New year, new phd, new blog

It’s 1 January 2015, which marks the commencement date of my phd. Still feeling groggy, rather than hitting the books, I instead have set up this blog. Over the next three or so years I’ll be researching the history of urban heritage with a focus on Australia. I’m particularly interested in how notions of what ‘heritage’ is has shifted over the last five decades since it emerged as a concern in the 1960s. In the 1970s, heritage was a few nineteenth-century buildings in the Rocks, Sydney. Today, it’s Melbourne’s Palace Theatre, posited as significant as a form of ‘cultural heritage’. More on my research topic in future posts; as I firm on an agenda and case studies. I hope to use this blog as a phd journal, sharing research and other tidbits.

For now, I’ll share an anecdote. Last year I lived in London. For new years eve, a group of us, all Australians, headed to the Thames foreshore in the East End hoping to see some fireworks. Hundreds of others joined us, anticipating the midnight light show. To no avail. There was no firework vantage from where we were. Rather, it started drizzling at five minutes before midnight, making for a memorable though wet London new year. As the Guardian reported a couple of days ago, fireworks in London are limited to a small area; optimised for television viewership.

New Year in MelbourneLast night, Melbourne was very different. Just before midnight, we headed to Flagstaff Gardens, one of a number of ‘live sites’ established by the Melbourne City Council. Despite having no view of the Yarra River or notable tower silhouettes, fireworks surrounded revellers in every direction. Certainly the fireworks in Melbourne were optimised for television audiences, and there was even a soundtrack broadcast on radio. But the festivities embraced the people on the ground. The warm summer weather brings hundreds of thousands of people to the street for the city’s biggest annual street party, as in Sydney but also New York and elsewhere. In the southern hemisphere, these public, free, large-scale festivities are a cherished part of the city’s summer programme. Or as part of an urban heritage programme too like Melbourne’s Moomba. Happy new year everyone!

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