Category Archives: Creative Communities

Create the places you like

Recently I’ve been dipping into Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. A few of his ideas have really resonated with me, one of them is his tip to forget the old cliché about writing ‘what you know’ and instead ‘write what you like’. He says:

austin kleon

Reading this made me think of the street picnic-themed chill out space that I curated for Creative Maylands as part of the Maylands Street Festival a couple of weeks ago. The idea for the space – to offer festival goers a welcoming and unique place to relax, converse and connect – came from my own experience of wandering around street festivals searching in vain for a comfy place with some shade, seating, and a bit of character, to put my feet up for a while and soak up the festival vibe.

At its essence, the street picnic place that the team of volunteers and I created was the place we wanted to have at our local festival, the place we wanted to hang out in on the day. And it was a hit! Our ‘likes’ were the spark for the idea and then we applied place making knowhow to really make the place a success.

We transformed this empty car park…


… into a lively, people-friendly place for everyone to enjoy. Here’s some of the place making strategies we used to do it:

1. Mix it up

Uses and activities are the basic building blocks of a great place. Basically, the more things there are to do in a place, the more people will use it. We layered as many uses and activities onto the space as possible in order to appeal to different people. These included: old skool games (quoits, carpet bowls, hopscotch and marbles); historical photos from around Maylands; a photo booth; a community engagement activity to map Maylands’ special places; flyers promoting local creative and cultural activities; and a dog bowl for thirsty pooches.


carpet bowls

Throughout the festival, people were drawn into the space by all of these things. If we hadn’t offered such a mix of activities and uses we definitely wouldn’t have had as many people enjoying the space.

2. Break it up

We were lucky enough to have quite a large space to work with so we took the opportunity to create a number of smaller ‘rooms’ or areas that offered different focal points and made it comfortable for a number of groups of people to hang out in the space at the same time. We also designed in movement spaces to allow people to circulate through the space easily (without having to step over picnic rugs, walk through the bowls game, etc).

3. Make it comfortable

In public spaces, it’s people that attract people so we wanted people to stay awhile in our space. The best way to do this, not surprisingly, is to give them somewhere to sit. We offered people a range of different options for seating – from picnic rugs to park benches to comfy chairs – and because they were all moveable people could tailor the space to suit their needs. Shade is a godsend during spring street festivals in Perth, so we made sure around 50% of our space was in shade during the day.

street picnic

4. Make it readable

Good places are highly accessible. This includes having good visibility into the place and making sure it’s easy for people to ‘read’ the space and work out reasonably quickly what it’s used for and who’s welcome. We made sure we had a clear invitation to ‘make yourself at home’ at the front of the street picnic space to let people know what it was about and that it was available to everyone. We also had other signage through the space to highlight different activities.


5. Keep it real

In everything that Creative Maylands does, we want to celebrate and build on the ‘place essence’ of Maylands, the special qualities of our neighbourhood. Jon Hawkes* says it well when he suggests that cultural development should “concentrate on ensuring that the cultural manifestations in a community have a direct relationship with the culture of that community [his italics]”. We chose a vintage style for our street picnic space because it links to both new and old elements of our suburb – the growing number of vintage-inspired shops and cafes on the popular Whatley Crescent strip and the suburb’s rich heritage as represented by the historical photographs that we sourced from Maylands Historical and Peninsula Association for inclusion in the space.


* Jon Hawkes (2001). The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s essential role in public planning. Common Ground Publishing in association with the Cultural Development Network, Victoria. p 15.


Brainstorming about playful cities

The idea and experience of play is a thread that weaves itself through my life and my work. This morning I got thinking about playful cities and allowed myself a quick brainstorm about the possible meanings and actions that could flow from this idea, particularly in relation to my work with Creative Maylands, youth planning for local councils and place making projects. I thought I’d share what I came up with; perhaps there’s a thread in here somewhere that could connect with or inspire your own thinking and work.

Some questions to get you thinking… I’d love to hear your responses:

What would a ‘playful city’ look like to you?
How can the notion of play inform your work with communities or places or something else?
What are the questions you think I/we should be asking about playful cities?

Getting creative in Maylands

creative maylands are hosting our first get-together this Thursday!

Here are the details:

More info about creative maylands can be found here.

Are you a young professional or creative (around 25 to 35 years of age)…

… living in the City of Melville?

Then I’d love you to join in a cafe conversation about how to support and grow cultural vitality in the City of Melville.

I’m part of consultancy team currently working with the City of Melville to develop a Cultural Vitality Plan that looks at how best to use local cultural resources to promote social and economic development and consequently enhance quality of life. These cultural resources could include visual, performing and literary arts, heritage buildings, festivals and events, community values and traditions, recreational facilities, café strips, creative industries and much more.

We want to know how well the arts and cultural needs of young professionals and creatives are being catered for in the City of Melville. Your opinion is important and will help the City plan for a culturally vibrant future.

