21 characters, 4 lines…

lcd sign

Yesterday Jasmin and I went down to visit John Longley from the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce. He’s kindly agreed to let us use the Freo red LCD sign. As you drive into Fremantle, over “the old bridge”, you inevitably sit at the traffic lights for an aeon and stare at this electronic billboard. It says things like

DONT DROP
LITTER
IN
FREMANTLE

or

QE2 SHIP IN PORT
WED 5TH MARCH
LAST CHANCE AT
PASSENGER TERMINAL

or

OUTDOOR FILMS
TONIGHT AT FILM AND
TELEVISION INSTITUTE
STARTING 7:30 PM

or (my favourite)

FAREWELL TO CITY OF
FREMANTLE CEO, RAY
GLICKMAN. TODAY
IS HIS LAST DAY.


The sign is an old fella. It can only accomodate 25 different messages, and each message is displayed for 15 seconds. The text must fit within four vertical lines, and each line must use a maximum of 21 characters. I’ve noticed that not all of the red “pixels” work.

Despite its limitations, I’m looking forward to using the sign. Jasmin’s concept was that fans (or anyone) could send text messages through to me. I’ll then select one or two each day, forward them to John’s office, and he will make sure they get beamed up onto the electronic billboard. The idea is that this will happen for the duration of the Bon Scott Project exhibition at the Fremantle Arts Centre (starting on the 16th of May).

To get us started, John suggested I send him through a message advertising my blog. I found it quite challenging working to the 21 by 4 discipline. Here’s what I came up with:

BON SCOTT IN BRONZE,
SOON TO BE UNVEILED!
BUT WHERE? AND WHEN?
WWW.BONSCOTTBLOG.COM

As soon as John lets me know that it’s up on the sign, I’ll rush out and take a shot! And… dust your haiku skills off readers! What text should I get them to put up?

Regarding the “where” and “when”, John had a few words to say about that. He was clearly unimpressed with the ponderously slow machinations of the council. Particularly in line for John’s ire were the heritage advocates, who, it seemed, have blocked every move to have the Bronze Bon placed somewhere on council land.

In my previous post on this issue, I wrote that after being approached by the mayor, the “private landowners” at the Fisherman’s Wharf “made a gutsy unilateral decision in a flash” and agreed to take the statue of Bon. But I might have overdramatised.

John showed me a map which clearly indicates that Fisherman’s Wharf is not privately owned, but rather in the hands of the WA Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI). See the yellow bits on John’s map below? They all are under control of the DPI, which takes them out of the hands of the local council. Apparently it was the Minister in charge of DPI, Alana McTiernan, who jumped at the chance to get our Bon onto DPI land.

map freo
[click image for a larger view…]

It’s not difficult to see: wherever Bon is, money will follow. Thousands of rock n roll tourists will make their way to see the little man, and having seen him, they’ll cast their eyes about for the nearest place to get a beer, icecream or fish and chips.

There’s plenty more to be said on these issues of heritage raised by the hot potato that the Bon statue has become. Tomorrow I shall be meeting the mayor! Stay tuned…

5 Responses to “21 characters, 4 lines…”


  • The concept of ‘heritage’ needs reform. I remember reading about an heritage lobbyist (i think that’s what he was) who advocated for all kinds of heritage, especially things that were bad, or mediocre, or only kinda good (along those lines), rather than our ongoing habit of just selecting the best behaved examples of a culture. He advocated selecting banal architecture, like a shitty old inner city football stadium, as things to remember an era by, y’know, “warts n all”. I think he conveniently said “you gotta learn from your mistakes, after all”, or i could be making that up because i believe it’s part of it, and i can’t remember who the dude is to go searching for the article.

    It’s pretty radical, but a great idea. Alfred Park swimming pool in inner city Sydney is a prime example. So lame, so good. In the age of Wiki when the space allocated to the history of a band like Iron Maiden is as big, if not bigger, than the space taken up by, say, Captain Cook, then of course Bon Scott should be prominently displayed in Freo, cast in bronze for all between Scotland and Freo to see as an historical destination. To the uptight and conservative heritage advocates interfering in this decision: this is good appreciation of history, dammit!

    ps: i haven’t checked the relative size of Iron Maiden versus Captain Cook on Wiki, but when stumbling onto the Iron Maiden page in the early days of Wiki, i was thoroughly impressed with the wealth of history and analysis, and especially because it wasn’t just in a dedicated fan-site, but in the great leveling “public space” like Wiki.

  • Indeed, Mickie.
    I checked, and Iron Maiden is bigger than James Cook, on the Wikipedia.

    Ah, there are so many issues here. How about this one: some of those “best behaved examples of culture” were not such great examples after all. Former Aussie Prime Minister John Curtin has a bronze statue in Freo (see a pic here). Like Bon, he died due to his own unhealthy lifestyle:

    Curtin’s recent biographer, David Day, concludes that the heart attack of late 1944 was ‘the culmination of years of stress, heavy smoking, alcoholic binges and a simple but poor diet’.

    Like Bon’s death, the cause of Curtin’s is disputed and worried over endlessly, but that certainly didn’t delay the placement of his bronze effigy in prime position in front of the Freo Town Hall…

    I agree with your analysis of the salutary benefits of alternative histories. But at the other end of the scale is money. I would hesitate to claim that everyone who supports the local placement of the Bon statue is doing it for the reasons which you advocate.

    As much as the Freo Chamber of Commerce criticises the heritage “stick-in-the-muds”, and is thus an ally to the BON IN FREO lobby, their catch-cry is not “alternative histories” but “progress”. (See this statement on heritage issued by their President). And “progress” is a one heckuva slippery word…

  • oh I should add:

    The Chamber of Commerce is VERY involved in heritage projects – John told me that they are working on Fremantle Trails – which will involve particular sites where you can visit and the kids can take a pencil or crayon rubbing of tactile plaques in a special collectable Freo “passport”. Wherever and whenever Bon finds a home, he will be included as a feature site on one of the trails…
    see:
    http://fremantletrails.com.au/

  • I note your reference to Alanna MacTeirnan considering the economic consequence of ‘jumping at the chance of putting our Bon on DPI land’. Just to add another reason for her excitement is the fact that her electorate is none other than Armadale, which by all accounts is considered a safe Labor seat and no doubt home to MANY Bon fans. Methinks Alanna can see some political mileage outta this one. She’s a pretty smart cookie (an incidentally very respected for being good at her job and a strong advocate for walking, cycling and public transport).

  • THE SIGN SHOULD SAY…

    WELCOME WEARY TRAVELLERS
    TO THE TOWN WHO BRED
    THE MOST INFAMOUS OZZY ROCKER
    “BON SCOTT”

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