Back on the Road with The Corricks

BY JILLIAN MACKENZIE

NFSA curator Jillian Mackenzie writes about the Ten Days on the Island festival where she and fellow curator Elena Guest took the newly digitised Corrick Collection on tour.

Ten Days on the Island

Following the successful digital restoration of the Corrick collection, the organisers of the Ten Days on the Island festival approached the NFSA about bringing the films to Tasmania.

The Corrick family with their musical instruments posing for the camera

Portrait of the Corrick family with musical instruments, c1912. NFSA title: 359294

The plan was to present the newly digitised versions to celebrate the life and work of the Corrick family. The festival engaged Tasmanian composer Dean Stevenson to create a new musical soundscape to complement a selection of the Corrick films.

The program, Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures, was part of If These Halls Could Talk a celebration of the role of community halls in society. It was an ideal fit as the touring Corricks had prided themselves on bringing big city shows to smaller areas. 

In March 2021, Elena and I went on the road with the Corricks, following in their footsteps around Tasmania and reintroducing regional audiences to the story of this incredible family.

A Living Museum

Albert and Alice Corrick and their 8 children toured Australia and the world showing repackaged and complete versions of the latest special effects, comedy and non-fiction films at the start of the 20th century. Here's an example of one of the digitised films from the collection:

After a gruelling 14-year touring schedule, Albert Corrick’s passing and two of the eldest sisters marrying, the Marvellous Corricks retired and settled in Launceston. It was Leonard Corrick, Albert and Alice’s only son and the filmmaker in the family, who passed the films down to his sons. Leonard's son John eventually gave the films to the NFSA.

We began our trip in Burnie where we recorded an oral history with one of Leonard's grandchildren, Jenny Lakeland (née Corrick). I also gave a presentation about the Corricks and the NFSA at the Creative Coast conference.

From Burnie we travelled to Zeehan for the first screenings. Zeehan is on the west coast of Tasmania and prides itself as being a 'living museum'. Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures premiered in the historic Gaiety Theatre (see image gallery below) where the Corricks had played their program several times (as represented by a framed poster on the wall from their 1910 performance).

In the audience were several Corrick family members, some of whom had travelled from as far as Perth. The audience was overjoyed by the combination of Leonard’s pictures and the music of Dean and his fellow musicians (Randal Muir and Ralph Forehead) and there was another full house at the theatre the following day. 

After Zeehan, we visited Strahan where I recorded an oral history with Stewart Corrick, the grandson of Leonard and younger brother to Jenny (see image gallery below). He is also the custodian of the films in the NFSA collection.

Return to the Corricks' Hometown

We continued to Launceston, where most of the Corrick family settled. It was here that John Corrick donated items to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG), including his dad’s projector and camera, the hand bells and chimes used during performances, an electricity generator and other documentation.

Jon Addison, a curator from QVMAG, gave us a tour of their exhibition and facilities. As a result of the NFSA’s strong, ongoing relationship with QVMAG, we now hold the original nitrate negatives of over 1,000 stills, which we have both physically and digitally preserved on their behalf. We were able to hand digital copies of those stills to Jon on our visit.

The second venue for Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures was Scottsdale, on the south-east coast (see image gallery). Tickets had sold out for the Mechanics’ Institute show and they added additional dates due to popular demand. There was a Q&A after the show with Stewart, who delighted the audience with an original song inspired by the festival events.

Back in Launceston we recorded the last of the oral histories with Pam Corrick, Jenny’s twin sister, and I gave my final presentation. We also attended a Corricks family reunion lunch and a Q&A hosted by Jon from QVMAG with Stewart Corrick and Stan Tilley, son of Elsie Corrick and the eldest living member of the Corrick family at 91 years of age (see image gallery).

Following the Q&A was a special gala tribute to the Marvellous Corricks featuring performances by soprano Emily Burke, narrator Stuart Loone, musicians from the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra and the City of Launceston Philharmonic Orchestra, followed by the NFSA Corrick program with Dean’s trio accompanying. The Youth Orchestra even played the original Corrick hand chimes – a unique and ethereal sound which emphasised just how exceptional the original Corrick performances must have been.

Seeing the films in the venues where they originally screened with local audiences was a special experience. Ultimately, we were both grateful and honoured to expand the relationship between the NFSA and the extended Corrick family.

With special thanks to Stewart, Patsy, Jenny, Pam and the rest of the Corrick and Tilley families.