Or “The Importance of Paying for It”
Today’s prompt it to write about an event that is about to be taken over by an evil corporate, or shut down. Please note that the opening scenario is completely hypothetical – don’t panic!
Avid followers of this blog will be aware that I’m in love with the Astor Theatre. It is beautiful, unique, and full of love for cinema and for nostalgic art forms like actual printed film. So when I heard that they were signing a merger with one of the big cinema chains, my heart broke.
My heart broke, not just because the Astor as I know it would be gone, but because of the fact that an amazing, independent business was not able to support itself. In a culture that seems to be obsessed with being ‘anti-corporate’ and supporting the local up-and-coming businesses, in a city were artisan and craft markets are flourishing and where everything is about mason jars and mismatched antique crockery, one business that is actually providing something culturally valuable just can’t survive.
I mean what the fuck people? We can all sit in our armchairs and talk about supporting local businesses, but how many of us actually do it? When was the last time you went to a farmers market instead of Coles or Wollies? When was the last time you visited your local library? Or bought a book from an actual bookshop instead of from Amazon? How often do you buy products owned by Coca-Cola Amatil? Or Unilever? Or supermarket ownbrands that try to undercut anything new? It’s so easy to go through life not thinking about the choices you make and how they shape our world.
These choices don’t require you to be bold, they just require you to be mindful, and I know that requires a lot more energy than just buying shit on autopilot, but please try. Worse than our supermarket behaviour though is our complete devaluation of cultural artefacts – live theatre, independent cinema, poetry, writing, music, photography, the list goes on. We live in a world where we expect this stuff to be accessible for free. We expect there to be a never-ending stream of new stuff available for consumption and yet, we as a society are losing sight of what it takes to produce it. Every new novel is a struggling writer trying to pay their rent. Every new album is an artist sitting in their bedroom in the middle of the night trying to record because they have to get up in the morning and go to work in a cafe. Every amazing photo of the night sky, or the city at dusk, or a glittering beach that you ‘borrow’ and share on your Facebook feed without giving proper credit, was taken by someone trying to make a living from their art.
I guess what I’m trying to say, in a long winded slightly ranty sort of way, is that if we value art, if we value entertainment and new creative voices, we have to start showing our support in real dollars. When you see an exhibition advertised, go see it! When you know someone who’s launching a book, go buy it! When you hear of a new band performing, go hear them! I get that our society is changing with the digital age and the accessibility of free stuff, but I think it’s important to keep in mind what that means. Nothing comes for free, and in Australia with the Coalition government trying to change the budget in a fundamentally-terrible-for-the-arts way, now more than ever before we have to support local talent with our own money and time.