Growing up, Christine Middleton loved hearing stories about her family. ‘I realised that I needed to get them written down, because they wouldn’t be here forever… most of us don’t value our own stories. But what they represent is social and historical times.’
She eventually began recording conversations, and learned the value of documenting what were previously only verbal histories. ‘Most people don’t like recording, I’ve learnt, so you have to get the wine out, you have to get the sherry out. My mother said ‘No one would be interested.’” But the truth is - people are.
Any reticence in the interviewing process was quickly undone by Christine’s genuine interest in her subjects. As time went on, her projects proved to be meaningful and highlighted the importance of documenting our lived experience, and that of others. She encourages everyone to record their own histories.
‘We’re not just hearing one person’s story - we’re recording experiences of a time and a place. And life moves so fast…’
This interest in other people’s stories combines naturally with her musical background. ‘Music has always been storytelling to me.’ A talented harpist, singer and pianist, Christine fleshed out these personal histories to become rich, striking theatre productions.
She emphasises that the focus of her shows should always be on the histories and experiences: ‘I always say I’m a storyteller, not an actress… I read the story and I take people on the journey.’
Christine’s gift is finding the magic in other people’s lives from what they may view as ordinary. Her productions are inspired by people she has met in her own life, and places she’s lived in. In particular, she loves having the opportunity to highlight women’s stories. ‘Strong women, adventurous women.’
One story she knew she wanted to tell was that of Sheila - an outback restaurant owner from the 1940s on. Christine worked at Sheila’s restaurant 30 years ago as a waitress. ‘I was always interested in her stories, but never thought to document it until a few years ago.’
Scones, Lamingtons & Chocolate Rolls tells Sheila’s story, reimagined as a radio play. It tells the story of a young woman marrying a farmer in WWII, managing farms and five children, before pursuing her dream of fine dining. Christine is passionate about telling stories of women that have largely been untold or unheard.
Scones, Lamingtons & Chocolate Rolls explores the resilience and innovation of a time gone by. Christine’s work acts as a reminder that elements of our lives we view as mundane are fascinating to others, and can bring people together. We all have a story to tell.
Listen to Christine Middleton's Scones, Lamingtons & Chocolate Rolls at the 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival Radio reimagined.