For the curious,
and especially for those who may find this website confusing, or occasionally out of date, here is a summary of the policies, operations and general gist of Format Collective Inc.
Lifted, for the most part, from the introduction to the 2012 Format Festival Programme Guide.
What is Format?
Format Collective is a group of artists, writers, musicians and party technicians loosely based around the Format Zine Shop in Adelaide’s CBD. Aside from the zine shop, we’re responsible for monthly-ish exhibitions, regular live music gigs, random acts of public art, a nifty lo-fi recording studio and this here annual Format Festival.
Each member of the Collective is autonomous, answerable to nobody and nothing but a vague sort of consensus. Everyone does their own thing with the space, and once a week we all meet up at the shop to let each other know what we’ve done and to whom we should be apologising. If you were to assign Format an ideology it would be “anarcho-situationism” or “techno-libertarianism” or “neo-leisure revivalism” or “naive post-entertainment-utopianism” or “party-to-survivalism”.
Do you guys get paid?
lol, no. Sometimes we’ll nab 20 bucks from the til for cabfare or chicken nuggets. Format is run by volunteers, so almost all the money goes to artists and the rich folks who own the building.
Is this a Renew thing?
No, Format is not a goddamn Renew thing. Renew is a Format thing. We pay regular grown-up rent, just like everyone else. Buy something.
What do you sell here?
Zines, records, drinks and nice times.
Can I have my Birthday Party here?
What’s with the attitude man?
Sorry, we’re just tired. Most of us study, or have real jobs, or belong to a generation that is more comfortable relating to people via smart phones than IRL. We’re actually really, really nice people, and we’re more than happy to show you around. Also, you’re already kinda drunk and there’s like five people in line behind you.
What’s the point?
Cultural theorist Ray Oldenberg coined the phrase “The Third Place” (later appropriated by the Sony corporation), referring to the places where humans gather between work and home. “Leisure”, in so far as it has been supplanted by post-capitalist “entertainment”, is almost always reliant upon ostensible cues (visual art, live music, cinema, theatre) for its legitimacy. Format – by its provision of independent media, live music and experimental art – is in effect reviving the lost practice of tribal leisure. Also, we need to sell drinks to pay the rent.
And so it was that Format Always Wins came to pass. The people saw it, and it was good.
Over two days, kind of around the time Christ died, and definitely around the time he was all like LOL JK, we threw a massive party to say farewell to Peel Street. Those of you who remember it will remember it fondly. Those of you who don't will forever be troubled by the uncertainty of how your lungs came to be permanently scarred.
We tried to create this street feature thing, which involved throwing rolls of VHS tape at each other from balcony to balcony over Peel Street. This was firstly thwarted by the aging Don of the painters guild, who between knee squeaks, wailed some barely intelligible demands to remove ourselves from the eave above our shop, before handing us a newspaper full of fish.
Then the heavens opened. We looked down upon the milk crate Format stage, upon the cable runs and the thousands of dollars of speakers and microphones, and upon Pat as he scrambled garbage bags over all of it.
"We shall go buy a gazebo", I heard someone say. (Side Note: Do you know that Bunnings sells a 6x3 metre gazebo thing, minus the required poles to erect it? They do not sell the poles separately.)
It was later decided that, to avoid electrocution, we would move the stage inside. This decision was met with many a chin-in-hand concurrence. So about an hour and a half later Mountain Blood roared the First and Last Format Always Wins victory party into existence.
So Saturday went something like:
Fierce drums and crunchy guitar rock. There is often a conversation between two of the Format directors about the drumming styles of Michael Heath and James Mannix. Both drum in some of Adelaide's best bands. Both have distinct relationships with the drum. Mannix is one with the drum, the drum is his friend and he moves with the drum. Heath hates the drum. He moves against the drum, and wants to kill the drum.
Adelaide's best looking band.
Viola and punk, at last. One of the latter additions to the bill. We hadn't heard them play before, instead going off the reputation of the band members and a few kind words. The answer is yes. Go see them play with King Tuff.
Big Mondo Blood Dick Phase
The best thing that has ever happened.
