Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I have a dream - and it's a big one!

What is Culture?

Culture entails so many different aspects of our daily lives it is almost impossible to pigeon-hole or place into a box. Food, wine, conversation, interactions, music, art, performance, sport, fishing, Ancestors, blood lines, traditions, laws, speech......all of these things form part of our culture. To call a Precinct a cultural one without meeting the needs of all of these is perhaps stating an untruth. I have a large concern about the Cultural Precinct that is one I know others share and is not really being addressed, partly because it's in the early stages of conceptual design, and partly because most people are so caught up in the idea, they are not thinking about the small parts of the plan.

You all know that I am very much in favour of having a Cultural Precinct in Cairns. I feel it is necessary, and will continue to state that until it is completed.

My concern is not with cost either, as far as I can tell, no costing can truly occur until designs are produced and we are a little way off that at this point. It would also be stupid to consider building a facility on a smaller budget if it meant that the whole project would be second class and not sufficient to our needs.

My issue is not that rates will be far as I can tell, that is not the case. Val stated earlier in the week that 'there would be no significant rate rise as a result of the Cultural Precinct'. Not too sure if there will be an 'insignificant' one instead, but I am very happy with her statement, particularly after she also said she was regretful of her speech guaranteeing no rate rises before the last election. This indicates to me that she is now much more hesitant to guarantee, or state anything regarding rates unless she was almost positive it was truthful. There are always going to be occasions where circumstances are out of the control of the Council in these matters, but I think it's believable that rates will be largely unaffected by the Precinct.

My concern is centred around what will be included in the Precinct. The atmosphere of the place and the surrounding area. We all know that the main building will house adequate space for large scale conferences, performances and will have the capacity to be adjusted to suit the needs of small scale events. That's great news because this aspect is the most important and will be the most used part of the precinct. I have heard people say that this is a minority issue as most people do not go to the ballet or the theatre. Rubbish! Plenty of people go to the theatre but that is not the full scale of what this project will facilitate. Plenty of others will watch comedy shows, lots will see school productions and awards nights, still others will go to see their favourite band and when collated, this issue becomes one for the majority.

But what about the outer area? What about the proposed retail and restaurant outlets? This is the part of the plan that concerns me. We have so many empty shopfronts and boarded up restaurants in the city, do we really need to add to the problem? Will we end up with a bright, shiny Precinct with more gloss than personality? Where we have an entire area aesthetically more suitable to Palm Cove than our waterfront near the mangroves? Where people visit for the status that being seen there will provide, talk is centred around fashion and golf, it costs 6 dollars for a latte and the price of a meal is outrageous? God, I sincerely hope NOT!

I have a dream....and it will probably stay a dream....where we have a Cultural Precinct that has space for different cultures of our region to meet and share. Where we have four 'eateries', one that specialises in Australian food, one fabulous pie shop, one cafe with coffee from Mareeba and one cake shop/ deli supplied by Mungalli Creek, Gallo's cheese and chocolate factory and Vannela's. A place that has spaces for rent/hire for musicians to use as a studio, for workshops, for artist studios etc.... The garden 'ring' that I mentioned in a previous post, with seating in a round, that could be used for demonstrations, meetings, gatherings, an open air poets corner, whatever is required. When boats dock nearby from somewhere far away, we could let some of the local businesses know and places like Tjapukai could send someone to run a bush food demonstration from the site, while encouraging visitors to explore our region. Buskers throughout the area during festivals and celebrations and the occasional market with ONLY locally handcrafted products on sale.

This should be a Precinct for the whole of Cairns and all of it's differing 'cultures'. It should be a place that is unlike any other simply because it's ours and it's about us. People from all over the world who visit should come away from the area with a better understanding of what it is to be from Tropical North Queensland and should see the pride we have in who we are.

We could run documentaries from one space allowing all locals and visitors alike to learn more about our region, our country and our world. It should be a place for learning, interacting, sharing and most importantly, a showcase of our talent.

So, it remains a dream of mine. Maybe it will always be just a dream. Perhaps the choice of what this Precinct entails was made long before my dream began and it's even possible that it is not shared by the majority of the population. I really do hope though, that when my children are grown I can say to them, "See that Cultural Precinct we have in the city? I wanted that and I am so glad I voiced my opinion back then because it's one of the most wonderful things we have achieved in my lifetime."


  1. I've been dreaming about having a modern museum with plenty of free standing exhibits, and a participant in the World Collections Program, for over 40 years. FRANKLY, I don't think I am going to convince Cairns people that a modern museum isn't a "volcano".

  2. I agree Alison. There are so many factors not considered in this project. There is so much it could encompass and it's getting lost in translation...all based on a concept design never intended to depict the final result.

    Cairns would benefit greatly from the museum aspect you mentioned. While you may well have had no luck in the 40 years you have been trying to get results for, now could well be the time to get it all happening, despite the trash talk.

    I sincerely hope so anyway.