The Royal Western Australian Historical Society has awarded the Williams / Lee Steere Publications Prize to Dylan Hyde for his book, Art Was Their Weapon: The History of the Perth Workers’ Art Guild. Hyde wins a $1,000 cash prize and the official presentation took place at the Society’s annual general meeting on Wednesday 16 September.
Hyde, who is currently in lockdown in Melbourne, said winning the award made the labours of writing the history of the Perth Workers' Art Guild extremely rewarding. He said, ‘The book was written to fill what I thought was a significant gap in the state's art and political history, but there is always some trepidation about how one's work will be received when it flies the coop. Giving a narrative voice to these events was a delight and I've been thrilled with the reception it's had.’
Hyde said the book was in part an oral history because he’d been lucky enough to talk to most of the story’s participants from the fascinating and tumultuous decade of the 1930s in Perth. He said, ‘It’s these remarkable characters to whom I’m indebted for the pleasures and trials of writing this history.’
The Lee Steere Prize was inaugurated in 1948 by a grant from pastoralist and philanthropist Sir Ernest Lee Steere and later supplemented by his son, also Sir Ernest. The Williams Prize honours the memory of historian A.E. (Bert) Williams, chairman of the Society 1963–1967 and president 1976–1978, and funded by Bert and his family. In 2020 the prizes were combined to form one annual publication prize for the best new book on WA history.
The Convenor of the Readings and Publications Committee, Dr Pamela Statham Drew, commended Hyde on the depth of research evident in his book. She said, ‘Your expert scholarship made you the stand-out winner’.
Art Was Their Weapon: The History of the Perth Workers’ Art Guild was published by Fremantle Press with support from the Western Australian History Foundation. It is available online at fremantlepress.com.au and in all good bookstores.