I keep meeting Melburnians who regard Tasmania as a cultural desert. "It's not cool there" said the woman at Fitzroy's Lost and Found market, as I handed her the cash for my new vintage phones this afternoon. "It's full of inbreds down there," said my periodontist, last time she dug around my teeth. "They're all mad...", while her receptionist added, in a scrambled attempt to dilute her colleague's comment, "It's very beautiful there, but no doubt you'll be back here soon for your fix of the mainland."
Will I? I wondered. Because when it comes down to it, apart from the live arts, what will I really miss? Shops? Yes, but frankly I'm a little sick of the constant consumer option. Cafes? Well, there are gorgeous cafes all over Hobart... and there's one at the Antarctic Division which I can't wait to visit. Anything else? Er, no, not really. I actually don't get to see the live arts at all either thanks to my hectic schedule of motherhood and my tentative forays back into the world of work (although I did see the amazing Bangarra 20 year celebration yesterday...) But in Tasmania I'll be thoroughly entertained by the natural arts - the forests, the beaches, the huge, unspoilt national state parks. I can't imagine I'll be pining for the busy streets of Melbourne. Especially while the Victorian summer sun scorches away any semblance of comfort or sanity...
I've been thinking about this scapegoating of Tasmania, because from what I've experienced of the island state it's far more cool, just as cultured, and far less conservative than Melbourne. Here, even the so-called alternative culture is vaguely homogenised, and any cool has a very self conscious edge to it. In Tasmania, people seem to simply get on with being themselves which reminds me of England - a place where individuals have plenty of room to become fully fledged eccentrics if they so choose. Don't get me wrong, I think there's a lot of creativity blooming away all over Victoria's state capital, but like a lot of American cities there's a sense of conformity here which is very hard to resist or escape altogether. Maybe it's my British perspective, but that's really how I see it.
So far, most Tasmanians I've met are artists or musicians or both. There are people down there from all over Australia and Europe who've moved across the country or the world in search of nature and adventure. And they're not all retired, despite the other common misconception that everyone down there's drawing on their pension.
I guess lots of nations have their scapegoats. God knows Ireland copped it from England for years until Dublin and Dingle became too cool to cackle over. These days it's full of hip young eco-minded types looking to leave the grind. Which is exactly how I see Tasmania. As far as I'm concerned the apple isle's persistently negative reputation is unfair and outmoded, and from what I can tell, we're heading for a beautiful slice of the world, complete with artisan culture and festivals galore. If that's uncool then turn up the heat!
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