Sideshow in Burlesco1979

by Martin Sharp

The dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975 had a huge impact on the local arts community. Outraged Sydney poster artists took direct aim at Liberal Party policies and the funding cuts imposed by Prime Minister Malcom Fraser.  Posters became more deliberately provocative. ‘Keep Warm this Winter Make Trouble’ is one of many feminist/anarchist works of the era. It combines a slogan lifted from London’s punk culture with figures of the artist and her collaborator throwing Molotov cocktails at St Mary’s Cathedral. Other powerful works were provoked by French atomic testing in the Pacific and environmental concerns about uranium mining. 


Artists and activists also got together to communicate radical political ideas through mural painting, community theatre, filmmaking, alternative performance and music. The Sideshow Company launched its extraordinary ‘Burlesco’ cabaret at the new Nimrod Theatre in December 1979, and the Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative in Darlinghurst hosted regular screenings of local and international experimental films.