Blueprint for Living – Susie Dunn

Comments (0) Susie Dunn

Is the name of an ABC Radio National programme. I’ve always found the title rather condescending and irritating. Everyone surely has their own ideas on how they best want to live, and we are lucky here to have so many choices available.

In Armidale, that in itself has become a problem, as people seem intolerant of other people’s preferences. We all have different priorities and all seem to look to Council to make them happen. There is a small rating base locally, and to meet everyone’s preferences in full is impossible. What is disturbing is when one group cannot seem to understand the other’s point of view and come to a balanced agreement, often meaning realistic compromise but providing realistic outcomes. I’d rather see a BIG sculpture called “The Big Debate” than “The Big Argument”!
We value our history here, but we are also in the 21st Century and, contrary to some opinions, new public libraries are actually flourishing. It’s worth quoting from this year’s NSW Architecture Awards: the reinvention of the 1970’s Town Hall into “the 21st century Bankstown Library & Knowledge Centre … received multiple honours … Housing a 3-level library, 300 seat theatre and much more … creating a community hub for the city’s civic precinct.” (SMH 3/7/15). The NSW State Librarian has also commented that “Free public libraries are thriving in the digital age”.
The new Armidale airport is important for the whole district and should play a big part towards an opportunity-laden future; the Dumaresq Dam adds recreation options for those who use it and modern libraries offer much more than dusty books. It’s balancing all these competing needs with an overall sense of inclusion for different groups that takes skill, creativity and diplomacy. Canvassing the opinions of younger people, who interact differently from many much older groups, is essential in ensuring “social glue”.

This month’s column has me in a quandary. Last month’s was held over for space reasons, and there were various passionate points I wanted to share. So many things matter in this amazing district of ours. I’ll try to fit some in now.

Melancholy news that generational change for Hanna’s closes a very special chapter of history. Changing conditions that left it “stranded” in the East Mall couldn’t have helped. But looking ahead, I’m all for doing whatever it takes to nurture a “buzz”, and the town centre should reflect that. There’s a lot of scope generally for sensitive soundproofed quality apartments in the East Mall, which would re-invigorate that whole area and contribute immensely to the re-birth of the Central Mall and its specialist shops and cafés. Matthew Beaumont’s London book Night Walking tells how the coming of street lighting brought about what we now know as shopping – people promenaded and window-shopped in safety in the evening.

New trends in food and bars are obviously welcomed by the many customers wanting them. Today’s drinking culture – if such a thing exists – is very different in concept to when the 1889 Town & Country Journal said: “The Cheerful Face of Bygone Armidale … once celebrated for the number of breweries it enjoyed”. As well as Uralla’s craft beer, Merilba’s local cider is also now available.

It wasn’t winter gloom when my friend Jen and I went for a drink at the welcome new-look Armidale Club, a fun, buzzy addition to the local scene. On a different scale, the Bowling Club has updated with inviting new reception rooms for events and socialising. SerVies too is undergoing a makeover, with big plans for the future. Additionally, these clubs bring the wider world of entertainment to town and encourage local talent. A desirable mix.

Universities everywhere face tremendous challenges, and UNE Vice-Chancellor Annabelle Duncan has been frank in opening up discussions on a range of options. One that caught my eye for its potential benefit for the town was the possible re-introduction of the much-loved summer schools. We should maximise all possibilities for the district.
Marvellous to see the painful triumph of Pat Elkin’s Phoenix Rising at NERAM.
Susie Dunn.

This column was from issue 99 of New England Focus.

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