23 September 2009

Melbourne's Laneways

A controversy has been brewing in Melbourne over the City Council's plans to override heritage overlays and hand over sections of some of the city's laneways to developers. Opponents are particularly concerned that this sets a precedent and that the City Council is at risk of damaging Melbourne's unique laneway culture.

Over the past 25 years, Melbourne has transformed its urban image by privileging an entirely separate world of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops, away from the wide, noisy chaos of the wider boulevards. But another aspect of these laneways has taken these lanes to the world stage. Melbourne is now considered one of the finest venues for street art - the sort of grafitti and stencil art that tests the tolerance of a city's establishment.

Michael Shirrefs has been speaking to two laneway specialists - Andy Mac, who runs Melbourne's City Lights street art project; and Historian Weston Bate, former president of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria and author of a history of the lanes, called Essential, But Unplanned.

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