Memories of Swan River light displays inspire petition calling for more colour on foreshore
A lighting display on the Old Swan Brewery in 1968. (Supplied: State Library of Western Australia)
One of Perth’s oldest landmarks would be rigged with colourful lights and art displays if supporters of an online petition get their way.
In the 1960s and ’70s, the Old Swan Brewery would come alive each night with a vivid light show that could be seen from kilometres away.
The scene on the banks of the Swan River was one of Perth’s greatest night-time attractions before the lights were pulled down after the brewery’s closure.
The Old Swan Brewery was redeveloped as an apartment complex in 2001. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
While the building is now an apartment complex, an online petition calling for the lights to be reinstated has attracted more than 1,100 signatures.
Warren Duffy, curator of the popular Lost Perth Facebook page, is behind the campaign and said Perth desperately needed another landmark to attract tourists and families to the Swan River.
“The lights will be a focal point, it will be an icon,” he said.
“Let’s put it up as artwork and bring back the nostalgia and have children talk to their grandparents to create a bit of discussion and to create an icon.”
The lighting display alternated between the shape of a freighter or sailing ship. (Supplied: State Library of Western Australia)
The lighting displays had a nautical theme, changing over the years to depict a sailing ship, a freight liner and Australia II which won the 1987 America’s Cup.
“Driving up the freeway, you would always play spotto with the rest of the family trying to guess if it would be lit up as a freighter or a sailing ship,” Mr Duffy said.
“If you’re coming from the north on the Mitchell Freeway heading over the Narrows Bridge, you’d crane your neck around to the right to try and be the first one to see what it is.”
An artist’s illustration of Perth’s skyline illuminated by LED lighting. (Supplied: City of Perth)
City investigates lighting possibilities
The City of Perth is reviewing its lighting strategy which supports more creative lighting attractions on both public and private developments.
Mr Duffy said he would like to see Perth embrace more artistic lighting displays, similar to those seen in Singapore or Hong Kong.
“There’s not a lot of history there which you can delve back on — it’s all new — and it’s the same as Perth,” he said.
“We can bring back that icon of the lights and build on it.”
Mr Duffy believes Perth’s skyline could be enhanced by creative lighting similar to that in Hong Kong. (Flickr: Ray Devlin)
Artistic display or twee nostalgia?
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the lighting plan.
Some have voiced their displeasure with the idea on social media, raising the issue of cost, light pollution and electricity consumption.
William: “Just march in and put ’em up. Don’t worry about the people who actually live there. They won’t mind being up all night just so you can re-live your childhood.”
Arem: “Because what we need right now is more unnecessary energy expenditure. Nostalgia is fine, but not at the expense of responsibility.”
Dan: “Happy to leave this in the past. Pretty twee and corny in hindsight.”
The lights would also change to mark different events, as they did for the 50th anniversary of the Australian Red Cross Society in 1964. (Supplied: State Library of WA)
Those who signed the petition said they did so for nostalgic reasons, while others thought the lights could help lure tourists to the banks of the Swan River.
Kim: “Not only was the sight of these lights a joy in my childhood, but I firmly believe their return would really add to our unique culture as other cities are famous for artistic displays for locals and tourists alike.”
Penny: “Those lights are a cherished memory. I’m sick of Perth losing its beautiful old landmarks and gaining ugly ones.”
Don: “Could be done with modern LED lighting which would consume only a small fraction of power compared to the original lights.”