High and Dry

Maitland’s Colourful Carnival to Celebrate Flood Recovery

When raging flood waters and swirling mud swept through Maitland in 1955, eleven people lost their lives and countless others lost their homes and businesses. Three years later, the community was back on its feet and eager to celebrate its recovery. In 1958, with the intention of thanking Australia for its support and demonstrating Maitland’s resilience and growth, the city held the Maitland Carnival of Colour and Trade Fair. This souvenir programme was published to document the event.

What better way to convey a message of modernity and progress than to use a mid-century modern block colour design for the program? Behind the cover, inspired by the work of Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian, this booklet provided visitors and residents with the carnival’s programme, a brief history of the region, and snapshots of local agriculture and industry, intended to inspire pride in residents.

The program lists the extensive line-up of events, including exhibitions and competitions, polocrosse and equestrian events, greyhound racing, spectacular aeronautical pageants, concerts, factory inspections, social and sporting events, concluding in a colourful procession with seventy floats.

Embodying the spirit of a community rising from disaster, this booklet also documents the vibrancy, creativity and industry of the Maitland region in the late 1950s. One page of the program explains the devastation brought by the flood and the measures taken to reduce the damage of future inundations. But while the 1955 flood was the most extensive on record, it was not the first or the last time this flood-prone town on the banks of the Hunter River would need to recover from the catastrophic impacts of flood waters.