Monday 18 February 2008

The wee small hours

This Wednesday night, come out, come out, where ever you are. There's some noise going on, but it's not allowed to be more than 75db.

However that's all about to change, if a group calling itself PALM has anything to do with it.

Cairns might be one of the world's top tourist destinations, but in terms of live music and entertainment, we are lagging a long way behind our interstate and international rivals.

With the recent closures of Johno's, InBox Cafe, Tropos, Stumbling Goat, Trix, Met Bar, and the impending demise of the Cairns Yacht Club, Cairns night time entertainment scene has decreased dramatically.

Such changes in Cairns has prompted the establishment of PALM, a group of FNQ industry professionals that have joined together — People Advocating Live Music — in a concerted bid to revitalise the local entertainment scene.

Long time local muso Tony Hillier attributes some of the recent changes to our inner city landscape as putting pressure on the city venues and the entertainment scene.

"We're a tourist town and people want more than just the reef and the rainforest when they come here."

Last September CairnsBlog raised such concerns, and it was highlighted that the proliferation of residential tower blocks in the city is changing what is tolerated at night.

"It only takes one person to complain about a noise, and that can have an impact on the volume of the music," says Tony Hillier.
Residents and tenants of new high-rise inner city units, don't want live music “polluting” their $500,000+ apartments.
PALM is about a constructive and supportive way forward.

Designating a large area of the CBD — say from the Esplanade to Sheridan St — as an entertainment precinct (as has happened in Brisbane with Fortitude Valley) could be a solution; otherwise live music in the city could die out all together.

Already new apartment dwellers in the towering Harbour Lights, squashed between the Hilton and the Cairns Yacht Club, has been the source of many complaints. Music has to be very restrained at Mondo's, the Hilton, the Yacht Club, and cannot breach 75db if there is a complaint. "This is what anyone would only consider background music," says Hillier.

I also recounted how my native Wellington has embraced and welcomed the night scene, as the city evolved. Wellington always had a nocturnal life form of it's own, but as the population expanded, more and more wanted to reside close within the city's perimeter. This unleashed more problems as the new-found residents, which came to live close to the action, now, ironically, what peace and quiet.

Wellingtonians saw that light, and as a city and a Council, they ensured that the lively atmosphere of the famous Courtenay Place strip, would not be dictated to by a few new local residents. A fundamental change of shift was identifying and embracing the different daytime and night-time economies, and then providing support accordingly.

Building codes were introduced for sound-proof glazing and residents were made aware that the rights of the 210 night time venues, would not have a 11pm curfew. "You walk along Courtenay anytime during the night, and it's buzzing. It's alive," says Cairns resident Shane Horne who recently visited the capital city on New Zealand. "Here we are a major world tourist venue, yet there's a serious lack of night life."

With a City Council that sees closed circuit TV cameras as it's primary line of defence to protecting a city, there's a restrictive atmosphere that prevails for a city to come alive at night.

It is such changes to Cairns that have caused concern for PALM to form together.

PALM will have it's official launch at the Hilton’s Six Degrees Bar this Wednesday at 6pm.

The evening will feature an introduction from founder member Ray Elias, and speeches from the Member for Barron River Steve Wettenhall, a part-time musician himself, the Executive Officer of State-wide industry body Q-Music, Denise Foley, and Rose Pearse, Senior Projects Officer, Arts Qld, who are both jetting up from Brisbane to show their support for the importance of this new advocacy and lobby group.

The event on Wednesday evening will also feature live performances from two of the region’s finest talents. Teenager Emma-Louise, who won the Courier-Mail People's Choice Award at the Q Song Awards last year, and chanteuse Nikki Doll, who won the APRA Award in 2000 for the year’s most performed jazz work, will perform.

PALM aims to nurture a thriving music and entertainment industry throughout the FNQ region, and establish a culture of live music attendance in Cairns and environs.

It also plans to contribute to the professional development of music practitioners, assist live music venues to be viable and lobby to all levels of government and relevant industries on behalf of the FNQ entertainment industry.

Veteran Cairns entertainer Terry Doyle says PALM was sparked by the demise of several prominent music venues last year. “Where do you go these days to enjoy some good live music/entertainment in this city after 7pm on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night if you are a visitor?”

“Isn't every night Friday night when you’re on holidays,” he questioned, pointing out that when he was in the USA last year “he heard great live music coming from every nook and cranny”.

“We have world-class musicians living here; we have award-winning, globe-trotting indigenous dancers and musicians; we have some great young and not so young singer-songwriters and entertainers … and yet the tourists have very limited opportunities to enjoy our diverse talent.

"We need to wake up and do something about it before it is too late,” Says Terry Doyle.

PALM’s founder, Ray Elias says he’d love to see different segments of the community embrace his vision. "I believe that we are seriously missing out on culturally developing Cairns in a way that’s going to both enrich the place for locals and visitors."

“People who come to Cairns are going to get a whole lot more from their experience if at the end of the day, at the end of their Reef trip, they’re interacting with a diverse entertainment industry," says Elias.

If you’re interested in these issues and interested in contributing to a change, you're strongly encouraged to come along to the launch of PALM this Wednesday evening.

People Advocating Live Music:


Anonymous said...

Interesting to note that tourist numbers are down this summer, since all these venues closed. Reef and rainforest simply is not enough to attract tourists to a town that turns into a dead hole at night. Reef and rainforest can be seen at any number of other places in Asia, the Pacific, Queensland, PNG, etc, and many of those places have everything we have, plus an interesting culture, good food and an active night life.
Our music industry, nightlife and tourism industry are being killed off for the sake of the absentee unit-owner/investors doing the classic thing and buying into the CBD and immediately wanting to turn it into the kind of dead suburb they crawled out of.

Anonymous said...

One thing that I have noticed on my treks into town of a night time is that a lot of the restraunts in town arent as full as they used to be. I know we have just recovered from christmas and new year, and the kids had to go back to school, but, there seems to be an awefull lot of seats empty in the restraunts of late. Maybe this is another of the flow on affects of all the clubs closing down too.

Unknown said...

Last Yrs stats indicate numbers are down but visitor nights are up.... so less visitors are coming but staying (or hiding in motels?) longer....right....
So what happens if THOSE tourists decide to shorter as well because there's "not much to do at night"?

Also, just got the hard word on getting entertainment license by a new venue: "Because Cairns has no designated Entertainment precinct, owners like myself that want to host live music have to make timely and costly applications for variations to their current liquour license. It seems I need 2 variations made, which require the services of a qualified sound engineer to come out, do an inspection, test the proposed sound and it's impact on our nearest neighbours. This costs $1500 per report! This $3000 will enable me to play music at a level over & above 75db! "

With no guarentee of getting the license!!! No wonder venues don't even try and put plasma screens up instead.

PALM, with some community backing can put pressure on Government to change things. Especially if the tourism industry doesn't hid behind rubbery figures and actually talk to people!! Tourists are telling us: "Your lovely town is a big yawn"..... We can do better.

on behalf of PALM

Anonymous said...

A well-known muso had a great proposal for a live music venue at the Pier. It was knocked back by the Sydney-based Pier Marketplace management, who instead decided to put in "Cairns' largest and most luxurious Health Club".

The health club lasted less than six months before the owners bailed. Undaunted, the Pier management is putting another Health Club in its place.

The Pier is the ideal location for a live music venue. Too bad inexperienced blockheads have mostly destroyed what used to be a great place to visit.