A Commonwealth Festival Perth 2011 Event
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A Large and Brilliant Gathering

From the late 1890s until World War 2, ‘The Western Australian Dinner’ was held in London. It occurred every year, except for a couple of years in the First World War and the early 1930s, due to the Depression. Essentially a promotional event for the State, many of these dinners were staged at the famous Trocadero Club in Piccadilly Circus, especially throughout the 1920s.

These dinners were a conspicuous event on the schedule of “the Anglo-Australian community” and were generally presented along a set formula. The host for the evening was the WA Agent General and guests included many members of the British Cabinet, the City of London’s financial sector, former Governors of WA, visiting Western Australian MPs, well connected West Australians that resided in London and British dignitaries that had a connection with WA. The formula included the delivery of a speech by a high ranking British Cabinet Member or a prominent member of the House of Lords on various matters about the Empire and Commonwealth, usually including many references to the encouragement of emigration. The dinner always featured a message from the Premier about the progress of WA, a message which was read to the distinguished audience on his behalf by the Agent General.

On 9th May 1923, the 21st Western Australian Dinner occurred. Sir James Connolly, the Agent General, presided and the Duke of Devonshire, Secretary of State for the Colonies, proposed a toast to Western Australia in which he said that one of his most satisfying moments in his career in the Colonial Office was the signing of an agreement “providing for the settlement of six thousand immigrants on their own farms” in WA – referring to what became known as the Group Settlement Scheme.

These British gatherings about Western Australia were very formal indeed. According to existing photographs and guest lists, they seem to have been mainly all male affairs, though reference is made to a reception that followed the banquet, where the dinner guests “were joined by the ladies”. In 1923 the French menu included Consommé double Etoile du Nord, Selle d’Agneau de Behage Monte Carlo, Spooms Granite au Kümmel, washed down with Chateau le Prieure St. Emilion 1916 and Bollinger Extra Quality Extra Dry 1914.

Far grander affairs than anything that occurred in WA at that time, the SRO’s file on these dinners, reveals not only the efforts made to stake a place for the WA in the centre of the British Empire, but unexpectedly lets us take a look at fine dining in London in the early 20th century.1



Image Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia (599B)

The State Records Office invites you to pick up your fork and join us in Eating the Archives - an online exhibition and event that forms part of the Commonwealth Festival Perth 2011.

Witness history come alive on Friday 28 October at 12.00pm in the Perth Cultural Centre as celebrated WA chef Hadleigh Troy of Restaurant Amusé interprets and reinvents menus from the State archives collection using fresh, local produce with a modern twist. 

Twenty lucky West Australians will join State Archivist Cathrin Cassarchis and some well-known guests to experience Hadleigh Troy’s take on these historic menus.

Eating the Archives is a partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Food; and the dishes presented will reflect a Buy West Eat Best ethos, showcasing premium West Australian produce.

The online exhibition will take you on a culinary journey to experience food fashions of the past and gain an insight into how these events have shaped today’s food culture and informed WA’s identity. This exhibition will be served up in three courses; Appetiser, Banquet and Dessert. Come back and sample more food related offerings from the State archives collection and follow us on our journey.

Eating the Archives is an event for all to celebrate as chef Hadleigh Troy pays tribute to a bygone culinary era, bringing a small part of WA’s history alive through food.

See and hear Hadleigh begin his journey...

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