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Trail blazing: Streets of our town poised to lure cultural tourists

Culture

With international tourism predicted to take years to return to its pre-COVID levels, focus is turning to how Brisbane can reinvent itself to better showcase the city’s cultural heritage for domestic tourists.

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Queensland University of Technology senior creative industries lecturer Dr John Willsteed has been floating the idea of a cultural history trail for several years.

The proposed Streets of Your Town trail, developed by QUT Creative Industries, is a placemaking and tourism concept that would take participants on a journey into the city’s venues, studios and rehearsal rooms of the past, incorporating interactive apps and augmented reality to tell stories of Brisbane’s recent cultural history.

“The trail in a way is me responding to having come across all of this stuff from people in the last 10 or 15 years, since I’ve been an academic,” Wilsteed said. “My PhD subject was the late ’70s and early ’80s Brisbane punk and post-punk scene, really.”

Willsteed, who was a member of Brisbane punk band Xero in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and later played bass in The Go-Betweens from 1987-89, admitted he had to convince himself the concept for the trail “wasn’t just a vanity project of me talking about my own past”.

“That wasn’t a hard sell, because, you know, The Saints came from Brisbane, and they released [1976 single] ‘(I’m) Stranded’ and historically, it’s a very important single internationally. and the The Saints – along with The Go-Betweens and some other Brisbane bands, became internationally significant and their significance is still felt.

“When I thought about this trail it had this online geo-located augmented reality aspect, it had a performance aspect where there would be a series of performances in the city for the opening or the marking of the sites.

“Then it had a third aspect, which was where the sites are actually physically marked, it had markers on them, A bit like blue plaques in London but a much more kind of modern, or forward-looking marking of buildings so that you could see, as you’re walking on the street that there is a trail through the city.”

Committee for Brisbane chief executive Barton Green said it was an ideal time to explore ways to showcase the city’s cultural heritage and the Streets of Your Town project was one of 17 projects the non-for-profit organisation had given its in-principle support to fast-tracking.

Green said Brisbane had traditionally not done as good a job as other cities at recognising its contributions to Australia’s cultural landscape.

“Adelaide is known as a festival city but this region has more festivals than any other in Australia,” Green told InQueensland.

“Melbourne is known as a great music city and it is, but Brisbane has a similarly proud music history, and there’s a great opportunity to celebrate it.

“I think if we can tap into that, it’s an experience we can provide that’s not just for the people who live here but for the people who visit here, it’s an experience that’s different for them they can have elsewhere.

“In our recent recommendations to the State Government and the Brisbane City Council for economic recovery, we specifically nominated this project as one for their consideration because it would lead to a permanent change to our cultural landscape and a boost to our tourism economy in a small way, but it’s a part of the picture, so we’d like to do what we can to help this concept get up.”

“What we have offered to John and that project is to just share this story around and to help find people who may be interested in providing some funding support for him.”

Willsteed said he hoped a cultural trail could also embrace visual arts, theatre and other aspects of Brisbane’s cultural history in the future.

“I just wanted to start off with this one thing because this is the period of time that I know and the discipline that I know – music.

“I’ll build this story and then it can be used as a template to go to build out, and then go further back in time and forward in time and out through different disciplines.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Green, who said he saw the project as “more than just a singular-dimension concept”.

“It’s almost a multimedia type experience but it all hangs around the thread of celebrating our rich musical history in this instance, starting with rock music history but it lends itself to a whole range of areas.”

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