The Melbourne Arts Centre – climbing the spireSaturday, 20 February 2016
The Melbourne Arts Centre is just across the Yarra River from the centre of the city of Melbourne. It features a number of theatre and concert spaces, most of it subterranean. It’s a popular joke that Australia has the world’s best opera house – the outside in Sydney, the inside in Melbourne. The Sydney Opera House looks wonderful, from the outside, inside it doesn’t work so well. Unkind opera house critics will add ‘and the car park is in Adelaide.’ It is easy to park at the Adelaide Festival Centre.
I’m a regular at Arts Centre events, in this past week I was there on Tuesday to see (and hear) ‘powerful soul singer’ Vika Bull bring At Last – the Etta James Story to life in the Arts Centre Playhouse. She’s originally from Tonga.
The very next night I was back for Prince and his ‘Piano & a Microphone’ tour, performing in the Arts Centre State Theatre. He’s from Minneapolis.
◄ Yesterday, Friday, I was back for another Arts Centre performance, but this one totally unplanned, unticketed, illegal even. Around 330 am Hannah Patchett and Katherine Woskett, two young women in their 20s, sneaked in to the Arts Centre, evaded security staff and started to climb the Arts Centre Spire. When they got close to the top of the tower they unfurled a sign saying ‘Let Them Stay,’ referring to refugees in Australia whom the government wants to send back to the Nauru detention centre.
Nauru is Australia’s Guantánamo Bay, well away from public scrutiny and very difficult for journalists or media to determine what is going on.
Nauru is a near bankrupt failed state heavily dependent on Australia’s detention centre largesse. Operating a detention centre close to the equator and several hours flight from Northern Australia does not come cheap. I visited Nauru during my circuit of some of the world’s assorted dark countries for my book Dark Lands.
▲ Of course the police turned up in force, the Arts Centre was taped off like a crime scene and talk went on through the day about sending people up to bring them down. Eventually, after extended negotiations, they came down on their own and, nice surprise, no charges are being laid. Well it’s probably generated more column inches than most Arts Centre events and to my mind it was not only worth watching it was also a show with a serious message.
▲ The spire reaches 162 metres which makes it a bit more than half the height of the Eiffel Tower. This ‘tower height comparison’ sign is for visitors to Exmouth on the North-West Cape of Western Australia. Tower Zero is the communications tower built by the US Navy at the cape to keep in touch with their nuclear submarines. Maureen and I arrived in Australia at Exmouth, on a yacht out of Bali, back in 1972. We were back there last year when I took the tower sign photo. It was my second ‘swim with the whale sharks ‘visit to Exmouth.