Bring the arts back to Yarra

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The Socialist Party has launched an exciting new campaign to turn the Fitzroy Town Hall into a centre for the arts, music and culture in the City of Yarra (Melbourne).

Yarra Council has spent about $8 million to spruce up the Town Hall but it is currently a dead place. It merely houses a few Council staff and a couple of non government organisations.

While this building is a central icon in Fitzroy and is close to three tram lines, access is limited to Council bureaucrats and entry requires a swipe card. The public are in effect kept out and if you do want to hire a room the costs are excessive.

The Socialist Party along with the local arts community want to better use this beautiful building and make it alive again.

Fitzroy was once the heart of Melbourne’s arts scene. Now it is being gentrified and taken over by trendy and expensive restaurants and bars. The main street in Fitzroy, Brunswick Street, is becoming like a mini King Street in central Melbourne with fights, vomit and a general tense atmosphere. This is not the type of suburb that ordinary people in Fitzroy want.

The Council has stood by while art galleries and music venues have been shut down and festivals like Midsummer, Comedy, and Fringe are all now held outside of Yarra. There are no longer any broad based community street festivals like the Sydney Road festival in Moreland or the High St festival in Darebin held in Yarra.

Despite their claims to support the arts in Yarra, the Greens voted with the Labor Party to cut community grants by 1 per cent this year. This is the main source of funding for local arts projects. Only the Socialist Party voted against this.

We are proposing – at the very least – the fitting out of the main room in the Fitzroy Town Hall room and the smaller Reading Room so as to allow it to be used for comedy, music and art events just like the Melbourne Town Hall and Trades Hall in Carlton is utilised every year during the Comedy Festival.

In early June we held a public meeting for local artists, musicians, workers and residents in the area to kick start this campaign. With the active participation of the local community we will win this campaign and maintain some of Fitzroy’s best traditions.

By Stephen Jolly