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Book Launch: St Kilda 1841-1900: Movers and Shakers and Money-makers

Book’s front cover features George Hotel and Grey Street c 1880s. State Library of Victoria. Book’s front cover features George Hotel and Grey Street c 1880s. State Library of Victoria. Photographer J.W. Lindt 1845-1926.

Sunday 18 June  2023

Linden New Art
26 Acland Street 
St Kilda 

We are delighted to announce that Carmel McKenzie’s much-anticipated book, St Kilda 1841-1900: Movers and Shakers and Money-makers, will be launched by the Mayor of Port Phillip, Heather Cunsolo, at a gala event at Linden, 4.30pm, Sunday, 18 June.

A superb full-colour publication featuring 185 photos and illustrations, this handsome hardcover work is packed with vivid anecdotes and fresh historical insights gleaned from primary sources.

A long-time local resident, Carmel began researching the former mansions and grand homes of St Kilda and East St Kilda as a personal project to satisfy her curiosity. After uncovering a wealth of new information about the owners and occupants, Carmel became fascinated by the broader themes and social dynamics that gradually emerged. In particular, she became intrigued by the manner in which St Kilda’s upper echelon sought to frame and embed a dominant culture, and decided to expand her research and write a book in 2019.

The resulting narrative builds seamlessly over five chapters:

  1. Clean, Green and Isolated: 1841-1850
  2. Fear and Flux: 1851-1855
  3. Transformation: 1856-1864
  4. ‘An Embarrassment of Riches’: 1865-1884
  5. The Icarus Years: 1885-1900.

In her introduction, Carmel writes that she hopes “this account of [St Kilda’s] extraordinary nineteenth-century rise and fall stimulates and intrigues you, moves and amuses you, and enriches your own experience of St Kilda”.

The book delivers on all counts. Some of the cultural skirmishes that ensued as the elite attempted to wrest and maintain the upper hand make for frankly amusing reading, with the benefit of hindsight. Other aspects of what we would today term social engineering are indeed disturbing and her accounts of measures introduced to control public space – including the alienation and displacement of the Indigenous, the Chinese and the disadvantaged – make for uncomfortable reading. Throughout, Carmel deftly connects events in St Kilda to a broader context, leaving readers with a rich appreciation of the way nineteenth-century St Kilda reflected–and affected–the social, political and economic history of Victoria.

The Society assisted Carmel with a grant in 2021, and successfully auspiced an application to the City of Port Phillip’s Cultural Development Fund for additional funding later that year. Society members and supporters John Bennetts and Ann Ryan also provided a generous private donation to help bring this work to fruition.

The book will be for sale at the 18 June launch and will available at bookshops and for loan from City of Port Phillip libraries the following day.  A free event for members, the launch will be fully catered.

Booking details will be provided to members in the third week of May. Due to expected high demand, places will be limited to Society members, so if you wish to recommend this event to friends or family, encourage them to join the Society beforehand.