We are constantly bombarded with reminders that this is Canberra’s BIG year, with a lot of the major events happening around the city and Parliamentary Triangle. Lovers of local music can salivate at the thought of a major extravaganza on Monday March 11. However, anyone stumbling along to their neighbourhood shops later that week to return that overdue DVD or buy that forgotten ingredient for the ten-step Masterchef recipe might be in for a shock. Acting on the basis that too much entertainment is barely enough, the Canberra Centenary program will spread the joy into deepest, darkest Canberra. BMA spoke to Amy of Devil Moon, producer of the major PARTIES AT THE SHOPS event, to get the good oil on suburban festivities.
The Centenary is all about those special features of Canberra which give it its special charm. One such characteristic is the existence of many small shopping centres which form a hub of community activity. Over the years, different centres have developed their own characters. While some are still post-modern industrial, others enjoy lavish public art works. These include Curtin’s mosaics, Ainslie’s metal wildlife and the Kambah Village sheep. Normally, Canberra’s urbanites visit briefly for shopping or coffee, but the party idea seeks to promote community bonds through a shared enjoyment of entertainment and food. As Amy states, ‘This is one of Robyn Archer’s pet projects and I’m lucky enough to be the person delivering it. Robyn sees its shops as a unique part of the Canberra landscape. They need to be signposted because they are hidden away in the middle of suburbs.’
Amy has been working with community associations, residents’ groups, artists and business groups to organise the event at an impressive 25 sites, stretching from Hall to Isabella Plains. In some cases the artists are putting together events at particular locations, in others the shops are the driving force for the event. ‘There are groupings of people who are interested in seeing great things happen in their suburb.’
The event will involve all types of art and creative expression, from choirs to jazz, indie bands to poetry, dance, burlesque and the visual arts, such as sculpture installations and pasted-up work. ‘There will even be circus performers at a couple of venues. Plus, the pedal powered cinema which was used at Corinbank will feature at the party at O’Connor, showing short films.’ There will be different themes for different shops. Capital Chemist staff will dress up in period costume for the day. The Front Gallery and Café at Lyneham will use the party to launch a week-long exhibition and the good people of the local IGA have allowed their long wall to be used for paste-up art. ‘This has been an exciting project to work on, with people coming up with really great ideas.’ The event centres on small suburban centres so bad luck to the Westfields, Hyperdome and Cooleman Court – you dip out!
Musicians have been selected on the basis that they come from the area near the party at which they will be playing. Examples of the line-up include the Brass Knuckle Brass Band in O’Connor, Pete Akhurst at Yarralumla, The Cashews at Scullin and Dubba Rukki may even suspend their retirement to appear. Poncho Circus will appear at Lyneham and the Warehouse Circus in Chifley.
Apart from circuses, the public needs its bread, so what about that all important party ingredient food, I hear you ask? The answer is: ‘It all depends on where your party is.’ The Yarralumla Residents’ Association is hosting a ‘long dinner’; punters pre-purchasing tickets can dine on a banquet catered by local restaurants – or you can bring a picnic and still enjoy the fun. The food available will differ markedly from centre to centre. ‘Watson is having a community banquet, where people are encouraged to bring something to share. Where they can, ingredients will be sourced from local home gardens in the area.’ In others, catering will come from local shops or community association barbeques. So what about alcohol (that other important party ingredient)? ‘Most of the parties will be BYO, but people should check the Centenary website and the Parties at the Shops Facebook page to check whether their local do is BYO or not.’
Most of the action is in March on Tuesday March 12, Friday March 15 and Saturday March 16 (although Manuka fashionistas will need to wait until October for their party as part of ‘Manuka Celebrates’). As these are mid-week business days, this leads to the assumption that it’s all happening in the evening. However, event timings vary between suburbs. ‘We’ve chosen the times based on the shops in each suburb. For example, at Waramanga, where most shops close by the evening, there will be a morning tea for the local retirement village residents. Dickson also hosts events during the day, while most of the others have events after school or in the evening.’ The festivities will generally occur in courtyards or open space areas, leaving car parks free for punters.
The idea is to revitalise local shops and meet your neighbours. ‘Scullin shops has suffered from recent store closures, but remaining businesses are excited about the thought of bringing people back.’ There will be less emphasis on stalls selling stuff and the usual not for profit info stands. It’s more about being proud of your community, showcasing local creative talent, connecting communities and celebrating the cool people and cool things in your suburb.
The Parties at the Shops event will provide free entertainment at a shopping centre near you soon. Times, dates and event details vary from suburb to suburb. Details can be found at the Centenary Calendar website and at canberra100.com.au/programs/parties-at-the-shops.