“There is no substitute for total commitment.” // The Fremantle Fibonacci Centre-Co-Founder Robby Lang in conversation with Jan Bathel

After years of producing inanimate and functional objects, Local Wrought Iron sculptor and designer Robby Lang recognised that a much more lasting and significantly positive impact could be made on the greater community by producing something of intrinsic value to everyone and therefore he founded the Community Hub The Fremantle Fibonacci Centre.

REVUE's Co-Publisher Jan Bathel, asked him about the pleasures and struggles of running a place aiming to connect the strenght of artists and makers and why "there is no substitute for total commitment".

What  was  the  initial  idea or purpose  for  the  setup  of  your  project and what are your plans for the future?

Don’t try and control the process of growth to much, creativity is best when amorphous and nebulus. Let creativity flourish.
— Robby Lang

The  Fibonacci  centre  acts  as  a  community  resource,  along  the  lines  of  a  commercial community centre, providing many of the services often provided by local councils. It is designed to enrich our society, by creating a space, which allows  for an individual’s, or group’s creativity  and self expression, to grow, in a safe environment. As such the centre provides  an alternative to the current entertainment scene and all of its ugly offshoots. We have helped build an incubator for emerging and established talent.

With it’s unique blend of emerging artists and working designers, we have helped form a link for artists to enter the commercial world, if they chose. It also allows them to engage with the possibility of commercial application of  their talent. Within the building, the central atrium is used for community purpose, to house exhibitions, film, performance, and music, weddings, funerals, anything.

In addition a community café operates within the building “The Blinco St Cafe”. In the future, We will start The Freo shop, which will sell prints of works produced by artists within the building, as well as copies of any significant music, literature or art ever produced in Freo.

We  will  also  have  a  Roofspace  garden:  The  roof  space  of  the  Fibonacci  centre  covers 800sqm  and  collects  approximately  600,000  litres  of  water  every  year,  as  well  as  around 800kw of solar energy at the peak of the day. It is our intention to harness these resources for  a  large  aquaponics  garden,  and  mini  solar  power  station.  We  are  currently  seeking sponsors for this project also. We  will  effectively  be  growing  vegies,  fish,  and  energy,  that  will  in  turn  be  used  in  the downstairs café. In the  café, all the furniture will be locally produced and available for  sale, as will be  the plates and cutlery, the staff will wearing clothing produced inhouse, and hence for sale.

The Fibonacci centre is a grand vision, but luckily we are already 9 years into the project and have already achieved many of the initial goals.

What activities do you use to stimulate relationships and collaborations? Do they reach the same target group as they aimed at to reach when setting up the space?

The  Fib  is  very  much  a  community  space,  and  well  used  by  artists  and  the  general community.  The  Cafe  and  central  space  are  gravitational  and  exchange  spaces,  where resident artists and groups often meet. The council and community arts officers have been supportive,  as  has  Artsource.  We  also  have  2  dynamic  Arts  Groups  within  the  Building, Artists Anonymous And the Arts Cartel.

We  are  regular  participators  in  the  Fremantle  Festival  and  Promote  local  musicians  and emerging musicians and artists. as well as fledgling business groups and artisans. We do reach the target group we originally set out to include and more.

How  do  you  get  people  to  go  into  a  mode  of  exchange:  sharing  their experiences, curiosity, knowhow and failures.

We are a private organisation running out of a very old Paint factory. The operation is not the most  streamline,  since  it  doesn’t  have  a  great  income  stream,  and  doesn’t  receive  any ignificant income support. We tend to bumble our way through, and try not to repeat past shortcomings, we don’t have too many outright failures. We rely heavily on Facebook and word of mouth, Groups often have their own entourage.

What’s your greatest lesson learned from your Creative Space project?

The greatest lessons are,
That it is possible to enrich the community, when you take direct action.
There is no substitute for total commitment.
The law is is administered in an abitrary fashion.
Councils are swayed by vocal minorities
Never trust a council initiative.
Be Bold
Be Open
Let others reach their potential.
Don’t try and control the process of growth too much,
Creativity is best when amorphous and nebulus.
Let creativity flourish.

What other spaces inspire you and what have you learned from them?

The Breeding Ground in Amsterdam, The Anti Squat movement, Market spaces everywhere, Growers  Market,  Fern,  CityFarm,  Christiana,  Barcelona,  Berlin.  London  housing  co-operatives,  Findhorn,  The  Earthship  movement,  Free  Festival  movement  in  UK.  Keep  it cheap and make it possible.

How do you bridge the gap between people from different disciplines?

Allow them a place to meet and get them drunk. Encouraging usage of the common space for projects.

How does the design of the physical space contribute to the principles and goals of The Fib?

The Fib is like a mini Solar System, The Art studios are Planets that revolve around the Sun, aka, The Central Space. The cafe nourishes the inhabitants and community, and the huge deck allows the interaction with the outside community, People often call the Fib, The Ship, because it resembles a big old ocean liner.

How do they integrate “digital” into their daily routines & services?

Badly  to  be  honest,  We  are  so  caught  up  in  building  the  physical,  we  tend  to  ignore  the virtual. The cafe does it much better than the Fib as a whole.

What is the one­-sentence core message of the place, which reflects its values?

To be the fertile soil that nurtures the seed!

Robby, thank you so much for showing us such an incredible creative art space. I'm impressed by the wealth of opportunities which are offered at The Fremantle Fibonacci Centre.

Check out  The Fremantle Fibonacci Centre – or come by their beautiful space in Fremantle:

19 Blinco Street
Fremantle, WA, 6160