Sunset Arts Centre?

arts centre concertsOn Sunday, I attended the first of the free summer music series at the Fremantle Arts Centre, along with about 700 other people. I think it is a useful and important comparison, when considering the temporary use of J Shed by Sunset events.

The Freo Arts Centre has a capacity of up to 900 people in the front courtyard, where the Sunday music is held. The major concerts held on the south lawn have a capacity up to 3500 people.This is more than double the proposed capacity of the proposed venue at J Shed.

The Arts Centre is also much closer to residents and has similar parking constraints. Plus it has similar operating hours, with all events finishing by 10pm.

Sunset Events plan to attract a similar audience (aged 25+) and host similar “mature” artists like Sarah Blasko, Missy Higgins and Paul Kelly in a family friendly environment. The Freo Arts Centre does not attract significant anti social behavior problems, like those some are claiming will inevitably occur at J Shed, because it is a well-managed venue that targets more mature patrons. I expect Sunset Events to operate in a similar manner. I also note that the Arts Centre is a significant heritage building. It is not being harmed by these events. In fact it is being experienced and enjoyed by many thousands of people.

On Sunday, I was sitting next to people from Woodvale (30km north they told me…) they are regulars at the Arts Centre gigs and travel to Freo for them often. This demonstrates the pulling power events like these in our town have, which supports local artists, businesses and builds community.

Locals I spoke with at the Arts Centre on Sunday and door knocking today thought a similar venue at J Shed would be a wonderful addition to Freo’s cultural landscape. Noting again that this would be less than half the capacity of the Arts Centre, which has a maximum capacity of 400 people and 1500 people just twelve times a year.


Some people have raised concerns about the legitimacy of allowing a temporary use prior to the permanent license is approved. I see this as a potential benefit. Firstly it will enable the strategic aims of the lease being realized sooner – that is creating an attraction that will support the Arts Hub and West End businesses.

Secondly, it will enable Sunset Events to be tested to see if they can deliver on the many criteria they are being asked to meet as part of this lease. This includes adhering to sound regulations, security and safety issues and compliance with the aims of the arts hub. You can’t imagine RGL providing Sunset Events with a permanent license for this venue if they are not responsible or don’t do a good job. Refusing a liquor license is far easier than withdrawing one – so this is an opportunity to ensure Sunset Events can deliver on their promise to our community.


I have moved a number of amendments that seek to address some of the key concerns raised:

1. Reduce capacity for 12 x large events to 1000 people (only a little more than the front courtyard events at the Freo Arts Centre)

2. The performance criteria set out in the lease agreement forms part of this approval and must be met as part of the temporary use

3. The risk management plan must include consideration of people attempting to view events from the cliff top

4. Sunset will be required to liaise with the J Shed tenants regarding any artwork in the area and any temporary removal will be at the cost of Sunset Venues.

5. Temporary fencing erected for events must be removed by 9am morning after

6. No more than 6 food stalls / vans to operate in the area at any one time

I also have concerns about the lack of vehicle access and a satisfactory solution is yet to be found. I do not support any vehicle access from Mrs Trivett’s Lane and also have concerns about the Whaling tunnel being used for regular vehicle access to the venue. I am considering an amendment that would make this a condition.

I am also concerned about the uncertainty about the entry point for these events – given the potential impact on adjoining neighbors. If no permanent entry is proposed as part of these plans, I would like to add a condition that says “The public entry must be at least 10m from the Western wall of the shed and access doors into other tenants units”.

It is also important to note, the DA for the temporary use does not include any physical changes or alterations to the shed and there will be no removal of existing vegetation. There will be no permanent fencing of the Reserve. Temporary fencing will only apply during events where a liquor license has been approved (as a requirement of Liquor Licensing) or during major ticketed events (as approved by the event application and process).


