Speech. Introducing the guest speaker, former Premier of NSW, the honourable Bob Carr.
Sydney launch of Katesehamos and the Great Idea.
Written by Peter Prineas.
Wednesday April 12, 2006 at 7.00 pm at 'Alexanders On The Park', 175 Liverpool Street, Sydney,
ground floor American Express Building, opposite Hyde Park.
Re-printed in full, O Kosmos newspaper, Sydney, Tuesday 18 April, 2006, pp.25-26.
The Honorable Bob Carr, other distinguished guests, fellow Australians, Hellenes, philhellenes, and Kytherians.
I welcome you all here to celebrate the launch of Peter Prineas' wonderful book - Katsehamos and the Great Idea.
Kalos irthate. [It is good that you could come.]
My name is George Poulos. I am the Secretary of the Kytherian Association of Australia, and the Australian editor of www.kythera-family.net.
The formal part of the proceedings will include a speech by Bob Carr to launch Katsehamos and the Great Idea.
This will be followed by a response, from author Peter Prineas.
Then, Professor Emmanuel Aroney, as a most valued member of the Kytherian community in Australia, will provide us with his personal impressions, and Kytherian community responses to the book.
One of the chapters of Kevin Corks' Ph.D thesis begins with the aphorism,
Question: "What do you get when you put three Greeks together?"
Answer: "A cafe, or three political parties!"
Given the attendance here tonight, we might well be able to open about 60 cafes and establish 180 new political parties.
Those who have already read the book will know that it follows the lives of Peter John Feros, Katsehamos, (Mitata)- George Ernest (Proto)Psaltis, Katsavias, (Frilingianika), and Emanuel Theodoropoulos Aronis, known as Emmanuel Aroney, (Aroniadika), and his brothers and business partners, from Kythera in Greece, to St Louis, Missouri, to the Balkan Wars, and to Bingara in North Western NSW.
Most of you will know that Kythera is - a small island that lies at the tip of the Peleponnes. One of the 7 Ionian Islands, the rest of which hug the Western shoreline of the Greek mainland, facing Italy.
Kythera is an island of 3,000 people. It should now be an island of about 30,000 people, but beginning before 1900, most of the population steadily migrated to Australia, and the USA. The majority came to Australia. Some estimate there may be as many as 100,000 Kytherians and Kytherian descendants in Australia. The island is small Kythera. Greater Kythera, is the large island of Australia.
If you want a good summary of Kythera and its history - buy Katsehamos and the Great Idea. The first 14 pages constitute the best brief summary of Kythera, ever written.
In many ways we are here not only to celebrate the lives and achievements of the Peter Feros and his Family, and the Protopsaltis and Aroney family's. Bob's speech and Peters and Professor Emmanuels as well - I am sure will return the focus back to the Kateshamos family history aspect.
This book is also a celebration of a great Australian cultural idea (an Australian "megali ithea", if you like), that had its roots in the late 1970's and early 1980's. If we explore how this idea evolved, we will understand that the impact of this book is much greater than its primary - very important function of chronicling Family and Kytherian history.
We will manage to place the impact of the book in a much wider context.
We will come to understand why persons from diverse fields such as cinema afficianado's, Heritage Organisations, local council's, State government ministerial departments, and State Parliament - as well as Kytherians and Hellenes - have been drawn to this gathering.
And we will understand why it was considered important that Bob Carr be the person to launch this book.
Professor Ross Thorne, Les Tod and Kevin Cork.
In 1983 Thorne Tod and Cork published a report - Theatres and Cinemas in NSW. Investigation of types of new uses for which theatre buildings have been successfully adapated, for the Heritage Council of NSW.
The gist of the report was that Cinemas in NSW, should be preserved - and that they could be turned into "cultural engine rooms" in regional NSW, through which to regenerate the cultural life of small towns.
In 1996 they published the Movie Theatre Register for NSW, under the aupices of the Department of Architecture, University of Sydney. This was a National Estate Project for the Heritage Office of NSW, and the Australian Heritage Commission. It listed every cinema in NSW which could be restored and refurbished.
