Return Hosier Lane to the people!

Return Hosier Lane to the people!
Oppose the crackdown on street art.

Culture Kings, the purveyors of swag merch and bling were until recently housed at the old Fletcher Jones store on the corner of Queen and Flinders (something which would make our poor old grandmother, an FJ devotee for 70 years, turn in her grave). That's being apartmentalled, so they've taken over the old Russell St theatre owned by the Marriners. Why such a dowdy location? Well, it backs on to Hosier Lane, and the Culture Kings have punched a hole in the back to create a laneway entrance.

So far, so Melbourne. Hosier hosted youth outreach services; so it became a place for graffiti and stencils; then it became famous for it. Having previously scrubbed it and arrested street artists, the dimwitted Bracks government finally caught on and began flogging t to the world. The state made it safe for bling capital to charge in.

One entrance for mass-produced swag - complete with commissioned, rather boring piece - would be fine. But having availed itself of laneway chic, Culture Kings want to shut it down, calling for the arrest and charging of anyone doing street art near their shop. The Melbourne City Council, weak as piss, has acquiesced.

Everything you need to know about the neoliberal city is in this one encounter. It has always been technically illegal to do street art in Hosier or anywhere else in the city. But for years there has been a common understanding that no-one will be prosecuted for doing work there. The lane has seen a self-managing community come into being, with implicit understanding about how long pieces can stay up before being covered, a discouragement of boring tagging, etc etc. In one swift move, a true public space, a free zone, has been turned into a struggle against repression and commodification.

The state - state and local - could fix this in an instant by telling Culture Kings to go fuck themselves, because they knew what they were moving into, and maintain the non-prosecute principle. Better still, it could define multiple zones in the city as fully legalised street art zones. That's what Victorian Socialists are fighting for - not merely equality, but true freedom, that doesn't rely on what you own. We'll be joining the fight to deny Culture Kings the right to rule Hosier Lane, and return it to the people. And that fight continues in Spring street and on the street, after November 24!