For as long as I can remember I have been reminded that I will never be considered successful until I do something notably significant outside of Western Sydney. Growing up I saw local papers slathered with cliché “local kids done good” stories. More recently some of my colleagues suggested that if I kept developing my established projects I would be considered static. To me the only thing that is being rendered static is the cultural development of Sydney’s greater suburbs.
The Macarthur region has been positioned by local government as a great place to raise a family. Whether you wanted to play sport, see a movie, go bowling, sign up to a gym a stone throws away from another gym or consume – be that vehicles, franchised food or handbags – you could. But once residents hit a particular age (say approximately 18), the region somehow stopped catering for you. There was an expectation that spreading your wings meant moving out of town and into the city. This isn’t new and by no means isolated to the Macarthur region. Whilst some venues (The Vault, Macarthur Tavern, Bradbury Pub, Camden Hotel and Campbelltown Arts Centre to name a few) have tried to fill the gaps, with some success, unheard cries from the wider community suggest that a lot is still left to be desired.
Frustrated and ready to be the change, a range of community groups have come to the fore in the last four years. Bottom up planning by small businesses and entrepreneurs are bringing diversity and that political buzz word – vibrancy – to the social fabric of the region. Amanda of Lupa’s Hoop Pit has contributed to the visibility of Macarthur’s Flow community. Inclusive of hula hooping, fire twirling and poi, the flow community meets at the end of each month for jams in Camden. Open and friendly, they welcome everyone from beginners to the more experienced to “spin share”. These events are not just for the flow community, families are invited to pull up a picnic rug and musicians can bring their instrument of choice to join the fun. Beyond this, Lupa’s Hoop Pit runs a range of fixed-term classes and one off workshops in the Australian Botanic Garden (Mt Annan), along the beaches of Wollongong and hoop-hiking (you read right) through the Royal National Park.
Speaking of music – Live ‘n’ Lounging is back for a fifth year. Husband and wife, Kim and Bernie Cochrane started this not for profit event after renowned singer-songwriter, Matt Corby played a house gig in their yard for his Secret Garden Tour in 2012. There are no dedicated live music venues in Macathur. The region often misses out on attracting major headlining tours, despite the interest from bands to play for fans in the area. Kim and Bernie know this because, through word of mouth, a lot of bands now email them to play at Live ‘n’ Lounging. Their program, run monthly or bi-monthly depending on their personal commitments, generally books out six months in advance. Attracting a mix of locally-based, Sydney-wide and interstate musicians, Live ‘n’ Lounging is the only place to hear original music by emerging bands without the sound of pokies, the football or rowdy groups in the background. To learn more, you can read the full length interview I conducted with Kim Cochrane here.
Tying this all together, Campbelltown is gearing up for its first independent creative arts festival. Organised by Brian Laul of the Wizard of Oz Playland (Leumeah) this festival seeks to create an opportunity for Campbelltown’s creative community to have a presence. Laul has experience working in journalism, music and theatre. He is currently taking expressions of interest from creative practitioners – be that dance, theatre, visual arts or film to name but a few – to participate in this independently funded and run event. It is anticipated that the festival will take place in September/October 2016. The only guidelines for EOI are quality and 100% independent. The festival, as I imagine it, will open up opportunities for local creatives to participate in and be more visible in the Campbelltown area.
For all the times I have written about or spoken on panels about the need to make participation more accessible, it is both exciting and overwhelming to see it finally coming to fruition. If anything meaningful is going to happen, it needs to come from small businesses and entrepreneurs operating independent of cultural policy and in tune to local relevance. The wonderful thing is that this post has only scratched the surface of what is sure to be a burgeoning of the independent sector in Macarthur.
As always, take the local and make it global.