Freo is known for its vibrant arts scene, we are home to a wealth of creative individuals, organisations and industries. It is one of the character traits of our collective identity and a feature that sets us apart from other urban centres.
As such, I believe the arts sector should be represented in the long term planning for Fremantle. The Fremantle Union has been established to: “provide an efficient, non–bureaucratic vehicle for facilitating the delivery of aspects of the City’s economic development strategy, leading to Fremantle reclaiming the title of Perth’s second city” (http://bit.ly/ntoZ4M).
It is currently comprised of the City of Fremantle, Western Australian Planning Commission, Department of Planning, Fremantle Port Authority, Department of Transport and Public Transport Authority. I think the missing link is the Department for Culture and the Arts (DCA). I would hope they are engaged at least as part of the reference group as a significant stakeholder and contributor to Fremantle’s economic (and cultural) future. With numerous arts venues and facilities, organisations, performers and individual artists, plus significant cultural assetts like the World Heritage Listed Prison, Round House, Museums and the Arts Centre – it seems remiss not to include the sector in the long term economic planning for our city. We should capitalise on these great assetts and ensure they play a key role in the economic revitalisation of Fremantle.
Speaking to staff at the Fly and Deckchair today, there was some support for my suggestion – and an interest in at least convening a dialogue and creating an opportunity for collaboration and strategic coordination between Fremantle’s various arts and cultural organisations. My degree is in Arts Management and Marketing and I worked for about 6 years in the field, starting out in Fremantle in 2000 managing Luna on SX Cinemas. I later worked at the City of Perth where I helped establish the Winter Arts Festival and revive the Northbridge Festival. I am very keen to maximise our creative capital in Fremantle.
The Hidden Treasures Festival was a fantastic initiative that I hope will grow and expand in the future. I have been lobbying council for some time to invest in a music festival that utilizes Freo’s excellent existing venues like Kulcha, the Fly By, the local pubs Metropolis and the Arts Centre. I would like to see a festival that encourages patrons to experience all that Fremantle has to offer over a number of days rather than be fenced in on an oval somewhere. I experienced this sort of festival last year and met with the organizers to learn how they made it work. We could easily do it here and it would boost local trade and be a better experience.
I whole heartedly support the council’s recent proposal to include a public art component in new developments. In particular I’d like to see some public art that reflects and pays tribute to women and local indigenous heritage and culture – two significant and yet often under represented (or appreciated?) groups in our community.
I would also like to see Fremantle’s existing artists supported through the reintroduction of the “Fremantle Arts and Culture Map” which I understand was effective but has been discontinued. Perhaps it could be adapted into a phone application?
While there has been some confusion and understandable concerns rasied over the review being conducted as part of the Council’s Cultural Development Working Group, I understand that no decisions have been made and I have assurances that no leases will be broken. I think it is important that successful existing tennants that add value to our community are not forced out of Fremantle through this review, however some changes may be beneficial. For example, a friend from the WA Circus School told me he was surprised they were still in the Old Customs House, since they had not met the criteria to be eligable for the space for some time. But if council creates a revolving door with successful creative enterprises making way for upcoming artists, it may be counter-productive and simply stunt our artistic capacity. I need further information before passing any judgement on this topic.
Fremantle’s cultural heritage is rich. If nurtured it will be a vital component of our economic recovery and will remain a feature we can all be proud of, share and enjoy.