VOTERS REQUIRED TO VOTE FOR TAIMUS – 5000 (give or take)
VOTERS COMMITTED TO VOTE FOR TAIMUS – 976 (give or take)
I know, I know, I said no political polemics – only about my experience as a candidate. And I have ideas too, that I want to write to you about. Whether one should bother having a campaign launch, particularly when you raised all your money pretty easily? The difference in volunteerism between the USA and Australia? I will write about them, and soon. Just not right now. I have no damn time, you see. A new job, a federal political campaign, my own political campaign, a 3000 word essay that I have to write for my graduate diploma, Tuggeranong businesses that need to be contacted, some new campaign literature that needs to be designed, a fabulous family that I like to spend time with, when there is only 24 hours in the day – some of which I like to sleep in.
So please accept my apologies and consider the following a little bit of a place-holder until I find an act I can get together and pump out a couple of tremendous posts. It’s a little idea Libby and I had that I think could work in Canberra. I wanted to get it published in a paper to “raise my profile” (which, let’s be frank, needs raising) but I ran out of time and effort, and this page needs an update.
Starting music at the stops
Imagine a warm, late December evening a few years in the future. In purpose-built performance niches the 2020s versions of the Doug Anthony All-Stars or a young, flame-haired flautist from ANU’s School of Music are lighting up Gungahlin, Dickson and Civic tram stations and electrifying the Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong bus interchanges.
That would make a difference to our city. It makes a difference in others already.
I discovered this a week before Christmas, when all through New York, everyone was stirring – even at 2.30am in the morning. It was busy; it was energised; it was amazing. But – embodying none of those qualities – my wife and I leant tiredly and emotional upon each other at Times Square-42nd Street subway station’s Platform One.
Time passed. Seconds? Minutes? Then a young man or woman (I couldn’t tell behind the sunglasses) a few platforms over picked up their saxophone and began to play. They played the melodies of classic songs, and recent songs becoming classics – and they played beautifully.
The music misted up the lines, feathering the platforms, while everyone in the station arranged themselves so they could watch and listen. At 2.30am at a public transport stop Libby and I, suddenly electrified, happily heard a concert. It was a moment that felt utterly unique and fabulous.
I don’t know if the musician made much money – I presume they did, but at the time it didn’t feel like that was the point. All I know is that it made the wait an experience. It was the sort of atmospheric, spontaneous moment New York City tapes into your memory for fun.
Over the next couple of days I delightedly discovered that busking in New York Subway stations is a thing…so much a thing in fact that professional performers go underground deliberately because the acoustics are so good.
Music Under New York is an official part of the Arts & Design program run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It schedules musical performances in the New York City Subway – giving particular visibility and promotion to over 350 groups and artists who participate. And it’s brilliant.
Over that week in New York we listened to performances from an amazing nine-piece jazz ensemble electrifying Jamaica Railway Station, watched a couple of young but precocious rappers at the South Wharf terminal, and stood still-shocked in Williamsburg by a guy playing a classical-Spanish mash-up on his acoustic guitar.
Could we bring that musical sizzle to Canberra? Should we make it easier for musicians and performers to play at the major public transport nodes? Could we encourage them to do so? From what I have seen and heard, I really think we should and could.
We should build dedicated performance niches at major public transport stops. We could design them with quality acoustics and protection from the winter winds to make it easier for creative talents to practice for them and perform for us.
This idea synchronises nicely with the principles outlined in the ACT Arts Policy 2015, particularly with regards to participation and community access to art. The ACT Labor Government is already taking a very progressive approach to public performance and buskers don’t need licences or permits to perform in public. One of the Government’s arts forums this year will be particularly focused on the music scene in Canberra, which I think will provide a good opportunity to discuss some of these ideas in greater detail.
With a bit of imagination, a bit of organisation, a bit of money and some stylish, modern and practical architecture, music might overflow our public spaces. Performers hone their craft and we build on our city’s development into a cool little capital.
Taimus Werner-Gibbings is one of ACT Labor’s candidates for Brindabella in the October 2016 election. His website is www.taimus.org.