19/03/2008 - 22:00

Opinion: Mark Beyer

19/03/2008 - 22:00

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Look local for ideas

Debate over Perth’s social and economic development usually focuses on big transformational projects like the proposed city foreshore development, but there is a lot to be gained from also looking at smaller, even community projects.

Two recent developments have shed light on the opportunities for making Perth a better, more vibrant city tuned in to its community.

One is Sculpture by the Sea, which has been outstandingly successful since being launched four years ago.

The second is the establishment at my local primary school of a growers market, which has also been a great success.

You might say that is hardly a city building project, and it isn’t, but it is certainly a community building development.

These examples illustrate in very different ways the potential to bring new concepts and ideas to Western Australia, if only people are given half a chance.

They show that, while we need to plan for big ‘top-down’ projects like the foreshore development and Northbridge Link, it is equally important that the state steps aside so that enterprising individuals and groups can pursue their visions.

Integrate art into everyday life

Sculpture by the Sea started in Sydney 12 years ago.

It was originally a one-day event at Bondi, created as part of the Olympic Arts Festival.

Looking back, it probably would never have happened if Sydney did not win the Olympics.

That elevated thinking in Sydney, making it more creative and bold.

The Bondi event has become a fixture in Sydney’s arts and social scene, prompting many visitors from Western Australia to ask: wouldn’t it be great if something like that could happen in Perth.

Four years ago the concept was brought to Perth and it became an instant hit.

Last year it attracted 100,000 visitors and it is likely that a similar number will visit this year.

Cottesloe Beach was swarming with people last weekend, enjoying the stunning art works in one of Perth’s iconic settings.

The event seems to work so well because it builds on something that makes Perth a great place to live – warm autumn weather on the coast.

The art isn’t hidden away inside a gallery, nor is it placed in a manufactured setting like the sterile ‘cultural centre’ in Northbridge.

Instead it is taken to the people, and presented in a setting where people can enjoy the sculptures in their own time and in their own way.

The presence of many beachgoers who apparently have little interest in the art – maybe they have already checked it out – adds to the appeal.

It means the art is part of a living, breathing city.

The popularity of Cottesloe beach should send a message to planners who try to contrive European concepts like piazzas in Northbridge.

They don’t work and won’t work unless we have big changes in licencing laws and our drinking culture.

Tapping into demand ON a much smaller scale is the establishment of a growers market at the old Graylands Primary School, now known as Mt Claremont.

The market attracts hundreds of people every Saturday morning.

It has clearly tapped into a latent demand in the community that was not being satisfied.

Partly it was demand for fresh, quality fruit and vegetables.

It was also demand for a shopping experience that was also a community experience, where people can meet neighbours from far and wide.

This demand was not being met by the big supermarkets.

Nor was it being fully met by the independent supermarkets, who prefer to rely on regulation to protect their privileged market position rather than competing on their product offering.

The market has become a vibrant commercial enterprise, but it has proceeded this year only after the backers fought their way through all of the regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of many enterprising people.

34 big ideas to stimulate discussion

This week’s edition of WA Business News puts forward a diverse selection of city-building and community-building ideas for Western Australia.

The aim of this exercise is to provoke discussion, stimulate thinking and help to improve our state.

A similar edition two years attracted a positive response from our readers, who seemed to appreciate our lateral thinking and willingness to give air time to creative ideas.

Hopefully this week’s edition will stimulate discussion, not just on the 34 ideas presented here but on the many other ideas that our readers advocate.

We’d love to hear your suggestions and invite you to send your bright ideas for Western Australia to: markb@wabusinessnews.com.au.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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