We gathered in the street. There was acceptance of difference all around, small children danced spontaneously, an indigenous smoking ceremony gave us hope as we were reminded about the owners of the land where we were standing or sitting, while a film was projected on the wall. It said it all:
“There are two sides for every one-sided story – yours and yours.”
Throughout the night, the entertainment mixed elements of love and respect with an underpinning of sadness.
Philippa Armstrong, the editor of the “Roomers” magazine organized the evening. It celebrated the magazine’s 21st birthday, along with honouring the work that the Gatwick have done for the community, and the talents of its residents. It was opened by the Deputy Mayor, Katherine Copsey.
Maurya Bourandanis read her poem, noting that the Gatwick had been ‘somewhere meant for me – somewhere where there was respect for me.” A respect not readily found in today’s communities that tend to judge worth by material success. The Gatwick was a place where all are accepted as fellow humans – no questions asked.
Jem Buckley told of the six years of his life spent there. The people he met who helped him through a difficult time “blew my mind.” He added that he even had his toenails cut. This latter is no small gift.
Anna Brandt spoke of the importance of the warmth and safety of the writers group as they shared stories. Tim Rodgers sang for all and Wendy Butler, poet, artist and performer extraordinaire told of the Indian Ladies and their food van, from which they regularly dispensed meals and other necessities for the vulnerable members of the community. Most importantly, they did it without ‘preaching or judgemental crap,” just with love.
The twin sisters, Rose Banks and Yvette Kelly who have given 46 years of their life providing this important service, were lauded by all. The sisters and the Gatwick have acted as a scapegoat for societal problems for too long. Which says more about us than them. They’ve stopped more problems than they’ve caused.
Yes, Fitzroy Street has problems. They have not been fixed by turning a once beautiful four-lane boulevard into one lane each way, a mess of concrete ridges that adversely affects older pedestrians, huge tram stops which hinder more people than they assist, a confusing bike path, and the removal of parking. Combine these changes with commercial ones, such as the high rents that lead to shop closures, and you might have some answers.
The technological changes in society where more people are daily being forced into vulnerable situations are an added complication. Changing the Gatwick to high priced apartments may have short term benefits, but after that, the situation will deteriorate. And then, who are you going to blame?
Wendy wrote the following, in 2006, to the rhythm of ‘Blame it on the Kellys’ which Shel Silverstein wrote for the Ned Kelly movie, starring Mick Jagger. She said she was inspired by the Gatwick being wrongfully blamed for a mess left by backpackers in a nearby street.
BLAME IT ON THE GATWICK
Homeless camp in Fitzroy Street, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Rubbish thrown in Jackson Street, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Keith Richards fall down from a tree, Football fans go on a spree,
St. Kilda player hurts his knee, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Hoons in heat drive round the street, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Local girls work their beat, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Public transport running late, Howard’s reached his ‘use by date,’
Mary Kehoe’s waits its fate, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Parking attendant beaten up, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Beggar holding out his cup, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Woman dies on PO cruise, Italians beat the Socceroos,
Local drunks are on the booze, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Nightclub revellers urinate, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Drunken hoons regurgitate, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Hewie’s restaurant closing down, Burrito’s Café leaving town,
St. Kilda’s score is going down, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Local milk bar losing trade, Blame it on the Gatwick
Tourist chased a man with blade, Blame it on the Gatwick
Police assaulted on the beat, an accident at Arthur’s Seat,
St. Kilda suffers new defeat, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Frasier’s dog has passed away, Blame it on the Gatwick
Computer virus holding sway, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Superman takes off again, Naomi Campbell chucks her phone,
Hungry Lions on the prowl, Blame it on the Gatwick
Wendy’s poem highlights the powerful effect the Gatwick has had on the St. Kilda scene. I thought of another rendition of the poem that could apply:
“Homeless girl has a place at last, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Sad man’s suicidal thoughts are past, Blame it on the Gatwick.
Hunger’s gone, I needn’t steal, a comfy bed, the cold I don’t feel,
There’s finally hope that this time I’ll cope,
Blame it on the Gatwick.”
But what will we do now that we’ve killed the scapegoat? It’s one of our major coping mechanisms. Maybe it’s always been so. Kris Kristofferson sang about it when he performed at the Palais.
“Everybody needs someone to look down on,
Someone doing something dirty, decent folks can frown on”
He finished with:
“If you ain’t got nobody else, just help yourself to me.”
Kris is in another hemisphere at the moment, but he’s given me a good idea. I’m here. You can “Blame it on Brenda”
Brenda. With help from Wendy Butler.