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Great Blues Music ... but Murals Blues

Bowen's Pacific Gathering Leads to South West Australia

Bridgetown, South Western Australia, has been pondering the option to launch a murals programme for five years now. It has taken advices from both Bowen Queensland and Chemainus, BC.. So as a direct outcome of the Pacific Murals Gathering in Bowen in September 205, a trip to the town was planned. The catalyst for the plans had been Dawn Earl, the town’s Community Development Officer, so she was the intended first port of call. Alas she was away on sick leave but the City CEO’s Office in the person of Glen Norriss and Information Officer Eilen Kneale were ready and willing to tell the town’s story.

Timber & tin, farming & lithium

In common with all murals towns already in the Global Association, Bridgetown has its fascinating history, and the challenges of its agri-industrial rise and fall. The jarrah timber and excellent pasture and fruit growing lands were the initial attractions in the 19th century for the early European settlers. But boom time came when the local town surveyor found traces of tin. Neighbouring Greenbushes grew to ten times its size today and Bridgetown [originally Geegelup but renamed after both its important upstream bridge over the Blackwater River and the name of first clipper to dock at Bunbury at the river’s mouth] grew rapidly also.

Bridgetown Blues

The major arts event of the year is undoubtedly the Blues’ Festival, each in November. The town’s small population increases fourfold for the long weekend with enthusiasts from across the state and the Commonwealth at large. But a wealth of other activities take place frequently initiated by incomers from upstate since the 1980s. They include theatre and painting. The local Historical Society has helped create a heritage trail around the town that takes in the old local gaol and Court House. An occasional mosaic is to be seen on the pavement and in the shire offices there is an outstanding tapestry. A local store and the town’s Main Street drinks trash can are artworked, and the Tourism Office includes an extraordinary Jigsaw Museum.

Click on images throughout to enlarge

But of murals, only two to be seen; although a third is scheduled for the year end.

Involvement of local children

Both the major completed mural below on the town’s toilet block at Blackwood River Park, and the upcoming work, involve local children in their creation. The second earlier mural clearly did not. It was, as also shown below, painted on a shop wall as two additional windows, and one segment has already been covered over in blue.

Could the Global Association have done more to help, one must wonder?

Clearly Bridgetown is not a mural town [yet]. And it seems unlikely that it will be in the near future. The proposal seems to have been still born. The ability of good quality historical murals to create regular year round, sustainable tourism seems to have been overlooked. No matter how successful the Blues may be [and they are] they do not bring year round benefits to the town. Murals can and do achieve that for all members of the Global Association as demonstrated not least Sheffield, Bowen, Kurri Kurri in Australia.

Published Date: September 28th 2005

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