Storybox Parramatta

Storybox Parramatta

Storybox brings a unique approach to building digital engagement tools and storytelling in public spaces.

The City of Parramatta is pleased to be an Anchor Partner on the delivery of Storybox Parramatta.

Created by Esem Projects, Storybox Parramatta is a partnership initiative supported by the ABC, City of Parramatta, Western Sydney University and Story Factory. Originally designed as a public space activation in Parramatta Square, we're beginning our journey online while social distancing impacts how we use public spaces.

We are looking forward to the digital activation in Parramatta Square later in the year. This project provides an opportunity to showcase all that is special about Parramatta: its history, it's people and its future. 

Creatives and artists in the community are encouraged to get in touch to discuss potential opportunities to showcase work. 

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Parramatta Dance

Parramatta is a gathering place for people from many different cultures. This dance edit captures the many exciting dance cultures of Parramatta. 

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Elizabeth Farm Fashion, 1959

As part of the online launch of Storybox, the ABC has curated a selection of video sourced from deep within the ABC Archive that shows snapshots of life in Parramatta in the 50s and 60s.  A touch of recolouring harks back to earlier eras of film colour treatments. 

This content is provided by the ABC for the Storybox project

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Parramatta was an established and bustling city centre long before it was declared Sydney’s second CBD. It was founded in 1788, the same year as Sydney, and is rich in historical landmarks including St John’s Cathedral, the Centennial Memorial Clock, Town Hall and Lancer Barracks. Take a little journey back in time and encounter some of Parramatta’s many heritage sites that still stand today.

This content is provided by the ABC for the Storybox project

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Blue Mountains Bush Regeneration

In late 2019 and early 2020, fires ripped through parts of the Blue Mountains, stripping and blackening thousands of hectares of bushland.

A layer of smoke blanketed Sydney for months and became a constant reminder of the intensity of the bushfires and the communities battling them. Parramatta’s air quality reached hazardous levels and its burgeoning city skyline disappeared for days at a time.

Months on, this peaceful walkthrough of those affected areas acts as important reminder of the fires and acknowledges nature’s incredible ability to recover.


This content is provided by the ABC for the Storybox project

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Place Portraits

Alissar Chidiac is a community cultural development worker based in Parramatta. She has worked extensively with culturally and linguistically diverse communities across Western Sydney, especially Arab Australian communities. ​


Brad Robson is a Sydney-based contemporary painter and street artist, working out of his studio space in Sydney's Inner West. Over the coming months Storybox Parramatta will be commissioning more portraits of Parramatta identities. 



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The Mangroves of Parramatta River

Parramatta is a place defined by its river. Its name refers to the original inhabitants, the Barramattagal, a name thought to be derived from the Aboriginal word for 'place where the eels lie down'.

This place name speaks to the vital historical role played by river systems in supporting rich food ecologies. Mangroves, like those along the river, are also excellent at storing carbon, both in plants and in the sediments below. They can store five times more carbon in their soils than terrestrial ecosystems such as forests.

This content is provided by ESEM for the Storybox project

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Trace Parramatta

This artwork is a collaboration between Esem Projects and Richard Briggs, commissioned for Storybox Parramatta. 

Parramatta is a city once described as the 'infrastructure capital of the world' by former NSW Premier Mike Baird. Suburban streets and single storey office buildings are making way for multi-story apartment blocks wherever one looks.  

Richard's line drawings have an affinity for both the everydayness and the beautiful complexity of these rapid changes.

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Earth Moving Anxiety (2016)

Artist Statement

A lot of my memory is the neighbourhood underneath scaffolding and cranes. Earthmoving Anxiety is a piece of choreography imagining the end of development. 

The promise of capitalism is progress, the endless acceleration of technology and society. This dance between two excavators and their operators thinks about the limits of progress and asks: 'If there was an end to building where would the earthmovers go?'

— By Kalanjay Dhir.

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Story Factory 
Ensure Poetry

Story Factory is a partner on the Storybox Parramatta project. You can take a storytelling workshop with Story Factory at their Redfern and Parramatta studios. 

For Art Write Light ESEM Projects worked with Story Factory and students to create a visual storytelling treatment for the 2019 Art Write Light Program. This work features 'erasure poetry' created by school students from Granville and Holroyd High Schools. You can learn more about the beautiful Art Write Light program here

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Cedars of Lebanon Hall, 1963

Parramatta is a significant centre of Lebanese settlement in Australia. People from the village of Kfarsghab began to migrate to the area in the 1890s and established the roots for Parramatta’s Lebanese community.

The easing of immigration restrictions after World War II saw a wave of migration from Europe and by 1963 the Lebanese community in Parramatta was well established and quickly expanding. Here you see members of the community socialising and performing the Dabke, a traditional dance, at Cedars of Lebanon Hall in Parramatta.

This content is provided by the ABC for the Storybox project

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Unguarded Moments

Storybox is surfacing unique insights into urban life in Australia in partnership with the ABC's Content Ideas Lab. 

As part of this partnership Esem Projects are creatively reinterpreting archival recordings of past moments captured on camera. These video portraits create intimate moments of encounter with the past lives of diverse Australians. 

Go to more Unguarded Moments by ESEM.   

Video Notes

The ABC has been documenting changes to Australia's cities for close to a century. This video edit features recently-arrived migrants based at Villawood in the 1950s. 

We can't help but wonder what the boy in the background was thinking. 

This content is provided by the ABC for the Storybox project

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