Stop complaining about culture

By Adrian Doyle

It’s been a while since I have written an article. That’s because I have been busy getting Blender Studios set up in its permanent home just near Flagstaff Gardens. 

As a kid, I always dreamed of one day living in the CBD. And then I moved into my first CBD factory at about 20 in Leicester St near the Vic Market. 

It was an old car dealership and mechanics and it was huge! I built a shower and brought a table tennis table and for the next two years I was lucky enough to have the biggest studio I could have ever imagined. You could kick a footy in there. It was awesome. 

I was so young and had so much energy, but no experience. It was the second studio that I had opened and I managed to hang onto it for nearly two years before I was moved out so that it could be developed. It was then that I was offered a space on Franklin St. 

It was a very large space but at that time, it was not unusual for people to rent out their warehouse or factory to artists, while planning permits and development details were sorted out by the council. As the city has grown and changed, this kind of opportunity for artists has disappeared. This is a shame. 

I began to think about ways in which we as a community can facilitate a growing, changing and vibrant city. With the population of Melbourne doubling in the last 15 years and continued growth expected, how do we grow and maintain our cultural integrity?

I went to a Thai restaurant, that opened this week, on Peel St opposite the Vic Market. It’s a cool sort of place that has a beer garden out the front, tapas food and, I assume, live music. Anyway, this place has taken at least 10 months to set up and so I asked the owner why it took so long. She told me that there was an elderly man that lived behind her, and that he had complained to the council at each stage of the development of her restaurant and nearly every day about the restaurant, which was causing her big obstacles. This restaurant will only add to the cultural landscape of Melbourne’s inner-city and bring people and action to an otherwise struggling shopping strip. This old man with all his free time has made something great nearly not go ahead. 

Why does one person in this situation have so much power? It seems that everyone has become so risk adverse that nothing can get done. This has happened to me while setting up street art lanes in the past where one person can stop something important from happening. A few years ago, I set up a second studio in Fitzroy and had to contend with just one crazy rich guy with lots of free time. Needless to say, I no longer have a studio in Fitzroy. 

I guess what I am saying is that we need to let people do more interesting stuff and rather than make it harder for awesome new projects we should facilitate and help the projects come to fruition. I think we give people the ability to complain and we jump at their every whim. 

A good example of this is people that complain about the live music, because they bought an apartment close to a live music venue; one that may have been there for years and then someone complains and life gets hard for the music venue. It’s hard enough to create a cool new project on your own. You put in the hard work, money and creativity. These people that are doing important stuff for Melbourne are taking huge risks to make the community better. These people are not spending their time complaining, and should be supported and helped to achieve their vision, as their vision is all our vision: a vision for a better city.

These small businesses are the ones contributing to our cultural currency and making Melbourne awesome. As the city grows and we will have to put up with all the disruptions from new infrastructure projects, we will have close neighbours and have to make compromises. The city is changing so quickly now that it is the time to reflect on what Melbourne could be, what it needs and what will be sacrificed. Melbourne is a cultural leader known throughout the world for its amazing art, lanes, galleries, designer shops, live music and food. It’s a creative and cultural melting pot and it’s important for us to realise what it is that we all love about our city. 

Let’s stop giving the loudest voice the most control. If people don’t like the city and all that comes with it then they should move back to the suburbs or to Sydney. Melbourne needs to embrace its cultural community as it’s what helps to makes Melbourne great. 

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