O.k. So our tour of the Melbourne suburbs continues. We have moved from Victoria Market in North Melbourne, down to St Kilda, in the south of the city. The two suburbs couldn’t be more different. Where everything in North Melbourne revolved around the bustling Victoria Market and the CBD, in St Kilda, everything revolves around the beach. Yes, St Kilda is on the beach and what a beach! It stretches out in both directions mile after mile of unbroken beautiful white sand overlooked by tall green palm trees, a wide boulevard running it’s entire length.
Away from the beach St Kilda is just as beautiful. The arcades bustle, their chic shops crowded with shoppers. Pavement cafe’s overflow with people gorging on the famous Ackland St cakes and the beautiful people, well the beautiful people do what beautiful people do, they promenade (tiny dogs and all). St Kilda is not what I would describe as a typical city suburb, there are no picket fences and very litle uniformity. There are however, beautiful mansions and grand victorian facades a plenty. St Kilda even has it’s own botanical gardens! As you would expect of a beach community, the pace of life is a lot less frenetic than the city (unless of course, you are in Luna Park, St Kilda’s slightly antequated, but very beautiful fun fair). Everything down here happens at cruising speed (as in cars not gay bars).
The area used to be a favorite haunt of the well heeled back in Victorian times and it’s style and architecture lend it the air of an English seaside town. However, during the 70s and 80s St Kilda fell on hard times. It developed a reputation for being the home of the seedier side of life, harbouring prostitutes, drug dealers and criminals. If you talk to anyone from out of town and tell them you are living in St Kilda, they will always comment, ‘Oh, Mate, you’ll see some sights down there’! The area also became home to Melbourne’s alternative community and St Kilda developed a reputation for being a hotbed of creativity. Unfortunately, we got here too late! The Balsamic vinegar brigade got here before us and they are now firmly in the ascendency. Any leanings towards the underground have been mostly expunged. The area has once again been gentrified and ‘the ‘sights’ have unfortunately, been moved on.
There is however, one beacon, one cherished throwback to St Kildas salubrious past that stands tall to this day. ‘The Espy’ or the Esplanade Hotel to give it its full title. It is a beautiful ramshackle Victorian Hotel that sits plum on the most prominent sea front location in St Kilda. Apparently, developers have hankered after this prime piece of real estate for generations but ‘The Espy’, is far too important to the locals (who have fought redevelopment at every turn, once signing a 15-000 strong petition to keep it as a local venue), the entertainers that have tread it’s hallowed boards (everybody, from AC-DC to Wolfmother, have played at the Espy) and of course the punters who flock to see the hundreds of bands that play seven nights a week. Like an old Victorian fun house the Espy is a place to get drunk, get lost and get happy. Not necessarily in that order. Thankfully, you won’t find any of the Balsamic vinegar Brigade in the Espy! The dress code is, well, flexible!
In my humble opinion, the balsamic vinegar brigade have had it way too easy! As always, they get to ignore and scorn an area, until the creatives, seeking affordable rents, move in and rejuvenate it. The creatives have to suffer the problems associated with a neglected area, rejuvenating it with nothing more than will power, creativity and sheer strength of numbers. Once their toil has resulted in that area once again becoming chic, their only reward is to see the balsamic set steal it away from them with their Amex gold cards and trust fund developments.
With this in mind, I feel it is my duty as a creative socialist (living in a chic apartment paid for by someone else?) to bring a bit of ugliness back to these chic city streets. I have pledged that for the duration of our stay, I will walk the streets of St Kilda wearing nothing but a stubby cooler and my undersized ‘budgy smugglers‘! And as this is Movember I may just grow a tash too, to add to the already shocking spectacle.
Viva La Revolution!