Alexander Stewart Ferguson Hood (b. 1935) was born in Sydney and educated at Homebush Boys High School. He was apprenticed as an electrician and for some years had his own electrical business. In 1951 he joined the Communist Party of Australia and the Eureka Youth League. Through the League he met the singer Kris Kempster. In 1954 he joined Kempster as a member of the cast of the musical Reedy River and he subsequently performed with the Bushwhackers, the Ramblers and the Sydney Bush Music Band. From the late 1950s onwards he became a travelling musician, singing and playing a variety of instruments at clubs, pubs and theatres, and later at schools and on radio and television. In 1964 he produced a recording of Australian folk songs, The First Hundred Years. He also wrote several plays and folk operas for children, including:
Wallaby Track (1971)
Flying Pieman (1974)
Bill Jinks and the Whale (1974)
Annette James (b. 1948) was born in Sydney and was educated at Riverside Girls High School, Chatswood High School and Wollongong Teachers College. She started ballet classes at an early age and after leaving school taught classical ballet. At the same time, she developed an interest in modern dance. She taught dance at schools in Sydney and for 14 years was associated with Margaret Barr’s Dance Drama Group. In 1982 she met Alex Hood and they later married. She accompanied Hood on his country tours and in particular was responsible for the puppets, costumes and backdrops. For nearly 20 years their Australian Folk Theatre, combining traditional and popular techniques, has been touring Australia, often with the support of Arts Councils, and performing songs, dances, stories and yarns to audiences of children.
Alex Hood first began to record traditional music, folklore and oral histories in 1968, when he was touring in rural New South Wales. In 1972, while on an Arts Council tour of the Northern Territory, he recorded Aboriginal children of Arnhem Land singing and chanting. He also acquired copies of tapes from other sources, including a Jericho Jazz Band concert (1959) and a Freedom from Hunger concert (1963). In 2002 Alex and Annette Hood began recording oral histories in Murwillumbah, where they live, and as they travelled around New South Wales and Queensland.
The early field recordings made by Alex Hood were deposited in the Library in 1995 and purchased in 2001. Further recordings were acquired at regular intervals in 2002–06.
The Alex and Annette Hood Collection consists of about 200 recordings made between 1968 and 2006. The early recordings contain folk music and folklore, but most of the later recordings are oral histories documenting family history, local history, work experiences, music and other arts. They include interviews with miners, drovers, bullock drivers, farmers, folk singers and dancers, as well as a cattle dealer, a photographer, a town planner, a jockey, a conservationist, a coach builder and a doctor. Interviews were recorded in Sydney, Canberra, Goulburn, Lismore, Glen Innes, Newcastle, Gilgandra, Nimbin, Lithgow, Katoomba, Murwillumbah, Inverell, Brisbane, Roma, Aramac and Mount Beauty.
Among the interviewees are the politician Doug Anthony, the photographer Robert Walker, writers Merv Lilley and Roger Milliss, the singer Marian Henderson and the dancer Garry Lester.
The collection includes some interviews with dancers who recall their association with Margaret Barr (1904–91) and her Dance Drama Group in Sydney.
The Alex and Annette Hood Collection is held in the Oral History Collection at several locations: TRC 3248, TRC 4864, TRC 4884, TRC 5135, TRC 5388, TRC 5533 and TRC 5682. The interviews with associates of Margaret Barr are held at TRC 4884 and TRC 5533. Summaries, often detailed, of all the interviews are available in the Oral History Branch.
Alex Hood website: www.alexhood.com.au/
McKenry, Keith, Oral history interview with Alex Hood, 2002, ORAL TRC 4847
Waters, Edgar, Oral history interview with Annette Hood, 2001, ORAL TRC 4711
Waters, Edgar, Oral history interview with Alex Hood, 1996, ORAL TRC 3515