Jan 142013
 

Exploring Melbourne, we chanced upon a parking lot transformed.

 

The People’s Market in Collingwood opened this December at 64 – 68  Stanley Street as a Thursday-Sunday destination with food, coffee, alcohol, art galleries, pop-up retail, and live music (even a “band in residence”).

Many other public spaces could fit this description, but there was something special about this one, and we sat there looking at it and feeling it and trying to figure out what made it so different. Yes, we were there are consumers, buying coffee and food, but it felt like so much more.

Well, Nick said, “those chairs are not going to be at some wedding reception across town next weekend.” The chairs were made alternately of empty beer kegs and double-stacked milk crates, topped with an astroturf “cushion”. Astroturf was in use liberally, to remarkably greening effect.

What was it we were sitting on? We had clambered up a pyramid of sorts, a set of uneven risers, made of plywood, painted black, and irresistably requiring four-limb climbing rather than mere stepping up. From here we munched on “vegan soulfood” and overlooked a beer garden of sawhorse tables, beerkeg chairs, and awning, a collection of shipping containers hosting the food vendors and pop-ups, colorful hand-painted signage, an elaborate deck with railings made of PVC pipe, and a forest. While not adding much to the green yet, the forest was composed of young trees planted in oil drums and wooden tree sculptures made of 2x4s.

As we examined each element it became clear that this was a hand-built market and we realized we were basking in the energy of creative people. This space was built with diligent innovative enthusiasm for greening, community, reuse, and play. It was designed to welcome and encourage other creatives to express their art and entrepreneurship. The space was full of tiny touches of love. We were surrounded by the love of people who created this. No wonder it felt so good.

Moreover, we felt that our presence and participation made a contribution. In more commercial environments, we are relegated to being just consumers, but here, we could feel the life of everyone in the space, and we felt we were helping the manifestation to be what it was.

Later in the trip we walked Melbourne’s Central Business District Laneways, marveling at the pleasure everyone took in intimacy by necessity and wondering why they don’t seem to revel in it when traveling on the bus or train. Consent is one obvious answer, but the laneways experience was not for us anticipatory. It was a surprise, that again, we found ourselves inside of and enlivened by.

Visiting the website for The People’s Market I learned that they accept applications from bands, artists, and vendors, and they host workshops on topics as diverse as making tapas, knitting your own chainmaille, and aerodynamics. The classes are organized by Laneway Learning. The concept of Laneways denotes the creation of new urban spaces, communities, and intimacy.