Giving a voice to those who spoke up against discrimination at a time when it wasn’t fashionable to do so, The People Speak highlights the importance of active participation in society, writes Garrett Bithell.
Filmed at Carriageworks back in July in front of a live audience, The People Speak is finally airing on The History Channel on December 2.
The two-hour special event features a pack of Australia’s finest artists from stage and screen delivering the letters, songs and speeches of the rebels, visionaries and protesters from our rich and chequered past. Narrated by author Thomas Keneally, this series of powerful watershed moments revisits Australia’s most significant cultural fights, including gender equality, fair pay and working conditions, gay rights, war and peace, immigration, and the rights of our indigenous populations.
Aiming to give a voice to those who spoke up at a time when it wasn’t fashionable to do so and thereby were major architects of social change, The People Speak highlights the importance of active participation in society, which is just as relevant today.
The many highlights of the special include Dan Wyllie delivering the 1882 words of James Stanley in relation to women’s rights published The Argus; Claudia Karvan reading from Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch; Matilda Brown presenting a 2005 Rodney Croome speech about gay marriage; Jack Thompson delivering Robert Lyon’s 1833 speech about respecting the rights of Aboriginals; and singer-songwriter Julia Stone performing Redgum’s 1983 Vietnam War lament ‘I was only 19’.
The People Speak format was born in 2009 when actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, along with film producer Chris Moore, collaborated with Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, to construct a performed history of the US as told from the perspectives of its underdogs. Morgan Freeman, Marisa Tomei, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Josh Brolin and a host of other high-profile artists participated in the event; and two years later Colin Firth, Sir Ben Kingsley, Joss Stone, Keira Knightley and Sir Ian McKellan were amongst the cast that staged The People Speak in the United Kingdom.
Other participants in the Australian version include David Wenham, Sam Worthington, John Jarrett, Alex Dimitriades, Tex Perkins, Ryan Kwanten, Sophie Lowe and Christine Anu.
[Images] David Wenham is among the stars featured in The People Speak in The History Channel. Photos: Foxtel/Nick Wilson
The People Speak premieres on Sunday, December 2 at 7.30pm AEDT on The History Channel