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Arts & Culture

|Hayes & Cahill|Declan O'Rourke|Tony Curtis|The Wild Goose

Fenians, Fremantle and Freedom Festival

 As you wander through Fremantle in early January, make sure you listen carefully. You’ll hear the sweet sounds of one of Ireland’s greatest fiddlers, Martin Hayes and the echo back from his musical confidante, American guitarist Dennis Cahill as they capture the essence of traditional Irish music in a contemporary rhythm to uplift your spirits. Focus again and you’ll pick up the enchanting, rich melodious voice of gifted, Irish singer and songwriter Declan O’Rourke. If you know something about the hidden treasure spots of the West End, you might uncover the textured language of one of Ireland’s best loved poets, Tony Curtis. 

There’s clearly something significant happening in Fremantle, to draw such fabulous Irish talent here. Indeed, there is! It’s a ten-day Irish cultural immersion, the first of its kind, called Fenians, Fremantle & Freedom Festival, commemorating a journey made 150 years ago by 62 Irish political prisoners – the Fenians.

The Fenians were young men, between 19 and 30, who grew up in Ireland in a time of starvation, death and forced evictions - the years of the great famine. Having exhausted all attempts to gain self-government through political means, they decided to fight for independence and they staged a rising. Their plot was uncovered, they were arrested, sentenced for treason, exiled from their homeland and transported to Western Australia. 

After spending months in solitary confinement, it was a bitter-sweet relief when they boarded the very last convict ship to Australia, the Hougoumont, where they shared stories, organised concerts, wrote a newspaper called the Wild Goose, and looked out for each other. You might recognise the name Hougoumont, it’s that funky hotel in Bannister Street.

There’s clearly something significant happening in Fremantle, to draw such fabulous Irish talent here. Indeed, there is! It’s a ten-day Irish cultural immersion, the first of its kind, called Fenians, Fremantle & Freedom Festival...

They also dreamed of escape. The most famous of the Fenians, John Boyle O’Reilly did escape a year later, on an American whaler. He became the editor of a Boston newspaper and together with supporters in the US and Ireland, organised a crowd funding venture to purchase a whaler, the Catalpa, and rescue his mates from the bottom of the world, out of Fremantle Prison.

It’s a big story and there’s a big festival to commemorate and celebrate it. As well as the concerts, there’ll be a family day at the Maritime Museum, art exhibitions, Irish film, literature workshops, remarkable stories and of course, the Guinness …plenty of it on tap at the Festival Gardens and Kelp Bar at Kidogo Arthouse.

But you won’t be sitting still, there’s music to get your feet tapping and a traditional Irish ceili dance with an Indian Ocean sunset as the backdrop.

After 10 days of celebration and commemoration, you’ll have to get in quick to book a table at the primal food extravaganza and street party, the Feast of the Wild Goose, sponsored by Fremantle BID and supported by the Hougoumont Hotel and the Bannister St traders.

This 150 year old story of valuing your culture and looking after your friends is the one we still strive for here in Fremantle.

Fenians, Fremantle and Freedom Festival | 5-14 January 2018

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|Dame Dorothy Tangney, Vhils|East West Design, Graeme Richards

Freo's Street Artwork

You’ll notice Freo’s urban art as soon as you arrive in the city. Artwork adorns the sides of buildings, pubs, malls and unexpected places. The phenomena started in the 80’s when Western Australia’s first major community wall mural, Greenpiece was commissioned by PRAXIS, an artist collective based in Pakenham Street. The space hosted artist studios, exhibitions and performances and was one of Fremantle’s earliest warehouse conversions. It was around this time that local artists were creating colourful chalk paintings on walls of Fremantle’s cafés. International artists were also moving to Fremantle and new movements such as the Australian Centre for Concrete Art (AC4CA)…
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Yam Dreaming by Lorna Fencer at Japingka Gallery|Art classes at Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre|Art classes at Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre|Sean Choolburra|Aerial view of Arthur Head Reserve

Connecting to culture

'Kaya, wanju' (hello, welcome)…a Nyoongar greeting to celebrate NAIDOC Week with its theme this year of ‘our languages matter’. NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee and every July, communities around Australia organise events and activities to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So 'alliwah' (look out) for NAIDOC Week celebrations in Fremantle from 2– 9 July.

