NEXT month, some of the oldest social clubs in Freo will fling open their doors to the public for the “Hidden Treasures” festival, their latest bid in an ongoing quest to stave off extinction.
“Hidden treasures” is a series of gigs held every Thursday in September. Organised by the City of Fremantle, it promises attendees “an earful of balladeers, freshly-minted local bands and some favourite heroes of the Port City stage.”
Each ticket includes one-night-only access to all venues. But though gig-hopping is encouraged, the Navy and Buffalo clubs hope that punters will return – and stay for good.
The Freo Buffalo club has been based on High street for more than 80 years. For the last 30 of these, Vicki Roberts has been working the club’s bar. “The club’s a second home to me,” she says. “It’s like family – of course, you have your disagreements and everything, but it’s like family.”
Over the years, she’s watched the membership dwindle to its current total of around 300. Most ‘Buffs’ are older gentlemen, retirees who socialise during the day at the club’s cut-price bar. Without an influx of younger people, Ms. Roberts warns, the future is uncertain.
“With clubs going the way that they are, everyone worries where we are going to be in 5 years,” she told the Herald.
“If the club was sold up, it would be an absolute heartbreak for a lot of the older members. Some have nowhere else to go.”
She hopes that that Hidden Treasures will help the club strike a chord with the general public.
“It’s fantastic – in the past, when we’ve hosted it, it’s really opened the club up – we often get lots of people who didn’t even know this was here who come in like, “wow!”
Next door at the Navy Club, preparations for the festival are also underway.
Unlike the Buffs, they already have a fair few younger members, locals drawn in by weekly open mic nights.
“With the membership, people pass away or move away,” says Kate Sloss, the Club’s secretary and treasurer.
“In terms of getting new people in, live music is the way to do it.”
When the club has hosted Hidden Treasures in previous years, it’s been packed to capacity – 246 patrons. If stage four COVID-19 restrictions hold, this will have to be reduced to 113, but Ms. Sloss is confident that the festival will be a success nonetheless.
“We’re doing well for the first time in a long time. This will be the boost we need.”
Pushed back from July, Hidden Treasures will take place on the 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th of September. In addition to the Navy and Buffalo Clubs, venues include the National Hotel, the PS Art Space, and a converted Freo tram.
by STEVE GRANT