Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dear Adelaide

Dear Adelaide,

You know nobody loves you more than your Auntie Pav. But I tell you what.

It doesn't matter that you have a local ABC radio station: if some of the people on it are insufferable self-identified big frogs in a little puddle, then that's just not quality radio.

It doesn't matter how many brilliantly gifted local artists and musicians you have: they can't sustain their work, much less develop it, if you keep cutting the arts funding, which undermines infrastructures and destabilises long-term planning.

It doesn't matter how many great festivals and events you hold: if you have no faith at all in the homegrown talent, then that sends a really terrible message to anyone who might be thinking about coming here for them. If we think so little of ourselves, why should anyone else be bothered?

And it doesn't matter how many funky little red, white and chrome cafes and sushi bars and baguette joints you cram into the CBD: as long as you start closing them and everything else up around 3.30 pm*, you'll never be more than a small provincial city. Really you won't.

Lots of love,
Pav xxx

PS: as with ethnic jokes and blonde jokes, the only people who are allowed to diss Adelaide are those who live here. Any comment deemed unacceptable will be removed.

*This is not an exaggeration


Island View said...

As someone who ran way from the town many years ago (and as soon as I was old enough), and who sees no change whenever I return, I can only agree.

Tim said...

That last point is really telling. Nothing used to bug me more, and the word that always came to mind was 'provincial'.

Nonetheless, I also used to find that the locals I would raise such matters with were split over whether being provincial was a good thing or a bad thing. That is, there was real division amongst them as to whether it was desirable to encourage Adelaide into a being grown-up, non-provincial city, or keep it 'our little secret'.

Of course, the net result of the very existence of such an argument is that nothing changes.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Plenty changes, actually, not least the roads and traffic conditions which are under steady improvement, and the food-and-drink scene which has been good since the late days of Dunstan. But the things I've described certainly endure. The shutting the city down in mid-afternoon thing is more noticeable partly because there are more places to shut down and partly because 5.30 closing used to mean you were welcome in cafes and shops till 5.30 and now it means they start stacking chairs and glaring at you at 4.45. If you want a lively place to hang out you need to go out to Norwood or down to Glenelg, where Jetty Road always seems to be full of life.

Island View, I've been to Townsville and I'm not sure that running away from Adelaide to go to Townsville is necessarily an improvement in the provinciality stakes, though I agree the views are better.

tracy said...

ABC radio thing...well, as you know I've been shouting at my radio all week. The gentlemen of the morning are growing particularly awful. imho

The arts thing I think is quite serious on a great many levels, and the festival culture, when nurtured to the detriment of other things, is damaging to the local arts scene and makes life pretty bloody difficult for local artists. Not that any would say don't have a festival, only that a local arts culture needs more than festivals. This is one of my very great frustrations with Mike Rann actually. (I know I'm just repeating what you said, but can't stop myself. Sorry)

Could bang on for hours...

Anonymous said...

Is provincial a descriptor or a perjorative?

Calvino and Levi were both provincial writers, Elgar a provincial composer. These examples come quickly to mind: no doubt there are many others.

Some argue that it can be easier to lead a productive creative life in the provinces than amongst the noise, the inconveniences and the distractions of large cities.

My view is that Adelaide should acknowledge and embrace the fact that it is a provincial city: it is pointless pretending otherwise.

IMO the key issue is to ensure that people engaged in creative endeavours can exploit Adelaide's advantages. Though I'm at a total loss when it comes to thinking about how opportunity might be created: there's something about the ethos and the unspoken social conventions here that makes things soooo difficult.

TFA apologises for length.

Anonymous said...

Um....when's that book coming out?

Red Horse said...

Spent a week in Adelaide for work last year and had no trouble finding any number of wonderful, seemingly thriving, eating places every evening in, I think, Gouger St?
We were spoilt for choice and the food quality was excellent. (I've spent most of my life in Melbourne, so I know a little about being spoilt for choice when it comes to eating).
Walked to and from my accommodation and felt very safe, too.
I do love provincial cities and towns but, admittedly as a visitor, Adelaide didn't feel provincial to me.

NotZed said...

I think you just hit the short lull between lunch and dinner. Many places aren't open during that time because there aren't enough customers or it gives them a chance to clean up and change shifts, and they usually re-start about 5. But some are open during that time too so maybe you were just unlucky. When I have previously been out that long for 'lunch', i'd usually find myself at an always-nearby pub by then anyway ...

Its the closing around 10 on a friday/saturday night that really makes it provincial as far as restaurants go; but really, eating places is one thing Adelaide has in absolute spades so it seems odd to pick that out. (It's WA better than Perth at any rate ...)

