Blog Post 2: Popular Culture in Melbourne

The following blog post examines various pop-culture phenomenons in Melbourne, both geographical and otherwise. It looks at the way each of these things not only works to make Melbourne unique, but is also made unique by Melbourne.

Cafe Culture in Melbourne.

An image of a flat white coffe in a standard white cup on a saucer. There is a half eaten burger in the backgroundIn the same way Young (2013) looked at the influence of geographical and cultural cityscapes on the unique development of “graffiti culture,” it is possible to analyze the ways in which “coffee culture” differs between different social and geographical locations. Cafes, coffee houses, and street stalls are woven into nearly every Melbourne street. Indeed, Melbourne has a café scene that is considered one of “the most vibrant in the world” (Jolliffe 2010). Melbourne’s destination marketing has become increasingly culture and lifestyle focused; chief among this carefully crafted sophisticated image is “high-quality coffee culture” (Jolliffe 2010). The social and cultural significance of coffee and coffee houses are an integral part of Melbourne’s popular culture. The reason such a thing was able to develop into popular culture in Melbourne surprisingly lies in government policy: as enthusiasm for the iconic physical ‘Monument For Melbourne,’ structure became lesser and lesser, and it’s use became an object of mockery (Holcomb 1999). The Victorian State Tourism commission made a conscious choice to create policies that focused on developing a greater emphasis on food and wine tourism (Jolliffe 2010).

Indeed, what happened was wine. Policies now allowed wine to be served at something that was already a popular establishment in Melbourne in 1988, through reforms in liquor licensing. At this point it is important to take a step back and look at how this deliberate change in government policy combined with the unique cultural make-up of Melbourne. Melbourne was able to acquire the “skill-set” to create a café/coffee culture through the immigration of individuals from all over Europe, particularly Italy. What enabled Melbourne’s culture to go on and become unique was that eventually, all the different coffee styles of each different heritage melded together to become something that was uniquely Melbourne (Jolliffe 2010). So, Melbourne café culture is essentially an amalgamation of different cultures, which was then further adapted to suit local conditions.

Essentially Melbourne had the cultural ground-work for a café/coffee focused culture long before the warehouse style, “hipster,” cafés of today, but would what we have now be around if it weren’t for the push given by government tourism policy to create more opportunities for a café culture? It’s hard to say. Melbourne itself still has an incredibly diverse population of people, with a range of different heritages, so we cannot deny the influence of the current population has a part in what allowed ‘artisan’-style coffee houses to develop today. Indeed, if our current population wasn’t influencing how this popular culture developed, then we wouldn’t have great numbers of different stalls, all packaging a very similar products in very similar ways with very similar marketing styles. However, in the same way it was the unique make-up of Melbourne that allowed a unique “Graffiti Culture” to develop, it is the unique make-up of Melbourne that allowed a unique coffee culture to develop. If we did not have the influx of immigrants from specific places combined with government policy, we would not be able to have the popular coffee/café culture we do today. And if today’s cultural make-up of Melbourne was different to what it is now, the culture may have dwindled out in the same way the enthusiasm for the Melbourne monument did, or it may have developed in a more homogenous way, towards an American coffee model.

Hamer Hall

Melbourne has a wide range of performance spaces, many of which are marketed as been significant attractions of the city by Visit Victoria. Just one of these is Hamer Hall, which was significantly renovated and reopened in 2012. The concert hall is part of the Arts Precinct which has been identified as a potential attractor of patrons for the White Night Festival (Melbourne Arts Precinct Blueprint 2014).

In the video link below from Sydney Morning Herald, Judith Isherwood, CEO of the Arts Centre at the time, explains some of the changes which have been made. http://media.smh.com.au/life-and-style/life/walk-through-the-new-hamer-hall-3453848.html Byrne (2012, pp. 15-35) suggests that venues and their design influence factors such as the way music is composed and the behaviour of audiences. He also claims that if a particular kind of performance in a certain space is successful we build more similar venues to replicate this success (p. 16). Discussions about the renovations of Hamer Hall seem to support Byrne’s ideas.

