A Great Social Benefit

A Fundraising Concert in Support of the Dudley School of Arts

Dudley School of Arts was one of hundreds of Schools of Arts (sometimes called Mechanics Institutes) that once operated across New South Wales. These organisations were part of a movement in adult education which originated in Great Britain but introduced throughout its colonies. Australia was one of the most enthusiastic adopters of the concept. The earliest Australian Schools of Arts — those established in the early to mid-nineteenth century — closely followed the original model. Typically this was by establishing a dedicated public space where instruction in science and technology, politics, economics and other humanities was available to ordinary working people. This was delivered through the provision of books, classes and lectures. 

Australian Schools of Arts which were established later, in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, had additional dimensions.  By then an ‘Australian model’ for Schools of Arts had evolved, with an emphasis on social and recreational activities in addition to the educational objective. Schools of Arts in the Hunter Region, mostly established in the 1880s and 1890s, tended to follow this broader model. A good example was Dudley’s School of Arts. It had a lending library (of around 1100 books in 1920) and offered occasional educational lectures but was also an important social and recreational hub with a billiards table, a radio set, and rooms which were constantly used for cards tournaments, fetes, ‘socials’, dances and public concerts.

The ticket pictured here was for a concert held at the Dudley School of Arts in 1922 to raise funds for the School’s Annual Picnic. The Mrs A. Bailey named on the ticket organised this fundraising concert and the annual picnics in her capacity as Secretary of the School’s Parents and Citizens Association. The ticket holder was treated to a musical performance and may have enjoyed a waltz or two-step at the dance which followed. The money raised financed a fun day out for Dudley residents. Another of the School’s annual picnics in the early 1920s began with a pipe band procession to cheering spectators. Swings were erected for the day, which were ‘very popular’ and competitive sports were played, probably including running and novelty races. Delicious refreshments were served by a team of ladies, headed by the very organised Mrs. Bailey.