Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Old but not passé

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there has been a bit of a renaissance in Perth of late.

When I first arrived here in Perth almost 20 years ago (seriously, has it been that long?) many of the older buildings were empty. I found this a little sad coming from a country where many old buildings were still used and admired. 

But as I soon realised Perth, with its superficial attitude and effervescent lifestyle, always favoured the new over the old.   

All of a sudden in the past 18 months or so, many of Perth’s “Old” buildings have been given a face lift and new lease on life.

What started this renaissance seems to have come from the building of another office tower in Perth’s CBD for recourse giant BHP Billiton and of course, they needed somewhere to party.

So what better place than to use the old buildings directly at their feet? These lovely buildings used to accommodate The West Australian Newspaper (including its Print Hall), The Perth Trustee/Insurance as well as the Perth Technical College and Old Boys School.  

The redevelopment of these beautiful old buildings has given us a new precinct that is very cool.

It is this here where you can also find a room top bar (very appropriate, given Perth’s weather), on top of the appropriately named Print Hall with its four floors dedicated to fine dining and sophisticated New York style entertainment.

Along the Terrace you can find The Heritage Restaurant. The Heritage is truly amazing with its Belle Époque theme transporting you back to pre-war Paris.

Its great atmosphere, food and service making it ideal for those special occasions when you’ve got something to celebrate or just want to enjoy the finer things in life, even if it leaves the credit card begging for mercy.  

Next door is The Trustee, with its Art Deco theme is equally as suave.
The only gripe that I have about this area is that the outdoor area seems a little windswept and devoid of energy or personality. I wonder how long it is before we could have a jazz trio playing or a solo Sax dude filling up that empty space and drawing people out from the various venues.

Of course there are a few other places around, like Bar LaFayette or Bobéche which are smaller, quieter but no less sophisticated or cool. 

These buildings also accommodate a coffee shops and vintage clothes shops as well as (with their large windows providing plenty of natural light and high callings) an art gallery.

Walking around this gallery made me wonder what it took them so long to start using these amazing spaces. Of course all it takes is one to start off a trend but thankfully there are a few buildings that have stood vacant or underdeveloped for many years that are now being developed into boutique hotels and restaurants.

I hope these buildings remain appreciated well into the future and as the recent developments in Perth show, just because something is old it doesn’t mean it is passé.  The old buildings can sit side by side with the uber new and ultra modern and don’t have to be knocked down when tastes change, unless they were built in the 1960s then go right ahead and pull them down. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

2013 Arts Festival helps Perth to lose its “dullsville” tag

With the weather slowly warming up I am beginning to look forward to all the cool things that summer brings and the Perth International Arts Festival has to be one of my all time favourite events.   

Last night I was lucky enough to score an invite to the Perth Festival launch of its 2013 programme.    

It might sound like no big deal to sit through a multimedia presentation of shows that haven’t yet opened but it was just a reminder of the impact that PIAF has on the cultural life of Western Australia’s capital city.

Perth is one of the most geographically isolated places on earth and in the past the city has been labelled Dullsville on account of its often small town mentality and sometimes ethno-centric attitude.

I've written before on how cool the Festival is but after seeing what the 2013 programme will be, I am sure that next year’s festival will be no different.

The format of the Festival is of no surprise, with a plethora of different art forms such as film, theatre, circus, dance and music - spanning from early music with Carlo Gesualdo, right through to a 110 piece symphony orchestra playing Bartok and a commissioned work by the divisive classical contemporary Phillip Glass and all the way to the world’s coolest blues, jazz and pop shows performing in the Festival Garden.     

There are also plenty of shows for children and families as well as many free events if you are, like me and many others, on a budget.

The 2013 highlights are Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, Sydney Theatre Company’s adaptation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and an Australian excusive/premier of the Mission Trip directed by Rachel Chavkin.

There are also shows that cross genres, break the conventions and bring you stories in ways that are unusual.

Mariano Pensotti’s La Marea designed to be performed in various apartments and viewed by passer bys in the street. This will be something not to be missed as drama spills out from the theatre halls and into the street.
Another break from convention is the National Theatre of Scotland’s The Strange Undoing of Prudence Hart. This show had a phenomenally successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will take places, not at the State Theatre Centre, but among the tables of Little Creatures’ Loft.

