Local Freo Artists Forced to Fly the Nest

Readers may remember our story The Tale of Monument East or Farewell to Bonafide Post-Modern Industrial Grit.

After years of uncertainty, the artists working in the collaborative space formerly known as “Swan’s Nest” at 38 Amherst Street, Fremantle, have finally received their eviction notices. Unfortunately, despite indications they would be given more time, they’ve been given three months notice. They have to clear out in June.

The question is: where will they go? Affordable workshops are few and far between across the entire city. Especially for small businesses and sole traders who can’t afford to pay extortionate rates.

38 Amherst Street, Fremantle. Credit Gayle O’Leary

The artists, also known as the “Tiny House Collective”, operate out of their current space thanks to its affordability. They also enjoy each other’s company, flexibility to work on their own terms without a prohibitive management body, and the friendly and creative character of the mixed urban/industrial Fremantle Industrial Arts Quarter that envelopes the area.

Once known as McCarthy’s Engineering, the warehouse was acquired by the crew behind Blazing Swan in late 2014.

Their remarkable home has seen many talented people come and go. It’s hosted movie nights, crafting workshops, educational workshops, artists exhibitions, community bbqs and markets, fundraisers, scavenger hunts, live music, live painting, book launches, photography shoots, even speed dating, and so much more. It’s a space that has allowed people to take risks with their creative ideas and achieve incredible feats.

They need about 600-800m2 of space that doesn’t cost the earth. Like their old space.

It’s true that we need more places to live, ideally affordable, and well-located. But it can never replace unique treasure troves such as the Tiny House Collective. Or the people that make Fremantle the port city that we love.

The gentrification of this former industrial area is guided by the Knutsford East Local Structure Plan, which envisages a medium to high density neighbourhood retaining some artist and community workshop spaces, a local corner store, and potential for various uses sitting on the balance of the urban and industrial line, according to Table 1 of the structure plan.

The vision is well underway, with projects such as Knutsford Village, Nightingale Fremantle, Montreal Local, and soon East Village, all unfolding as admirable examples of well designed, airy, energy efficient, water sensitive, and stylish medium density housing that isn’t completely reliant on cars.

But it lacks that bona-fide postmodern industrial grit I mentioned. Compared to that wild, ramshackle, exciting feeling of being inside the Nest, it simply feels too deliberate and planned.

The affordability of this area can be attributed to being left in limbo by the Fremantle Bypass, which is also mentioned in our previous article on the topic. Once intended to link Stirling Highway to Roe Highway, the removal of the road reservation from a large chunk of this neighbourhood that had kept prices low due to uncertainty provided temporary relief for everyone in it, knowing their workspaces and homes wouldn’t be bowled over for yet another road, soon were reminded of its transience as the hungry eyes of developers realised the unbridled potential of land so close to the heart of Fremantle.

The City of Fremantle’s newly adopted Arts, Culture, and Creativity Strategy is focussed on “empowering arts, culture, and creativity in Fremantle”. One of its four priorities is “Incubation: Fremantle is a place that values artists and creatives to help grow and sustain creative practices and careers”.

One wholeheartedly agrees. But the artists need affordable local places to work, otherwise Fremantle will lose them.

Let’s meet a few of the artists:

Ryan (Blazing Swan volunteer, welder, engineer, and community pillar. Rye has supported friends and locals through thick and thin, helping to curate fantastic events and navigate tricky obstacles.)

Ronnie (tiny house constructor and Vantastic conversions, and proud owner of Rosie the pup. His tiny house has taken about two years to build and it’s very nearly ready!)

JJ & Martin (artist and sculptor, and engineer. JJ will soon be presenting her incredible polyethylene “forest” at the Strange Perth Festival)

Rob & Christian (musicians and sound engineering. Also cue Rob’s rescued lorrikeet from earlier that morning.)

Louis & Sara (Louis converts cars and vans for backpackers circumnavigating Australia.)

Laura & Jamie (painting, sculpting, photography, environmental education and bespoke pilates equipment crafting. This highly talented and hardworking duo have also curated exceptional art events, environmental workshops, and tea ceremonies.)

Beth (Urban Forest Care. Beth also salvages lopped tree limbs and sells firewood to help fundraise for environmental charities.)

Do you know where they can go? Is there anywhere at all in Freo or nearby?

Anyone with ideas or extra space is warmly welcomed to email our Editor right here.

(At the time of preparing this article, the author had written to various City of Fremantle councillors seeking advice and responses are now incoming.)

Report and all photographs by Gayle O’Leary


* If you’d like to COMMENT on this or any of our stories, email the Editor right here.


*** And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to receive your free copy of The Weekly Edition of the Shipping News each Friday!

****AND Shipees, here’s how to ORDER YOUR FSN MERCH. Fabulous Tees with great options now available!