Our arts and culture shouldn’t be contained

LINDSAY LOVERING is a North Fremantle resident and former state manager of Musica Viva. In another life, as the big boss of Healthway, he was the man behind the Smarter than Smoking flags fluttering over festivals. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he says Fremantle should think outside the shipping container, otherwise it will miss a great opportunity to help develop the arts in WA.

I READ with considerable disappointment the letter “Betrayed” by fellow North Fremantle resident Gerry MacGill (Herald, September 15, 2018).

I agree that the community will indeed feel betrayed if plans for the relocation of commercial shipping from the port of Fremantle are not progressed as soon as possible.

I am also dismayed by the lack of leadership, vision and courage displayed by our elected officials and decision makers; not only in relation to the relocation of container shipping, but on the numerous opportunities that Fremantle continues to lose by delaying the development of the port.

By banishing container shipping from the port, as most other developed cities throughout the world have done, enormous opportunities will be created across the areas of the arts, culture, commerce, residential and commercial development.

We can take inspiration from initiatives elsewhere in Australia and overseas, for example:

• In 2017, the City of Hamburg opened the Elbphilharmonie, the world’s largest and most acoustically advanced concert hall.

It was built on the top of a disused warehouse on the waterfront, in an area of that was experiencing a protracted economic downturn.   

The lower section of the warehouse was converted into a 5-star hotel and a ‘state of the art’ concert hall, designed for flexible use, was built on the top. The surrounding area is now a thriving commercial and residential precinct that has dramatically seen increased levels of tourism and has revitalised the area’s hospitality and cultural industries.

• In Hobart, the Museum of Old and New Art was built as the result of the vision and finance of one man, David Walsh.

Since its completion in 2011, visitors to MONA have been the driving force behind an 18 per cent increase in tourism in Tasmania. Once again the arts and culture leading the way.

Tourist attraction

The effect has been so powerful that the term “The MONA Effect” has been introduced to explain the phenomenon.

Entry is free to Tasmanians, but all interstate and overseas visitors have to pay. Do we have a David Walsh, I wonder?

• The Tate Modern, the most popular modern art museum in the world, the third most popular tourist attraction in Britain is one of the UK’s cultural icons. In 2011 I wrote a Thinking Allowed suggesting that the South Fremantle Powerhouse should be a museum of the Indian Ocean serviced by light rail from the freeway to Fremantle.

Sadly the building is now a decaying reminder that our community’s leaders have little, or no appreciation, or vision for the role that our rich and diverse culture and arts industries can play in shaping our economy or identity.

It has been said that the relocation of container shipping in Fremantle is not necessary for another 35 years.

It’s interesting to note that the same argument was initially expressed about the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but forward thinkers won the day.   

The construction of the bridge coincided with the completion of a system of underground railways in Sydney’s CBD, known today as the City Circle.

Now that’s an impressive example of a combination of vision, determination and very gritty courage.

Interestingly, Sydney-siders also had to fight to construct the Opera House.

Built through an international architecture competition and funded via a lottery, it’s now considered one of Australia’s primary tourist attractions and one of the man-made wonders of the world.

Now we are being told that we can’t or we’re not ready to move container shipping from Fremantle harbour.

That’s neither good enough, nor acceptable and we deserve better.

This community has repeatedly made its feelings absolutely clear about this matter and we will not be betrayed again.

The message was and remains, move container shipping out of the inner harbour or the future of Fremantle will continue to decline.

Fremantle council should avoid being hostage to small-minded and self-interested parties.

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