The shows that I have my eye on are the A History of Everything all the way from Belgium and Samuel Beckett’s play Watt, performed by the Gate Theatre Dublin.

Circus Rolado’s La Cucina Dell’arte with its vaudeville inspired act that include pizza throwing and plate spinning hilarity will no doubt be a show not to be missed.      

As for the Chevron Festival Gardens, I’ll be there every night enjoying the uber cool atmosphere and the super cool tunes that will electrify Perth’s cultural centre. With its great music and awesome vibe it makes me happy to be alive.   

I love a good Writers’ Festival and this part of PIAF is something that I always look forward to.

Having just finished  All That I Am, I can't wait to  hear Anna Funder speak as well as Margaret Atwood of the Blind Assassin fame.

But we don’t have to wait until February 8 2013 to enjoy artistic creations from overseas.

The Lotterywest Festival Films begins in late November 2012 and continues right through to mid April 2013.

Outdoor movies are a great way to enjoy balmy Perth nights and after enjoying a picnic and a glass of wine, watching movies from all around the globe making it a perfect end to a great night out.

The locations are at the University of WA Somerville outdoor movies and at Joondalup Pines, which is also outdoors. 

Choosing which shows to go to is already proving difficult but I am sure the 2013 Perth International Arts Festival will enrich the lives of the citizens Perth and making our city an exciting place to live. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Being single and loving it

Recently I have been planning my annual overseas adventure. Earlier this year it was Ghana and in January 2013 it will be six weeks interning and travelling in Shanghai and India.

During the planning process I have had been so glad that I was single and could peruse my passion for travel as well as study and music without having factor in some else’s interests and work requirements.

While this blog post is not about these adventures in particular but more a lifestyle that is undervalued.

I always found relationships slightly fascinating and especially when romance seems to be touted as the be all and end all of the human existence. 

Especially myths such as that being in a relationship with someone that “completes you” or that it increases the “fun factor” in your life.
This is not to say that being married is bad in any way as the joys of being in a relationship are many and varied, but why do single people focus on what they don’t have when being that way can also be so rewarding?

You don’t need to be romantically involved with someone to have rich and rewarding life or to be complete.

There are many advantages to being single, such as:
  • You can live in your own place and enjoy having your own space.
  • You can travel to the far flung places of the globe  or even interstate and take up opportunities that might be little difficult to take up if you had a partner and kids.
  • Travelling solo gave me the opportunity to hang out with people that I met at youth hostels which has been really cool. 
  • Leaving the airport alone in some crazy new city and finding your way to your accommodation provides the most amazing adrenaline rush. 

Another part aspect of relationships that I always found interesting is the tradition of rushing down the aisle by parts of West Australian community.

Spending my late teenage years in a particular social-religious community (of which I am no longer part of) when I first arrived in Australia where marriage is of paramount importance and children are the only indicator of maturity and that you’ve reached  adulthood.

I grew up wondering why this had to be so and why everyone was in such a rush to get married and as soon as it was legal to do so.

I also wondered why single gals in this community who, through no fault of their own, have such a complex about not being joined at the hip with their childhood sweetheart.

It seemed baffling that they put so much pressure on themselves to be married by 19. As if something was seriously wrong with them if they weren't, which was far from the case.

Those who weren’t were just normal people who hadn’t found Mr Right. But the focus on marriage is intense.   

For examples, click here and here.  

Instead of focusing on how good life can be so many seem to focus on what their lives could be like if they were married.

These are just my experiences and I look forward to many years of adventure and excitement, with or without a man! 


Monday, October 29, 2012

Nursing the work life balance

I’ve been struggling with the whole work-life balance concept recently, not so much in the traditional sense in amount of time I spend working and playing but coping with shift work.

While it is a fundamental part of working in a hospital, the 24/7 nature of the sector seems to make working to live more difficult.

Trying to organise a life around an ever revolving shift pattern has been very difficult. With most people generally working on a 9 to 5 ish timetable and Monday to Friday (I do appreciate that many people take work home, stay late or go into work on weekends) means that a lot of social events and things such as book clubs, sport, music, political meetings, evening classes, etc occur during in that evening time slot.

Although you not always working a late shift, the logistical difficulties in ensuring that you’ve got a  particular evening off so you can go to something involves planning ahead 6 or more weeks in advance.   

