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Flower power

September 19, 2010

It is a sad reflection on the modern world that Grafton Shoppingworld is essentially the hub of our community. Recently redeveloped and expanded, it now houses an extra supermarket and 50% more chain stores selling cheap clothing and gimcrack destined for landfill in the not too distant future. I am eternally horrified by the scores of people eating McDonalds and Subway in the garish, artificially-lit food court daily.

I am by no means against the provision of new commercial and retail opportunities in rural Australia, but I object to the construction of these cathedrals of consumerism; built to a formula, devoid of good design, airless and artificial. The redevelopment of our shopping centre has been to the detriment of our picturesque and historic main street; our commercial hub now has its back turned to the sunny promenades of the past. This is by no means unique to Grafton, or to the country; since the advent of the shopping centre in the mid-twentieth century, less efficient ‘main streets’ have been slowly suffocating everywhere from Bondi to Broome.

And yet, our community has sought to make this monocultural monostrosity its own, with regular displays by community groups exhibiting the work of their members, attracting new audiences, selling raffle tickets for charitable causes, and simply entertaining and delighting. At a display for History Week in September, I met many of the hardworking volunteers who devote countless hours to preserving our community history. During Public Education Week, proud parents looked on as their young children sang in their school choir, sandwiched between Coles and Country Fresh Chicken. Yesterday a petition to protest the announced closure of the local Telstra call centre attracted crowds of passers by, a news camera at the ready to capture a rare glimpse of local state and federal MPs from different sides of parliament united by the concerns of their constituents.

Indeed, yesterday my mother and I headed to Shoppingworld for the express purpose of attending a flower show presented by the Grafton District Orchid Society. Not since Chris Cooper’s turn as the toothless orchid thief in Adaptation have I found these exotic flowers so fascinating. One of the members explained that they like to put on these free annual displays so that people can bring their families to admire the unusual flowers. Pamphlets with information about different species and orchid care were offered free of charge to budding enthusiasts. They were more than happy for me to take as many photographs as I liked, proud to share their hard work with anyone who cared to admire it; indeed this display of exotic beauty and community spirit transcended its surroundings.

District exhibit

Not for sale

Eyes on the prize

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2010 17:11

    Canberra was the same with a street level, pedestrian vibe replaced with the monolith of the “Canberra Centre”.

    But, by the by, I LOVE Orchids….completely fascinated by them

  2. sue webber permalink
    September 20, 2010 08:33

    That said, it does stop people spending their weekends driving from Grafton to Coffs Harbour for an indoor shopping fix. What we realy need is a more vibrant main street as an alternative. That doesn’t mean more cut prices and sales, it means more imagination.

  3. September 20, 2010 09:05

    I remember when my home town of Singleton had no major shopping centre. Now for a population of around 26,000 there are two. Admittedly on is smaller than the other. However the main street still gets a lot of business as most of the service (hairdressers, dentists etc are still there. It is also convenient to park the car near the shopping centre and then walk to other places on the main street. The larger centre was built over the former 50m pool which they replaced at an inconvenient location with a 25m indoor pool. It took many petitions and years to get a replacement 50m pool.
    On the orchids they are gorgeous. Will be in Coffs next Saturday and I am hoping that their exhibition is on while we are there for a week.

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