History revisited

Whether it’s a tale you know – but not quite as you know it – or a hidden gem of Newcastle’s history you’ve only just discovered, there’s something truly fascinating about the documentaries being created to tell the Stories of Our Town.

As his former rock’n’roll alias would seem to suggest, Chit Chat von Loopin Stab (aka Glenn Dormand) has always been something of a storyteller. The award-winning songwriter, producer and musician has spent his life creating stories through his melodies and lyrics, or telling the tales of others while interviewing fellow musos for Foxtel’s music channel, Max.

These days, however, the Novocastrian’s narratives have travelled beyond the confines of the music world with a series of documentaries that dive deeper into the stories of his own home town.

Behind the lens

With grants from the Newcastle Port Community Contribution Fund, the City of Newcastle and private sources, Glenn and fellow filmmaker Tony Whittaker are hoping to make at least 12 documentaries under the banner of Stories of Our Town.

Described by Glenn as “a gift to the city”, the stories provide a snapshot of Newcastle’s history told, for the most part, “by the people who lived it”. Their approach, they say, is to share the “deadset truth”.

“These are not dry retellings of familiar tales. They are the stories you don’t know. The ones that make you smile, laugh out loud, shock you, make your toes curl, bring a tear to your eye, but mostly fill you with pride to call yourself a Novocastrian.”

Reflections of real life

Glenn was initially inspired by the stories being shared online through the Lost Newcastle Facebook group, which was created by Newcastle councillor and former radio broadcaster Carol Duncan to allow people to share generations of photographs of Newcastle, accompanied by the stories behind the images.

But before Glenn, Tony and Carol had the chance to collaborate on a project, time itself intervened, with the impending anniversary of one of the most rock’n’roll stories in Newcastle’s history making it the natural subject of the first film.

“All the jobs that I’ve done have been storytelling, whether it’s song writing, whether it’s talking about music on television, it’s all about what is the story that people haven’t heard,” Glenn said.
“That’s the thing with me, I’m a story hunter. I was reading Lost Newcastle on Facebook and I just fell in love with these stories … it took me back to my youth.

“It wasn’t historians talking about stuff that they’d read, this was people who’d lived it saying, ‘I remember when this used to happen …’ or ‘I remember the Mattara Hill Climb, and how you’d almost get hit when they came around this corner.’ Little details that only people that lived it would know.”

Star-studded debut

“I started talking to Carol Duncan who runs it, and I said, ‘Well, let’s try and do something.’ At that time she had a lot on, although she was really keen to help us,” Glenn said. “But then the Star Hotel riot anniversary was coming up so we just went out and started making it instead. When it came out people went nuts for it, because that story was such a great bit of anarchy and so Newcastle.”

For those unfamiliar with the story, a riot broke out at The Star Hotel in Newcastle on 19 September 1979 when police clashed with crowds of young people who had gathered to mark the closure of the popular live music venue.

The infamous riot, which made news headlines worldwide, was said to be one of the largest in Australian history.

Read more in the Autumn issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here. 

Story by Michelle Meehan, photography supplied by the filmmakers