories to be Revived

Waiting in the wings – fifty years on

Deep in the bowels of the Kalgoorlie Town Hall the basement walls are covered in graffiti. Layer on layer of names, dates and titles of plays, added over a period of ten years or so, criss-crossing, overlapping and jostling each other for space, but still legible. Eventually the Theatre above became too small for the population and a larger one was purpose built in the town. The High School play moved to more modern facilities. While the Town Hall building has been magnificently maintained and the theatre is still used for celebrity occasions, somehow the defacing of these massive walls has been allowed to remain untouched and now takes us back more than fifty years to those memorable evenings when rooky 17 and 18 year old actors waited nervously for their cue to step into the spotlight and play their part in the Year 12 play. The basement is enormous and yet the excitement and nervousness in this room is still palpable.

Visiting there last weekend I was reminded of the importance of written records in reviving memories. Even something as seemingly insignificant, even ugly, as graffiti has the power to revive such a wealth of feelings. Laughter, terror, friendships, old rivalries, create a window into that other self. That lost world of youth, energy, enthusiasm and lasting friendships, initially preserved by neglect, but brought back in such vivid detail after fifty years, by the marks on those walls.

What power the written word has to move us.

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