Category Archives: creative maylands

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.


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.

All juiced up: good things for communities in 2010

By nature, I’m a reflective person. So I enjoy the end of year/new year period for the opportunity it offers to sit back and take stock of the year that’s been. I’ve been doing just that over the past few weeks and wanted to share some of my community development and place making highlights for 2010 (I got all excited and inspired pulling this list together!).

These are some of the good things that kept me juiced up last year:

1. Developing the new Community Gardens WA website as a virtual hub for the WA community garden sector was a highlight. The site gives people easy access to information, connections and avenues of support for their community gardening initiatives. This should be your first port of call if you want to know about community gardens in WA!

community gardens WA, website

The virtual home for community gardens in WA

2. After two years of working intensively in the community gardening sector through managing the Growing Communities WA project, I felt grateful to have the chance in 2010 to put some of my learnings about community gardens down on paper in the form of two new resources – Community Gardening Success Factors and Funding Your Community Garden – to help WA gardens grow. These are free to download at Community Gardens WA.

3. Working with the Vincent Reconciliation Group and the Town of Vincent on the Banks Reserve Reconciliation Place project and seeing the positive impact for people of being involved in visioning processes was truly special. The project aims to make a local contribution to fostering reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians by building relationships across cultures around a shared connection with a special place in the Town – Banks Reserve on the banks of the Biliya (also know as Derbarl Yerrigan or you might know it as the Swan River!).

It was particularly touching to receive the following feedback from Noongar elder Doolann-Leisha Eatts who has been closely involved in the development of the project: “I never thought I would see this day come: when people would be gathering together to heal the wounds of our past and present. I really feel hope now – I really feel that my grandchildren and great grandchildren have a future. I really feel that we are being heard and we can walk together”. Wow. This is the reason I do the work I do!

Banks Reserve, Reconciliation Place

Community members talking about how Banks Reserve can be a place of reconcilation

4. In the course of working on a cultural plan for the City of Melville I had the privilege of chatting with a wide range of passionate and skilled community members who are contributing to creating a lively and inclusive arts and cultural scene in the area. I was blown away by the contribution all of these people are making to their local community, on a voluntary basis. And the people I met would just be the tip of the iceberg. Isn’t it awesome what people do to help build strong and vibrant communities?

Heathcote playground

Did I mention I also discovered possibly the best playground in Perth? You'll find it at Heathcote in Applecross.

5. Having a hand in helping Perth City Farm obtain funding to realise their 8-year dream of opening a training cafe on site was a real highlight. The café is generating numerous benefits for City Farm. If you haven’t already, make sure you cycle down there soon to check it out. The food and ambience is ace.

Perth City Farm, cafe

Soaking up the sun at City Farm's garden cafe

6. I enjoyed some travels within WA and interstate during 2010 and relished the opportunities to discover, explore and connect into local places and pick up some new ideas to add to my place maker toolkit. If you like travel diaries, you can dip into mine here and here.

7. Bringing a little piece of the East St Jetty to Eighth Avenue for the launch of creative maylands during the Maylands Festival was a lot of fun and reinforced for me how effective it is to take standard community engagement tools and give them a ‘flavour’ of the place where I am using them. We chatted to lots of people throughout the day about what they think is special about Maylands and recorded their ideas on colourful fish that gradually filled our ‘river’ to the brim.

creative maylands, East St jetty

We had lots of fun designing this East St jetty-themed interactive display and people seemed to love it

8. Building on my work with Growing Communities WA, in 2010 I began offering a new range of development support services for community gardens called How Does Your Garden Grow. This paved the way for me to support an exciting initiative to develop a new community garden in Armadale, under the auspices of a local Indigenous Corporation, that has the potential to bring significant benefits to the local community. Yay!

So, what about you? What community development or place making initiatives got you fired up 2010? I’d love to hear about your highlights for the year and how you plan to build on them in 2011. Let’s have your comments…