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  • New Allora mural is ‘spoonful of sugar’ for tourists and residents alike

New Allora mural is ‘spoonful of sugar’ for tourists and residents alike

4 min read
21 Mar 2024
A man and a woman standing in front of a colorful mural of a parrot.
ˮAV Associate Professor Martin Kerby (left) and Professor Margaret Baguley were instrumental in taking the Allora Community Mural from idea to reality.

“If you want to find Cherry Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the crossroads.”

And if you want to find the magic at the heart of Allora, all you have to do is look for the freshly painted mural leading the way.

The rural town on ˮAV’s Southern Downs – famously known for being the birthplace of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers – boasts a new piece of public art, made possible through community spirit and collaboration.

University of Southern ˮAV (ˮAV) Professor of Arts Education, Curriculum and Pedagogy, Margaret Baguley, and Associate Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Martin Kerby, have been working with the Allora community for nine months to make this project a reality.

Professor Baguley said the idea for the mural in the town came from the Australian Silo Art Trail.

“I am very interested in artistic collaboration and had been exploring silo art in Australia, and how artists and communities work together to create something neither could do on their own,” Professor Baguley said.

“At the same time, I was also undertaking a research project on the artistic collaboration between P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, and Mary Shepard, who provided the original illustrations throughout the books.

“One day I saw a beautiful aerial view of Allora with the silos that were quite prominent, and the idea came to me to include the Allora silos on the Australian Silo Art Trail and, at the same time, heighten the important connection Allora has to the Mary Poppins story.”

The idea quickly turned into action, with people from all over the community (and beyond) eager to lend a hand. And snap: The job’s a game!

Allora residents were invited to submit their ideas around what made Allora such a special place, and from those ideas, two designs were drafted. Residents then voted on their favourite design, and just this month, Brisbane-based artists The Brightsiders got to work.

The mural took a week to paint, and by the end of that week, The Brightsiders artists Steve Falco and Jordan Bruce said they felt like part of the community.

“The biggest highlights were our interactions with the locals; one day a young tradie dropped us a cold drink each, without saying much else,” they said.

“We had school children buying us ice creams and regular visits from a small chicken named 'Chicken', who joined us for happy snaps through the whole project!”

The mural will permanently occupy the wall of the IGA on Herbert Street and depicts representations of rural life in Allora, while also paying homage to P.L. Travers and Mary Poppins herself.

Les and Lorraine Struthers, who bought and restored the ‘Mary Poppins House’ where P.L. Travers grew up in Allora, said they were pleased that elements of Ms Travers’ stories had been highlighted in the mural through the red-winged parrot, the natural phenomena, and the ‘Seven Sisters’ star constellation.

“The Allora Community Mural has highlighted significant aspects of Allora, including its history, its natural environment and the importance of agriculture to the area”, Mr Struthers said.

“P.L. Travers, who was known as Helen Goff when she lived in Allora, was very attuned to nature and the environment, and The Brightsiders have really captured these important elements of her work.

“The mural brings all these aspects together and expresses the culture and creativity of Allora, which in turn enhances community spirit and pride in our area.”

With the Allora Community Mural now complete and looking ‘practically perfect in every way’, Professor Baguley said she and Associate Professor Martin Kerby were excited to tackle the next project – the silo art.

“When you look down Herbert Street, you can see the silos. The idea is to include a detail from the mural onto the silos so there will be a visual connection, which will also enhance the tourism potential for Allora,” Associate Professor Kerby said.

The Allora Community Mural was made possible through funding from Southern Downs Regional Council and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR).

ˮAV was also proud to support this project through its Institute for Resilient Regions (IRR), which encourages multidisciplinary collaborative research to support regional communities in embracing and adapting to change, while maintaining their unique identities.

The Allora Community Mural was also generously supported by Allora IGA, the Allora Advertiser, The Brightsiders, Wattyl Paints, and several other Allora organisations.

The Allora Community Mural will have an official Launch Celebration as part of the Allora Autumn Festival on Sunday, May 5, from 1pm. Community members and visitors are invited to attend.

Find out more about ˮAV’s Institute for Resilient Regions.