I believe that the strategic aim behind this proposal – to create a significant attractor that would bring new and repeat visitation to Arthur’s Head via the West End – is a good one. For too long businesses in the West End – the former beating heart of our CBD – has been struggling. The Retail Model Plan (2010) identified the need for an “anchor” attraction(s) that would generate repeat visitation from all over Perth (and beyond) to the West End. It is with this in mind the EOI was issued for unit 1 at J Shed. We also wanted to make the area an ‘Arts Hub’ that would showcase the city’s diverse creative and cultural assets. Sunset Events will need to meet criteria to deliver these outcomes as well as the commercial aims for our West End. We also want to see a nighttime economy returned to the historical centre of town – our beautiful West End.

cym_crowdThe concerts at the Fremantle Arts Centre are popular, well managed and a great cultural attractor to Fremantle. If we can have a second, smaller venue in an equally iconic historic site that brings more families and mature music and art lovers to the west end I believe this will be a good thing for Fremantle. But we need to ensure it is well managed and respects existing tenants and neighbours, which is why I’ve moved the range of amended conditions above.

The public comment during question time, debate in the chamber and the outcome of my amendments will help me to determine my final position on this matter, however I believe a good outcome for all is possible.

13 thoughts on “Sunset Arts Centre?

    • They don’t have a liquor license for it yet, so they are yet to get operations underway there.

  1. Thank you for making your position clear, but I was very disappointed to read your arguments. Arthur Head and Fremantle Art Centre are completely different venues, however I have no doubt that any attempt to open a tavern at Fremantle Art Centre and make alcohol the main reason for visiting the place would raise a similar degree of community anger.

    The spin in favour of this development is increasingly questionable, the ongoing mismanagement of the community engagement process is deeply disturbing and the current attempt to provide a ‘temporary’ tavern license via the back door while trying to hand ball responsibility to a State Govt Department is about as disingenuous and despicable as it gets. I do not believe ‘a good outcome for all is possible’ and I assure you now this will not be the case.

  2. The complete lunacy of this council never ceases to anaze me. Still the residents are not being listened too. If these events were ever to be considered then residential housing should never have been approved in this precinct years ago. Not even mentioning this sensitive family area. Bring on the wrecking ball Freo council. Residents please make your vote count this election!

  3. Councillor. How can you let your constituents down so badly, just to be one of the boys, in even contemplating, let alone voting, to vandalise the states most historic area?
    Your job is to represent the City Ward and the ratepayers wishes.
    76 of 78 submissions said NO to a booze barn on this fragile location.
    Now even the iconic Bathers Beach Markets, having done the hard work, and paved the way to success, are being sloughed south for the Coucils favorite boyo, Sunset Events.
    Your naivity is overwhelming.

  4. I am an inner city resident and welcome the project at J Shed, and I believe that with Rachel on Council we will get an excellent outcome. The people complaining are being alarmist as they always are when change is afoot – remember the skate park?

    I first came to work and live in Fremantle in the 70s and at that time the fishing boat harbour was still a boat building area with no real public attractions. My job at that time meant I visited the area and I can tell you it was a dump. Old car tyres, tin cans and other rubbish along the shore and in the water. The development of the precinct as we know it now has meant a huge improvement. The J Shed art precinct will be another step forward for an improved environment and public facilities in the West End of Fremantle.

    As far as the liquor licencing issue is concerned we live in Nairn Street and the Strange Company small bar has just opened opposite us with a licence for 120 people 7 days a week to 12.00. It is not a problem at all, in fact the street has benefited from a much better streetscape, very well managed business helping to lift the ambience of the street in a very positive way.

    I was at a council meeting a couple of weeks ago and Rachel stands out as a sensible, clear thinking and well spoken member of the council – not a time waster! It’s no good just being a perpetual naysayer – you have to be able to raise intelligent arguments, win the respect of fellow councilors as well as the officers if you want to get the best outcome for your constituents. I think Rachel is able to do that.

  5. To liken the historic Arthur Head precinct to the Fremantle Arts Centre is disingenuous in the extreme and for what purpose?

    Firstly, the summer music series concerts are held on one day of the week for a limited period. Secondly, the Fremantle Arts Centre, whilst an historic site would, I suggest, struggle to achieve the visitation numbers of the Fremantle Round House – more than 110,000 annually and climbing (thanks to a large extent to the efforts of the Volunteer Round House Guides) – to Western Australia’s oldest public building.

    Visitors to the historic Arthur Head precinct include local Fremantle residents, residents from the wider Perth environs (including Woodvale and beyond), intra-state, interstate and overseas visitors and regular visits by school groups for educational purposes. The grassed area to the south of the Round House is also a popular site for wedding ceremonies.

