On Friday I was thrilled to spend the day with about 50 community members, City of Fremantle staff and councillors and one of my favourite creative thinkers; David Engwicht. Together we developed a range of inexpensive, immediate ways to make Kings Square more vibrant, safe, inviting and successful.
It was a great day with lots of innovative and realistic ideas raised. With a budget and resources available and people agreeing to take responsibility for implementing proposals – it was a rare moment of opportunity to be siezed!
One of my favourite ideas suggested was the “Bike disco” – an interactive art installation that encouraged people to use a stationary (modified) bikes and pedal to create a sound and light show. Being particularly effective after dark, this could also improve the security and atmosphere at night. Projections and screenings were also suggested.
We talked about the fact that it is people who make a space work and that Kings Square should be the ‘living room’ of our city. There were suggestions that the library spill out into the square with newspapers and books be left at the tables for people to read and some of the childrens storytelling activities take place outside. An outdoor reading room was proposed at the southern side of the library where people often sit to use the wireless – simply by removing the council car bays and increasing the amount of greenery and adding some comfortable seating. It was suggested that the council hold some of its meetings in the square – I would encourage other workplaces in the area to consider the idea too!
A theme repeated by many was the desire to have a positive experience with local indigenous community and culture in the Square. Council agreed to follow up with local elders, with initial suggestions being a fire pit for gatherings and storytelling, something to signify the the six noongar seasons, and recognition of the Indigenous names and stories of Walyalup (Fremantle).
The desire to visually and practically connect the High Street Mall to the Square was also expressed. I suggested we try putting more coloured tables and chairs (with umbrellas) in front of the Town Hall and at the end of the mall, add more potted trees to link the two areas and remove the bollards.
I was pleased that people were keen on my community project currently underway; compiling a ‘place making kit’ – a portable street party kit that includes a sound system (thanks to a donation from the Woolstores Shopping Centre!), decorations, toys, costumes, furniture and games. It will be free to be used by local community groups and neighborhoods for community events and activities from December.
It was the second time the City of Fremantle has invited David Engwitch back to Fremantle since I introduced the council to his work through a Fremantle Network event in 2010. The creative spirit and ‘can-do attitude” he elicited from the group on Friday is exactly how the Cappuccino Strip Street Club came about (which will return again this summer – if you don’t know about the CSSC – check out Roel Looper’s fabulous photos and stories about it here http://bit.ly/hChFoL and http://bit.ly/h0F2nA).
The City of Fremantle should be commended for empowering the community to play a hands-on role in improving the square and not being bogged down in bureaucracy.
I suspect you will start to see changes and more activity in the Square very soon!