Well, it’s nearly all over. For now. For any Kelly enthusiast, the past 9 months have been a milestone welcomed with open arms by people like myself and Mike Lawson who have been waiting many years to see the Kelly Saga portrayed in an accurate sensitive fashion.
Despite so many obstacles thrown down in front of them prior to October 2001, Brendan Pearse, Matt Shore and exhibition consultant Ian Jones have pulled it off spectacularly. Ned: The Exhibition has been a great success- both financially and creatively. After pouring so much of themselves into the show, the guys can rest easy (although not for long) knowing most Kelly fans and the general public are satisfied.
The exhibition draws to a close at the end of July 2002 at the Old Melbourne Gaol in Russell St. Never before has such a vast collection of “Kellyana” been present at the same time, under the same roof. Logistically, the hurdles to overcome were enormous but overcome they were. And it hasn’t just been the exhibition. Special events have been organised throughout the run allowing a newcomer to the story a good introduction and the Kelly student further rich insight into the Kelly Outbreak. Well known Kelly authors Keith McMenomy and John McQuilton made their presence felt at the launch, Ashley Davies excellent musical tribute to Ned was launched the same day, Australia Day showcased wineries from the Kelly Country and book signings, Ian Jones- Kelly student supreme presented a talk on the Jerildeie Letter and the original letter itself made it’s first public appearance at the exhibition. Later in the year, on St. Patricks day, Neds boot went on display- the first time it had seen daylight for many years. Sadly, although some exhibitors felt the need to remove some artifacts before the exhibition conclusion, in the main, the collection has remained together and been a tremendous, accessible archive for those wanting to know more.
And there’s one more to come. Before it closes, the exhibition plays host to the re-configuration of Ned Kellys armour. For the first time since 1880, the original pieces of Neds suit will be brought together and assembled correctly. It’s a fitting finale to a memorable and historic exhibition.
Personally, the exhibition has given me the chance to meet like minded people and make some good friends. Despite a 20 year interest in the story, the past 9 months for me have been an eye opener in terms of new information coming to light, revelations regarding old material and realising that I’m certainly not alone in the world with my fascination for all things Kelly. I think it’s appropriate Matt and Brendan chose the Old Melbourne Gaol as the venue. It’s where Ned died after all and where his legend was born that morning in November 1880.
And it continues. The exhibition is closing but the Kelly story has never been more alive. The guys are still running their “Ned Tours” on a semi regular basis in the North East and next year will see the new Ned Kelly film starring Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom released. In the meantime, the Glenrowan Siege commemorative dinner is coming up on the 28th June, there will be a re-issue of Ian Jones book, “The Fatal Friendship” in October, along with the launch of a new website for Kates Cottage, the excellent shop and museum in Glenrowan run by Chris and Rod Gerrett. It is still all happening.
The jewel in the crown will be the permanent Kelly museum in Beechworth the guys are working on. It’s coming close to fruition too and will be a further boon to popular Beechworth which already receives in excess of 90,000 visitors a year. It will compliment the Burke museum and the historic precinct well and will also be a nice tribute to local boys, gang member Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt. Whatever configuration the museum ultimately takes or what it’s ultimately called, it will be good to see the Kelly presence back in Beechworth after 123 years on such a grand scale coming from people who want the story presented in a spectacular, historically accurate way.
I for one, can’t wait. See you there!!