There is a new boom going on in the west: a creative boom, where musicians, artists and writers are celebrating what it means to be Western Australian.
In the 64th edition of the Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) this year in January some of the best-known artists in the state celebrated in a gathering they simply called, Home. Artists including John Butler, the Drones, the Waifs and the Triffids talked about why the west was such a special place.
One of the reasons it is so special is the sheer number of events that celebrate arts and culture taking place in Perth and beyond. There is the Fringe World festival that offers “31 days of Perthect entertainment” at the end of summer. The centre of this festival is the Perth Cultural Centre in Northbridge, though it recently spread to encompass the new Elizabeth Quay precinct by the Swan River.
There are creative events for people to come together like FORM’s PUBLIC program, launched in 2014, that celebrates Perth’s urban art and ideas. There is the heavy-hitting annual PIAF get-together mentioned above and the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival that has been around for nearly 20 years giving young fashion designers a leg-up in the competitive industry.
Young fashion designer Jonte Pike launched her label Jonte was in 2012 after a successful showing at the Fashion Festival and she believes that this roster of top-class events is helping creativity take hold in the city.
“Inspiration can be drawn from so many aspects of Perth,” Jonte says. “I have drawn inspiration from the city streetscape, our beautiful coastline and landscape. It is also very inspiring seeing street artists working on murals around the city and being surrounded by this creativity is motivating.”
Pike points to the shopping in Claremont, where her label sells in a boutique called Perlu, as well as heading out to bars like Varnish on King and The Apple Daily in the city centre as well as Low Key Chow House in Leederville.
“The face of Perth is changing everyday,” Pike says.
This boom in creativity, in artistic events and grass roots get-togethers by creative people is being reflected in a city that is seeing an explosion in small bars, cafes and creative spaces that help fuel further creativity. Music venues like The Bird in Northbridge or Mojo’s in Fremantle or newcomers like Jack Rabbit Slim’s that has food til the wee small hours, this is where you will find the new creative wave of Western Australians ready to take on the world.
Methyl Ethel is part of this new creative hub. Started in 2013 in Jake Webb’s bedroom, the band has become one of the west’s most exciting musical exports. From taking out Pop Song of the Year with Rogues in the 2014 Western Australian Music (WAM) awards to cracking this year’s Triple J Hottest 100 with the haunting single Twilight Driving, Webb and his band are set to release their first debut album Oh Inhuman Spectacle to a worldwide audience.
Webb says there has long been a creative vibe about his home town, and it is just the tip of the iceberg that gets reported on. “There is a very rich arts scene in Perth,” he says. “And there is quite a lot of magic and there has been a lot of special shows and events that I have been to. That is the pulse of what happens in Perth.”
For Webb you can go to the Perth Festival or the Fashion Festival but this top tier of events is also giving Perth locals the confidence to launch their own smaller events like Yardstock – where a group of backyards form the backdrop for a troupe of travelling musicians who roam from suburb to suburb to play – or ‘zines, small-run magazines produced with passion on a range of niche subjects.
Webb says that Perth’s relative isolation has helped forge the scene because people are forced together creating a collegiate atmosphere where artists support one another and everyone makes the most of what they have. Then, for Webb, there is the inspiration that comes with the beauty of Western Australia’s landscapes.
“I do about 90 per cent of my writing down south [in Yallingup] and I think that isolation to me breeds creativity,” he says. “That does feel, in a really nice, clichéd way, a place the provides inspiration for me. Being on the beach – not in a bronzed, bleached hair way – makes me feel really small as I look out to what appears infinite, and I like that.”
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