It was fairly ridiculous. I was outstretched alone on the sand last Friday when it struck me once again how good we have it. Which other decent-sized city could claim to have a beautiful, unsullied beach ten minutes from town that was utterly deserted at two o’clock on a sunny afternoon? I couldn’t think of any. Sydney, possibly, though they’re neither as beautiful nor as empty. As it happens, Perth has an embarrassment of them up and down its coast, and there was I, supine under the sun, almost shocked by the absurd good fortune of it all—it was heavenly.
Perth has historically copped a bad rap for its lack of culture, progress, and opening hours. I imagine east coasters probably still think of it as a Philistine, sun-oppressed city with too much mining money and precious little else. Locally, however, the last few years have been characterised by an awareness that actually maybe the place is not so bad after all, denoted rather apologetically on social media by #perthisok.
The common refrain of local commentary is that Perth is indeed a great place to live, and there can’t be a better time to be here than January. Aside from the sun shining slightly brighter and longer than the other eleven months of the year, in January Perth reveals itself to be a veritable hotbed of culture and arts. This is most apparent with the Perth Fringe World Festival, which flung open its gates on Friday. Every night throngs are flocking to Fringe gardens to drink in the atmosphere and I’m not complaining.
Paradoxically, Fringe is the most popular event on the Perth arts calendar, and the third largest Fringe event in the world. The fact that the two largest are in Edinburgh and Adelaide makes me wonder if there is a correlation between cities not traditionally known as hubs of artistic activity and large Fringe fests, though I won’t look this economically lucrative gifthorse too closely in the mouth.
To continue the summer arts bonanza, the Perth International Arts Festival will also open its own doors in a couple of weeks. While PIAF doesn’t seem to be as accessible or as widely attended by mainstream audiences as Fringe, its broadening popularity in recent years is symptomatic of the #perthisok sentiment, so it seems fitting that one of the primary venues this year will be located in the new Elizabeth Quay development, opening this Friday and one of many public works transforming the city.
It must be a cliché to say that Perth is coming of age, but in truth there is a definite sense of progress, a feeling most palpable during these summer months when the weather, arts events, new food offerings and infrastructure development converge. Life here is suffused with a lazy cocktail of beachy mornings, long brunches and evenings drinking under a fragrant sky.
No one pretends that Perth has the theatre of Sydney or sporting events of Melbourne, but when you find yourself solo at South Cottesloe it hardly matters. Perth must be one of the most inhabitable places on the planet but it has never been better than now.