Shockwaves

NEWS of Kulcha’s demise has sent ripples of fear through arts organisations across Fremantle, though none the Herald spoke to face imminent closure.

“I’m shocked. I am so sorry for Jon,” Fremantle Press CEO Jane Fraser said when the Herald told her of the closure.

“We’re travelling OK, we’ve been under the radar for 37 years,” she said of the independent publisher, noting there have been a few hairy financial years.

“It’s very difficult to see organisations like Deckchair and Kulcha close, particularly when it feels like these organisations have made Freo.”

She says it’s a very difficult time with government cutbacks, but notes education is also faring badly: “We all need a sugar daddy.”

While an off-hand remark, the comment underlines a serious problem for Freo’s arts community: It’s been unable to cash in on the city’s increasingly wealthy population and has difficulty connecting with it.

Mayor Brad Pettitt says the Fremantle Foundation is addressing the issue, looking at, “how they can increase philanthropy for the arts in Fremantle, and that might be a focus”. He notes that last year Foundation donors channelled $100,000 into local charities.

He says it’s difficult to see Kulcha doing a Lazarus, but the council will approach the Barnett government to discuss its priorities and see if it can stem the haemhorraging of Fremantle’s cultural sector.

“The government has had a fundamental shift to what they would say is a competitive funding model for the arts, but that has come at the expense of long-standing arts organisations.

“It’s very difficult to see organisations like Deckchair and Kulcha close, particularly when it feels like these organisations have made Freo.”

The flip-side is emerging arts in the city, as the city had focussed on attracting new art in its cultural development policy.

“With a crystal ball we might have done that differently,” Dr Pettitt says, noting the council’s been surprised by the extent of artistic suffering.

He says the council has received a plea from the Fly by Night Musician’s Club for assistance because it’s also suffered cutbacks and a big rent increase.

“There’s no secret the Fly is facing challenges, and one of things we can do is to increase our direct level of support for the Fly, and I would look at that,” he says.

by STEVE GRANT

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