On a technical level the renovations at Hamer Hall were aimed at improving the acoustics. Isherwood acknowledged that the acoustics prior to the renovations probably deterred some artists from performing there (Gill 2012). However even after the acoustics have been improved, an article from the Australian about the acoustics, judged based on a performance post renovation, seems to suggest that the venue is still suited to particular kinds of music, that it works better as symphony concert hall rather than a venue for a solo artist (Kelly 2012). Isherwood stated ‘The stalls’ foyer can be used for late-night jazz events’ (Gill 2012). This statement suggests that the venue has been designed with particular kinds of music performances in mind. The evidence from these news articles resonates with the suggestion of Byrne (2012) that certain venues will encourage or discourage certain kinds of artists, and that ‘after a while the form of the work that predominates in these spaces is taken for granted – of course we mainly hear symphonies in symphony halls’ (Byrne 2012, p. 16).

There also appears to have been a focus on redesigning the building to encourage a particular arts scene and culture in the precinct:

“There’s a transparency to the building now that will engage people,” Reed says, addressing previous criticisms that the original building reputation was accessible only to an in-the-know “elite”. “Civic architecture was once about monumentalism and concrete,” she says. “It was heavy and serious, but now civic architecture is ideally about transparency” (Gill 2012).

Gill (2012) writes ‘The overall plan is for the building to be used from breakfast until late after the last show clears, to create a vibrant public space meant for those attending shows as well as those who previously might never have considered entering an arts space’. There are plans for three new restaurants (Gill 2012). This is a demonstration of how Melbourne’s theatre culture is permeated with Melbourne’s food and coffee culture and that food and drink, as extremely popular cultural elements, serve to bring people to places they might not otherwise go – eating or drinking can be the pretence for visiting and exploring a new place and its accompanying culture (theatre culture, in this instance).

While discussion of the new concert hall suggests that the aim is to create a more open and inclusive venue, the Arts Centre Melbourne still has rules for audience behaviour. On the Frequently Asked Questions page of their website there are explanations of these expectations, including when it is appropriate to clap. The site explains that talking is not permitted, ‘Our venues are designed with perfect acoustics so you can hear every word that comes out of the actors’ mouths. Unfortunately, this means that in most cases they can hear every word that comes out of yours. You’d be surprised how obvious even a whisper in the auditorium is to a performer.’ This supports Byrne’s theory of the link between the venue space, the performance and the behaviour of the audience. The venue is designed primarily for performances which may be very quiet at certain times, which as Byrne (2012, p. 24) points out, is only worthwhile if the audience is quiet too.

It is questionable whether the new design has actually been able to change elite theatre culture. I passed the building in May 2015 and a sign on the closed door (presumably locked) indicated that Hamer Hall would open 90 minutes before the performance started. This perhaps indicates that the ‘public’ spaces are in reality available primarily to those who have purchased a ticket.

 Queen Victoria Market

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The “Vic Market” has been an iconic element of Melbourne’s popular culture since 1878. The Market has had a colourful past and it present is proving to be just as diverse. One of the things that strikes me most about the Market is its array of social functions. It not only attracts people of different age, class and occupation, it is a unique tourist destination; it is also at the forefront of community issues and development.

I have been coming to the Victoria Market with my mum since I was a baby; although two decades is a long relationship, the Market is much older than me.

imagesThe Queen Victoria Market, as we know it, was officially opened in March of 1878, but the site is older than that still. Some of the main structures were actually built over an older part of the Melbourne General Cemetery. The Cemetery had long been out of use and congestion had rendered that part of the city unusable; the Market itself is actually an amalgamation of many Melbourne markets that were dominating the area. The changes didn’t end here. With the realignment of Elizabeth Street, and other brick building being built along the street construction, didn’t end until 1930.

But the market is so much more than just history; it is subtly setting the stage for Melbourne’s sustainable future. In 2010 traders at Queen Victoria Market began phasing out plastic bags with a campaign to “Bag the (Plastic) Bag”. This encouraged customers to consider the environmental footprint of their shop. This initiative was paired with the instalment of 1,328 solar panels to offset the emissions of the market itself. It is this kind of community minded development that attract people to the market at a deeper level.

