Get a buzz

DAVID JOHNSON is a well-known figure on Fremantle’s stages, having belted out tunes in the port city since his busking days. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED the founder of the fabulous Starlight Choir describes why the Fly by Night is such an important Fremantle institution.

WALKING into the Fly by Night Musicians’ Club back in 1987 after a busking session opposite Old Papa’s and maybe a sneaky three bean at Gino’s, I was overwhelmed by the space but never realised the profound influence the place would have on my life as a working musician.

Over the next 10 years it would be here that I learnt valuable performance skills, live audio engineering (thanks Simon T) and even picked up some bar and cleaning work to see me through. The Fly is far more than a place you go to see great live music: it has a number of core objectives and functions embedded in its constitution as an organisation that make it an incredibly valuable asset for the people of Fremantle and WA, with huge potential for the future. These objectives are:

• provide a venue for musicians, performers and community groups for meetings, workshops, rehearsals and programs; facilitate where possible workshops to assist musicians and performers to plan, produce, promote, market and present performances both in the club venue and elsewhere; actively encourage equal opportunity and access to musical and related arts activities; develop programs and workshops for the local community; liaise with other groups and individuals involved in music and other arts activities; assist community groups with applications for funding or sponsorship in order to facilitate the use of the club venue; balance commercial and non-commercial activities to ensure the continued existence of the club for the benefit of community and developing musicians and artists.

Its core value and purpose is to nurture/support the performing arts in Fremantle and WA. That is to say, it is there to support our local performing arts industry—the people who live and work here in Fremantle in an increasingly difficult industry but for whom without Fremantle would be a lot less inspiring  place to live or visit.

“The Fly has a very healthy core business which enables it to pay its bills. In the past few years it has implemented innovative processes that increase revenue.” 

The Fly has a very healthy core business which enables it to pay its bills. In the past few years it has implemented innovative processes that increase revenue.

A balancing act the Fly must manage is incorporating its values and objectives into its core business. That is, remaining financially independent while supporting activities that may lose revenue—under-18 events, local CD launches, local school fundraisers, poetry nights, etc.

Last November the Fly lost the minimal funding it received from the WA government, a rent subsidy that had gone straight to the National Trust. Because the Fly has a strong core business, this did not affect its viability.

Now, the National Trust wants commercial rents from a state government building it manages on behalf of the state government. Again, the Fly can weather these cost rises but this will be at a cost to community access and cultural development.

I would not see this as an internal structural problem for the Fly but rather a lack of vision and value from the state government.

If it values the objectives the Fly has for cultural development and the community, and it is not costing it any money, why is it jeopardising these objectives by insisting on more money?

Like many not-for-profits, the Fly is directed by a board of volunteers with a passion for Fremantle, who want to see a healthy and viable creative arts industry.

Become a club member and come along to an AGM.

In its current state it is still your iconic Fremantle organisation.

Get involved—we would love to hear your ideas!

Leave a Reply