York Conversations

Which three words best describe York for you?

We were delighted to exhibit portraits, stories and films as part of the York Festival 2017. We spoke to 26 people about their York stories and experiences and the exhibition was a culmination of the results of those beautiful sessions. We also invited people to take the time to add to the exhibition with their own stories and photographs of the town.

York is a nuanced and complex place. It has been made malleable by the rich lands in which it is nestled - from the fertile flats to the protection and joy provided by Mt Brown (Wongboral) and Mt Bakewell (Walwalling). As with many country towns that have farming at their fore, reliance on natural forces as a key contributor to the local economy has arguably left York strong yet vulnerable, resilient yet adaptive, very aware yet introspective.

The town’s longstanding history has had an undeniably significant impact on today’s York. Several of the events that took place within living memory have left deep imprints on the town and on the community. Interestingly these are incidents that took place both within York (the royal visit in 1954) and outside it (the Amana plane crash in 1950), they are both human-driven (the world wars), and matters outside of human control (significant flooding in the 1940s and 1950s and the Meckering earthquake in 1968) and include broader phenomena that impacted York for short periods (the Great Depression) and decades (racism, particularly against the Balladong Nyoongar community, and the separateness between Catholic and non-Catholic communities).

Many ‘Yorkies’ are born here (as were their forebears before them) and always remain. But the town is also comprised of many newer community members, who bring a new energy and drive to the town and assist in maintaining its momentum – keeping it relevant and ‘on the map’ from the vantage of those living outside of the town. They have done so through initiatives like the York Motor Museum and Flying Fifties races, as well as through the various successful and effective festivals that have been enjoyed in the town throughout the years, of which this year’s York Festival is no exception.

A town as historic as York comes with many a memory, many a story and many a legend. You will find a nostalgic comfort in some, which you may have heard many times before. Others may surprise you due to their novelty or rarity. But can you pick out the memory from the legend, the myth from the story?

As well as photographic portraits and stories, a series of films were created based on themes that many of the storytellers covered:


The Meckering earthquake of 1968;

The royal visit of 1954;

School; and

Larrakinism in the town.