Push poet remembers the dissenters

8 December 2009

Sydney in the 1950s was a place just starting to break free of the strictures of wartime rationing and conservative values. Strongly influenced by the teaching of University of Sydney philosopher John Anderson, the Sydney 'Push', together with the Libertarian Society, was among the front-runners in the search for freedom.

It was a group committed to discussing new philosophical ideas and opposing restrictions on political and sexual behaviour. Sydney University was one of the first bases for the Push, while later haunts were various cafés and hotels in Sydney, including the Lincoln Coffee Lounge, and the Tudor, Royal George and Criterion hotels.

The emergence of this movement, which has left a lasting impact on Sydney's cultural and intellectual life today, is documented in a revealing new memoir by Richard Appleton, an early member of the Push, published by Sydney University Press.

Appleton, or 'Appo' as he was known, embraced the ideas of anti-authoritarianism and sexual freedom and experimented briefly with communism. The story of his life reveals some of the vast changes in Australian society over two thirds of the twentieth century.

Appo was a poet, author and editor, driven by a love of language and a desire that Australians might better understand their country and themselves. He took jobs as an Argentine ant eradicator, a farmhand and a tram conductor, before starting editorial work for various publishers, including Sydney University Press. From there, his role as editor of The Australian Encyclopedia and his involvement in the Australian Labor Party carved out a place for Appo in the cultural and political landscape of Sydney.

Appo: Recollections of a member of the Sydney Push provides a fascinating insight into the life and times of Appleton and his friends. It examines the Push and their desire to be among 'those who dissent'. As Barry Jones has commented, it is 'a valuable and provoking memoir'.

What: André Frankovits launches Appo: recollections of a member of the Sydney Push.
When: 5.30pm Tuesday 8 December.
Where: Victoria Room, Level 5 Fisher Library, University of Sydney
Appo: recollections of a member of the Sydney Push is published by Darlington Press, an imprint of Sydney University Press. ISBN: 9781921364099

For interviews contact: Agata Mrva-Montoya on 029036 9958 or 0414 432 631
Sydney University Press.