The Night Market is an event that shows what the Victoria Market is all about. It’s a mix of live music and international food. The popular food stalls are representative of, and have helped solidify, Melbourne’s “Good food” focus.

The Night Market is not only representative of popular culture in Melbourne; but on our investment in that popular culture. The investment that has been devoted solely to the Market, for example the new master plan, demonstrates Melbourne’s commitment to the Market’s survival. “In October 2013, the City of Melbourne announced the largest investment in its history to renew the Queen Victoria Market, and create one of the world’s great market precincts.”

The popularity of the Market has already gentrified the surrounding area; and this Master Plan will inevitably perpetuate this process. Hopefully, however, the Master Plan will also cement the Market as a prosperous tourism destination, and therefore a Melbourne fixture forever.

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 Melbourne’s White Night

white night

White Night Melbourne is Australia’s most celebrated cultural event since 2013.  White Night was inspired by the international Nuit Blanche movement in a bid to make art and culture accessible to large audiences within public arenas. Paris’ Nuit Blanche has inspired an international network of White Night events in over 20 cities worldwide, with each city molding the event to reflect its unique passions and characteristics. White Night Melbourne is an all-night, free cultural event with visual art, music, food, theater, sport, fashion, film, design and performances on display. This is a reflection of how individuals think about the culture of Melbourne, more specifically White Night and the way in which popular culture affects their thinking.

The event operates from 7pm to 7am, and is held at the center of Melbourne, with activities in city streets, parkland, lane ways, public spaces and cultural institutions. White Night Melbourne is a unique event as it runs over a full 12-hour period, allowing individuals attending the event to choose an arrival time that suits them. Previous attendees have created their own experience – arriving later to enjoy the event and set activities at a less crowded time. This gives them a chance to experience the culture and enable them to adapt with other cultures.

Each consecutive year that it has run is more successful as well as with the popularity increasing, which can quickly be seen as Australia’s most celebrated major cultural event. The wide range of diverse cultures, class, age and occupation reiterates Melbourne’s multiculturalism. However, this event is more than just what it seems, it is setting the stage for Melbourne culturally diverse future. White Night is an event that portrays what Melbourne is based upon. It is a combination of music, art, food, sport and fashion etc. The stalls that are set up along the streets of the city are representative of Melbourne. Many influences have affected the way white night is produced and the very popular culture affects it. The high demand of cultural affiliation and multiculturalism has swayed Melbourne to continue this event as many people are inclined to participate in it.

Byrne (2013) explains how music is shaped by a particular time and place, and how the introduction of recording technology (videos) incessantly changed our connection to playing, performing, and listening to music. Professor of Deakin University, Den Hollander said “The fusion of live performance and new technologies to create an interactive world will be a sight to behold for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to flock to the city center for White Night Melbourne”. White night is a cultural event that portrays the diverse range of cultures and themes that Melbourne itself influences.

 Music Culture in Melbourne

Music is an important element of entertainment in the city of Melbourne. Many places of attraction such as bars, cafes and nightclubs all incorporate music into the ability to attract certain people and express their artistic nature. Popular culture has influenced the way in which individuals perceive certain music and therefore certain attractions around Melbourne. There are many different sources of music in Melbourne in which just about anyone can identify with, as there are many different festivals and bands that play around the city that cover a large range of genres.

The progressive changes in music are reflected by the way in which individuals think and the way in which popular culture affects this thinking. These changes affect many different bars, nightclubs and even bands who play around the city of Melbourne. In order for these attractions to stay relevant musically, they must appeal to a specific aspect of music that individuals prefer. Many entertainment and nightlife establishments in Melbourne appeal to the youth culture, therefore the music that they play can directly influence the crowd they draw.

The function of music in life is something important to grasp and something that popular culture helps define. Weisethaunet reviews an article from Bennett (2000), in which Bennett describes that music does not carry intrinsic meaning, rather meaning must be created in specific social and historical circumstances. This refers to the constantly changing popular culture in which individuals, particularly youths in this circumstance, are adapting to and using to create their own ideas of music. In my own experiences, the music that defines an individual can determine where they choose to be social. Individuals can choose a venue that is right for them or where they feel comfortable based on the fact that they play a genre of music that they enjoy.