I can't really comment on the arts, but it seems it's the same as the bike race - lots of energy put into it when the visitors are here, but otherwise cycling is treated like a cancer.

Kathleen said...

Anonymous: Turin is provincial?! Ouch.

Bernice said...

So... I'm blonde. Does that mean I can comment?

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Hmm, I seem not to have made myself very clear on several fronts. Yes, Adelaide is indeed a wonderful place for eating out. I was talking specifically about the fact that so many places, mainly cafes and shops, start shutting down in mid-afternoon, which is a different thing from the quality of restaurants, bars and nightlife. Red Horse, Gouger St is indeed a particularly excellent place to eat out.

'Provincial' is meant here more as a descriptor than as pejorative, my point being more that many people do complain about it without changing their own attitudes. Adelaide in its earliest days was proud to call itself a province (not a colony) of England. Not sure what it's a province of now, probably Canberra, which of course in itself has issues of this kind. And many more ancient and sophisticated places are bigger on shutting down at strange times, as in Spain where everyone shuts down for siesta and then gets cracking again in mid-afternoon, or in Austria where everything shuts at noon on a Saturday and doesn't open again till Monday or Tuesday. Every place has its own little ways.

TFA, on the creativity issue -- it used to be that almost everyone who wanted to be any kind of artist packed up and went to Melbourne or Sydney, if not London or New York, but that is changing, I think. Couldn't agree more about the social constraints and attitudes though. Have you looked at a copy of SA Life lately? They think 'social pages' means reporting on the private-school formals.

occasional reader said...

I'm looking forward to the Adelaide book. I have a feeling it'll be a real treat.

I've never been to Adelaide, but if I visit, I'd love to see Barbara Hanrahan's prints.

I'm fascinated by the 'province' tag, from a historical and cultural perspective.

I was dipping into Mrs Favell Lee Mortimer's The Clumsiest People in Europe, reissued in 2005, first published between 1849 and 1854, who, from the cultural safety of her English home wrote travel books for children. Her 'impressions' of Adelaide are much more favourable than those of Sydney ('a very wicked city', in her view):

'It is much better to live here than in Sydney, because convicts were never sent here. Numbers of honest poor people are leaving England and Ireland every year to go to Adelaide.

But there is one great evil both in Sydney and in Adelaide, which is the dust blown from the desert, and which almost chokes the inhabitants.'

furious balancing said...

oh gawd. you know what is worse than things shutting down in the arvo..? Cafes that stay open and if you dare to walk through their doors seeking sustenance you are glared at and told in a surly voice, "the kitchen is CLOSED, we can do you a coffee but that's it!".

I agree with Tracy about the ABC breakfast show, I have turned it off in annoyance many times lately. I also agree that the festivals may result in a neglect of the art more generally.

One of my favourite arts experiences in the last year was a bunch of upright pianos places around the city [north terrace and gouger st] with "play me, I'm yours" written on the side. To watch the different ways people sat down to play was wonderful...and there is some amazing talent wandering around our city. I thought the pianos might have been a permanent feature but they soon disappeared. I learnt they were there for the 'come out' festival.

penelope said...

I feel a certain envy when I think of Adelaide. All those poetry publishers, and you now have Ginninderra Press too, formerly of Canberra, from where I am writing.

As you say, Kerryn, Canberra has 'issues' about finding a place to eat late at night, although it is improving in this regard, but not having a single dedicated poetry publisher seems to me a greater lack. On the other hand, there are many fine writers living here, and the ACT government is quite supportive of the arts.

It seems particularly funny that a national capital can also be culturally provincial. I wonder if this is because Canberra was a specially created capital, rather than evolving organically?

Sorry if this takes things too far away from a focus on Adelaide.

Peterh said...

Speaking as someone who hasn't been able to go back for a long time, I miss semaphore, westlakes, glenelg, Kangaroo island, and every little boutique winery on the road to victor harbor. I miss the arndale shopping centre, the adelaide museum and popeye.

I miss a lot of sights, sounds, places and experiences.

I miss my family, my cousins, my mother, my grandmother, my uncles and aunts, and I wish my father had never decided to see the rest of Australia, before settling in canberra, after a stint in the armed forces.

I am a south aussie, born and bred, I miss fritz, mettwurst and please, devon will never, ever do as a replacement. If it isn't in a skin, it just isn't the same. I miss seeing the eagle on the hill, visiting my cousin near crafers, driving down to the beach.

Adelaide still holds the same wonder for me that it did when I was a child. the brewery display wasn't as popular as now, the bus on tracks wasn't around, and it just felt like it was home, every time I was there.

If you live in Adelaide, I envy you. If you are from Adelaide, but live in another city or town, I know how you feel.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I think you need to come home.