Debating the J Shed.

Last night we debated  the temporary approval at J Shed at great length – finishing the meeting at close to midnight. This long meeting with a full gallery gave rise to a bit of a feeling of déjà vu. Just before the last Local Government election there was a lot of negative noise about the Youth Plaza on the Esplanade.

Two years on, the debate around temporary activation of the J Shed had a similar ring. Perhaps that is because both projects are about enhancing and bringing people to underutilized parts of central Fremantle while providing greater amenity for a range residents and visitors. The fears were kind of similar too: anti-social behaviour, noise, use of green space and heritage.

So I thought it worth looking at some of these issues in more detail:

Anti-social behaviour

Like the Youth Plaza I don’t believe fears around the J-Shed and anti-social behaviour will be realised. It is a lack of people that most often leads to a lack of safety and anti-social behaviour. Having more people walking through the West End to Bathers Beach and J Shed will ultimately make this area safer than the ghost town it too often is today.

J Shed as a Music Venue

The temporary approval is also for 12 concerts over the next year of up to 1000 people. Is this really too much for the Fremantle inner-city residential population to manage? I think not.

For example, the Fremantle Arts Centre also runs 12 major concerts a year but these have up to 3400 people attend. We have great support from residents in that area. The Fremantle Arts Centre also has other events like the summer music series on Sunday afternoons and openings. I believe the J Shed offers another part of the mix of music venues Fremantle needs to keep its place as a key centre for music in WA.

Fremantle already has a good range of smaller music venues like Odd fellows (aka Norfolk Basement), the soon to be relaunched Kulcha Space, and other pubs (eg Newport) that cater for around 100-200 music punters. The new Fly by Night Musicians Club in Victoria Hall will cater for around 250 people and the Drill Hall (former Fly) around 500 people and then we have the Fremantle Arts Centre South Lawn of 3400.

What is missing is an in between space of around 700-1500 for acts that are at this point in their career. What we have seen is they have gone to other parts of the metro area as Fremantle is not an option. The J Shed as performance venue will offer a special space with limited residential impact.

Stealing the Markets?

The other unsubstantiated and inaccurate claim circulating is that there is a plan to steal to the Sunset Markets that are planning to move to South Beach. I have checked with both sides of the argument on this and all are comfortable with the concept for around half a dozen stalls to be able to serve the up to 400 patrons at J Shed. There will not be a rival food market at the J Shed.

Loss of Green Space?

Finally despite the claims of some (and reminiscent of claims around the skate park) there will be no loss of green space to enable access. Nor will vehicles come through the whalers tunnel. I am confident that the City of Fremantle can reach a sensible way forward with Fremantle Ports on access in the longer term and there are other low impact ways of getting people and good in if need be.

Heritage concerns?

City of Fremantle Heritage Department has reviewed the proposal and has said

“The proposed works are supported, subject to conditions including interpretation of the heritage of the area that is better than what is there now. Similarly the State Heritage Office has said: “the built alterations and additions to J-Shed and the surrounding area are simple in design and sympathetic in nature”.

What hasn’t come through in the recent debate is that the new plans are actually of a more modest scale with a far lighter touch than those proposed a few years ago including no extension to the J Shed’s building as was originally planned.


So back to that déjà vu  feeling. I understand that new projects like the Youth Plaza and the J Shed can cause an understandable anxiety for some as they can be perceived as significant changes in their neighbourhood. But like two years ago with the Youth Plaza, I am confident that the concerns around J Shed will fade on its opening in exactly the same way everyone’s worst fears faded away when the Youth Plaza opened.  Like the Youth Plaza the J Shed will be seen as another unique Fremantle asset. One to be celebrated – not loathed.

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

13 Responses to Debating the J Shed.

  1. James says:

    There is a fundamental deference M Nayor to the examples you quote versus the J Shed.
    People live very close to the J Shed. They will suffer. How dare you casually say they can manage a dozen events a year! You already bombard those people with noisy events at the Esplanade. To say nothing of road closures making life a misery.

