The Fib’s going knuts

AS the Fremantle Fibonacci Centre comes up for its 15th birthday, founder Robby Lang says it’s morphed into a vital business incubator for the city’s CBD and the hub of a new creative precinct in a flagging industrial area.

The Fib, as it’s fondly known, started out as a collective of working artists who’d been pushed out of Fremantle’s CBD by rising rents and moved into an empty factory on Blinco Street.

• Sculptor, metalworker, candlemaker and Fremantle Fibonacci Centre founder Robby Lang says his baby’s grown up and become an important incubator for Freo business and a creative hub helping revive the old industrial area of Blinco and Knutsford streets. Originally a collective of working artists, it’s now home to a diverse range of enterprises including a yoga studio, cafe, signwriter, bike repairer, steampunk jeweller, leadlighter, hairdressing school and salon, and even a financial adviser. Photo by Steve Grant

“My background was coming out of Fremantle Markets; I recognised that was a great incubator that basically employed 300 people,” says Lang.

“Most of the shops on Market Street came from people in the markets.”

He says as many artisans and craftspeople were pushed out of the markets by big rent increases, the Fib became a natural fall-back.

• Ava Irani’s Spanda Yoga takes over upstairs at the Fib. She says it’s great coming from the tranquility of the studio into the creative industrial chaos of the centre. Photo supplied

“It became obvious it was the natural place for a bohemian, creative space to emerge.”

“But the Fib is not only about this space, it’s also revitalising the whole industrial area around here, and allowing people to have an entry point that’s financially feasible so they can try ideas out,” says Lang.

Transformation

The area is already showing big signs of a coming transformation, with the first stage of mayor Brad Pettitt’s vision for a high-density and sustainable Knutsford precinct already maturing and the development of the former Kim Beazley school site advancing. The council’s depot is also being prepared for sale for the next stage to commence.

• Artist Peta Miller has been one of the Fib’s longest residents.

Lang says the Fib’s values are aligned with the aims of the council, Landcorp and the Shac artist’s collective and he’s hoping to integrate with them even further.

“We would like to become a mini power station with solar panels all over the roof and to be able to share some of that power.

“We want to get a holistic, sustainable venue to make it economically feasible.”

• Signwriter Scott Smith does it all by hand; it’s making a comeback as people seek an alternative to the same-ness of digital he says.

He says they’ve had plenty of success stories in launching businesses that have migrated to Froeo’s CBD, including Captain Walkers Cycles, the Arts Cartel and hairdressers Rock Paper Scissors, who were celebrating last week after creative hair director Pauline Mclaughlin took out the 2017 Australian Hair Fashion Awards hairdresser of the year for WA and the NT.

“From the outside this area’s a bit ratty and chaotic, but it’s all changing; suddenly Baba Lala is around the corner with a music school, the two lads with their mushroom business are cracking along and there’s the community brewing gig around the corner,” says Lang.

• Chef Scott Dunning took over the Fib’s cafe earlier this year with Roark and Co Vegan.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, as there was a bitter stoush with neighbour and former Freo councillor Les Lauder, an antiques dealer who was planning apartments next door and was frustrated by the noise, particularly music coming from next door.

But Lang says they got past that hurdle and the Fib’s become an important venue to fill the void left by Kulcha’s demise, offering a venue for young acoustic musos to have a crack under the lights.

“I wanted to provide an alternative entertainment venue; I’ve got four kids and I wasn’t happy about them hanging out at the Clink,” says Lang.

• Evadney Wootton has been a hairdresser for 30 years. The Blackberries owner, pictured with staffer Ruth Zaw and customer Steve Nesbitt, says she started in Fremantle 30 years ago, and after being a bit of a nomad across Perth, is back to her roots at the Fib.

by STEVE GRANT

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