I am a relative new comer to this City and perhaps a little starry eyed after four years in New Delhi but this City impresses the hell out of me. This weekend has been Brisbane Open House – a weekend dedicated to the opening of over 100 buildings to make them accessible to its citizens, and it is not just about Heritage and History, its about cutting edge technology and innovation, environmentally friendly buildings and rooftop creations. It is a chance to see behind closed doors and into how businesses, organizations such as ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and the Judiciary function. It is about openness and accessibility to citizens and engendering a spirit of curiosity about the city but also of pride and ownership in its many and varied achievements.
I had only a taster of what was on offer but in that short time I had an informative tour of the ABC, I saw where all the news programmes aired on our TVs were recorded and marveled at the fact that there was not a single cameraman there to hold the camera. The cameras are all pre programmed, almost as if my magic. I had my picture taken with the local celebrity Weather lady Jen, by a volunteer who thought I would like nothing better. I could barely refuse.
I went on a tour of the law courts – a building which has so many solar, water saving and energy saving devices built into its structure where huge windows provide maximum natural light and where e- trials are conducted in a push of buttons to start cameras, present documents on screens and to video link witness statements when needed. My thoughts went to my early years as a barrister when everything was done on paper. How things have changed.
I visited MacArthur Chambers from where General MacArthur conducted his wartime effort in WWII and again a volunteer insisted I had a picture of me sitting in General MacArthur's chair which is normally out of bounds so double delight of me for all you which is highly unusual !
I spent the morning in Bogo Jail going on a tour of one of Australia’s most notorious prisons. Its leaflet, all in red with imposing letters, is entitled “Escape the 21st Century”. On offer History Tours, Ex In -mate and Ex- Officer Tours and Ghost Tours. What a hoot ! Our tour guide, a burly Ozzie with a booming voice related stories of the harsh lives of the criminals and those of the most notorious ones like Slim Halliday who apparently managed to escape and be caught on several occasions.
Perhaps most romantically of all I visited Brisbane’s oldest surviving residence, Newstead House, and walked through immaculate period rooms dating from the late 1800. The house was built in 1846 but had a number of celebrated owners. There is an original wind up music instrument, a self -pouring tea pot, a swivelling kettle, beautiful silver and ornate crystals and bibelots to name but a few of the remarkable objects found in the house. The covered verandas look out over a flowering Jacaranda and a sausage tree and down below the Brisbane River glides by.