A Domino’s pizza has opened in Brunswick at the new development next to the Lebanese bakery where you can buy a herb and vegetarian pizza for $2.50. Alister Karl of Brunswick Arts recommended the bakery too me and I have enjoyed their traditional pizzas for many years now. The opening of franchise next to a Lebanese bakery is an ugly sign of the redevelopment of Brunswick. What was once a working class suburb filled with brickworks and other factories has been slowly gentrified. The gentrification of the Sarah Sands, a venue where my band once had a residency, in between its existence as a strip club and before it’s current transformation in 1993 into an Irish pub, part of the Bridie O’Reilly’s group.
Artists are finding the rent in Brunswick too expensive and the old warehouses that house many of their studios are being redeveloped into apartments. In mid 2009 Moreland Leader reported that the area was both too expensive and that there were more professional musicians living in Brunswick than anywhere else in Melbourne.
“In time, artists and the creative industries that surrounded them would be credited with having been directly responsible for the redevelopment of Shoreditch. In many ways artists were the storm-troopers of gentrification, the first wave of individuals who could be counted on to take over the most basic industrial units and bring them to life.” (Gregor Muir Lucky Kunst, 2009 p.176)
Property redevelopment is a typical symptom of contemporary art; artists in New York, London or Melbourne discover a long neglected suburb (Shoreditch in London or Brunswick in Melbourne) with affordable spaces to turn into studios and galleries, this brings the suburb to the attention of more people and eventually the property developers. And the pattern is repeated in a different location. In Michael Thompson’s Rubbish Theory, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1979) – Thompson describes the chaos mathematics of the forces operating that depopulated inner city suburbs and make them attractive places to redevelop.
Contemporary artists are the property developer’s friends for discovering locations worthy of redevelopment. There are other similarities between contemporary artists and property developers, besides their interest in spaces and locations; both are in the business of selling an expensive and limited product.
Although Brunswick has long been the residence of many artists and the location of many artists studios attracted by cheap rent and proximity to the city. But, unlike the boho Brunswick St. in Fitzroy, Brunswick it did not had many cultural institutions of its own until the last decade. There have not been many pubs with a notable reputation as band venues, alternative cinemas or theatre. Now there is the Cornish Arms and the Retreat Hotel along with the move of community radio station, 3RRR to a building in Brunswick.
Cities are never static systems and a suburb that remains the same dies.