  2. Jay says:

    You miss the point Brad. Several times. People weren’t against the youth plaza they were against the placement of more concrete on little remaining city parkland. And so it is with Arthur Head. A small bar cafe or gallery would be welcome. What people don’t want is the huge scale proposed. So let’s be clear about that and stop trying to mislead readers. But the most important point is that it doesn’t matter what you believe is best. Your job is to listen to and represent ratepayers and residents not act like a righteous dictator.

    • Jay
      I think it was a bit of both but putting the skate park in the corner away from the main thoroughfare would have meant that it is not as safe and part of the community as where it is. So I think we got that bit right. I think your question of scale is fair enough to raise and that is why the council has decreased the size of what was originally proposed. It is about balance and we are not trying to be dictatorial but get a balance right. I thought a temporary approval was a good way of testing this.
      thanks, Brad

  3. freoishome says:

    Daja Vu is right. Residents and ratepayers, have not been listened too, have not been heard.

    You are mayor of residents who increasingly say “I don’t trust the mayor and his councillors!”

    How does it feel to ‘not be trusted’? People smile and say Hi to your face, but deep down, are thinking, he might be likeable but….


    • Paul
      Good to run into you at the pool yesterday.
      Like anyone in my position who is trying to make changes happen you are going to have some who like what you are doing and some who don’t like it or just don’t trust it. Perhaps I need to communicate more and better but I am doing the best I can. Happy to take constructive suggestions though 🙂
      cheers, Brad

  4. Cheryl says:

    ‘The proposed works are supported, subject to conditions including interpretation of the heritage of the area that is better than what is there now.’

    ‘Better than what is there now’ encapsulates the attitude of the CoF and confirms a comment from a member of the Directorate, ruing the day control of the heritage site passed from WA State control to that of the CoF. Such disrespect for such an important heritage site in the history of the Swan River Colony appears endemic within some departments of the CoF.

    The extent of what the CoF has done around the Round House environs on Arthur Head is to instal a coffin-like box to ‘contain’ frisbees and the like for public use – a ‘box’ sited above a puddling area which after rain, impacts even on an alternative use for it when visitors try to sit on it. More recently, they have installed a purchased sculpture on the grassed area to the south of the Round House which would have been more appropriate (with no disrespect to the sculptor or the subject) on the quay side from whence the ANZACs departed. In addition, the CoF has paved the pathway in front of the old pilot’s cottages and in immediate the vicinity of the public toilets and that is the extent of ‘their’ efforts. Nothing has been done to improve the pedestrian access to the West of the Round House and little to improve the signage for the benefit of visitors.

    The farce which was the ‘Placemaking Exercise’ aimed at increasing the pedestrian flow and creating linger-nodes was a failure and nothing eventuated from that expenditure.

    The anti-social behaviour which occurs frequently around Arthur Head is not limited to the ‘suggested’ opening hours of the J-Shed proposal but rather after-hours as a result of the CoF
    decision to cease residential occupancy of the Pilot’s Cottages and opt for artists whose hours of opening are limited. The after hours anti-social behaviour will continue and in future may be further fuelled by alcohol.

    The word ‘debate’ used in the heading misrepresents the actuality as written objections to the J-shed proposal were apparently dismissed and speakers limited to less time to speak than those who supported the proposal.

    Perhaps you should review those issues in ‘greater detail’ rather than the ad-hoc manner they have been ‘debated’.

  5. Paula Amaral says:

    Hi Brad
    Your post seems rather biased to me because you only refer to the positives and none of the negatives. Perhaps it is difficult to be impartial when one has one’s mind made up as you seem to have.
    It seems unfair to me to compare a proposed Tavern with live music, to the Art Centre or the Youth Plazza.
    The purpose of a Tavern is to make money by selling alcohol, which doesn’t apply to either the Art Centre or the Youth Plazza.
    I live next to the Art Centre and can confirm that they manage their concerts very well, but their business is about arts and culture, and the alcohol sales are secondary and restricted.
    I was always a huge supporter of the Youth Plazza, but I’m not supporting the J Shed proposal and for you to lump everyone under the same banner is not right.
    My concerns about the J Shed proposal are not about not liking change, but about the heritage area of Arthur’s Head. I’m well aware as most people in Freo are that there is a lot of vandalism around the area. Increasing the number of drunks is not going to help.
    I’ll give you a good example.
    My son used to live in one of the cottages next to the Markets. Every weekend the drunks coming out of the Metropolis nightclub used to fight, urinate and defecate in front of the cottages and inside the verandas, shout and brawl with each other and the bouncers, and the Metropolis never took any responsibility for cleaning up. It was left to the residents to do it, and I can tell you I’ve done it myself many times.
    Sunset Events is not going to do any better than the Metropolis, unless they are made to.
    And I don’t see the City reassuring people on that score.