"Walter guilt tripped me afterward while I was cradling my sore knee in tears" music.
Once upon a time we held a festival that we called "Format Festival 2013". At this festival there were exhibitions where people "exhibited". One such exhibit was SQUISHBOT, which as the name suggests was a mechanical device that squished stuff. This was the brain child of one Timothy Tuppence. You might remember him from such exhibitions as Street Dreams and Hard Treasure. So we walked around with Tuppence and talked about lasers, then we got some VHS tape, some alfoil and shone lasers at it. END OF STORY. Good Job Tim.
Steering by Stars
Too handsome a band to bring your girlfriend along to.
Big Richard Insect
Where tequila begins and ends.
Your new favourite indie slacker dreamboat band. West End draught and feelings.
Party like it's 2010 and nobody moved to Melbourne. A*MAZING. Remember that show? Terrible Truths found all the keys.
Brad Cameron and Joe Blackwell relive the future.
Then it came time to reignite the glory that is Mass Karaoke. With Choral Grief leading the way in their adorable coloured ponchos, two megaphones, and some very real feelings. We again conquered Eternal Flame, which was made all the more cinematic by the fact we could all hide our tears in the rain.
and then Ablaster and Parsons made dancing happen. Chloe Langford cocktail fuelled dancing until four in the morning, upon which time we promptly kicked everyone into the street.
We went to sleep on Sunday and woke up again Sunday. Simon Gray had planned the two days out for himself impeccably. The first day he would remain completely sober, serving drinks, staffing the merch desk etc. The second day he would not be seen helping in any way, as he would be Slurms McKenzie in one of Stan's robes. This was his plan, and he executed it out to a T.
So as Christ rose from a dusty sand hole outside Jerusalem or something, Format peered into the void of uncertainty, the uncertainty of how we were supposed to get the UV paint off the walls when we left.
"Don't worry about it, it's face paint", said managing director Stan Mahoney. It turned out not to be face paint, and we didn't clean it. Some of it was face paint, and there were pots of fluorescent face paint littering the bathroom. Also, I quit. -Stan
Sunday went a little like this:
First we spelled her name wrong on the poster, then the power went out. Still, that moment when nothing was amplified and all you could hear was Naomi softly oooing, you could only think to yourself how much better that was than jackhammers.
Ever seen two quiet guys look at each other awkwardly over a laptop while playing guitars and thinking to yourself "how fucking good is this". Yeah.
So we painted the bathrooms and gave Alice Dolling free reign. The idea was to make them slightly less horrifying, or at least provide a distraction from said horror. The result was a junkie's nightmare, UV PAINT AND UV LIGHTS AND LOUD LOUD LOUD. Good Job Alice.
Someone said Husker Du and Cherry Coke.
Their album launch sold out, which is an awkward thing as only a fifth of the crowd would actually have seen the band. Despite their tiny stature, they can drink tequila for Australia. Bless.
Among my fondest memories of Format are the evenings spent writing at the zine desk while bands rehearse downstairs. Swimming, Wild Oats, Gold Bloom, Choral Grief and Sparkspitter. Sparkspitter would rehearse from six, until well after I locked up. They won rehearsal wars.
So this sculptor Andre Lawrence came to us with the idea of a destruction exhibition to symbolise the current state of Peel St and Format's tribulations over the last eight months. A little bit of projection, a little bit of noise, concrete and steel pieces and even bricks from the destruction site that has plagued Format's last eight months. But the coup de gras was a Monopoly game set up in the middle of the gallery, complete with a set of Peel St deed details. Genius.
Home for the Def and the Lay Down Sallys Nigel Koop dressed as Jesus hanging off a beam, dislodging a potentially fatal quantity of chalky fire retardant material, falling, meeting his arse with the mixing desk. His picking up the suspicious substance and declaring it to be asbestos to a crowd of forty-odd bright young hipsters, with so much life still ahead of them, now covered in fire retardant dust. The dismemberment of the Format baby. The dispersal of chunks of the ceiling in the manner of Holy Communion. This is my body. The holding aloft of Dr Ianto Ware as he desperately tries and fails to play the 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' riff he had only learned hours earlier. Or the rare and disturbing sight of Stan Mahoney smiling. I don't know which memory will haunt me the most.
