HotHouse Theatre's studio ensemble puts Albury-Wodonga's dreams and aspirations under the microscope in At The Hip

HIPSTERS: John Alker-Jones and Bruce Pennay contributed their stories to At The Hip, which opens on November 3. Picture: MARK JESSER

HIPSTERS: John Alker-Jones and Bruce Pennay contributed their stories to At The Hip, which opens on November 3. Picture: MARK JESSER

JOHN Alker-Jones was lured to the Border 40 years ago to be a part of the team delivering Gough Whitlam’s ’70s dream of making Albury-Wodonga a growth centre to rival Canberra in size.

Mr Alker-Jones was the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation’s principal planner and is one of about 50 voices behind At The Hip, HotHouse Theatre’s 2016 studio ensemble production.

“We’re just bit players,” he says of those whose stories are retold on stage.

Actors channel the real-life voices of local residents: born and bred, young and old, and newly arrived.

At The Hip is about the hopes and dreams of Albury-Wodonga’s people.

Bruce Pennay is a rural and regional NSW and Victoria history specialist and has published books on Albury-Wodonga.

Dr Pennay said while Whitlam’s push for 300,000 people to live on the Border by 2000 fell short and many divides still exist, some goals came to fruition.

“Good things have come out of it … one is the cohesion of the health scheme. We all want a good hospital that’s got good services,” Dr Pennay said.

“The big one is that on the 2011 census 25 per cent of Wodonga people worked across the border, 25 per cent of Wodonga’s workforce came from across the border.

“So if Wodonga wins some big new enterprise, as it did recently, Albury people can quietly clap because it’s jobs for them as well.”

He is looking forward to seeing how the writer Ros Oades combines the personal stories.

“There’s always a difficulty in getting the story out because councils only owned it if it benefited them, and they still want to own the story of progress,” he says.

“That’s what I like about this, it’s reminding people there was something else happening that distinguished Albury-Wodonga from Wagga Wagga, and Tamworth and Ballarat and every other regional city.”​

Another major success, they say, was the twin cities’ branding which permanently joined Albury and Wodonga.

“That was (Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation chairman) Gordon Craig’s purpose of getting people to call Albury and Wodonga as one,” Mr Alker-Jones said.

“That was a mighty achievement, it doesn’t happen at other border cities or towns.”

At The Hip opens at the Butter Factory Theatre, Gateway Village, on Thursday, November 3.

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