We’ve collected a few more ideas to connect with culture in Walyalup (Fremantle) throughout the seasons of Makuru (June/July) and Djilba (August/September):

Language classes

There is no better way to understand a culture than to learn the language. Nyoongar is the language spoken by people of the Walyalup area and is one of many Australian Aboriginal languages that is endangered. The Meeting Place in South Fremantle runs regular beginner classes.

Manjaree walking trail | Arthur Head Reserve (free)

'Kya Wanju Nichia Nyoongar wardan bidi, winjalla gnulla kaatidj bal gwabbanijow.' This is the Nyoongar coastal trail, where our knowledge is put right.

A self guided walking trail is part of the Nyoongar coastal trail which stretches across Western Australia. The Manjarree walking trail consists of five information points describing Aboriginal history of the area.

Fremantle Indigenous Heritage Tour

Take a journey to the time of the Wadjuk, the traditional custodians of Fremantle, Perth and the Swan River. Hear the ancient Dreamtime story of the Nyoongar people, follow the story of Yagan (Wadjuk Warrior) and Midgegooroo (Wadjuk Elder of the Beeliar people).

Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre (WACC) (free)

The WACC is located on a significant traditional camping and trading place as well as in the area where Captain Fremantle arrived and settlement began in 1829 and where Whadjuk Nyoongars shouted "Warra Warra" (bad, bad!) to European arrival. The centre exhibits local Nyoongar artist’s work and offers programs and classes run by Aboriginal people.

Weaving workshop

Be inspired by traditional culture to create your own artwork, learn traditional Nyoongar weaving using different natural fibres or make your own jewellery using bush nuts. Art classes run at Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre each term.

Events coming up

King of Hearts | 17 Jun–2 July, Moore’s Building Contemporary Art Gallery (free)

Kings of the Hearts is the first solo exhibition by proud Ballardong Noongar artist Greg Barr. Having recently completed a residency at FAC, Barr has developed a unique blending technique using acrylics, resin, pastels, watercolours and oil crayons to create abstract and emotive works.

Yinjaa–Barni Artists 2017 | Japingka Gallery | 26 May–30 June (free)

Yinjaa-Barni artists from the Pilbara region of Western Australia tell the traditional stories of their homelands along the Fortescue River. Their paintings tell of the great Marrga or creation era when the land was formed from the smoke of the ancestor’s fires. Also worth seeing is Warakuna Artists & Lorna Fencer running from 21 July–31 August.

NAIDOC Week Launch 2 July | Hilton PCYC (free)

Family friendly launch, filled with music, fashion, food and a special damper cook off. A Fashion Showcase produced by the Noongar Arts Aboriginal Corporation Western Australia will be held with a catwalk show of their most recent collection.

NAIDOC Week word search 2–9 July (free)

By the time you’ve completed this word search you’ll know all the Nyoongar seasons plus some basic greetings. Bonus is the chance to win one of 5 double passes to Winterworld on the Esplanade Reserve.

Sean Choolburra–live in the heart of Hilton | 7 July

A friendly evening of high energy comedy and dance from one of Australia’s funniest comedians, Sean Choolburra performs at Fremantle PCYC. Bookings essential, tickets $10.

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2016 #MyFreoStory winner - Shakeys Story by Oliver Oldroyd and Stevie James Smith|Started Growing On Me by Rhys Jones|The Backpacker's Story by Greg Stocks|Me and Freo by B Bodikorn|Weaving my Freo Space by Fiona Gavino - Myrto Angelouli - Elliot Welsford

#MyFreoStory is your Freo story

We all have a Freo story. From the locals raised in the port city, to the live music lovers or Sunday brunch devotees on the strip, locals and visitors alike have a story to share about Freo. And so #MyFreoStory video competition was born.

