Perth is on the rise, yes? Modernising, improving, futurising. Just look at Elizabeth Quay, with that loopy sculpture that has suddenly photobombed every selfie on Instagram. Refurbished airport terminals, chic sports stadiums… that’s all very nice - but what about the arts?
The arts contribute in its own quiet way. A good example is the annual Fringe World Festival, now at its end for 2017. Despite being WA’s largest festival, you won’t know about it unless you know about it. Its showcase varies from children’s events to raunchy cabaret numbers, and is essentially one massive hipster magnet that also happens to be very effective at emptying wallets, and you know what that means – lots of economic movement!
Just how effective can an arts festival be at bolstering the economy? Turns out, very. The complementary Fringe report shows quite colourfully that the 2016 festival attracted more than 3,300 artists, who in turn pulled in nearly 990,000 attendees. Not considering those who went more than once, that’s almost half the population of Perth and 300,000 more than 2015. A total of $98 million moved within the economy during those two months; a whopping amount for a festival that receives very little marketing.
All this attention ties in very nicely with the fact that Perth is fast becoming a major national player, culturally, social and economically. Reports from Urbis demonstrate Western Australia’s monopoly over exports, economic growth, foreign trade and, interestingly, a prime timezone that includes financial superpowers like India, Singapore and China, making communication and business propositions between them seamlessly convenient.
As a result, we’ve seen two new hospitals arise in the past five years; Elizabeth Quay redesigned and rebranded; a complete overhaul of Tonkin highway and its congested route to a re-polished international airport; and a hub of sports and entertainment in Perth Arena. Now there are plans to take this redevelopment further, with a massive creative framework designed to highlight WA’s aboriginal heritage, celebrate the region’s foreign cultures, and pump even more money into the local arts by 2030.
Fringe reported that 98% of people who endorsed the festival last year will commit to doing so again in 2017. If this is a portent of exponential growth, and if Perth can indeed achieve a creatively liberal and artistic society while advancing its economic standing in the region, juggernauts like Sydney and Melbourne will find investing in the west coast to be a very enticing prospect, one that will only sharpen Perth’s dynamic personality.