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Young Creatives Blog

Katie McAllister: Home

Tuesday 1 March 2016

  • Review

I love going home. I love the drive from Perth to Albany – the way traffic lights slowly morph to roundabouts and the three lane freeway becomes one road. I love how the further you get from the CBD, options for drinks change from either a ‘skinny soy chai latte,’ or ‘loose leaf green tea with dandelion,’ to ‘coffee,’ or ‘tea’. I love how paddocks and bush can just be paddocks or bush, without a real estate development sign in front of them. I love driving through Williams, then Kojonup, then Mt Barker – each town means we are closer to home. 

It wasn’t always like this. At school, I would wish I could live in more exciting, more exotic places than little old Albany. Going home meant the end of an adventure, never the start of a new one. Nothing exciting happened at home.

There wasn’t much to do and there are only so many beaches or bushwalks you can do before it all starts looking the same. Friends who had been to Europe said the same thing about cathedrals, which I thought was pure blasphemy. 

It’s always the way that when you are so close to something, it is hard to appreciate it. To see the place for the place and not what you want it to be, or wish it was. It took leaving overseas and moving to a new city to realise I loved Albany and find my own meaning in the cliché, you don’t know a good thing until it is gone. Albany is still very much there, I am just the one who has gone, and found a much more balanced perspective since going away. 

When I found out the theme of the opening event for PIAF was the idea of home I was so excited. The Giants were amazing, but also foreign – something that had nothing to do with Perth headlined the Perth International Arts Festival. They were incredible. They got people inspired for the Festival. They were a success. But they weren’t uniquely WA. 

I don’t think that every arts festival ever should promote only local talent and showcase itself – but I think it has to sometimes. Selfishly, for me, this was a time that couldn’t have been more appropriate. After spending the summer in Albany after a year of being away, I felt more connected to my town and to the Great Southern than I ever had before. I’ve read about people feeling connected to a place and previously had no idea what that meant, but am starting to realise it now. It’s the same way you feel connected to people – a combination of familiarity, kindness and understanding them on their own terms, not yours.

When I hear graduating year twelves say, ‘I just really want to be in Melbourne,’ instead of saying, ‘Same, there is nothing to do in Perth,’ I want to yell at them. I want to yell that we now have a hashtag that says Perth is okay, but we are actually more than okay, and if everyone keeps leaving – then there will be no one left to speak for WA.   

So when Tim Minchin, Shaun Tan, The Waifs, Kim Scott and Tim Winton all performed to celebrate WA, I couldn’t think of a better way to open 2016 PIAF. I would have no idea how to market Home ­– it was a showcase, it was a celebration, it was an affirmation that it is beautiful to live in Western Australia.  It was a sign that you didn’t have to leave the state to go to things that were exciting and had cultural value – they were happening here.   

The Waifs sang Bridal Train and told the story of War Brides in WWII. Kim Scott spoke about the importance of connecting with Indigenous Culture. Thousands of people sat on the foreshore and listened to a picture book by Shaun Tan.   Watching the showcase, it was impossible not to feel connected to Perth and proud to call WA home.

As Tim Minchin sang, ‘It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.’  Western Australia might not be the New York of the artistic world. Perth might not be as central as London to other overseas destinations. We might not have a public transport system to brag about. But we need to grow up out of our adolescent angst phase and stop comparing ourselves to others. We need to celebrate what is wonderful about our state – accept it isn’t perfect (because nothing is) and accept that it is ours to care for.   

Young Creative: Perth Writers Festival

Written By Katie McAllister