Convict Culture Week on Norfolk Island

19 May 2023 – 27 May 2023

Celebrating Maconochie’s Frolic

For one day in 1840 the convicts on Norfolk Island were encouraged to dance, sing and play.  On 25 May they celebrated the birthday of the young Queen Victoria in a remarkable day when there was no crime or punishment, only rejoicing. News of this event caused such an uproar in Sydney and London that Commandant Maconochie was officially reprimanded by the Governor and roundly criticised in the press.

In May 2023 we conducted a week-long event highlighting the convict culture on Norfolk Island, including workshops, talks, dance, music, play-acting and song whilst enjoying tours, walks and fine dining around the island. The focus was on participation and everyone was encouraged to join in, which they did with great enthusiasm!

Convict Culture Week was run in conjunction with the exhibition Dancing in Fetters: the culture of convict dance at the Norfolk Island Museum from May to August 2023.  The national tour of this exhibition is funded by Visions of Australia and partnered by Bush Traditions and the Abbey Museum.

The programme included:

  • Dances, dance workshops and Curator’s talk with Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke
  • Music sessions with Roland & Isabel Clarke(Phillip’s Dog, Brisbane), John Tomlin and Trish Williams (Hobart)
  • Songs from the play The Castle of Andalusia lead by Isabel Blasdale Clarke
  • Convict Songs of the Second Settlement and Convict Stories of the Second Settlement plus singing sessions with Don Brian
  • Talk by Robert Wills, author of Alias Blind Larry, and editor of The Castle of Andalusia … as performed by convicts on Norfolk Island in 1840.
  • Talks by Rosie Severs: Alexander Maconochie: Prison Reformer and Norfolk Island Exiles
  • Talk by Alisa Bunbury, art historian and curator: Shipwrecks and shearwaters: Norfolk Island in colonial art.
  • Shanty session with Don Brian and Dennis Gayland

Thanks to the Norfolk Island Travel Centre for help in organising the tour

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