I recently wrote and published an article for the Community Voice. It received close to 200 responses, all of them positive, so I decided to share it around a wider circle by writing it into my first Wombat Post column for the year. And here it is.
“Why is it that when I walk in Vincent street, especially around the time of dusk, a feeling of depression comes over me.
How is it possible that in a town set in an environment of such natural beauty there exists a main street which is so depressing. It is as if this street has no soul. In addition, in a forest with such intense beauty, the town’s main Vincent street presents itself without a drink fountain, without a tree, without comfortable street furniture. Without anything that even comes close to the exquisiteness of its environment.
Then, as if for a nasty Christmas surprise, the latest addition, rows of red plastic obstructions appeared, the whys and wherefores a total mystery to me and many others. Oh, I understand it is supposed to be a creative answer to that virus thing and probably to promote social distancing. But as far as I can see this isn’t going to work with these hellish objects, which to me feel more like a bad social design project
Who, I ask, comes up with this kind of ugliness? Who designs this visual degradation of a street which hasn’t got much going for it, in terms of a friendly atmosphere, in the first place? Is this maybe the brief: ‘So let’s make it really ugly’? You would hardly believe that this is a town of so many creative spirits.
Why don’t we instead do something daring and close the street off for the weekend. Allow the cafes to have social distancing table settings in the centre of the street. Invite buskers to make music. At least create something attractive into the street scape.
THIS WOULD WORK.
And here I hear a chorus of objections from the shop owners about parking, when it is no problem since this is what most visitors do – walk up and down along the street. You may even meet someone interesting.
Watch the town come alive, and make it a very special place to visit instead of that appalling red plastic line next to the footpaths which, due to the deep gutters, makes it difficult for people to take a relaxed stroll.
If you don’t take any risk, nothing of note will ever happen. If you do not occasionally knock on the door of challenge, there will never be any ecstasy in your life. If you never dare, you will be doomed to boredom.”
In the meantime the red plastic decorations, which cannot have been too successful, have already been removed.
I note also that, in the past, Jimmy Frangos has shown the Council, and the Vincent Street shop keepers how it could be done by creating the only fabulous shop front in the street for his building. It shows innovations, creativity and, as a result and in addition, has created an inspiring example. The roses, which were in full bloom when I walked past recently, create a wonderful entrance into the town, which, down the street, soon peters out into ordinariness. Then when the creative branch of the council came up with the red plastic snake along the footpath, the front of Jimmy Frangos’s place showed, and shows, how it can be done with the wooden flower boxes and the friendly seating arrangements which have taken advantage of the situation and turned a negative situation into a positive one.
It is possible.
Petrus Spronk is a local artist and writes a monthly column for the Wombat Post.