As Melbourne’s normally bustling bars rest under coronavirus restrictions, it’s worth remembering the past lives these places have lived. Trunk Diner was originally the Mickveh Yisrael Synagogue and Hebrew School, built in 1859, before various incarnations under the Salvation Army as a free labour bureau, as a men’s industrial home and, following additions in 1897, as a women’s shelter, which was called Hope Hall. Hope Hall was a place for “slum work among women prostitutes”, before reinvention under Methodist Central Mission management after 1909, after which it included space for a kindergarten.
In 2020, Emily Soon’s work, “Shelter”, she reflects on the former Hope Hall but looks to the next generation. Emily’s work, with its quiet insistence and wistful exposition, asks: how can we grow the next generation to respond to crisis and change, to “take back their bodies”, to “know where to go”, without knowing the stories and songs of our places?
Beneath the quiet rumble of dinner dates
‘Sorry I’m lates’, ‘careful hot plate’
There’s a purpose, there’s a place
In history; its mysteries
Have I been here before?
A light flickers, a silent roar
I’m snapped back in time, a door shuts
Children were here before
A young girl, sheltered from knowing something more If the roof were to cave in
Would she move left, right?
I wonder what she might’ve done
That young girl, how it felt to be
Rushing through the darkness
If those stories were hidden, where would she sense to run? Her life forever changed?
These halls have an urgency in their core
She’ll take back her body
She’ll know where to go
This place is laced in hope I’m sure
Our children’s children and the choices they make When they’re too sheltered, they can’t bear the weight I struggle to picture the life I’ve begun
Without having known stories and songs
Singing of struggle, questioning faith
In places where I’m sheltered today