HOME FOR THE DEF - SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT (LIVE) from SIA DUFF on Vimeo.
"EVERYONE GET OUT ONTO THE STREET"
One of the many responsibilities of a Format director is, in the event that asbestos is dispersed into a confined room by a crazed man dressed as Jesus on an Easter Sunday, to sweep the aforementioned asbestos with one hand, a sparkling in the other.
Radz in a hood.
So we moved the stage to the the centre of the room. Then we were entertained by pretty men in short shorts. When that happens you dance. My sweat is on many people.
It was then time to make a bond with the dirty cement that we have all danced on, sweat upon, and some of us slept on. It was time for the Kool Aid. So as Nigel Koop read the transcript of the original Jim Jones death sermon, and Simon Gray dispensed the mystical red liquid into our glasses, we raised our arms and prepared to make our union with destiny.
Then DJ Sex Pest returned one last time, and we knew it was the end.
Photo credits: Sia Duff, Harriet Fraser Barbour, Sarah Eastick and Courtney Guy.
The search for a new place continues. We'll find one though. We have good feelings about it. The sources of the good feelings are four-fold:
1. About a million of you have been in touch with messages of support, and a million more have in one way or another let the government know that Adelaide needs artist-run venues. Some of our outrage was misdirected at folks who genuinely care about cultural policy, not to mention the poor out-of-towner hub folks caught in the middle. But hey, we totally understand the emotions involved - believe us.
2. FORMAT ALWAYS WINS, our last event on Peel Street, was a wild success - a shambolic microcosm of everything we've done over the past five or so years. Twenty bands, a road closure and a lot of weird German fizzy drinks. What were we thinking? Pretty fun though. Paid the last of the rent, and all that stuff wasn't even asbestos!
3. Not having our own venue for a while won't be so bad. We plan to sort of walk the earth for a couple months, performing good party deeds without having to freak out about rent. First up is San Francisco bubblegum garage punks King Tuff, playing Nexus Cabaret on Saturday April 27. Old Mate, Big Richard Insect and Wireheads are supporting. Now there's a show, guys. Tickets here.
4. The government is starting to talk to us, and they're saying things they weren't saying before. More importantly, when we say things like "if you really want us to rebuild what Adelaide has lost over the last fifteen years, you're gonna have to pony up some real estate and some start-up dough and then let local artists and musicians do it for themselves" they don't just smile and nod. Well, they do smile and nod, but in a different sort of way. Which brings us to The News:
The Department of Planning have for a while now been, er, planning to establish a "Cultural Hub". So now it's our job to make sure it's run by artists, and that the government supports it through the start up phase. In about a month we'll be involved in a community consultation event, where hopefully we can get the message across.
Imagine a kind of laboratory for contemporary art and music, like a Jam Factory, or an Experimental Art Foundation, only governed and curated by local artists, completely autonomous, financially sustainable in a few years, answerable to nobody but the local community and the artists who inhabit the place (and all the applicable occupational health and safety laws). Imagine an enclave of strange, avant garde nerds and freaks, making records and selling art books and putting on baffling exhibitions where nothing is for sale.
Imagine all the throbbing humming sounds, the coloured light, the storage space, the free wifi and decent coffee. Imagine taking folks from out of town to visit that kind of place, walking them past the scrappy nostalgic poster wall, browsing the zines and the weird pseudo merchandise, peeking into the inexplicable Room Full of Hot Pink Lampshades, or the Room Full of Eerily Lit Shrubbery. Then imagine sticking around for a show later that night, or walking a few blocks to another artist-run venue, where everybody is invited to gorge on the sweet, sticky fruits of one another's experimental labour.
Now. Hold onto that thought, splice it with your own thoughts, and stay tuned for the community consultation thing.
Something very, very good could come out of this. Something that our kids might get to see. Whether Format will be a part of it remains to be seen (sometimes we're exhausted just thinking about it), but at the very least some of the decision makers are thinking about the value of subculture a lot more than they have been.
