Two weekend activities for many Melburnians are going shopping and going to the football. With the rise of large shopping centers, such as Chadstone, and the rise of large sports grounds, such as the MCG, these past times do not seem to be particularly local-community minded.
However, in the era of carbon footprints and food miles, there is something about shopping locally which is seen as being more community friendly. One of the suggestions I am often given is to check out the ‘community market’, by which people mean the monthly Gasworks Farmers’ Market.
I have not managed to end up in many community building conversations with strangers at the market, but perhaps I’m not doing it right (i.e. I do not have a dog or small child to take along). You do however spot people you recognise and I have overheard conversations that seem a lot like chance encounters on the patchy Gasworks grass. Does the Farmers’ Market credential of what is on sale matter? After all, the Bay Street Coles seems to offer a similar experience, with people exchanging complements regarding dogs under the awning out the front and the seats in front of the self-check outs providing a free meeting space.
I suppose the more things people do in the same place, regardless of the commercial/community nature of the activity, the more likely they will encounter people they already know. Port Melbourne’s VFL ground,TEAC Oval, seems to provide an example of this. Sitting in the stand before a game you do hear people greeting each other; people do not have to organise ahead of time in order to be able to sit with someone they know.
Yet there is no standard rule about the economic value attached to the local. While people will pay slightly higher prices to purchase food from a Farmers’ Market, tickets to a VFL game are cheaper than the AFL. While the Farmers’ Market is seen as offering superior produce to the large supermarket chains, the VFL is seen as a second rate competition which is still valuable because of its ‘feeder’ relationship with the AFL.
Not everybody thinks that this is the way things should be, and Port Melbourne seems to be rather proud of, and doing quite well with 14 straight wins this season, with its ‘unaligned’ status. One comment on the Port Melbourne Football Club Facebook page captures the sentiment,
What a disgrace Preston FC/Northern Bullants are! They’ve confirmed they’re changing their name to the Northern Blues and will wear a navy blue jumper while playing more games at Carlton. They’ve also said their priority will be to develop Carlton players as opposed to trying to win a flag. What’s teh point of being in the comp?
So what is the point of keeping local opportunities for shopping and sport? What function do they need to serve to be considered valuable enough for us to meet the costs of keeping them running?