Even then, you’re not guaranteed anything and trying to swap post roster being issued is almost impossible.  

Ever since I began as a Nursing Assistant on a very busy general medical ward in a large metropolitan hospital, I realised how completely physically and emotionally demanding working there could be.

It is not like a desk job where you are sitting down for much of the time. Nursing gives you a big physical workout with being on your feet for 8 hours and the heavy lifting.  

By the time the weekend comes around, you're exhausted and worn out in a way that doesn't occur when you're at a desk for the majority of your working week.
Not only are the shifts full on but you’re often expected to work a late shift followed by an early shift which, if you’re not an early morning person like me, leaves you with very little energy to do anything else.

This raises the question, what happens to your “work-life balance” if your work is so physically demanding that, at the end of the day, you collapse on the couch with little energy to follow your dreams, do what you love and spend time with your family and friends?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Abbotts wrong on daughter - feminism link

Margie Abbott, the wife of Australia’s Leader of the Opposition came out recently to remind us of Tony’s feminist credentials as the result of having daughters.

Mrs Abbott wanted to remind us that because he has three daughters and her Husband, Australia’s alternative Prime Minister, is a feminist and “gets Women”.

But I am not convinced about Margie’s promotion of Tony as feminist.

Choosing to watch Downton Abbey over the footie does not show that you “get women”

Having three daughters or sisters does not does not make you a feminist.

People operate within a belief system/culture, which in Tony Abbott’s case, is Catholicism and he has continued to show that his patriarchal catholic values influences everything he does.      

But if you don’t follow Australian domestic politics, ultra–conservative Tony Abbott regularly shares his rather traditional worldview regarding women.

For example, in 2010, he said that having a baby is “at the heart of the real life of Australian Women”. So if you don’t have children for whatever reason, you are not a complete individual.

In 2006 he said that he wouldn’t be rushing out to vaccinate his daughters against Cervical Cancer because it “promotes sexual promiscuity”.

He is also on the record in March 2004 as seeing Abortion as the “easy way out”.

2002 saw Tony declare that paid maternity leave will “happen over his dead body”.

He also reminded Australian women that they are the ones doing the ironing.

More recently during the protest against the carbon tax, Mr Abbott had no problems with addressing a crowed that had signs reading “ditch the witch” and referring to Julia Gillard (Australia’s first female Prime Minister) as being a “man’s bitch”.   

It is comments like these that Australian politics does not need. We live in the 21st century where women have contributed to the progress made in this country and will continue to do so in the future.

Feminism is not about hating or belittling men, it is fundamentally about gaining gender equality.

In the past, we have seen women campaign about the right to vote, the right to be financially and socially independent (for example not having to resign once you get married or needing your husband’s permission to get a passport) as well as the right to have control over your body.

Currently, more flexible working conditions, better support from their partners in managing domestic and child rearing responsibilities, gender pay differences and issues surrounding maternity leave and job security are some of the issues facing women.

As you can see, these issues would fundamentally clash with Abbott’s values.

Apart from having control over your body and life, gender equality also means being able to contribute to public life without ridicule.

Maybe the challenge for the feminist movement in the future (among many others) is to eradicate the behaviour see from Tony Abbott.

Until Mr Abbott learns not to make sexist remarks out loud, he will continue to be the target of the “handbag hit squad” and any women who are sick of his misogynistic discourse.

I’ll leave you with the amazing speech given by Australia’s first female PM. It both reminds us how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Are Australian youth orchestras failing to develop tomorrow’s audience?

Being a bit of a music fan I often to the many concerts in Perth. If  it is a gig at the Ellington Jazz Club or as part of the Perth Festival, many of the people are my age or younger but when I go to a classical music concert and look out to those enjoying the performance, I can’t help but notice that, collectively, the audience is not looking so young any more.

Along with other forms of art such as ballet, classical music (and to some extent music education) seems to stir up socio-economic connotations that relegate it as bourgeois activity only available to the “elite”. As a result, opportunities for people to be exposed to music and to understand it seem to be limited.

There are few opportunities for people just to have a go.

This is a real shame because it is a genre that has many different styles and I am sure that if there were more opportunities to participate just for the fun of it, people would be more likely to buy tickets to watch the professionals play.

If we make it all about the elite we forget what music is really about.

