It’s been fascinating to hear the conversations arising from the City of Launceston’s community consultation on the draft Cultural Strategy.
I have been a long-time advocate for the development of a specific cultural strategy in Northern Tasmania to better understand our strengths and weaknesses and to help guide us into a more vibrant future.
Earlier this year, the council prepared a draft Cultural Strategy, and we’ve recently been seeking community feedback about it. With submissions having closed this week, I’ve been reflecting on what an interesting, long and insightful process it’s been.
The development of a Cultural Strategy for Launceston is something I think all Northern Tasmanians should take an interest in, because I believe there are many future opportunities we can realise for our community in this space.
When we hear the word culture, it’s tempting to think about built facilities like museums and theatres. And indeed, Launceston is fortunate in this regard to have amazing cultural institutions like the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Design Tasmania and the Princess Theatre. Enjoyed by not only residents of Launceston but from across the north (and that economic inequality is for another day).
But what I’ve learned is that culture is much broader than this. It’s about who we are as a community, our shared values and memories, our hopes and disappointments. Our culture is embedded in the proud histories of our local sports clubs. It’s in who they name their medals after.
Our culture can be found in our Saturday morning Harvest Market, at our community events, on a trip through City Park aboard the train or at the Cataract Gorge. It’s the sense of community and resilience you’ll find in our Northern suburbs, the pride in our local schools, the deep history of the First Tasmanians.
Culture is a bond between us all. When you look back at the history of our city, Launceston’s strong community bonds and support for the arts have always been at the forefront.
This month marks the 109th anniversary of the official opening of Launceston’s Princess Theatre, one of the city’s greatest built cultural assets – and my favourite. Given the global circumstances – it’s poignant to read The Examiner’s report of the event on August 30, 1911.
“Every portion of the Theatre was full,” the paper reported.
“Outside the Theatre was a blaze of light, four powerful flame arcs spreading a profusion of illumination and displaying to advantage the splendid portions of the building. The street was lined with curious folk watching people flock into the building and altogether it was a bright and animated scene. The audience was unmistakably impressed and delighted with the capacity and beauty of the theatre.
“It was not the occasion, the mayor said, for anything in the shape of a lengthy speech but he wished to express the pleasure it afforded him to declare the Theatre open, and he would be wanting in what was due to [the theatre’s developer] Mr Marino Lucas were he not to shortly express on behalf of the citizens, appreciation of his indomitable pluck in placing such a glorious building at their disposal.”
Over a century later, the Princess Theatre remains one of the most recognisable cultural assets Launceston has, enjoyed not only by residents of Launceston, but from across Tasmania. Built facilities like this are emblematic of the value and importance we collectively place on culture but they are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Beneath the surface, Launceston’s culture runs deep. How leverage cultural opportunities in Northern Tasmania to ensure we grow into a dynamic and creative future is what this strategy is all about.
However, the draft Strategy we’ve developed is only the first step in what will be a long journey; it aims to set the parameters around what we value and who we want to be and it is clear that there are some things missing from the draft and needing to be changed.
Future stages of this project will require concrete goals and the development of specific implementation plans. In the near term, we’ll begin work on reviewing the feedback that has been provided and the conversations that have been held to help us hone the strategy further.
To everyone that has taken part so far, I want to say a sincere ‘thank you’, and I hope that – like me – you’re looking forward to the next stages of this important project.
- Danny Gibson, City of Launceston deputy mayor and advocate for the arts scene.
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