‘We’re pulling people out, half dead, half alive…’
The collapse of the West Gate Bridge in 1970 is the worst modern industrial accident in Australian history. Two years into its construction, a 2000 ton span of the bridge crashed 50 meters into the mud of the Yarra River, killing 35 men and injuring 18.
The Bridge is the first Spotlight Podcast, a new series of investigative podcasts produced by Witness podcast producer Ben Keene. A collaboration between the Art + Industry Festival, Overland Journal and Witness, this podcast, co-produced with Overland editor Jacinda Woodhead, explores the remount late last year of The Bridge, Vicki Reynolds’ verbatim play about the disaster, at the SubStation in Newport, in the context of accounts of the disaster that it recorded from those who were there, and other creative responses.
The Bridge is about class, labour and art, and explores questions around memory and memorialisation. How do communities process trauma? What place can theatre play in remembering the dead? What implications can we draw now from this terrible event, when last year 95 workers died in workplace accidents?
Many thanks to the West Gate Bridge Memorial Committee, the CFMEU, everyone who spoke at the ‘How to build bridges’ symposium and/or gave their time in interviews, James Henry, Bindi Cole Chocka, Mark Seymour, local community singers (led by Jennifer Lund), Donna Jackson, Elizabeth Humphrys, Enza Gandolfo, Tara Goldstein, the Art + Industry Festival, Witness Performance, Jacinda Woodhead and Rachael McGuirk.
A special thanks to the bridge workers – Tom Watson, Danny Gardiner, Pat Preston, Paddy Hanaphy and Ian Domoney – who were so generous with their thoughts and experiences, and to the trade union movement as a whole.
The Art & Industry Festival commissioned this podcast, The Bridge. It has been produced by Overland magazine and Witness Performance, in collaboration with the 2018 Art + Industry Festival, which was themed around bridges..