CLARIFICATION: The Hub is moving into the floor above Format's former tenancy. In preparation, the landlord's renovation of the space has basically ruined our business - severing the phonelines and internet, destroying access to parts of Format, dust, rubble, water coming in through the walls and ceiling, deafening noise. No compensation, no communication, just the ongoing suffocation of our business, and a thinly-veiled a promise to significantly raise the rent.
We were assured the government were sympathetic. Instead they negotiated with the landlord to acquire the upstairs space for an interstate business which would also benefit from a one million dollar incentive.
The phrase "breathtaking betrayal" sounds a bit dramatic, but it's not that far from the mark. Prove that we lie.
LATELY WE'VE BEEN under a lot of pressure to comment on both our coming departure from Peel Street, and the tenant slated to move into the building after we're gone. At first we thought it best to stay out of it and keep our noses to the grindstone. Lately a lot of people both inside and outside the Collective have argued that it's time for Format to speak out.
Since moving to Peel Street in 2010, we've run five major festivals, hundreds of gallery exhibitions and live music shows, sold thousands of zines, and given our community a place to meet, rehearse, record, perform, read and just check their email. All of it organised by a collective of volunteers on a shoestring budget.
Lately our financial position has become even more tenuous because, as many of you have noted, the renovation of the building over the past eight months has involved cutting utilities, deafening construction noise and a quantity of rubble and dust that has severely impacted our capacity to function, let alone retain an income. In addition to this, late last year, we were notified by the property developer that our rent would be up for market review.
Through all this we've still managed to record some great local music, provide rehearsal time for some of our favourite local musicians, and put on some shows that a lot of us will remember for a very long time. Thanks again to everyone who's put up with the trouble - we think it was worth it, and I bet you all do too.
As many of you have also noted, the tenant moving in after us is an offshoot of Melbourne based Hub Space. On their new Hub Adelaide website, they announce:
The SA government have announced that they will provide up to $1M in initial seed funding for Hub Adelaide. This will be spent on the fit-out of the Peel St property, recruitment and cocreation of the community and the space.
Unfortunately, the building they’ve been given $1 million to fit out is the building we’ve occupied since 2010.
We agree with Hub Adelaide that this city has “witnessed a boom in the entrepreneurial, creative and social innovation networks.” We know because we were part of if from 2008 onwards, hosting everyone from Hackerspace to Renew Adelaide. But we don’t have a million dollars and simply can’t afford to compete with a Melbourne based organisation that’s been given a budget twenty times larger than our own.
We respect that the government’s decision to install this tenant comes from a consultancy review undertaken last year by Cornerstone with the Adelaide City Council. We beg to differ with the report’s suggestion that the growth of creative hubs in Adelaide should be driven by government rather than by the sector itself. We entirely agree with those of you who have said it'd be great to see support for existing local hubs, including Format, The Mill, Tooth & Nail, Soundpond, HackerSpace, feltspace, Fontanelle and Animal House. Many of us have received small grants and enjoyed a good relationship with some government agencies, such as ArtsSA and the Department of Premier and Cabinet and we're thankful for this support.
But from an economic point of view, we simply can't compete with a million dollar project funded through the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and the Adelaide City Council. We have had interaction with DPTI over this topic, who have said they would like to support us but as of yet we're yet to see whether there will be any outcome from that.
Like the current Thinker in Residence, the Premier and, indeed, the several thousand people who've been in touch to give us their support, we think Adelaide needs more creative hubs and we'd like to think we'll find a new home and continue. We want to make it clear that right now community backing is pretty much our only hope of moving, finding a site and competing with larger, government funded competitors.
We'll be hosting a final two-day show at the end of this month, stand by for more details. It's a two-day show called FORMAT ALWAYS WINS featuring some of our favourite artists and musicians from the last four years.
Once again, thanks for the overwhelming support. If you can, share this letter as much as possible - Adelaide deserves its fair share of artist-run venues, and this is as good a time as any to make your voice heard.