In early 2016, the #MyFreoStory competition was launched to encourage people to tell their own Freo story, with 40 very unique and heartfelt videos submitted. This included a day in the life of local Freo dog, following a unicyclist’s journey around town to the home of WA Circus, watching a time-lapse artist weave a large red basket around themselves in prominent Fremantle landmarks and Freo-inspired sea shanty “Fremantle, The Pride of WA”. 

Blogtemplate doublecaption 660px March2017

After much deliberation, 9 entries were shortlisted to determine the overall winner, Shakey’s Story. The first #MyFreoStory winning entry by Oliver Oldroyd and Stevie James Smith depicted the moving true story of a local artist and his strong connection to the Freo art scene and local music legend Bon Scott.

We asked the producer Oliver Oldroyd what motivated him and his cousin to enter “We love living here in Freo. There's such a good creative vibe and it's great to be part of it. We love making films and it was also important for us to get Shakey’s name out there and get him recognised for the talented artist he is.”

Another entry by a 16 year old student from Perth Modern School, Radheya Jegatheva was “My Journey Through Freo”, voted on the as the best film in our people’s choice category. This young film maker gave us a view of all the things he loves in Freo by filming on his mum’s iPhone.

We asked Radheya what motivated him to enter “A bit of everything to be honest, but one of the main messages that I wanted to convey through my video was that Freo is a city that can cater for all sorts of people of all ages - and that there was so much to do and so much to see.”

After viewing all of last year’s great films we couldn’t get enough, so in late March we launched the second 2017 #MyFreoStory video competition and are waiting in anticipation for the new stories.

If you want to check out last year’s films or submit your own #MyFreoStory video visit Competition closes 22 May 2017.

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Related image for Gosia Wlodarczak | A Room Without a View

Gosia Wlodarczak | A Room Without a View

Gosia Wlodarczak is a world-renowned artist whose practice centres on what she calls transdisciplinary drawing–adding elements of performance, interaction, sound, photography and moving images to her drawings.

Wlodarczak is currently 21 days into an endurance drawing performance A Room Without A View (Extended) at Fremantle Arts Centre. Alone in the gallery from 9 am until 5 pm every day, she is pushing herself both physically and mentally as she draws directly onto the walls of the gallery.

With limited sensory input and drawing only what she can see, never from her imagination, Wlodarczak says the end product is like living inside her work.

You can view her progress at Fremantle Arts Centre or online via the live stream every day between 10 and 11 am (weekdays only). The finished work will be open to the public when she finishes her performance at 4 pm, Sunday 16 October.


The exhibition will remain open until Saturday 12 November. Entry is free.

Exhibition opening 4–6 pm Sunday 16 October
Exhibition runs Monday 17 October – Saturday 12 November


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Artist Open House Fremantle 2015 in full swing|First stop on AOHF 2015 - Image Sharon Morris|Inside gorgeous homes in South Fremantle (AOHF 2015) - Image Sharon Morris|AOHF 2015 - Image Jody D'Arcy|AOHF 20115 - styled and ready for viewing - Image Jody D'Arcy

Experience Artist Open House Fremantle

Artist Open House Fremantle (AOHF) is an annual Fremantle event that connects people who are interested in art (and perhaps looking to buy artwork) directly with artists. It’s a lively and inspiring short walking trail starting at Ginger Morris on South Terrace finishing in King William Street–just down from The Local Hotel. Along the way you’ll meander through quirky streets and visit lovely private homes in South Fremantle that have opened their doors for the weekend 11-13 November.On show are quality, professionally hung artworks from 24 local and interstate artists including Theo Koning, Tony Jones, Becky Blair and Alessandra Rossi.…
Fremantle story
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Rainbow by Marcus Canning|Beach Reserve Fremantle|Pouring the footings for Rainbow|Dion Clifford from True Blue Containers and artist Marcus Canning|Checking the construction on the inside of the container|First coat for Rainbow|The final piece goes in

Rainbow project

Marcus Canning’s ‘Rainbow’ (#containbow) was installed between the bridges at Beach Reserve overlooking the Fremantle port on Friday 12 August as the newest and largest commission for the City of Fremantle Public Art Collection.