Beginning in the mid-1990's Kevin Cork began writing his Ph.D thesis called Parthenons Down Under: Greek Motion Picture Exhibitors in NSW, 1915 to 1963..
This Ph.D thesis traced the history of 66 Greek Cinema owners in NSW from c1915 to the early 1960s. The majority of the Greek cinema owners in his study, derived from Kythera. The impact of Kytherians in cinema ownership in NSW was immense.
Chapter 5, which deals with the history of the Roxy Theatre, Bingara, was also appropriately called Parthenons Down Under.
In the thesis Cork advised us that,
"If we are to remember these Hellenes for their contributions to Australia's social, architectural and technological advancement, then it is imperative that there be Greek landmarks which are acknowledged at local and state level - ones that point to the achievements of the Greek-Australian cinema exhibitors who are the subject of this thesis. We cannot allow their histories to be forgotten, not when they provided services that positively affected millions of people, firstly, through their refreshment rooms and, secondly, through their picture theatres.."
Peter Prineas' through his publication of Katsehamos and the Great Idea has taken this advise. The history of the 3 founders of the Roxy Theatre, will now never be forgotten.
Kevin Cork died in 1998, his thesis not fully complete. However most of the thesis had been written, and in 2004 the kythera-family.net web-site was given permission by Kevin's widow to reproduce the thesis on the web-site.
Merle Cork, widow of Kevin, was unable to attend thios evening. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Merle and the Cork family, Julie and Stuart, very much for allowing publication of Kevin's thesis at kythera-family.net
In the Epilogue of Katsehamos and the Great Idea Peter tells us that "I did not know that Peter Feros Katsehamos had any involvement in picture theatres". In 2002 Peter rediscovered an old family album. "Now, as I leafed through the pages, I realised it depicted a chapter of our family's story that was little known to my generation. I decided I would pay a visit to Bingara. In Sept 2004 Peter came across the Cork thesis on the web-site - where "I ...learned that (the partners) had built a picture theatre called the Roxy in Bingara in 1936, and that the enterprise had failed. This was a surprise. My curiosity was now aroused."
Kevin Cork's thesis had inspired Peter Prineas to begin research for Katsehamos and the Great Idea.
Beginning in the late 1990's, several Councillors on the then Bingara Shire Council, now the Gwydir Shire Council - after merging with the neighbouring town of Warialda, began to take up the Thorne-Tod-Cork great idea of purchasing the Roxy Theatre at Bingara, with a view to refurbishing it and turning into a cultural focal point for the town.
The driving force in the refurbishment of the Roxy was Councillor John Wearne. His passion, zeal, enthusiasm, and energy ensured that the project to restore the Roxy was concluded successfully.
The New South Wales Ministry of the Arts, now called Arts NSW, had also adopted the great idea. In 1997, they began making large scale cinema grants, to refurbish many of the cinemas that Thorne, Cork and Tod had identified in Movie Theatre Register for NSW.
Micheal Goss, the Program Manager for Capital Infrastructure played a vital role. As did Sophia Zantiotis the Program Support Officer, Capital, Museums, Visual Arts and Crafts. Zantiotis of course, is the most Kytherian of Kytherian names. John Wearne, from Bingara, as Chair of the NSW Ministry for the Arts, Capital Infrastructure Committee, also played a major role.
Theatres long since closed down, and in many ways a "eyesore" in towns in regional NSW were suddenly "bought back to life".
And so now we come to examine the impact of our guest speaker this evening, the Honourable Bob Carr
At the NSW State Election of March 25, 1995, he led his party back into government. His became the 13th Labour adminstration.
He led the party for a NSW record 10 years and 2 months before leaving Parliament on August 3, 2005.
As well as being Premier of NSW, Bob was also, for 10 years the Minister of the Arts.
Bob Carr has always been passionate about the arts, about cultural intellectual and historical pusuits. He has always been passionate about Preservation and Heritage issues - for both the Natural and the Built Environment.
