Pig Iron Bob Menzies better

For those of us of a certain age, watching John Howard’s particularly rosey-glassed take over at the ABC on the career/legacy of former PM Bob Menzies raised more than a few uncomfortable memories, few of which at least appeared to be explored in the first episode of the series.

By chance I came across this 1978 poster by Chips Mackinolty made while he was working at the Earthworks Poster Collective, one of three similar groups based at the Tin Sheds Art Workshops at Sydney University and made on the occasion Menzies’ passing in May 1978.

I’ll have another look at the show tonight, unless I have something more important to do–doing the dishes or folding the washing come to mind–and see if it improves.

Chips is living and working in Palermo so I sent him a note about the show and finding the poster and see if he had any thoughts he’d care to share about Howard’s show and the times.

Here is his response.

Frankly I couldn’t be bothered wasting my broadband monthly allowance on this, though may have watched bits of it if I were back in Darwin. Interesting that Howard, only the second PM to lose an election along with his seat now clings to Menzies as if to wipe out that historic defeat.

Growing up under Menzies was an enervating experience: no wonder so many urban Australians got out, from Patrick White to Richard Neville and beyond.

We printed hundreds of these in time to be driven to Melbourne to line the route of his state funeral.

Right up until the late 70s there were still graffiti in the dockland areas of Sydney with Pig Iron Bob across the walls. That, and Free Zarb, the name of an early conscientious objector, the result of his introduction of conscription.

I spent a fair bit of time at the Tin Sheds  Art Workshop but unlike Chips and others doing the hard graft I was concentrating more on getting pissed, stoned, laid or all of the above at the same time, usually at an Uncle Bobs Band gig.

The Powerhouse Museum website says of Chips Mackinolty’s work at the Tin Sheds Art Workshops that he:

… was an early member of the Earthworks Poster Collective established in 1972 which worked out of the Tin Sheds Art Workshop at Sydney University. With a variety of other members holding strong political views he created posters related to university politics and wider political, social and economic issues. The climate of the seventies, political activism and debate and opposition to established authority and government structures, was mirrored in the work of Chips and his colleagues.

The important role that the late Di Holdway had in the documenting and preserving many posters of the era is recognised in this tribute by the Powerhouse Museum.

The Di Holdway collection of posters accumulated over 20 years in Sydney, Alice Springs and Darwin and largely focuses on the work of print makers who first worked with the Earthworks Poster Collective at the Tin Sheds, University of Sydney. Di’s involvement with the Tin Sheds began in 1974 when she was working at the Students Representative Council–initially as a secretary and later as its CEO. Dianne Margaret Holdway (died 2001) was close to a number of ‘Earthworkers’, and during 1974-76, volunteered as a printer and ‘racker’. After finishing work at the Students Representative Council, Di worked at the South Sydney Women’s Centre and worked closely with the Sydney University Settlement, both located in Chippendale. In the 1980s, Di worked for Aboriginal organisations in the Northern Territory. Throughout this period, Di kept in touch in particular with Michael Callaghan of Redback Graphix, originally from Earthworks Poster Collective, who was at that stage commissioned to produce posters for a number of Central Australian Aboriginal organisations.

The posters in the Di Holdway Collection reflect their times, of course, but also represent Di’s wide political and social interests over a period of two decades from the 1970s to 1990s. They very much represent her friends and work mates from the period. Some of the posters are represented in public collections such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Australia.

If you have your own memories of life under Pig Iron Bob please feel free to share them here. You know you want to …