On tourism, street art, and Melbourne

Well, this topic certainly deserves a long post, which sadly I don’t have time to write at present. More later, I think. But I did want to note the latest instalment in the continuing saga of the State Government’s conflicted attitude to street art and graffiti in Melbourne.

On Monday, I noticed a story in The Age (our local broadsheet newspaper, for any non-local readers) which reported on how a recreation of Melbourne is the centrepiece of a food and wine festival at Disney World in Florida. Laneways painted with street art and graffiti are the location for small cafes serving different kinds of food – so far, so Melbourne, right? Well, today (Tuesday) a friend (thanks, Esther!) sent me a message with a link to a story in the Herald Sun, which is all hot under the collar about this, on behalf of Tim Holding, the Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events, who has apparently criticised his department for allowing Melbourne to be associated with graffiti: ‘graffiti is not the way we want Melbourne to be promoted to a global audience’, he says.

Tourism Victoria is, sadly, admitting that it has made ‘a mistake’ in allowing the graffiti panels to be included. I say ‘sadly’ because, for one thing, I would have preferred Tourism Victoria at least to have been consistent in its expressed views, given that it features street art in much of its promotional material. And for another thing, I would like the State Government to actually consider what it objects to about the association between Melbourne and street art. It seems so short-sighted and blinkered: street art in London has brought large amounts of money into previously cash-strapped areas like the East End and Shoreditch over the last 8-10 years. If the State Government here could at least participate in a discussion about the cultural value of street art and graffiti, it might not need to engage in such self-righteous huffing and puffing about a food and wine festival. Makes me wonder if Minister Holding has ever wandered around the laneways of Melbourne – spending time on such a pursuit might show him that, for many, food, wine and street art combine very nicely in this city of ours.

If you would like to read the Herald Sun story, it’s here.

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