Join me for a café conversation about cultural vitality:

Date: Saturday, 30 October 2010
Time: 2pm to 3pm
Cafe: Coffea Fine Espresso, 31a Ardross Street, Applecross
Light refreshments provided.

Please register your attendance by Wednesday 27 October by contacting me at anne[at] or on 0407 441 822. If you’re interested in contributing your ideas and are unable to attend the café conversation, please contact me to arrange an alternative means for input.

Feel free to pass on this invitation to any other young professionals and creatives you know who live in the City of Melville.

Check out the website for more information about all the ways that City of Melville residents, workers and visitors can provide input to the development of the Cultural Vitality Plan.

*City of Melville includes the following suburbs: Alfred Cove, Applecross, Ardross, Attadale, Batemen, Bicton, Booragoon, Brentwood, Bull Creek, Kardinya, Leeming, Melville, Mount Pleasant, Myaree, Murdoch, Palmyra, Willagee and Winthrop.

A taste of community hubs on WA’s south coast

Whenever I travel (whether to the next city/town or far away), I enjoy discovering, exploring and connecting into local places that are vibrant hubs for creative community activity. On a recent break to Denmark and Albany on the south coast of WA I found three such places:

Centre for Sustainable Living (CSL), Denmark

I arrived at the centre and was greeted by the enticing smell of an Indian feast being cooked up in the centre’s kitchen, in preparation for a fundraising dinner being hosted their that night. No surprises I came back that evening to support the cause!

The centre is managed by Green Skills and a lot of great stuff happens there. I was visiting specifically to check out the community garden that’s been started (I think) in the last 6 months. A feature of the garden is a bush foods area where plants that will provide food during each of the six Nyungar seasons are being grown. I was struck by the ephemeral artwork that has been created as a centrepiece for this garden.

Ephemeral artwork at CSL community garden

Ephemeral artwork made using natural materials

It’s not a new idea I know, but I’m currently feeling really excited about how community artwork (including ephemeral, impermanent works and performance) can help bring life to public places and I’m finding ways to incorporate more of this sort of process into my work with communities and places. Check out these lovely urban nests inhabiting the scaffolding of a building being renovated in Madrid for example.

A highlight of the CSL is a special place called the Sanctuary. Look at it – don’t you just want to spend time there!

The Sanctuary, Denmark

The Sanctuary, Denmark


Inside the Sanctuary

I love the garden on the roof and, again, the artwork interwoven into the place that imbues it with story, life and colour.

The Tip Shop, Denmark

What’s a trip to Denmark without a visit to the Tip Shop I say? Some other time I’ll have to tell you about why I’m excited about waste and creative reuse. On this visit though, the thing that stayed with me most was being reminded of the diversity of types of places in our local communities that can become hubs where people can meet, connect and make interesting things happen. And how the principles of place making can be used to enhance such very different places – main streets, community gardens, small bars, public parks and tip shops!

At this one in Denmark, they’re working to expand the range of activities that happen there – one of the key strategies for attracting more people to visit and stay awhile. There’s a children’s sand pit play area, an education and training venue, the Tiporium Teahouse Sunday Session events, ‘junk’ musical instruments to play with, a casual tip shop ‘cafe’ and outdoor eating area is being set up and, of course, plenty of shopping for reuse goods and bits and pieces. Having this diversity of activity and uses bodes well for the future of this developing community hub.

Bikes at Denmark Tip Shop

Need a bike?

Rainbow Coast Neighbourhood Centre Community Garden, Albany

It was a rainy afternoon when I visited the Rainbow Coast Neighbourhood Centre Community Garden. Arriving on foot, I actually walked past the garden because it’s set back from the road, but I was lucky enough to score a lift back to the right spot by a friendly staff member of the youth centre at the other end of the street (otherwise I would have been soaked!).

Only around a year old, the garden already has a lovely feel. Those involved in developing it have paid attention not only to getting the veges growing but also to creating a vibrant and interesting community place (again the contribution community artwork can make to building a sense of place is evident). The garden is one of the few in WA that I’ve heard have managed to grow enough surplus produce to warrant selling some off for fundraising (what a difference climate can make).

Communal garden bed enlivened with simple mosaic crazy paving

The old wheelbarrow adds interest to the garden and extra growing space

community artwork

Decorated bicycle tyres add colour to the fence

At the garden I met Mitch, who’s currently supervising Green Corp participants in the building of a large circular garden bed cut into quarters by pathways. One quarter will have a children’s sand pit and another a covered socialising area. Mitch mentioned that the following week he was booked to deliver his first public talk on what we need to do about climate change. It reminded me of how being involved in places like community gardens leads people to feel more inspired, empowered and interested in being active citizens. This is one of the reasons hubs like these are so important and special.

I’d love to hear about community hubs in your local area and why they work; how about posting a comment?