Why have an Art & Industry Festival now?

It is widely agreed the West is a region in flux. In fact, this may not be a recent phenomenon. Long-term locals believe two major factors have driven gentrification and population growth.

The first is the Westgate Bridge, completed in 1975, which reduced the drive from the centre of Melbourne to the West from 40 to 15 minutes. Subsequently, the population grew rapidly, attracted by cheaper housing on ‘the other side’ as it was known. Adding extra appeal, Williamstown and Altona had access to seaside living.

The second was the replacement in 1981 of the old coal-fired Newport Power Station with a new gas-fired structure. The surrounds of Newport had suffered from constant coverage of coal smoke and dust, so much so that housewives would only hang washing when smoke and coal dust was not belching from the old Power Station.

The West remains attractive to Melbourne’s mushrooming population and to developers. Housing blocks  are generally larger and less expensive compared to the eastern suburbs. Large blocks are being subdivided and compact housing is now a feature of the West.

Festivals are a great way to take time out from the everyday, to explore your local area and experience the place in new or experimental ways. Events can lure people into industrial sites that families may have driven past every day and either not noticed or felt they were not allowed access to.

Festivals traditionally have marked times of change: the summer solstice or the transition from winter into spring. Festivals and celebrations also signify transformation: the end of something or someone, a funeral, or new beginnings such as celebrating a coming of age or wedding.

A festival can be a vehicle for locals from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds to comment, discuss and observe these changes. A festival can examine, explore and amplify, in a manageable and imaginative way, the positives intrinsic to community change.

This festival aims to be useful by offering a place and a time when challenging and playful ideas can be explored through art projects. The projects are curated by an artistic director who will interrogate ideas and develop projects which reflect on our industrial past as a way of framing our future.

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