Some of his great achievements as Arts minister include the following:
a. Opening of Govt House to the public
b. Defining Western Sydney as a separate area - and promoting culture there.
c. Enticing Utzon to become a consultant for the Opera House
d. Inducting the Premiers History Awards
One of his key focuses throughout his adminstration was always on cultural life in regional NSW.
In his Policy Speech in 1995 he stated categorically that ëveryone in NSW should have access to a full cultural life.
He was particularly concerned that this access was available for persons living in regional NSW.
Throughout his tenure as Premier and Arts Minister, he made a point of travelling into NSW country areas at least once a week.
Early on, he became very concerned that people living in many towns in NSW did not have access to venues such as Cinema's which city folk took for granted.
And so he came to personally champion the need to save Cinema's in country towns, to re-open them, and to re-furbish them.
It is one thing for people like Thorne, Tod and Cork, and for councillors on regional Councils such as John Wearne, to make recomendations to Government to spend substantial sums of money to refurbish cinemas in NSW. But it takes persons of cultural imagination and vision and courage to act on those recomendations - and to agree to spend the money in that direction. The Ministry of the Arts and the Minister for the Arts and the Premier at that time, Bob Carr had that cultural vision, and did spend the money. And NSW, and particularly regional NSW is all the richer for it.
In 2004 when the Roxy Bingara renovations were complete - it was very fitting that Bob Carr was chosen to open the newly refurbished theatre.
And it is also very fitting that he is here with us tonight to launch the book which relates in large part the story behind the building of the Roxy at Bingara in the 1930's.
I call to the microphone a true champion of culture in Australia - the Honourable Bob Carr.
Order of Proceedings
Speech by Bob Carr.
Introduction to author Peter Prineas.
Speech in response by Peter Prineas.
Introduction to "Kytherian living treasure", Professor Manuel Aroney.
Prof Manuel James Aroney, AM, OBE. Notable Kytherian
Speech by Professor Manuel Aroney.
George Poulos, a summing up.
How can we sum up, then, the impact of this extraordinary book, and our collective response to this whole evening?
I think both can be summed up by one word - validation.
Katsehamos and the Great Idea is Peter Prineas' attempt to arrive at a sense of self-identity. So it is a validation of Peters' sense of self.
It is also a validation of the lives and experiences of the Feros, Protopsalti, and Aroney families - the central protaganists in the book. It is a validation of a set of family histories.
It is also a validation of the importance of Greek and Kytherian disapora experiences, in the history and advancement of Australia.
It is a validation of the Thorne-Tod-Cork "great idea" of renovating Cinemas in regional NSW and Australia and turning them into "cultural engine rooms" for those hitherto culturally deprived towns.
It is a validation of the time and effort that Kevin Cork took to research his Ph.D thesis on Greek Cinema Ownership in NSW. A topic never before explored in Australian history.
It is a validation for numerous Local Government officials, such as John Wearne in Bingara, who fought so hard to ensure that cinema's like the Roxy were renovated, and did serve to culturally regenerate the town. And the townsfolk of towns like Bingara, many of them volunteers, who embraced the vision, and continue to work towards the ideal of a successful and fully functioning theatre.
It is a validation for various departmental officers in the then Ministry of the Arts, like Micheal Goss and Sophia Zantiotis, who ensured that funds for the various cinema restoration projects were forthcoming. And continue to do so.
And a validation as well for a culturally courageous Premier, and Arts Minister, who kept on committing funds to the projects, spurred by the vision that all of the New South Welsh, those in the regions as well as the cities should have assess to a full cultural life.
The fully refurbished Roxy, Bingara, in 2006, stands as a validation, of the original "great idea", of its three founders, Feros, Protopsaltis, and Aroney. Peter Prineas' book ends with the sentence "...I felt sure that Peters & Co would be pleased if they could know that the theatre they built is serving the community again."
And finally the book, and this evening, stands as a validation of the Kytherian "spirit" and the Kytherian sense of identity.
I thank you all for attending this evening, to help celebrate these various validating experiences, and the launch of this very special book - Katsehamos and the Great Idea.