Music culture is such an important part of Melbourne’s city as it helps individuals to form an identity. An individual’s taste in music correlates to specific subcultures in which they are apart of (Frith 2004). Music styles can be linked with age and other social groups, as each group carries different knowledge and share different histories throughout culture (Frith 2004). Through each of these particular subcultures and social groups individuals can establish their musical identity and form an image of what they desire musically. The formation of identity within music is what drives individuals to choose where to congregate socially and therefore is what many places in Melbourne aim to target in order to appeal to what these individuals prefer.

Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival

MICF2015_aboutSean O’Casey once wrote “Laughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness – the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living”. The quote speaks for itself, everyone in the world needs a little bit of cheeriness, happiness and laughter and that is why it’s a blessing to have such entertainers called comedians that help us laugh even when it’s a struggle to do so. Here in Melbourne we have the perfect time to sit back, drink some alcohol and have some laughs and that is the period of our Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival has grown to become one of the biggest cultural events to happen during the year – selling more tickets than any other festival within Australia. People from all states come to join the celebration of one of the biggest entertainment events.micf-2nd-april-057

The festival was created by Barry Humphries and Peter Cook and was launched in 1987. The festival consists of a wide program of stand-up comedy, cabaret, street performance, theatre, visual arts, film, television and radio. The festival usually takes place in Autumn every year, with tickets on sale from only $27. With ticket prices being so low and affordable, it creates a warmer welcome for anyone who wishes to attend. I personally have always wanted to attend the shows, and this year was the year that I could have possibly gone. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch any shows but the line up was quiet impressive. Comedians and talents from all around the world attend the event to either perform or even watch the streaming event of shows. Comedians such as Gabriel Iglesias, Carl Barron, Russel Peters and even radio host/comedian Dave Thornton have all attended the show to entertain the people of Australia. however the list doesn’t end there and the shows run for three and a half weeks each year with multiple shows being played each day.

Not only is the festival on to be watched but also numerous occasions occur within the period of the festivity and even during the year where the craft of comedy can be taught for those who wish to pursue that career path. A popular open mic comedy competition, RAW comedy, begins in January each year as well as Class Clowns, a secondary comedy competition which is held throughout the year, which allows those who aspire to work within stand-up comedy, to do so within Australia.VVLand__9210811_AE16_Gala_8_Jim_Lee

Laughter is essential for every human being. The craft of comedy and it’s ways to communicate with people around Australia is important to our culture. Australia is well known to be a culturally diverse country and with Melbourne’s comedy festival it helps unite people from all over the world to come and enjoy and experience the same thing, humor and happiness.

Transport Culture in Melbourne.

Although a car is not an economic form of making our way to our desired destination it is often chosen as opposed to public transport. This is due to its components of efficiency and sociability (Sheller 2004). It is effective in its ability to take you where you want to in a shorter amount of time and without the hassle of being overcrowded or confined and unlike public transport, one’s car is usually parked right outside their driveway as opposed to walking that extra block to get to the bus stop. In addition, because of this efficiency of a car, people tend to be more social and confident (Sheller 2004). This is due to the notion that by having a car, a trip to a friends house or meeting up with someone for dinner is much more convenient as a 20 minute trip in the car can be equivalent to a 50 minute trip on the bus. Thus, the pop culture of a car opposed to public transport differs greatly as a car can help build one’s sense of independence and reliability compared with public transport which can sometimes be daunting and troublesome for individual.

Indeed, the technology of transport do encompass negative social consequences, like road deaths and being overcrowded. Often people spend hours in traffic congestion can have a considerable impact of people’s quality of life. New transport systems also have difficult challenges when maintaining a healthy and positive environment. Fuel is just another contribution to pollution which has an affect on climate change. Such contemporary transport systems require more fuel to run. Governments, societies and individuals must work strategically to help resolve such problems.

