This article originally appeared in The West Australian newspaper. It was published on Friday 28 August 2020.
Fremantle/Walyalup lays claim to being a city of the arts.
The visit Fremantle website proclaims it “a vibrant and energetic centre. Its people are innovative and passionate creators of music, art and personal expression. This free-spirited, non-conformist world-view is intrinsic to the city and part of what goes into making up its spirit and soul”.
At this time in our history, the need for a resilient spirit and shared sense of identity is paramount as we cope with the ongoing disruptions and potential aftermath of COVID-19. Artists are playing, and will continue to play, a central role in promoting wellbeing in our community and in shaping our unpredictable future.
Although existing packages of support for the arts provide some solace and assistance, local government, in partnership with private enterprise, has an important role to play to ensure that artists have a sustainable working environment and opportunities to contribute.
"Artists are playing, and will continue to play, a central role in promoting wellbeing in our community and in shaping our unpredictable future."Professor Ted Snell
Of course, it is not easy to cater for free-spirited, non-conformists. Nevertheless, one thing all artists seek is respect, the opportunity to work with like-minded souls, and a level of support that enables continued creative engagement.
That is why the construction of a film studio, either in O’Connor or on Victoria Quay, is essential at this time. Fremantle/Walyalup needs this boost of investment not only to harness the extraordinary talent residing here but to bring life and commercial sustainability to a depleted retail streetscape. Arts Minister David Templeman says having a film production studio in Western Australia would be “a game changer”.
The nurturing of a film industry through the city’s film-friendly policy will provide the kind of collaborative maelstrom that will draw in the musicians, writers, visual artists, actors, directors, photographers, cinematographers, fashion designers and other creatives already resident here and those that will be lured from afar.
Maintaining that vibrancy, that “spirit and soul” is essential as the community moves forward into these uncharted post-COVID-19 waters. The city lost some of its edginess after the America’s Cup when gentrification of surrounding residential areas and the success of coffee strip culture forced artists out when rents increased. Paradoxically, it was those seeking the energy and vitality they generated that moved in.
Fortunately, some of the buzz remained through the work of arts agencies like the Fremantle Arts Centre, Spare Parts, DADAA, The Nova Ensemble, Fremantle Press, the Fly by Night Club and through newly established organisations like the Fremantle Biennale and the re-energised Naval Store.
However, there have been losses, such as Deckchair Theatre, and at this moment there are several other organisations that are looking increasingly fragile.
In a time of crisis, any responsible organisation needs to look to its strengths and build on them to ensure it survives and prospers. The city acknowledges arts are entwined in Fremantle/Walyalup’s DNA.
Together with the depth of musical history that has characterised Fremantle/Walyalup, its rich and long literary history, the social history of the wharves, of migration and war and the ebb and flow of ideas, we have in this extraordinary natural environment the ideal hub for a diverse and sustainable film industry that will benefit the entire community.
This is not only local businesses that provide services ranging from construction to accommodation and catering, transportation, fashion design and fabrication, but also the artists who have generated the vibrancy and documented the stories that will ensure the project’s success.