Fremantle story were on site from sunrise on the day to run a live stream of the install that had hundreds of people logging in to watch from all over world on the day. The crew also captured the entire install using multiple cameras and you can see the spectacular results on Fremantle story YouTube channel. The video is set to the sounds of Canning’s favourite Perth band, Fait and features not only drone, but also crane cam, footage captured from the very top of the biggest crane used on the day.

Canning’s monumental sculpture is constructed from nine customised and coloured sea containers that form the shape of a giant rainbow. Designed to be an instant icon, ‘Rainbow’ has already garnered interest far and wide.

This was not a standard public art install, but a carefully choreographed industrial spectacle that ran over an intense twelve hours. Starting in the early hours of the morning as the sun rose over the scenic Swan River, the sea containers arrived two by two by truck and were lifted onto the reserve awaiting placement in the arch.

The growing crowds were mesmerised over the day as they watched Simon MacFarlane, the boss man at Wanneroo Cranes choreograph each of the three crane operators lifting containers into place with the command of a symphony orchestra’s conductor. The team operated under the watchful eye of Canning, seen at times with his newborn son on his hip. He was joined by other fathers and sons who worked on the project–structural engineers Brian and Oliver Nelson of Capital House and Colin and Geoff Clince of Clince Contracting who completed all the foundation works. Dion Clifford from True Blue Containers and Peter Camarri from CME Boilermakers also arrived with their families and colleagues to see their hard work finally come to fruition.

Canning’s artwork now welcomes visitors to Fremantle whether they’re arriving by train, car or boat. It overlooks the Swan River as well as the container port from which it draws part of its inspiration as a universal symbol of hope and acknowledgement of Fremantle’s artistic as well as maritime heritage. Conceived, engineered and produced in Western Australia, the sculpture stands as a monumental testament to what successful and innovative collaborations between local arts and construction industries can produce.

‘Rainbow’ has already become a Fremantle reference point and meeting place for the community with hundreds flocking to the site over its first weekend to enjoy the new entry statement and get their photos taken with the work. These photos have been generating interest on social media and include a wedding party, children dressed as fairies, an MC crew with their bikes all lined up underneath it, a man dressed as a knight and a portrait of Tame Impala frontman Kev Parker in front of ‘Rainbow’ that's already received over 68,000 likes on Instagram!

Canning says “Nothing like this had ever been attempted and it was the hard work, skills and passion of some brilliant local companies and contractors that brought the vision to reality. Rainbow’s head engineer Brian Nelson refers to the structural form as being weirdly simple and the sculpture itself as being simply weird. That’s a pretty good one liner to describe a lot of great art–weirdly simple and simply weird.”

“I grew up in Freo, it’s a place that’s dear to my heart, it’s an honour to have been given this opportunity and I hope that I’ve done Freo proud. Now it’s finally up and people are debating its symbolic meanings, the engineering behind it, the things that a rainbow made from shipping containers makes them think and feel and talk about and celebrate, seeing all the smiles and laughter and rubber necking and what an instant hit its been on the internets, I’m really excited by how much this work will continue to resonate with locals and attract visitors to Freo for years to come.” said Canning.

The design was selected by open tender from 28 applications received by the City. The selection panel for this major commission was made up of public art professionals, historians and art experts from the City of Fremantle Public Art Advisory Group and staff.

Pop down and see it for yourself at Beach Reserve, there’s plenty of parking at the East Street Jetty car park on Beach Street. It’s a short walk up the ramp behind the café. If you post your own ‘Rainbow’ photo to social media, remember to use #freorainbow and #containbow!

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