Step back in time at The Rocks Windmill

Published:  April 15, 2013
Step back in time at The Rocks Windmill

Where the city skyline is now shaped by modern architecture, windmills once stood as the tallest structures across the ridges of Sydney Cove.

After the first windmill was built on Observatory Hill in The Rocks in 1796, windmills quickly sprung up, dotting the landscape from what became known as Millers Point, near The Rocks, all the way to Parramatta up river. As the colony toiled vigorously to grow grain, the windmill’s ability to grind it into flour was hailed and their unmistakable form was included in the colony’s first emblem in the Sydney Gazette.

Windmills reigned in Sydney for more than 20 years until the introduction of steam power in the early 19th century, which saw their picturesque sails gradually disappear from the skyline altogether. Now, 200 years on, The Rocks Windmill relives their story and celebrates their place in our sustainable future.

A four-storey windmill will stage a series of fascinating events exploring the history and culture of The Rocks through art, science and the imagination

From Friday 12 April to Sunday 12 May 2013, the rich history and cultural heritage of The Rocks will come to life as Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority launches a thought-provoking and visually stunning interpretive icon in the heart of one of Sydney’s foremost arts hubs.

Known as ‘The Rocks Windmill’, the striking large-scale temporary installation will act as a functioning wheat-grind as well as a vibrant and intimate 40-seated venue. A month-long cultural event program will give voice to the centuries-old design of Sydney’s fascinating heritage precinct, while also delving into contemporary subjects around urban sustainability.

Carbon Arts at The Rocks Windmill

Anique Vered at The Rocks Windmill

Inspired by The Rocks’ colonial windmill era, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority’s innovative project features theatre and screenings, visual arts and interactive installations, workshops and historical tours, all designed to entertain and educate visitors on The Rocks’ heritage and natural environment.

“The Foreshore Authority is always looking for inventive ways to interpret history, and the arts offer us a way to think and look at the world differently” explains Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority CEO Catherine Gallagher. “Beguiling visitors with beauty or provoking them with surprises is a great way of helping them to reflect on the past or look to the future in new ways.” she said.

In recent years, The Rocks’ arts and cultural value has grown steadily, spearheaded by the Museum of Contemporary Art’s redevelopment and Vivid Live. Now with the help of the Windmill’s designers and builders, Paul Gazzola and Joey Ruigrok van der Werven, and a dynamic event program, The Rocks will be home to a lively new venue and creative space in the form of a towering ‘pop-up’ windmill that is as visually stunning as it is thought provoking.

The Windmill’s cultural program will feature five event streams, including:

Windmill Live will ignite the mill and its surrounds with pop-up live performances, screenings and interactions that allow visitors to experience this unique structure. Events have been carefully curated to satisfy curiosities and generate discussion.

Grist to the Mill, a series of workshops, demonstrations and guided walking tours, will have you learning, exchanging and discovering The Rocks in a whole new way, whether you’re a seasoned Sydneysider or a new visitor.

Inside These Walls is a series of exhibitions that will come to life within and around the walls of The Rocks Windmill. It is here that some of the work completed during residencies will be on display for the public to admire, learn from and contribute to. Listen to the stories of The Rocks at Windmill Whispers, where talks and seminars will allow audiences to share their own stories with thought leaders on issues ranging from the arts and Sydney’s humble history to issues of sustainability.

The Windmill’s program includes a sustainable garden, with workshops such as wheat-growing classes showcasing the significant role windmills played in providing colonial Sydney’s food staples, while offering insights into sustainable food production. Costa Georgidais (host of ABC’s Gardening Australia) will also draw connections between history and the land in his exploration of the sustainable gardening culture surrounding wheat. His passion for everything grown will guide visitors through an exploration of how our main grain becomes our daily bread.

The history of The Rocks will come out to play throughout the course of the arts program. Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Creative Producer Michael Cohen says the Windmill is “a way to get people engaged with history”.“We are encouraging our visitors to think about the past in interesting and provocative ways,” says Cohen. “That said, this is not an area that stands as a memorial to the past: it’s a vibrant contemporary place that is full of curiosity and surprise.”

For more information, and a full list of events, visit The Rocks Windmill


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