In some aspects public transport can be efficient. In a country as diverse as Australia, the development of an efficient, affordable transport system has been fundamental to the development of the nation. Transport services provides for the needs of individuals and society who live in those towns – providing a means to deliver food and carrying citizens to work and social activities. Indeed, transport helps makes daily life possible and is economically friendly. Being involved in using transport such as trains, trams and buses, as well as using a car, I find it more reliable and accessible using public transport. It’s somewhat more reliable and the amount of people using transport nowadays is increasing. In saying this, the use of public transport is increasing as the use of the mobile car is decreasing as time goes by.

The car as a source of transportation changed the Australian way of life. Australians could now travel wherever they wanted, whenever they liked. So as you can see, there are so many facets that create Melbourne’s unique culture. The way each of these contributing factors influence each other exemplifies the way culture is created in cities.

References:

Art, Theatre & Culture: Theatres, Visit Victoria, viewed 26 April 2015, <http://www.visitvictoria.com/Things-to-do/Art-theatre-and-culture/Theatre-and-musicals/Theatres&gt;.
Byrne, D 2012, ‘Creation in Reverse’, in How Music Works, McSweeneys, (pp. 15-35).
Cooper, M 2011, ‘Bodies under Queen Vic haunt market revamp’ The Age, 11th of March,<http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/bodies-under-queen-vic-haunt-market-revamp-20110311-1bqsp.html&gt; Frequently Asked Questions, Arts Centre Melbourne, viewed 29 April 2015, <http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/faq>.
Frith, Simon (2004). Music and Identity. Popular Music: Music and Identity. pp. 119-121. Retrieved on 26th of April, 2015.
Gill, R 2012, ‘It’s showtime at Hamer Hall’, Sydney Morning Herald 14 July, viewed 26 April 2015, <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/its-showtime-at-hamer-hall-20120713-220il.html#ixzz3YVLNZb7l>.
Good Reads, “Quotes about Laughter, Viewed on 27-March-2015.<http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/laughter&gt;
Holcomb, B, 1999, Marketing cities for tourism, In D.R Judd and S.S Fainstein (eds.), The Tourist City. (pp.54-70), New Haven, CT: Yale University Press Jolliffe, L. (2010). Coffee Culture, Destinations and Tourism (Tourism and Cultural Change, No. 24).
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Kelly, E 2012, ‘New acoustic reveals colours than astonish’, Australian 13 August, viewed 26 April 2015, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/new-acoustic-reveals-colours-that-astonish/story-e6frg8n6-1226448692644>.
Melbourne Arts Precinct Blueprint 2014, viewed 29 April 2015, <http://creative.vic.gov.au/Projects_Initiatives/Cultural_Infrastructure_projects/Melbourne_Arts_Precinct_Blueprint>.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2015, Our Story, Viewed on 27-March-2015.<http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2015/season/about-us/background/&gt;
Queen Victoria Market 2013, History, Queen Victoria Market, viewed the 25th of April 2015. http://www.qvm.com.au/about/history/
Queen Victoria Market 2013, Master Plan Draft: Vision, Queen Victoria Market, viewed the 25th of April 2015.<http://www.qvm.com.au/&gt;
Queen Victoria Market 2013, Sustainability At The Market, Queen Victoria Market, viewed the 25th of April 2015.<http://www.qvm.com.au/about/sustainability/&gt;
Queen Victoria Market 2013, The Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, viewed the 25th of April 2015. <http://www.qvm.com.au/night-market/&gt;
Sheller, 2004, Automotive emotions, feeling the car (2004). Jounal of Theory culture and society. vol. 21 no. 4-5 221-242
Weisethaunet, Hans (2001). Andy Bennett: Popular music and youth culture. Music, identity and place. Reviewed by Hans Weisethaunet. Retrieved on 26th of April, 2015.
Young, A. (2013). Street Art, Public City: Law, Crime and the Urban Imagination. Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.latrobe.eblib.com.au.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=1565820&echo=1&userid=1BhX21J5S8pIWoZEiiEWOw%3d%3d&tstamp=1426109372&id=DC8FA9E1E6A3EDEA41DEFFBE27CF4759078F1B2A

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