    • Paula
      Thanks for your thoughtful and considered comments.
      Just to be clear we weren’t approving the tavern element last night – just a temporary approval over the summer for a series of events including the 12 concerts of 1000 people.
      I think you are correct to say they are different but I don’t think a comparison with what we are proposed here with Metros Nightclub is accurate either. I don’t think this venue is going to result in lots of drunks in the area but I can understand that fear.
      What heritage concerns in particular do you have?
      thanks, Brad

      • Sally says:

        Brad, your response to eds fantastic comments cut to the heart of what’s happening.
        You just don’t listen to or care about what the people who love this magic place think.
        So so many people don’t want the beach turned into an entertainment hubb. There are many places to be entertained in freo. Only this little bit of history, rock and magic is left as a place where we can be entertained by the beauty of what it already is.
        sunset events proposal demonstrates a staggering lack of care for this place.
        The 12 concerts is a precursor to a tavern which makes money by selling excessive amounts of grog. Everyone knows that.
        Why would you, as our mayor let this happen? Why didn’t you aim higher?
        It’s just such a boring concept which adds insult to injury.
        Greatest return for sunset for the smallest output by sunset!

  6. Ed says:

    Hi Brad,

    I am a 30 year old, craft beer loving, massive Guided By Voices fan; I ride my bike from North Freo to town every weekend; I eat breakfast at Breaks and swig a skinny mocha choca soy chai latte at Attic; I buy the latest Kurt Vile LP from Mills and shop for my lentils at Kakula’s; I ride home with my hessian mansack full of Freo market treats; I gig at Mojos, FbyN and Clancy’s regularly and eat at Little Creatures a couple of times a month.

    So I would consider me to be in the target market for this development.

    I initially was in favour of the proposal. What is not to like? Craft beer, music, sunset, good times.

    But I have listened. Listened to people I have met. Listened to my neighbours. Read Roel’s blog. I don’t know Roel, but read his blog regularly. He has a passion for Freo. And whilst we may disagree about certain things; his motives can not be questioned. I’ve thought about what makes Freo unique and what makes us all want to live here.

    I’ve sat up on Arthur’s Head in the evening; the atmosphere is palpable. You feel connected to the wind, the bedrock, the people (present and past), the history, the ocean and the sunset. It is a quiet place of reflection and emotion.

    I think we can do better than this. We have to stand up and say that to “activate” an area is not to put a pub in the centre of it. Yes, we can create a place where people want to come to; a destination, but the question is: should this always be a pub?

    Personally, as much as I would gain from a place like this, I don’t think this is the right place for something like this. How can we enhance what Arthur’s Head is good at? The evocation of emotions, the connection to place, people and history.

    I hope this makes you change your mind.

    Kind Regards,

    • Ed
      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Sounds like we have a similar taste in music and I totally agree we need to keep Freo unique.
      I think you raise some worthwhile points and I have also sat up there on a quiet night an enjoyed the sounds of the harbour and the view to the sea.
      That said, I am not sure that 12 concerts a year will take away the opportunity for that at other times. But this is part of the balance we need to get right. It would be fair to say that many of us have struggled over what is the best way to build on the uniqueness of the area while getting more people through the West End into what has often been called Freo’s forgotten beach. I need to be clear that this is not just another pub. The lease is very clear that it must be an arts and music hub as well. But i do accept that alcohol is a key part of the business model.
      This is why i thought the temporary approval for this summer made a lot of sense. So we can see how it works and what the impacts are.
      Thanks again for the food for thought and kicking of the conversation in such a thoughtful way.

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