Wednesday, July 08, 2015


Quorn is a small town about half an hour north of Port Augusta. One of the most notable things about Quorn is that it’s been used for decades as a film set for famous Australian period movies, from 'Sunday Too Far Away' (1975, set in 1955) to 'Gallipoli' (1981, set in 1915), to 'Robbery Under Arms' (1985, set in 1855) to 'The Water Diviner' (2014, set in 1919). Quorn has managed to do this because nothing ever happens in Quorn, ever, and thus it looked exactly the same in 1855, 1915, 1955 and today.

Of course the downside of nothing ever happening in Quorn is that it’s impossible to do anything in Quorn… presumably because that would ruin its cinematic reputation as a town in which nothing ever changes. As I walked the streets at 2.30pm on a Tuesday, the shops remained resolutely shut. In some cases this was because they’d closed down in the 1930s, but in other cases the reason was more elusive. The Aboriginal Art Gallery was locked and the front window was empty, unless South Australian Aboriginals have a previously unknown tradition of crafting carpet-covered room dividers and dusty display plinths. The second hand bookstore was locked too, but at least it had books on display in its window. True, they’d all bleached in the sun so that they looked like a collection of giant, slightly stained teeth, but at least they were books as advertised. The antique store had a folding OPEN sign out on the street, with a bunch of colourful helium balloons tied to it. Its main entrance was standing open. But when I tried the screen door… it was locked. I rattled it a bit, but no one appeared.

It occurred to me that maybe Quorn’s latest film was one of those end of the world movies. Perhaps something about a Rapture that only applies to small business owners? It seemed plausible, but if that were the case one would still expect to see evidence of a film crew or two. I didn’t so much as see a single Best Boy, let alone anyone with a camera or a directorial beret.

Still, there was always Quorn’s other claim to fame: the tourist railway. It’s an amateur railroad run by actual amateurs, who twice a week drive a century-old steam train and carriages up and down a narrow gauge track through the scenic Quornish hills, to the delight of tourists, people who sell pies and pasties to tourists, railway geeks and other middle class white people.

This was the odd thing that niggled me about the crowd for an hour before I finally worked out what it was. In modern Australia, you simply don’t see a crowd of four hundred people any more without at least a smattering of Chinese, Indians, Pacific Islanders, Arabs or other ethnic groups. The travelers on the Quorn railway were more white and middle-class than an episode of 'Midsomer Murders'. Or more damningly, more white and middle-class than the audience of an episode of 'Midsomer Murders'.


Post a Comment

<< Home