Folklore of Sydney

The following are just some of the areas covered by the FOLKLORE OF SYDNEY


THE MIGRANT EXPERIENCE is a vibrant part of Sydney’s history and these stories have been told in song and story. The program will record songs from musicians influenced by this experience as a unique oral history.


INDIGENOUS: – a survey of folklore associated with Sydney’s first inhabitants. Although this is a specialist subject I feel it is important to include some reference to Sydney’s original inhabitants. There are several stories about the first meetings between Europeans and the Indigenous tribes that sit comfortably in the survey. Then there’s the continuing struggle for human and land rights. For example, I have only just found out that ‘Sorry Day’ first started in Sydney in the 1940s. An oral history of urban Aboriginal people would also be good. The Redfern stories.


BROADSIDES: At the early stage of the colonial era broadsides were the most important aspect of street literature. Thousands were published in the Seven Dials district of London and many refer to life in early Sydney. Another form of broadside appeared around the 1900 mark when enterprising Sydney printers produced broadsides to be sold at the Sydney Cricket ground and other popular venues. I have already commenced trawling through the library files and will soon commence indexing.


SONGS: Many songs have been written about Sydney and songs will be selected which represent various aspects of life in the city and especially its formative years.


MUSIC HALL: A much-neglected aspect of theatre history and one that offers a unique insight into city high and low life. Many songs about Sydney were included in the music hall songsters.


FOLK POETRY AND RECITATION: Anonymous poetry from the folk tradition

STREET CRIES: The street cries of various sellers echoed around Sydney’s George and King streets and the project aims to collect both past and present ‘cries’.


DITTIES have always been created to record folk history be it the depression, Sydney at war, the larrikins of the inner-city, songs about unionism, the teetotaler movement, the Push, Paddy’s Markets etc and these provide a valuable and colorful insight into our history. As a survey the program will also collect contemporary songs from factory and office workers through to the workforce on the cross-city tunnel project. Examples of contemporary song will include contributions from the gay and lesbian community, revivalist Christians, feminists and environmentalists. A large part of this program will be the video-tape oral history of Sydney-based songwriter singers.


WORD USAGE: Sydneysiders use words not necessarily used in other cities. We also pronounce certain words differently from other cities. Youth slang, especially beach culture needs to be collected.


ARCHITECTURE: Showing the development of the typical Sydney house and also of public buildings. Do you know why buildings under construction often have a pine tree on their top?


SPORT : Folklore of sport in Sydney. A very colourful field of lore from player myths to jokes.

MARITIME : Sydney folklore associated with maritime heritage.

SUPERSTITIONS : All manner of superstitions related to life in the city.

GHOST STORIES : Sydney has an extraordinary range of ghosts and they need to come out and be catalogued!

CHARACTERS : Eccentrics from colonial days to today.

CELEBRATION : How we have celebrated. Photographs and songs about special events in Sydney.

FOLK CRAFT : Craft art specific to Sydney in design including match buildings, toys, billycarts, quilts etc.

ICONS : There are definite icons associated with Sydney and they are being catalogued and explained. Also looks at inventions invented here.

DANCE : Sydney has always danced and I am looking at music composed for specific Sydney dances, stories from the dancers, musicians and also social etiquette.

FOODWAYS : From colonial days to takeaways.

MIGRATION : How migrant streams have enriched Sydney and how various ethnic traditions have been adopted by the city.

POPULAR CULTURE : A survey of ‘people’s palaces’, dance halls, theatres, schools of arts, libraries, picture theatres, music halls, mechanics institutes etc

PARKS AND GARDENS : How these have been viewed by Sydneysiders. What are the stories behind Sydney’s many statues. Which ones have dispapeared?

FASHION : How fashion is like folklore. Explains (through photographs) how the Sydneysider dressed down through the ages.


CHILDREN’S LORE : Clapping rhymes, skipping chants, traditional playground games, ditties, nursery rhymes..

SYDNEY AT WAR : Songs, stories, oral histories.

NAMES : Unusual names of Sydney and their history. Suburb names, street names, nicknames for public destinations.

URBAN LEGENDS : Modern legends from Sydney.

and so on……