A web project inspired by the Humans of New York movement is showcasing the stories of Wentworth Street in Port Kembla, from familiar faces to historic events to architecture.
Creator of Where Lies Beauty Anne-Louise Rentell has always been a strong advocate for the industrial suburb, often exuding pride in beauty she says shines through the ugly steel city, so set about to preserve and celebrate its stories.
“It’s one of the most incredible places for community spirit … there’s a real sense of pride and place in Port,” Ms Rentell said.
The website went live early November with a selection of photos accompanied by anecdotes and will be updated regularly to keep the content fresh.
Recollections of the Whiteway Theatre, a chequered past of violence and prostitution, town pride and life growing up in the indigenous Coomaditchie camp are among the colourful stories.
Images of the street past and present have been collated from interviewees, taken by photographer Nina Kourea, Wollongong City Libraries and the Illawarra Historical Society including one depicting a fireman on the wall of a burning Whiteway Theatre.
“The [architecture of the] street kind of charts the ups and downs of [industry]. As things have declined shops close down and are left to deteriorate but then in recent years people have really invested in the street and some of the things are coming back to life,” Ms Rentell said.
It’s one of the most incredible places for community spirit … there’s a real sense of pride and place in Port.Anne-Louise Rentell
For the past two years she has been gathering the stories of people connected to Wentworth Street during its different eras of boom, neglect and current revitalization.
Ms Rentell said she has loved the street ever since she began the now defunct Vault Cabaret in 2004 with Lou Velancic.
“It was probably at its lowest point in terms of where I have seen it, and to where it is now it has come a long way. Even then I thought ‘there is something about this place’ … I love it,” she said.
This year has been big for the brightening of the area with council assisting businesses in giving their shopfronts a facelift, while resident artist Anthony Jones began a mural project to bring colour to Port Kembla’s laneways.