The University of Newcastle, Australia

UON Researcher awarded National Library of Australia Fellowship

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Dr Gillian Arrighi from the School of Creative Arts has been awarded a prestigious 2017 National Library of Australian Fellowship to undertake research for her project Pinafores, Prodigies and Precocities: the Entertaining Child in the Age of Empire.

Dr Gillian Arrighi

The award is $20,000 and the Fellowship will be undertaken over 12 weeks in Canberra.

Her project will undertake an in-depth investigation of the contribution of child performers to the Australian entertainment industry during the period 1880-1920.

Professional child performers enjoyed sustained popularity with audiences during this period in the genres of variety, pantomime, comic opera, drama and circus, yet we understand surprisingly little about the extent of their industrial participation or the social impact of their performances. This period of Australian/Anglo/American cultural history is when variety, circus, pantomime and comic opera were at a peak of popularity and child performers were prominently visible to audiences on popular and dramatic stages. Paradoxically, the growth of child entertainers that occurred in this period was in direct relation to new labour and education laws that sought to restrict children either to the school or home.

The National Library of Australia holds archival materials in their Performing Arts  and Music Collections that will  highly salient for this multi-genre, trans-national study. Dr Arrighi’s study will provide important insights into the significance of child performers to the commercial entertainment industry of this era and the influence of popular theatre on Australian children’s culture; and is part of a larger study she is undertaking exploring the trans-national phenomenon of child entertainers across Australia, the United States and Britain.