    The re-enactment of the cannon firing and dropping of the time ball on the headland carried out at 1.00pm daily (weather permitting) on 363 days of the year is also a popular attraction for visitors to the heritage precinct. The informative talk given by the volunteer Guides would be negatively impacted by planned activities of Sunset Events.

    The Sunset Events proposal for J-shed appears to be an extension of, and supported by, an opinion passed by one of the CoF Directorate, following the less than successful Engwicht Placemaking ‘Exercise’, that CoF rued the day control of the Arthur Head historic precinct was passed from WA State control to CoF control.

    Of their own volition the Fremantle Volunteer Heritage Guides successfully applied for partial funding from Lotterywest to undertake an Interpretative Plan as a mandatory pre-cursor to seeking funding to upgrade the displays and information contained in the Round House. This will undoubtedly result in greater visitation to the Round House.

    Surely the ‘anchor’ attraction in the West End IS the historic Arthur Head Precinct and WA’s oldest public building – the Fremantle Round House. Open for 363 days of the year, with greater support from the CoF for the volunteer Guides and the work they do, the Sunset Events booze barn and ‘music’ venue would not even be considered as an option to draw more visitors to the West End.

    ….and I have not even addressed the problems of access and impact on pedestrians enjoying the surrounding areas by the erection of fencing (for even a limited time), or the public safety risks of people gathering on the cliff-top above J-shed!

    Speak up to stop the proposed vandalism of Western Australia’s most historic site NOW!

  6. Would the geriatric baby-boomers and their ilk that make up reactionary groups such as FICRA, please waddle off to your retirement (lifestyle) village homes now – you should never have moved into an inner-city urban environment in the first place. )You should be happy in these establishments since they have been created on the sites of nearly every Western Suburbs pub.) My young family (4 boys under 10) live directly behind the Orient Hotel and enjoy the sound of the music through the walls at night. We knew what to expect from the area when we moved here – we didn’t try to change its character.

    Inner city life is about vibrancy. The West End has shriveled over the last 25 years under the custodianship of an old guard that now fights against the positive (generational) change created by the current council. As for the current Port Authority – they have also destroyed any life down at its various sheds on the harbor.

    The skate park has been a resounding success and I am sure this new venue will be as well.

  7. Sorry Helen & Shane.
    You totally miss the point, as does Rachel.
    No one is talking about music, it is where the music is to be played to 1500 imbibers. To use the most historic site in Western Australia as a money making exersize for outta-towners.
    Now even pushing aside the successful Bathers Beach Markets for the same Council favorites.
    AND no-one minded the skate park you keep banging on about; just where it is, on the green heart of Freo; instead of on the bitumised carpark nearby.
    When Council chucks my money about, with no recompense to the city, to fund someone elses pockets. Once again we see there is no financial forethought and certainly no guardianship of the most important property in the state and in Councils care.

  8. If it wasn’t for that ‘old guard’, Shane, you would not be enjoying the same west end you do today. Show some respect. And comparing living behind a dive bar to the impact international standard music events might have on one of the state’s most significant historic sites is ridiculous.

  9. As a city ward resident, I cannot stress how great it is to see the conscientious approach surrounding the development application process for this project.

    It’s careful consideration of the provisions implemented alongside this project that will ultimately determine the venture’s best possible fit with the West End.

    This is shaping up to be a great addition to Fremantle. Very exciting.

  10. Thanks Rachel. I think you have outlined a sound and sensible approach to the proposed use of J Shed as a concert venue.

    Some of my fondest Freo memories are listening to artists like The Waifs, John Butler, City and Colour and Ben Howard on a warm summer night with a glass of wine as the sun goes down behind the historic Freo Arts Centre. There is no reason why historic Arthur Head can’t provide a similarly beautiful backdrop for concerts as it did for the bathers beach markets or the kelp bar.

    I have to say the arguments made here and elsewhere against the proposal seem pretty alarmist and often come from vested interests who seem to want the area to themselves. The whole area has been under-utilised for so long and as a Freo local I can’t wait to attend a concert there.

    • Suzanne needs to understand that the carpark where she thinks the skate park should have been located is a council asset that generates very significant income for the City.

      As well as that, it is too far away from the playground area where often younger children within the same family group can play so that parents and grandparents can keep a better watch and therefor feel comfortable.

      It’s location, is perfectly integrated into the Esplanade Park.

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