It’s almost a rite of passage for any young Brisbane born to hate their city. It’s so small, so boring, so hot, so expensive. There are no jobs, no arts, no (decent) guys, no (decent) bars, there’s nothing open after four. We console ourselves with unlikely plans to move to New York and become the reputable, widely respected professionals we imagine ourselves to be.
For the greater part of the twenty-somethings heaving on the edges of Brisbane suburbia, entertaining the idea that the grass is greener seems to make a lot of sense. But before we establish a culture of dismissal in our own minds, it’s important to recognize the charm in our own backyard; the unique vibrancy of our own locale, if you will.
Having grown up as an Australian on a different continent altogether, the novelty of our culture will still occasionally strike me, as if I were a tourist in my own home all over again. These are the little things we don’t even think about, the things that make Brisbane, Brisbane.
When you line up for a coffee, there is an orderly cue. We don’t elbow away those ahead of us to have our order taken first. Living in a same sex relationship is not (advertently) frowned upon. Having a chat to the staff member at the checkout is a friendly move. Backpacking the world is a coming-of-age must do. Education is celebrated.
All these seemingly small things are elements that a large portion of the world doesn’t prioritise. Yet they arguably set the foundations of a happy and healthy culture. As for our urban space itself, I would compare it to a start-up company. While it is not yet an established corporate empire of positions and roles and departments and faculties, it is a handful of young makers and creators meeting over coffee to figure out how to structure their idea in the most exciting way possible. Part of Brisbane’s ‘shortcoming’ is also the city’s asset, it’s youth. As creatives and makers and designers and doers and thinkers and visionaries we are invited to carve whatever we are willing to work hard enough to do on the walls of our citadel.
Right now, in places there are no walls. Well, yes, it’s true. Brisbane has no De Graves and no Pitt Street. We don’t have Soho or Wall Street. Yes, Brisbane has South Bank Lagoon and it’s a bit tacky. But Brisbane also harbours a slew of untapped potential and incredible individuals who have it in them to fund the arts we’d like more of, build the galleries we’ve not heard of and risk the ideas worth risking. Once you start noticing the small timers cropping up, here, there, in ones and twos, you start realising that we’re actually in a pretty alright place. We actually might be onto something.
So before you go about running off to New York, think about where that city, teeming with the life and the magic that it has, once started. And then look up, and around.