Socially Distanced Music for Residents in Isolation - March to May 2020 Like most great events, City Sessions began with a problem. How could our East Perth community best support the 88% of residents living in apartments heading into isolation? The potential for problems was massive.
Terrace Precinct meetings with Frasers Property Australia's Michelle Mrzyglocki and WABSM’s Rajwanti “Raj”Doshi, reinforced the urgency. As COVID-19 restrictions were ramped up in March, many older and unwell apartment dwellers had already been self-isolated for six long weeks. A mental health issue was looming large.
At the same time, northern Italians and Spaniards were taking to their balconies for impromptu neighbourhood arias and sing-a-longs.
And Perth’s singers and musicians saw their gigs dry up faster than toilet paper was disappearing from supermarket shelves. Fortunately for the project team, Michelle’s background as a professional performer connected us into the local musicians and singers who were to become the backbone of City Sessions.
Raj’s access to the Councils’ of Owners of Perth’s largest apartment complexes meant the other half of the equation was sorted
The first session was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Sunday, 22nd March was just seven weeks ago; yet from another time and place.
The last AFL game was played that afternoon at Optus Stadium, residents were encouraged not to travel and returning Western Australians were required to self-isolate for 14 days.
There were a number of occasions when we thought “Sunday Sessions” would not proceed.
Yet, on the morning of the first program, we ran a risk assessment and determined the event complied with social distancing directives. Eleven performers played across nine East Perth locations and the mood of residents was euphoric.
Activate Perth’s Kylie Taylor was keen to have “The Last Post” ring out across the City for Anzac Day and jumped on the community bus that was renamed “City Sessions.” Community engagement included a colouring in competition for kids, with artworks projected on to the Northbridge Piazza screen.
Kylie also coordinated the lighting of City landmarks in red for the ANZAC commemoration. The haunting sounds of 10 WA Symphony Orchestra trumpet & bugle players performing across Perth on a dark drizzly morning was unforgettable.
West Perth Local also joined forces with
the project in early April; Steve Wellard and Leela Morgan brought their enthusiasm and considerable expertise to the table which expanded the project footprint and its benefits across the city from east to west.
The medium density residential area developed a natural “indie vibe” at its sessions that in turn increased the fan base of participating performers.
Meanwhile on Claisebrook Cove, residents successfully lobbied for a nod to the classics with an “Opera on the Cove” for the Mothers Day program.
Another nine locations celebrated Mums with performances of soft rock, classical violin and indie pop among others.
The figures tell the story:
· 4 programs over 7 weeks
· 15 apartment and hotel locations
· 52 WA performers
· 4,500 plus residents in isolation
In the end, it was all about the music. The unexpected outcome was that the live streaming of the performances took off like a rocket. Already, videos of the Mother’s Day program alone have been viewed via Facebook Live more than 30,000 times across Australia and nine other countries including the United Kingdom, USA, Iran, France, Singapore and Germany.
City Sessions would not have happened without the support of the City of Perth, apartment Councils of Owners, host hotels and WA Police. During a State of Emergency, with gatherings of people banned, authorities worked with us to find ways to make it work.
We hope, more than anything, that the performers will soon be back to some of their regular gigs and fees.
As restrictions ease, City Sessions will also morph into a new phase. Street Sessions,
pop-up performances and more apartment sessions. Plus the one we are most excited about, “The Coming Out Party.”
The project team has a vision that at some point we invite all artists back to perform at a community street party. Based on our experiences to date, we reckon that event will be one to remember. If you missed the performances, you can catch them here: https://www.facebook.com/perthcommunity
Anne- Maree Ferguson
Chairperson, East Perth Community Group