The benefits of music of every kind have on people and communities are regularly spoken about. It inspires us, it also lifts our spirits and it helps us connect with others. The educational benefits for children of playing musical instruments of every kind and genres are well documented.

Australian Commentator Hugh MacKay’s pointed out that ‘learning to paint or write (in a class that creates its own sense of belonging), putting on plays and musicals, organising festivals, making movies, taking up photography.....singing in choirs, dancing, playing in bands....these are pathways to mental health for people whose daily lives are mostly spent in non-creative pursuit’ (2007:339).     

Since the health and social benefits of music are so obvious then why are opportunities segregated to the “gifted and talented” so soon?

Why the disproportionate focus on developing players rather than developing a wider appreciation of the art form?  

community orchestras, where people play for fun
One study that I looked at argued that, generally, Children exposed to the arts though a good quality art education programme are much more likely to have a lifelong participation in the arts (Kotler and Scheff: 513-529).

Would it be in the best interest of professional orchestras to improve the quality and reach of their education programmes so that that tomorrow’s adults actually want to pay to attend concerts?
Since one of my jobs as university student was as an Arts Administration Student with the Youth Orchestra here in Western Australia, I wonder how youth orchestras in Australia are ensuring the sustainability of the art form both in terms of players and of audiences.

For orchestras to be sustainable, they need people to buy tickets to see them perform.

At the moment in Australia the focus seems to be two fold. The focus can be split in to two unequal parts: “Player Development” and, to a lesser extent, “Outreach”/“Community Access”.

It is the overemphasis on the “Player Development” to the detriment of “Audience Development” that causes people to ask if Australian classical music is in crisis.

The problem is that Youth Orchestra Associations as well as many of the State Orchestras disproportionately work on developing the next generation of players rather than people who will come to listen.

My concern is that in 20 or 30 years there will be many orchestras full of gifted and highly trained players but no-one to watch them play because no-one other than these gifted musicians have been exposed to any kind of classical music.      

While there is nothing with elite musical training (because we all appreciate great players, including the synergy that occurs when they come together) but it is a lack of investment in those who will continue to buy tickets in the future that, in my opinion, is one of the biggest problems facing the sector today.

The “outreach” part of the equation usually involve tokenistic performances aimed at pre-schoolers (aptly named “cushion concerts”) or the odd concert in school halls on the fringes of the metropolitan area. Kids are hardly going to hooked for like as a result of 40 minute concert.

But the thing is, while Youth Orchestras and other non-governmental arts organisations are the only ones with the responsibility for this but they are the central part of the solution.

There is an interesting article called “Actively Finding an Audience” Greg Sandow, argues that is defiantly worth a read but I posed him a question on the role of youth orchestras in improving the attendance at classical music concerts.

In his answer he described an interesting paradox where the youth orchestras in the states are thriving but ironically, this doesn't translate into people going to concerts

So, what are we going to do about it?

Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) Musical Director and Lead Violin Richard Tognetti once said, in an interview on ABC Radio National’s The Music Show, “that if you look after the milk, the cream will rise to the top”.   

Meaning that if you widen the net of opportunity to a wider range of people, there is no reason gifted and talented will not reach great heights and continue to entertain us with their music.  

It is worth taking a look at some great but under-reported work done in this area. Both the ACO and Britain’s Orchestra of St John Smith Square actively run programmes for with kids who might not be future musicians but just to get them excited about music.

Pity that these sorts of programmes are small in comparison to what happens elsewhere in the world.

Take a look at the youth music programmes in the Berkshire area of England with something for all instruments and abilities. They seem to understand that playing music isn’t just something that should be enjoyed by those who are going to make it their profession but by everyone. 

As a result and as Kotler and Scheff argued, these programmes will have a lasting impact on those who participate in them including greater participation in music later in life.

It will be interesting to see if there will be any classical music when I am 85 years old and if I am the only one in the audience but I am sure it will work itself out, it has to.  Luckily there are lots of other kinds of music to be enjoyed and I look forward to tagging along with my nieces and nephew's children to whatever gigs will be on at the time.   


Kotler, Philip and Scheff, Joanne. Standing Room Only: Strategies for Marketing the Performing Arts (Boston: Harvard Business School, 1997) 

MacKay, Hugh. Advance Australia Where? (Sydney: Hachette Australia, 2007) 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...