Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 98 - Fremantle Prison and Fremantle Festival Opening

Since we were planning to do the 'spooky' torchlight tour of Fremantle Prison, we thought that it may be useful to see it in daylight first. We arrived just in time to join a group of about 30 persons that already had started the tour.

We learned that the prisoners were sent from the UK, mostly from London because the empire wanted to get rid of their scum. Deportation meant to send these people on convict ships to Australia without a return ticket, even after the sentence was done. Even children, the youngest at the age of eight, were sent to the land where nothing was. The first prisoners had to build their own prison by cutting cubes of limestone from the hill. We also were told that the court we were standing on was a place where the prisoners only were allowed to walk if they had a special licence in form of a paper that you had to hold up at any time. If you didn't you were suspicious to not owe such a paper: you heard a threatening whistle, then a threatening shot, and if you didn't show a paper then you were shot immediately. Harsh conditions.
 
video
I found this awfully scary
 
These harsh conditions also showed in the cells. The prisoners had to live here 14 hours a day (dusk until dawn, when there was no electric lighting): a room, about six square meters small, and about 2,2 meters high, furnished with (in the earliest days a hammock, but later) a short thin bed and a bucket serving as a toilet. Since so many convicts tried to end their miserable lives by jumping to death from the upper floors, suicide nets were installed - but not earlier than 20 years after they had been applied for by the prison administration.
 
Some rooms were full of artworks. One room of an extremely aggressive prisoner was originally painted in light blue to calm him down a little. In the end they even let him paint his walls with very beautiful landscape paintings, as a therapy. Some paintings were also found in the public courts where the prisoners painted situations in which also dead corpses lay around.
 
During the day the prisoners were sent out to public spaces (with the other prisoners) without shelter from the sun. They hung there, using two toilets for 150 persons, emptying their toilet buckets. Some lucky guys were able to work during some time of the day: many of them got bad jobs like cleaning all the toilet buckets which also was paid very badly. The most trustful and faithful prisoners were sent to the kitchen where they had to deal with knives, scissors and so on. They were not only the best paid, but also got an excellent hygiene, because they cannot contaminate all the prisoners. So they were able to shower and get fresh clothes every day, whereas others could only wash and get fresh clothes twice or three times a week. 
 
We saw the place where many prisoners received their punishment which often was 100 lashes with the Cat o'Nine Tails. Many had to quit, because the blood loss was too high, and the skin damage was to heavy already (a doctor assessed the condition). The prisoner then was immediately sent to hospital, where they took great care of him, because they didn't want him to die. When he recovered (doctor's assessment) he was given the remaining lashes, if he wasn't finished yet.

The prison was initially built for convicts, poor persons who, e.g., stole food in a store, like that eight year-old boy. That time Great Britain was the global power and couldn't agree with criminal acts like shoplifting or burglary. There was no way back to Europe. There was nothing in Australia except for a deathly desert. No water, no food, nobody, no artificial light! When the sun went down it was dark, candles were too dangerous. Somewhen later the people caused a huge fire in the roof timber as a protest. Electric lighting only came in the 1920s. 
 
Shortly before the prison was closed in 1991 they even bought tons of barb wire which is unimaginably expensive (they resold it later to other prisons). The reason they decided to buy barb wire is that the prison was more and more the place for really dangerous criminals like rapists or murderers. Fremantle Prison became like a super-max (maximum-security prison). Two stories shocked me: a multiple robber and rapist became a category "A" prisoner after he escaped two times. When he escaped a third time, he got away and raped a 12 year-old girl before he was caught again and died in the prison later. The other story is about the only woman that was hanged here in Fremantle Prison: she was arrested for murdering her three stepchildren by "curing" them with a thought-to-be-good medicine which actually was toxic. A total of 44 persons went to the gallows below.

Two shots from the detention block:
On the left, a regular "furnished" day cell (one toilet bucket, one chair)
On the right, a cell for the really bad guys (not even a toilet bucket) 

 
 
Coming back to a happier topic...
...where the barmen wore captain dresses
...where the entire audience was dancing, no matter how they looked, no matter how they danced
...where the music was so happy that the sitting persons danced on their chairs (Perch Creek)
...where the music was so loud that your eardrums danced, too
...where the music was so awesome that I got goose bumps and had to buy a CD
...where the musicians were so friendly that I got some autographs
...where the musicians looked completely different then expected from the balcony (far away)
...where I've seen the coolest stage performance ever
...where I disturbed the friends and himself, a local artist that exhibited a public art in form of a boat in front of Town Hall, eating Pizza which was pretty unexpected and embarrassing, especially that I was left deserted from my father who pretended to enter, too, but then stayed far away lol
...where art means three colorful 3D triangles that are smoking




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